“Depending on how you pay for it, you'll probably have to part with at least fifty quid for Windows 8, and double (or more) for OS X, and they come with almost no software compared to the average Linux distribution. Yet almost all Linux distributions are free as in zero-cost.”—TuxRadar, April 2013

The subject of an interesting open ballot by Tuxradar, “Would you pay for Linux?”, begins with a rather disingenuous poke at Apple and Microsoft.

Teasing this apart, we find that Apple’s operating system (Mac OS X) comes bundled with all their computers, at zero-cost. The current version (May 2013) is OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion).

This is accepting however, that OS X is only designed to run on Apple hardware, and that the cost of a new computer with OS X starts from £499 (Mac Mini), or laptop (MacBook Air) £849.

Bear in mind though, that you can buy a second-hand 2006 MacBook for ~£200 which will comfortably run Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, or a Core 2 Duo MacBook for ~£300 that’ll run OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion without issue.

The upgrade cost for new versions of Apple’s operating system is cheap and getting cheaper:

  • 2009, £25.00: Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard to Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard
  • 2011, £19.99: Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard to Max OS X 10.7 Lion
  • 2012, £13.99: Mac OS X 10.7 Lion to Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion

Case Study for Personal Computing

I have been running the same laptop (13-inch MacBook 5,1) since Autumn 2008. I recently upgraded the RAM from 2Gb to 4Gb (~£40), and installed a 250Gb SSD (~£150). The battery capacity is still 80% vs. design, after 54 months and 831 loadcycles (thank you coconutBattery).

My laptop connects to a 27-inch display (Apple Cinema Display), is capable of running GNU/Linux programs —FOSS and non-FOSS— and can also run such software as Pages, Numbers, Keynote (an inexpensive £13.99 each). It has been stable and robust throughout it’s life, and hasn’t required any fiddling to work. No viruses, slow-down or gunk, and only a handful of crashes (in almost five years, that’s not too bad).

Benefits Comparison

Benefits of using Mac OS X instead of another GNU/Linux distribution:

  1. Stability. OS X is stable and functional, with free and paid applications that work really well.
  2. Freedom+. OS X can run everything that a GNU/Linux distribution can; either natively, in a virtual environment, or by dual-booting into a GNU/Linux distribution with Apple hardware.
  3. Design. Apple hardware is so well designed and constructed that is beautiful. The same detail, care and attention is brought to their operating system, which is equally functional and beautiful.

Benefits of using GNU/Linux distribution instead of Mac OS X:

  1. Hardware choice (power and/or economy). GNU/Linux can be combined with incredibly cheap hardware (such as the Raspberry Pi) or fancy hardware, whatever you choose.
  2. Price. GNU/Linux is free and hardware which is almost as good as Apple's (physically not as nice but with equivalent or better computing power), tends to be much cheaper.

Money = labour; Volunteering = play?

Money is not by nature dirty —well, except for physical money, which is disgustingly unclean—, but monetary transactions do change or define relationships, and more importantly; expectations. The motivation to contribute to the community for free is one of play and personal reward. What is the driver for people contributing their time and effort to the community for free, to enhance a paid piece of software? The motivation is gone. Free-as-in-speech software has to be free-as-in-beer if you expect unpaid volunteers to contribute, surely?

Trying to reconcile giving away your copyright and intellectual property rights to a charitable or not-for-profit organisation versus a corporation or commercial for-profit enterprise are very different propositions. In America, they have the phenomenon unpaid-internship, which as far as I can tell is free labour for companies, with the intern benefitting from “real-world experience”.

“By the people, for the people” is a world apart from “by paid employees, for the corporation”. I understand “by unpaid employees, for the corporation” even less.

AuthorI.B. Simpson
CategoriesWriting, Tech