Letters to the Editor

Apple is too strong to be Linux's lunch; DEA Museum shows only one side of drug wars; does LAPD behavior shed light on O.J. case?

Published October 5, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

Do penguins eat apples?


Most of the Mac/Linux debate is based on misleading analogies, such as
Clif Marsiglio's "geek" vs. "moron" dichotomy. Mac users aren't
"morons"; they just want to focus on things other than cron jobs and
inodes. At its best the Mac OS becomes transparent -- it stays out of your
way and lets you devote your precious brainpower to the task you actually
want to accomplish. Linux fails this test abysmally. If I want to set up
a mail server at home to host a mailing list, do I want to read a
1,000-page O'Reilly book and stay up till all hours editing
sendmail config scripts? No, that takes time away from my real interests.
I'd rather install a Mac app like the free Stalker Internet Mail Server,
fill in a few dialog boxes and get back to work hacking on my own code.

The whole Linux mind-set is based on wanting to twiddle every layer of the
system, right down to the iron. It's like my friend Larry who's had a
classic '62 Corvette up on blocks for years, getting every last component
into perfect condition. Myself, I bought an off-the-shelf Nissan 240SX
and the only time I pop the hood is to change the oil. Like most
people, I just don't care about perfecting the valve timing -- I bought
the car to take me to the places I really want to go. This attitude,
applied to computers, is utterly foreign to the Linux mind-set, and thus
far the efforts aimed at making Linux "user-friendly" have failed to make
much progress.

As for the decline in evil-empire-bashing among the Mac crowd, I chalk it
up to maturity. After six years working at Apple I spent half a year at
Sun's Java division and was disgusted by the let's-kick-Bill-Gates'-butt
pep rallies. I have better things to do than rant about how evil
Microsoft is, and I'm not going to get where I want to be today if I
let anything get in my way -- not my operating system, and not any
obsessive thoughts about the dork with the glasses in Redmond.

-- Jens Alfke

Apple may no longer be a giant-killer, expecting to conquer the world, but
that is fine with most Macintosh loyalists. Macs have been the underdog for
most of their lives, and that's part of the appeal for many of us. There is
something to be said for being a niche market, particularly when you have a
high-quality product. It's all the more tolerable when the company is
financially healthy. Wouldn't some of the joy of driving that sleek,
road-hugging convertible dissipate if you pulled into the supermarket to
find that every other car was just like yours? Does Porsche need to
displace General Motors or Toyota to be relevant?

Whether or not anyone is willing to admit it, being a part of any
minority does have its upside. I can't help but imagine that this same
phenomenon has some effect on the Linux community. Sure, there's something
romantic about the political aspect of the open-source movement, but if
Linux ever conquers the world, won't something else suddenly
be more hip? Linux would become the status quo.
Might Apple still be catering to a healthy niche?

-- Michael Everhart

I think the main difference between Apple advocacy/fandom and Linux/OSS
advocacy/fandom is the ability of the advocate/fan to be able to transform
their enthusiasm and passion into useful code and make a real
difference for themselves and others. With OSS, the fans have a
complete capacity to change things, modify things and make them available.
The contribution is not made held up by some company that determines what
the next marketing objective will be; instead, merit counts. I think this
ability to transform one's passion and to express it by making a difference
in the OSS world is what sets apart the OSS world from the Apple world.

-- Karim R. Lakhani

If Apple's Mac OS X debuts as advertised, it will be a compelling package: Unix/Linux
stability and networking, Mac ease of use, and all the software that runs on the Mac.

The principal claim of the open-source community is that open source produces
more stunning innovation more quickly than can Apple or any proprietary, for-profit
company. But recently, Apple's head of marketing suggested that Mac OS X may be ready by January 2000. If true, Apple will have produced a Unix-based OS that fully supports all the features and services (QuickTime, USB, Firewire, the Finder, etc.) of the
Mac OS that runs all of its legacy software, along with all of its other innovations, in the approximately two years since Steve Jobs' return. And Mac OS X will allow
developers to write their source code in C, C++, Objective C, which they can
recompile to run under Windows NT, the Mac OS and several flavors of Unix.

In a similar amount of time,
Linux folks will have refined their kernel to add features that most versions
of Unix have had for years. And as for the recent improvements in Linux -- the
new easy-to-use installers, the improved GUIs, the drivers for some
peripherals, and improved support -- nearly all of it is the work of for-profit
companies like Caldera and Red Hat, which are backed by major enemies of
Microsoft. These well-heeled enemies of
Microsoft are spending their money and are willing to take losses to advance
Linux. Linux is a strategic weapon for
Microsoft's enemies, and their money and innovative powers have been able to do more for
Linux in one year than the entire open-source community could do since its inception.

The ardent effort of the open-source community is a force to be reckoned
with, but it is an unfocused, intermittent force united only by Linux as a
cause. As a force, the open-source community is often ignorant, and
defiantly so, of the demands of customers and other market forces -- focused
instead on some sort technical perfection that most appeals to code writers
and other computer technophiles. IBM, Sun and Oracle quickly
discovered that their resources, focus and discipline can compensate for
the weakness of the open-source community.

The anti-Microsoft powers have transformed the Linux effort into
their quasi-corporate subsidiary. But Apple has enough resources, and the
focus and discipline of profits; it also has Steve Jobs. Taken all together,
I think that this augurs well for Mac OS X.

-- Orlando Smith

There should be no animosity between MacOS and Linux; they are both beautiful in
different ways. The "enemy" has been and should continue to be this
buggy, derivative, poorly functional DOS relic known as Windoze.

Where Linux is obscure, it is because it is a babe in the cradle;
when Windoze is obscure, it is through design and/or incompetence. Windoze
2000 will not save the Microsoft empire from being swept away by
the winds of progress. I hope it is Mac OS X that does the job, but I can
live with Linux or BeOS.

-- Tom Barta

Museum of substance


I found it rather disturbing that your article on "Museum of Substance" did
not dig deeper on the DEA's new museum. With the recent revelations that have
appeared regarding Carl Sagan's reputed marijuana use and the effectiveness
of marijuana as a medication, it seems a bit specious not to show it in a positive light
with regards to its impact on society. Even more disturbing was the reference in the exhibit
to Harry Ansligner as having "eradicated drug abuse." Harry
Ansliger was nothing more than a racist idiot: Marijuana was made illegal
because, in Harry Anslinger's words, it made "white women and negroes dance";
he also alleged that it gave black jazz musicians an unfair advantage
over whites. Do some research: The DEA has not helped America. Consider that in the last GAO report
they found the DEA to have had "no effect" on consumption.

-- Gary Hudiburgh III

I noticed both you and the DEA failed to inform us that 1) George Washington
was a cokehead, and he and his army were high on
coke when they crossed the Delaware (How else would they do it in frigid
temps in the wee hours?) and 2) Thomas Jefferson was a pothead who hooked up
from the local Indians and was actually smoking (for inspiration) when he wrote the
Declaration of Independence.

-- Tom Meyers

L.A. not so confidential


Of course, these revelations about the LAPD should in no way imply that
they would ever conspire to plant evidence to convict, say, a famous
former Heisman trophy winner.

-- Peter Bennett

Mississauga, Ontario

As a black man in America, I am tired of knowing that police can take my
life into their hands and do whatever they want to me, and get away with it.
It seems all it takes is a skillfully planted bag of stolen cocaine, or a
false claim of resisting arrest, and I've forfeited all the rights and
privileges accorded to me by the Constitution. In Philadelphia, New York,
D.C. and L.A., police continue to violate the civil and human rights of
American citizens, and continue to get slaps on the wrist, because their
victims are often young men of color. I may be wrong, but I don't think this
would be allowed to continue for a split second if police were rampaging
through Orange or Nassau counties, shooting white teenage jocks in the head
and leaving cocaine in their cars. This continues to
reinforce the ugly truth about America: that my black life is not nearly as
valuable as that of a white person's.

It's becoming more and more difficult to watch local politicians,
religious officials and other "people of conscience" sit idly by while
this continues to happen. In my heart, I suspect it's because most
white people in America see the police as their protectors from wild,
uneducated inner-city hoodlums, and if the choice is to limit police power
(and thereby limit their protection) or numb themselves to the occasional
Abner Louima or Amadou Diallo incident, then they side with the police every
time. Surrounded by a wall of denial and hypocrisy, they continue to show me,
and every young black or Latino man in America, why there is no reason to
hope that America's racial hostilities will ever end.

-- Michael Sales

McCain steps up attacks on Bush


John McCain's announcement today was amazing. Though I am a Democrat
and thoroughly disgusted with the Republican Party, I found my
heartstrings vibrating to his soaring rhetoric.

Still, for all his talk of freedom and dignity, there remains the glaring inconsistency: He
believes that women are entitled to neither if they find themselves unhappily pregnant.
In such cases, according to McCain's philosophy,
freedom and dignity are surrendered to a different prime directive: Once
a sperm makes it inside a human egg, that sperm takes precedence over
the human host.

There is nothing more dehumanizing than being impregnated by the wrong
sperm. As long as women don't have ultimate power over that, they
cannot be truly free. As long as any politician, male or female, does
not get this, that politician will not get my vote.
No matter how otherwise noble and freedom-loving he purports to be.

-- Linda Rigel

Sen. McCain can recite a lengthy list of accomplishments and wise
decisions in his run for the presidency. But what he does not mention is as significant as
what he does. At no point does Sen. McCain ever defend his support last
winter for impeaching, convicting and removing President Clinton from office.

To many of us it does not matter how wonderful the rest of his career may be;
John McCain supported impeachment, and therefore he is an idiot.
His alleged appeal to moderates outside of the Republican Party is greatly
reduced because of it.

-- Jonathan S. Mark

Alexandria, Va.

By Letters to the Editor

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