In a review of Mac OS X, Internet Weeks says the next generation operating system “just might be the OS to get Wintel users on a Mac” as it offers “stability from its Unix origins” and usability from the Mac side. And it offers a “great user interface to harness Unix’s power.”
“What’s truly radical about OS X is how it gets its business done,” reviewer Larry Loeb writes. “Instead of the convoluted accretions tacked onto the system software of past Macs, a kernel called Mach runs the show. The eye-candy GUI, called Aqua, works on top of Mach nicely, hiding the raw edges of the system so it looks unlike any previous Unix version. This is a non-threatening Unix whose code is used for the grunt work of computing and file management but doesn’t require a user to pray to the gods and cast magic incantations on a command line before it will answer.”
Internet Week says there are security concerns with the new operating system. The Mac operating system has always been very secure, but Unix has seen more attacks. The review says that Mac OS X does address the issue.
“First, OS X doesn’t default to the root superuser as Unix does. This means that even if the system is breached by an attack, the attacker will find it much harder to gain system control than in a standard Unix system,” Loeb says. “Second, the Unix layer is based on Open BSD, one of the most secure Unix distributions out there. (The known holes have already been patched. Future patches can be applied to OS X.)”
The new operating system also shows a “major shift” by Apple in the way that Mac system software of the future will be developed by open sourcing the Darwin component of Mac OS X. Apple is also including developer tools in the Mac OS X distribution to enable changes to the operating system to make it better fit the job at hand, Loeb says.
“It may also be that custom OS versions will be commonplace in a few years, making any ‘standardized’ attack harder,” he adds. “By abandoning the proprietary (such as OS X communicating via real TCP/IP stacks rather than tunneling AppleTalk in the TCP/IP), Apple hopes that the open-source community will improve and evolve Darwin in ways that Apple never planned but that users want. For Apple to give up this kind of control over one of the “crown jewels” is unprecedented. But this kind of change may be necessary if users are to be empowered, and it’s past the time to not allow them the choice.”
The reviewer finds good and bad things in the changes to the traditional Mac interface. Overall, Loeb says it’s like a three-year-old: not quite formed, but full of promise.
“It’s an amazing accomplishment that OS X exists at all, and it should only get better as time goes on,” he concludes.