Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Torvalds takes bite of Mac mini

October 11, 2006 1:16 PM PDT
Linus Torvalds has picked up one of Apple's new Intel-based Mac minis to play with, but the Linux creator still prefers Apple's old PowerPC architecture for his primary desktop machine.

"I'm actually still running a G5, but I also have a Mac mini," Torvalds revealed in an e-mail to ZDNet Australia.

The Linux creator has been running an Apple G5 since at least March 2005, switching from a normal x86-based desktop sometime before that. At that stage he attributed the switch to the importance of IBM's Power architecture as well as a desire to try a new system.

Since then, however, Apple has stopped using PowerPC chips, bringing its machines into line with other vendors by adopting Intel's new x86 multiple-core CPUs.

While Torvalds said he liked the aesthetics of the mini, he still had concerns about Apple's hardware, so the Intel machine remains more of a plaything than anything else.

"I like the design, and it's the right form-factor to be a replacement machine for my wife and daughter, but sadly, Apple screwed up the firmware in various stupid ways," he said.

"I'm not actually willing to really use it myself since it's the old Yonah-based set-up (Intel Core) rather than the newer (and better) Merom (Intel Core 2). So it's kind of a toy to play around with.

"Apple has Core 2-based machines too, but those all have better PC equivalents without the Apple headache, so I'm not interested in them."

Torvalds said Apple had introduced problems by designing its machines in a way that made them different from standard desktop PCs. This had created difficulty getting common open source software (eg X-windows and the GRUB boot manager) to work easily, even using Apple's Boot Camp software to allow multiple operating systems to boot on the same machine.

Apple's decision to use Intel's Extensive Firmware Interface (EFI) has proven particularly problematic. The technology is a replacement for the traditional BIOS PC bootstrapping system.

"They fixed some of it with the firmware upgrade, but it has had various really annoying stupid bugs in it, so quite frankly, I'd rather just have a regular PC in a nice form-factor instead," said Torvalds.


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