MacWorld: Inside Mac OS X’s Unix Layer

“If you wanted to define the far ends of the computer usability
spectrum, you could do a lot worse than planting Mac OS at one end
and Unix at the other. For the whole of its existence, the
Macintosh operating system has been a prime example of consistency
and graceful design. And for the whole of its existence, the Unix
operating system has been, um, not.”

“Ugly where the Mac is beautiful, industrial where the Mac is
personal, the domain of hard-core geeks where the Mac is the
computer for the rest of us, Unix has managed to gain its position
in the industry simply by being incredibly powerful. A lumbering
dump truck to the Mac’s zippy roadster, Unix is the pug-ugly
workhorse that delivers more Web pages, routes more mail, and gets
more done than any other computer operating system in

“And Mac OS X is so interesting because it is Unix — or,
rather, one of the many Unix variants — through and through. Strip
away the colorful candy shell, and any number of bearded,
suspendered old-school Unix hackers would feel right at home inside
the confines of Mac OS X.
In fact, if you ignore the graphical
user interface (GUI) entirely and limit your interaction with the
operating system to an 80-by-25-character text window, you’d be
hard-pressed to identify Mac OS X as anything other than a
true-blue FreeBSD (Berkeley Software Distribution) release, on
which OS X is based. POSIX-compliant, networked, and
multi-user-capable, Mac OS X can match Unix feature-for-feature and


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