Just Say No, Kiddies (5/24/00)

Look, questioning conventional wisdom is healthy and in the whole "think different" spirit and everything. After all, if we never challenged what we're told, we'd all be using Windows right now. But when setting out to question a belief that most people take for granted-- say, that the Mac OS is far easier to install than just about any other operating system out there-- it's vitally important to stay away from the psychotropic drugs, particularly if you're going to be publishing your thoughts online. Subverting the dominant paradigm is all well and good, but if you're going to do it in public, you probably want to avoid revealing an obvious heavy drug habit or behavior-modifying brain damage that could only have resulted from some terrible industrial accident.

Which brings us to CNET's OS Death Match, as brought to our attention by faithful viewer Unanimous Howard. See, as the CNET folks were evidently mainlining drain cleaner late one night, a great idea for an article came to them: since the Mac OS and Linux share about equal portions of the OS pie, why not pit one against the other in an attempt to determine which of the two non-Windows operating systems was best for the average consumer? (We assume this idea arose after the cleaning of the crack pipes and the three-hour discussion about how our universe might in fact be a single atom in the pinky toe of some enormous supreme being.)

Now, while we don't take issue with the overall results of this little experiment-- the Mac OS won-- we really have to wonder why the friends and family of the CNET staff haven't yet staged an intervention after reading the results of the "Installation" contest. One staff member claims that Corel Linux has "the best installation process we've ever seen in an operating system, period," citing the fact that it "launches solely from a CD-ROM disk-- no floppy boot disk required." Oooooo. That's pretty impressive alright, even though "your PC must support CD-ROM booting" for that unique feature to work. And get this: "if you have a network card, Corel Linux even configures that automatically." Again, give us just a second to pick our jaws up off the floor, after which we're going to run right out and buy a PC just so we can install Corel Linux and bask in the glory of this magical installation process.

So get this-- despite the fact that those amazing features of the Corel Linux installer were old hat in the System 7.5 installer (let alone the Mac OS 9 CD), CNET actually declared a tie between Linux and the Mac OS in the installation contest. Why? Because Linux is "a free download" and works on cheap Pentium hardware, so "it's a much cheaper option." Well, that's wonderful, folks, but next time you might want to sober up long enough to remember that you're supposed to be ranking these operating systems based on ease of installation, not price. Get thee to a methadone clinic, fer cryin' out Pete's sake.

Disclaimer: we admit that we've never installed Linux, but we've watched others do it-- or try to. In fact, on more than one occasion we've seen honest-to-goodness Unix software programmers with ten years of experience in the field completely stymied mid-installation by some vagary about graphics card support or getting the mouse to be recognized or partitioning the disk incorrectly. Sometimes the process takes these well-educated individuals weeks to get their systems running properly. As geeks ourselves, we like Linux-- really! But it's got a long way to go before it's as easy to use as the current Mac OS, and the fact that CNET actually thought Mac OS 9 is only a tiny bit better than Linux for the average consumer only serves as a poignant warning of the dangers of substance abuse. Want to keep your kids off drugs? Forget the after school specials; have them read CNET's article and they'll be scared straight for life.

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The above scene was taken from the 5/24/00 episode:

May 24, 2000: CNET loses its mind and proclaims Corel Linux to be just as easy to install as Mac OS 9. Meanwhile, Steve Jobs gets out of jury duty-- not because he's the CEO of two companies, but because his daughter's about to graduate from college, and Microsoft takes one on the chin as Judge Jackson says "no more process" and hints at a three-way breakup...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 2315: Lest Ye Be Steved (5/24/00)   Jury duty: the great equalizer of American society. It doesn't matter whether you're a plumber, a greengrocer, or the CEO of two high-tech companies-- sooner or later, your number will come up. Steve Jobs was reminded of that fact as he reported for his civic duty on Tuesday, as reported by a Yahoo Daily News article we first saw mentioned on MacNN...

  • 2316: One Seriously Bad Day (5/24/00)   If Microsoft's lawyers are good at anything (and, judging by their performance during the "Redmond Justice" trial, they aren't good at much), it's spinning bad news into good. It seems that no matter how badly they got thrashed in court, at the end of the day they were always able to address the media and say how great everything went...

Or view the entire episode as originally broadcast...

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