There's No Need To Get Nasty (4/9/01)

As longtime viewers are well aware, the AtAT staff is as diplomatic and tactful as can be (and anyone who says otherwise is obviously an imbecile with nothing above the brainstem). For that reason, we originally chose to stay far, far away from the ugly verbal tussle brewing between Steve Jobs and Linus Torvalds, the father of the Linux operating system. Gasps of disbelief echoed throughout the Mac community last Friday when word got out that in his upcoming autobiography, Linus calmly, coolly, and in a fully premeditated manner called Mac OS X "a piece of crap." (For a graphical rendition of the sitch, check out The Joy of Tech.)

Whoa, there, hotheads; before you go storming the cathedral or the bazaar or wherever the heck ol' Linus is living these days, we should clarify a little. As The Register points out, Linus wasn't badmouthing Aqua or the Dock or even Mac OS X overall; it's the operating system's Mach 3.0 kernel that draws his criticism. Mach, sayeth the Linux poster boy, "contains all the design mistakes you can make, and manages to even make up a few of its own." So as far as we know, Linus may in fact be cool with Mac OS X's lickable exterior-- in which case he still considers Mac OS X to be a piece of crap, but a pretty and candy-coated piece of crap. (Could the man be jealous that Mac OS X beat Linux as "the 'NIX for the rest of us"? After all, he did turn down Steve's invitation to help work on a "mainstream UNIX" back in '97.)

Meanwhile, Apple's Senior Veep of Software Engineering Avi Tevanian (who was already tetchy after not having slept since late 1996) is currently being restrained by six harried members of Apple's security team. Avi, we hear, is taking Linus's comments a mite personally, seeing as he was "a principal designer and engineer of the Mach operating system upon which NEXTSTEP [and Mac OS X] is based." So Avi is foaming at the mouth and writhing around in a deep state of geek bloodlust, shouting unintelligible things about Linus's various internal organs and their eventual destination somewhere rather distant from the rest of his rapidly cooling body. The infirmary nurse is coming with the Haldol.

Despite seeing one of his faithful NeXTians reduced to a babbling psychotic homicidal state, Uncle Steve is handling this whole thing with a commendable level of aplomb. One might fear that His Mercurialness would lose it and unleash a torrent of abuse upon Mr. Torvalds, but in fact his only public acknowledgment of Linus's snippy comments was to call Torvalds a "dent-headed, blanket-clutching, thumb-sucking software commie"-- hardly a worst-case scenario, from a PR standpoint.

Oh, and there's also that little thing with Steve calling upon the Mac faithful to find Linus, rend him limb from limb, and plant his head on a pike outside of One Infinite Loop... but that was pretty much to be expected. The last thing we heard is that Linus has packed his blanket and gone into hiding with Salman Rushdie-- but hey, you mess with the bull and you get the horns...

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The above scene was taken from the 4/9/01 episode:

April 9, 2001: Linus "Mr. Linux" Torvalds doesn't dig Mac OS X, and he's got the potty mouth to prove it. Meanwhile, the GeForce3 is late, but Apple's got a nifty scheme to get backordered Macs into customers' hands ASAP, and Apple's latest 50%-off RAM promotion comes at an interesting time...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 2977: 2 Cards For The Price Of 1 (4/9/01)   Are you one of those lucky dinks waiting for a brand-spankin'-new Power Mac G4 complete with a groundbreaking nVIDIA GeForce3 graphics card? Please believe us when we tell you that delivering the following bad news brings us no pleasure: according to MacGamer, you're going to be waiting a while longer before you can witness the glory of reducing virtual opponents to bloody chunks at 800 billion operations per second...

  • 2978: Take This DIMM And RAM It (4/9/01)   Fun Fact #137 about Mac OS X: it eats RAM for breakfast. And no, we're not talking about those firmware updates that rendered many Macs too picky to acknowledge the presence of "non-compliant" DIMMs, unfortunate though that situation may be...

Or view the entire episode as originally broadcast...

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