What is Mac OS X?

© Amit Singh. All Rights Reserved. Written in December 2003


This document attempts to give a hacker over-friendly answer to the question "What is Mac OS X?". My original motivation in writing this was that somebody had proxy-volunteered me to give a talk introducing Mac OS X to the Linux Users Group at my work place. While thinking over what to say to those folks, most (if not all) of whom are strangers to Mac OS X, I decided to write a supplementary document that they could refer to at their leisure.

Since I moved to Mac OS X, I have had a few discussions with people who are curious about Apple and Mac OS X, but have not used the platform. Often, what they think is a somewhat distorted, perhaps even incorrect version of the "truth": there are many areas in which they think the Mac is worse or better than it really is. Consider (with colloquialisms preserved):

Some such curiosities and questions are addressed in this document.

Target Audience

This document does not aim to regurgitate Marketing KoolAid, not that there's anything wrong with it™, but is intended primarily as an introduction to Mac OS X for those members of the technical community who are not familiar with it. You can think of it as a somewhat low-level taste of Apple's operating system. Consequently, some parts are fairly technical, and the implicit assumption is that you are familiar with fundamental concepts of one or more of BSD, Mach, UNIX, or operating systems in general. In many cases I have made no attempt to provide background details of the concepts referred to in the discussion.


I currently use Mac OS X as my primary operating system. However, I am not a longtime Apple user. I bought my first Apple computer in April 2003. I have used and played with a number of operating systems, and have used Linux, Solaris, *BSD, and the Microsoft Windows family as my primary platforms at different times. The operating system that I have used the most is Linux. I have not been involved in religious riots involving operating systems, and I really believe that all these systems (including Mac OS X) have flaws, but they all have good things to offer.

I would like to point out what this document is not intended to be. It is:

I would appreciate if you bring any errors to my attention.

I hope you would understand that a reasonably complete description of an operating system would take one or more books, this document represents a (small) subset of what could be possibly discussed about Mac OS X - essentially what I could come up with during the post-Christmas extended weekend as I was forced to stay indoors by the relentless rain in the Bay Area. I might make this a work in progress.

Most importantly, please be aware that I do not work for Apple, and am not associated with them in any way, other than being a customer. Even my customer service experience with Apple has been rather incongruous for that matter.

The opinions herein are solely mine and do not represent anybody else, including my employer in any way.


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