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Yellow Dog Linux for the Macintosh: Popping the Kernel

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Yellow Dog? It isn't a retriever; it's a Linux for Mac folk. In this article, Larry Loeb looks at whether Linux (in general) is for you and whether Yellow Dog Linux (specifically) will do what you want and need.

Yellow Dog Linux has recently upgraded to version 4.0. With this release, it has become the pre-eminent Linux implementation for the Macintosh. Although OS X users who are intrigued by the power and the speed of Linux will seriously want to consider this version, Linux is not for everyone. There is no hand-holding, and you can drive the Mac right off a cliff into a kernel panic.

This article looks at the implementation and the reasons for using Linux to help you make your choice.

The Author Declares a Bias

Let me make one point clear at the beginning: I like Yellow Dog Linux (YDL). Heck, I bought a YDL hat at the last "real" Boston MacExpo that I still wear. YDL is a Mac implementation of the Red Hat distribution, which is based on the Fedora 2.2 Linux core. However, liking it in the abstract doesn't mean I can't hit it upside the head some and complain. Because I can do that with glee, in the open source spirit, to make it a better product. I don't in any way think it's rotten; indeed, you put this kind of effort only into the things you like and want to do better. So, remember that when and if I yell about something, I do so out of concern, not animosity.

Having said all that, YDL 4.0 is the first YDL version that is ready for use by the general public. Earlier versions assumed that you had some knowledge of Unix and how to install it. That expertise may have been there in those early adopters who needed a Mac Linux for a specific purpose and were prepared to undergo the aggravation that was required to make it work. But this version automates the install process so that even a non-wizard can do it. The setup and configuration process seems far less onerous to me—and that's always been a stumbling block with Linux. Mac folk are used to things working out of the box, with the software being intelligent enough to take care of itself. Linux, like Unix, needs a firm hand for guidance; but YDL 4.0's graphical interface makes the install process more transparent and less convoluted.

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