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Maybe the idea of installing a completely new operating system doesn't appeal to you. Perhaps you aren't ready to take the plunge, or you're concerned about losing data saved on your computer right now. There are a few alternatives available, depending on what exactly you were intending to use Linux for. For example, if your computer is already running Mac OS X, you may be interested in projects such as Fink that "port" popular Linux applications. What this really means is that programs such as the Gimp, a graphics program, and XMMS, a popular music and media player, and many others are available for use in Mac OS X. Professional backend and development tools such as mysql and python are also available, and developers behind open source projects such as Mozilla and Abiword have ported their software themselves.

Depending on the application, you may need to acquire the latest release of X11 for Mac OS X. Apple offers this themselves on their website and through recent Mac OS X releases, and the installer is fairly straightforward. Of course, you won't always need X11. Applications such as Mozilla have a native Cocoa interface. Others like AbiWord, Open Office, and countless other tools still require X11.

The first step to deciding what exactly you want to do is to decide what exactly you need. For example, if the only purpose to installing Linux would be to run a few Unix programs, it might be wise to see if it's ported to Mac OS X. It will save you the hassle of continually rebooting, and it will probably save you some hard drive space as well. If your computer is incapable of running Mac OS X, however, this really isn't an option, because it's the Mac OS X Unix base that makes these porting projects possible. In that case, installing Linux is a good way to put aging hardware to some use, and may give you another year or two out of an old machine.

One thing, too, that many people do not always consider is switching to a version of BSD, which will feel much more like Mac OS X's terminal interface than Linux will. Mac OS X was based on BSD, one of a few popular Unixes available for free to the general public. BSD has different sets of licenses governing distribution of software and code, which equates to a smaller following, but no less active development. A good foundation in using and administrating BSD can come in handy when interacting with Mac OS X from the terminal application.

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