OS wars

Do you get annoyed about the flame wars we see on line about OSes? I know I do. You see a post about some type of feature in an OS and it seems the whole internet wants to comment on their OS being better that all of the other OSes.

Personally I have opinions on OS domanence and on the politics of the different OS providers. I support open source as I am able to use open source software and I hope I am able to give back enough. I also use proprietary software and pay for it. I look at these things as tools and I have this ‘best tool for the job’ attitude.

What this means is no OS is better than any other, just that each has it’s place and while different people may have other opinions, this is what I think. For most people the OS they should use for their desktop OS, because it provides all of the tools they need and is easy to use, is Windows. It’s painful to say that but it’s true. There are issues with security problems and it’s bloated and slow but it’s good enough for most people and doesn’t have the cost of Macintosh or the geekiness of Linux. Some argue that Windows only has the security issues it has because it’s the most used OS and biggest target but that doesn’t hold true on servers where Linux is king and well it just has security issues because of the design and how it runs applications and services. Just keep it patched and behind a firewall with good malware protection and it will do just fine for you on your desktop. Some major companies and even governments have stopped using Windows, so you won’t see this OS at Google or IBM and is no longer used by Frances police force.

Mac is great at what it has always excelled at, media and publication. If you are artsy or write anything, if you do much with music or video and can pay a bit more for a bit better OS, get a Mac. They are just so much better for you, have little problems with security and all of the good programs for publishing and media are available here. And it should work perfectly with your iPad and iPhone. They are more expensive and a very closed system but really nice to use as your desktop and if you have to have it the version of Microsoft Office is even better than the one for Windows.

Linux/Unix/BSD is the king of servers for small and middle sized business. Used by the giants like Oracle, IBM and Google for everything, IBM even runs it on their mainframe computers, Google for desktop, servers, their phone OS and mobile computing platform. Secure by design with not only users but services running as limited access processes. Linux is free, can do anything any other OS can do and has a very good desktop environment, in my opinion. It is a bit geeky and there are parts of it that users may find difficult but it is capable as a desktop OS and essential for a server. There are many different offerings of the Linux OS. They all run the same main part, the kernel, but then the different distributions add different things to it such as device drivers, front end windowing software and different default applications that it is confusing for users but if you have the time to learn how it all works it can be very good to use. Some distributions are much faster loading and running applications to the point a 10 year old system can perform as well as Windows on a new system. And with applications for everything it can do anything a Mac or Windows system can do.

So what OS should you use? Well that depends a lot on you and your computer. For a server, Linux. Don’t hesitate just install it already. For a desktop, well, if you are buying new, and have never ran Linux, decide if you can afford a Mac. If you can, get a Mac. If you have used Linux before, get a Linux box. If you are building your own box, again, get Linux unless the game you are building for only runs on Windows. If you can’t afford Mac and have never used Linux and just buying commodity hardware get the commodity OS, Windows 7.

If you are upgrading an older computer from Windows XP, unless you have to have a game or application that has no Linux equivelant, just put Linux on it. And if the machine is not a dual core put Puppy Linux 5 on it. Why Puppy 5, because it’s fast and you can load any package from Ubuntu on it so you have the speed of Puppy, the security of Linux, the ability to run the latest of everything and your hardware is now going to run like you just bought a new computer.

There are other OSes out there. Most of them you can ignore but one to watch is QNX. QNX is a Unix derivitive used a lot in control and safety systems but now is owned by RIM and will be in every Blackberry and other rim product soon.

Anyway my take on the OSes out there and where they belong. Windows is still the most used desktop OS but Linux is king in servers. Mac OS is solid but a niche product and in reallity is just Unix with a really clean front end.


About echlinm

Computer Programmer/Systems Analyst/Hacker S31
This entry was posted in Computers and Internet and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to OS wars

  1. Brett Legree says:

    Great post, Mike. I share the “best tool for the job” attitude too, as you know.

    I have two Macs on my desk right now (a 2008 MacBook Pro, and a 2005 PowerBook G4) as well as a Compaq nc6320 which is running Windows 7 Ultimate as a media server. It was going to run Ubuntu 10.04 originally, but a regression in X.Org – which prevents the LCD from turning off when it is closed (the unit is a notebook, which I run closed & headless) – made it more trouble to run than it was worth.

    As Windows 7 does everything I need, flawlessly and no crashes since I installed it in April of this year, I doubt I will change it now. It just runs… and runs… safe, behind my firewalls. But you never know if I get bored…

    The Macs are used for everything – the MacBook Pro also has VMware Fusion installed, so I do all of my testing of various operating systems under Fusion. The PowerBook was purchased on eBay about a month ago for $650 CDN, including taxes and shipping, with a brand new battery.

    So, if people fancy a Mac but don’t want to pay the “Apple Tax”, they could consider a pre-owned machine. This thing runs very well with 2 GB of memory and OS X 10.5 (won’t run 10.6 as it is a PPC) and it does all that I need it to do as a “backup Mac”.


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