Operating systems are the programmes that create environment which enable the various programmes to run on a computer. That is why they are also referred to as platforms. The programmes that run on these platforms can range from simple office automation softwares that enable us to do wordprocessing to games and also device drivers. All major companies make their software for multiple platforms. By platform we mean the base environment that enables the communication between the onboard devices like the hard-disk, memory, various ports (input/output) and the functions it will carry out using other programmes that will run in that environment.
For example if we look at Microsoft which makes the MS Office software that is used by most personal computers. They make MS Office for not only their own operating system namely Windows but also for MAC and also for UNIX / LINUX. The function of the Operating system is to provide an environment and background on which the other applications will run.
This involves the use of Hardware like the display card, network card, sound card, printers, scanners, other input and output devices.
The hardware is linked to the computer through ports and communicates with the operating system through special software known as firmware (or drivers as it is commonly known). The most common Operating Systems are: Windows MAC UNIX/LINUX WINDOWS: This is developed by Microsoft and has become a major platform for personal computers around the world. The name Windows was coined for the reason that one can open more than one application at the same time and work on each one independently simply by opening them in different “windows”.
The earlier programmes did not have this capability and it revolutionised the industry. After this popularity, various versions were developed with time and now-a-days, we see the launch of Windows Vista. Before this we had the Windows XP, Windows 2000, Windows NT, Windows ME, Windows 98 etc. The popularity of Windows has been more so in its marketing strategy in that it has not limited itself to geographical boundaries. As a result of its becoming popular and being the most commonly used operating system also had advantages in terms of support.
There were more people who had had experience of using Windows and some were able to even provide expertise and support where more advanced Microsoft support was not available e. g. in the remote areas of Africa and other rural areas. But like its popularity it had other people who liked to know more of the Operating system and who wanted to know more about how it works in the background. This led to a new breed of programmers who liked to tear things apart and learn about the mechanism of the system.
These people then found ways of overriding certain functions, disabling certain features and using the system to their own advantage and a term was coined for them to be known as “Hackers”. Windows has had to deal with this breed of programmers to continue to hold the market and continuously trying to prove that their Operating System is safe and secure. Some of these programmers later on turned to other ways of proving their skills by developing programmes that would install themselves on the system and wreak havoc on the user by destroying the data, playing up with files and hijacking confidential information and sending it to them.
These programmes are known as “viruses”, which like the clinical virus, avoid detection by changing form and then when the opportunity allows, do their bit of destruction. Windows uses the protocol TCP/IP to communicate with other computers. It is also the protocol that is used for communicating with the internet. MAC : This was developed by the makers of Apple Macintosh computers or Apple for short. It has upto now managed to hold a great deal of market share in the USA where it originated and incidentally, Microsoft is also based there.
The MAC operating system was developed solely for use in the Apple computers and it was programmed for specific hardware that was on the Apple PCs. Unlike Windows that was developed independent of the hardware, MAC on the other hand remained dependent on the hardware and the various versions that came were designed so as to get the maximum output from the same hardware rather than for other new hardware. This was the reason that AppleMac as it was commonly called failed to capture the global market since people could not afford to buy the hardware and also the level of support was lacking beyond the borders of USA.
It did try to market the concept that you need to buy the hardware only once and then just keep upgrading the software but by this time it was too late. Far East especially Taiwan, Korea, Japan and China took on the opportunity and started developing motherboards for PCs for which Microsoft was willing to supply the necessary Operating System. MAC has produced various versions so far and presently we are using MAC OS x10. 5 also nicknamed “Leopard” just like its previous versions which were also named after the big cats.
Except for the first one which was named Kodak after the Grizzly bear. Unlike Windows MAC does not have “enemies” of the likes of Hackers and Virus creators. It does get them but since MAC is not a popular system of the likes of Windows the Hackers and Virus programmers find it not that worthwhile to work on them. However, it does not mean that they are free from it, some people still do it and MAC also has to work around such people each time and new patches are constantly being developed. MAC uses the protocol AppleTalk to communicate with other computers.
However, when it needs to go to the internet, it has to have TCP/IP protocol installed. UNIX/LINUX: Unlike the Windows and MAC this is not only an Open Source Operating System but also Freeware. By Open Source we mean that the main code of the programme on which it is based, is not secret or a property of anyone. Earlier when we talked about the Hackers getting into the operating system and disabling certain functions and enabling others to get it to work the way they want, this is exactly what an Open Source system allows one to do.
One does not need to have a great deal of knowledge of programming to be able to manipulate the programme and also one does not need to worry about breaking any law by doing so. The inventors of the programme have given a basic programme along with the freehand to do whatever with it and make it work to your specific requirements. By freeware, we mean that the inventors who have created this programme do not want any money for it and it is free for anyone to download and use.
Other terms in this context are the Shareware, this means that the programmer will only give you the software to use on a trial basis for a limited time so that you may evaluate it and see if it suits your needs or not. If it does, then after the trial period you may buy the full version thus avoiding any unnecessary cost that you could have incurred if it was not what you wanted. UNIX or LINUX which are both of similar nature though LINUX is the newer version, have another advantage in comparison to Windows and MAC in that, since these are Open source not many viruses or hackers try to disrupt it.
However, UNIX is the main programme that hackers use to hack into either Windows or MAC since it allows you to work on the base level of the programme. UNIX also uses the TCP/IP protocol and thus one does not need to install other protocols to connect to the internet. Due to its popularity the LINUX has been taken by Sun Microsystems which is a major IT company based in Germany and they manufacture Sun computer systems. Sun computers use LINUX as their main operating system.
When we run LINUX on a normal PC it is called referred to as a LINUX COMPARISON AT A GLANCE Windows MAC UNIX / LINUX Popular around the world Support is available even in remote areas Uses the same protocol that is used to communicate with the internet. Is very prone to hackers and viruses thus the creators have to constantly develop patches to overcome the threats. Has more variety of programmes available as compared to other operating systems Is only popular in the America Has limited support around the world.
Is more secure than Windows in that it is not prone to hackers and viruses. Uses the protocol AppleTalk to communicate with other Apple computers but needs the TCP/IP to communicate with the internet. It is freeware so anyone can use it free of cost. It is an open source system allowing one to customise it to ones own needs and requirements without fear of any legal liability. It uses the TCP/IP protocol to communicate thus is compliant with the internet. Most internet servers still use UNIX as their main operating system