Friday, October 23, 2009

A Basic Explanation of Operating Systems

Computer hardware is important and all, but everyone knows that operating systems are the most essential piece of a computer. A computer operating system is the main piece of software that runs a computer. The purpose of an operating system is to let you launch and use programs on your computer. Generally, operating systems come with their own set of programs already installed so you can browse the internet, explore your file system, and play media files from the get-go.

The three most widely used operating systems (which I'll cover in more detail later in this post) are:
  • Windows
  • MAC
  • Linux
Windows is a commercial operating system created by the Microsoft corporation which can be installed on any computer. Windows comes with a ton of popular programs including Microsoft Works, Internet Explorer, and Windows Media Player. Windows is drastically the most expensive operating system, but it's users will argue that the steep price is more than worth it. The latest version of the Windows operating system is Windows 7.

MAC is a commercial operating system developed by Apple. MAC operating systems are unique in that they can only be installed on computers manufactured and condoned by Apple. MAC operating systems come supplied with an unrivaled set of photo and video editing software. MAC users tend to argue that the monopolistic hardware situation is worth the cheaper price and the MAC operating system. Most interesting about the MAC platform (for programmers only, really) is that MAC computers come with an SDK which allows people to develop for any device (including iPhone) that's part of the MAC platform. The latest version of the MAC operating system is MAC OS X.

Linux is a free, open source operating system core. Developers then use the core to create their own distributions (also known as versions or distros) of the linux operating system. The two most popular distros are Ubuntu and Arch. Because linux operating systems are free, they can save you a signifigant chunk of money when you are building your own PC. Many people say that the linux operating systems rival and in many cases even surpass the quality of the commercial operating systems.

Every computer needs an operating system to perfrom the most rudimentary tasks and we are fortunate to live at a time with so many different choices of operating systems.

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