The operating system. How beautiful is a wonderfully designed
OS to geeks like me. Personally, there is nothing I appreciate
more than a nice operating system. I like it better than hardware.
Better than games. Better than any other application I can think
of. A nice OS is a thing of beauty.
But what is your operating system, really? Have you really thought
much about it? In truth, the operating system is your lifeblood.
Without it, you and your computer won’t be doing much together.
The OS is the environment that you work in on your hardware. Like
Windows. That’s an operating system. It’s what you use to “tell”
the computer what you want to do. And there are quite a few choices.
Let’s explore some. Follow me…
Let’s start with the ones you can probably eliminate right up
front. Unix. From the full-frontal geek standpoint, this is a
cool OS. First and foremost, it’s open source. What’s that mean?
Well, let’s say some computer geek way more smarter than I decided
to fix some bugs. Most operating systems are closed: you can’t
open the files, poke around, and make changes. For most of us,
that’s fine. We’d do more harm than good if we started playing
around in our OS. But some nerds (and I use that word lovingly)
are quite capable of getting into their OS and tweaking it for
better performance. Unix machines will let you do that.
Also, Unix licensing, is, well, non-existent. You can download
it for free. (Try that with Microsoft!) Of course, there’s no
support offered if you go that route. You could buy a copy on
CD. Usually with that route, you get phone and email support,
as well as a manual. Then, after you get your copy of the program,
you can run it on as many machines as you like! Load it up on
your whole network—it’s still the same price. With most other
OSs, you have to buy (legally speaking) one copy of the OS for
Stability is fantastic. MIS runs Red-Hat Linux on our Web servers.
We’ll have machines run for months without needing to be restarted.
One server has been running (as of this writing) 246 days without
needing a restart. Another has been running a whopping 496 days.
Not one crash; no sluggish operating. Just hummin’ along, carefree,
for over a year! How often do you have to restart your machine?
Downsides to Unix? Well, it’s geeky. It’s not really designed
for home and small business use. You could use it for that. And
the software to go along with it is free and open source, so you
can get spreadsheet and word processing programs for it. But Word?
Nope. A close cousin, but not the real thing. Adobe products?
Sorry. Something similar, but not real Photoshop. Also, software
for your peripherals can be spotty. Wanna use that old modem?
Drivers may be hard to come by. Scanners? Same thing. So Unix
is cool for geeks, but for your office, it’s probably not what
Windows NT. Here’s another one I’d warn the average user away
from. And, for much the same reasons as Unix. It’s a little geeky.
It’s nowhere near what Unix is; in fact, if you’re a Windows user,
and sat down at an NT machine, you wouldn’t see much difference.
And, most (though not all) common programs available will run
on an NT machine. But when you sit down with the nuts and bolts
of it, it’s a totally different animal. If you’re MBNA, for example,
and have a whole IT department, then NT is a fine platform. But,
when something goes wrong, you’ll probably really need someone
who knows what they’re doing to fix it.
Microsoft did away with the NT platform a while ago, so you won’t
buy a machine with NT on it. If you’re thinking about upgrading,
don’t think about Windows NT.
Microsoft replaced NT with Windows 2000. Now here’s one you might
want to consider. First off, Windows 2000 is stable. Real stable.
As stable as Unix? Not on your life. I run a Windows 2000 machine
here at my desk (along with my beloved Mac). The OS itself almost
never crashes. However, I notice that programs running within
the OS will start to get a little curmudgeonly. Things will take
a while to open. Applications will freeze, and even restarting
the application won’t help. I reboot and things are back to normal.
I bet (when I was using the 2000 machine as my primary machine)
I used to reboot about once a week. That’s fine for a home office
server, or a server for a small business, but you wouldn’t want
to use it for a Web server. (Then again, if you’re running your
own Web server, then you’re a geek, and you’d be using Unix.)
So that leaves us with Mac, Windows 98, Widows Millennium, and
Windows XP. Two of those will prove to be good choices, one make’s
okay sense to some people, and one choice is directly from Satan.
We’ll discuss them next month.
Bill Batty, Jr. is the Director of Public Relations and Marketing
for Midcoast Internet Solutions and the drummer for the midcoast
band, Blind Albert. Contact Bill by email: email@example.com,
or visit his eclectic Web site, www.billyrhythm.com.