Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Operating Systems

This is part of a series of reprints from my classes. Once the class is over, I will lose these if I don't save them elsewhere. I've decided to post them here as they may be of some interest. This is from my Introduction to Information Systems class, which I was too lazy to test out of.

I have a really funny story about how I crashed the VAX server at my father's work in 1983, but I'm going to spare you. Instead, I'm going to focus on operating systems that I have more direct, coherent interactions with. I'll try to do this in chronological order.

MS-DOS 4, 5 - My first experience really managing a system. High memory, what a throwback.
Windows 3 - I strongly preferred DOS to Windows at this stage, I thought of it as a gimmick and totally unstable.
MS-DOS 6.22 - The high point for DOS. Improved memory management (though I remember we used QEMM) and disk management. Good stuff. Anyone for a modem game of Doom?
Windows 3.1 -That minor revision made a big difference. Also, the business world started to catch on with Windows so more utilities came out. This was about the time I started using the Internet, and compared to today it was absolutely terrible. I still preferred DOS when I could use it.
Windows 95 - It was such a big deal, and it was a huge improvement. I think it was slightly overhyped. Ultimately I found myself still going into DOS for a lot of things.
Windows 98 SE - I think that this high point of the Windows 9x line. We waited until Second Edition was released before we upgraded. It required some initial work to make it run well, but after that it was rock solid.
OS 9 - I helped a few friends that had this work on their computers. It was neat, but I absolutely hated it. It was so difficult to do any maintenance to the system and everything was so slow.
Windows Me - Oh my, what a disaster. I don't recall any useful feature upgrades from 98 SE but it seems that Microsoft tried to do too much with the 9x code base. It didn't work, this was the most unstable and unusable OS I've ever experienced.
Windows NT - I have limited experience with this, as I switched employers and they were on the verge of upgrading to 2000. Still, I used it. It was largely unremarkable.
Windows 2000 - By combining the architecture of the NT series with the better UI of the 9x series, this was a huge improvement over everything out there. I'm less thrilled with 2000 server.
Windows XP - I remember how excited I was that the better architecture of the NT series would be available to home users. On the down side, Microsoft created a highly networked OS that largely ignored all of the security lessons learned in the Unix community, which lead to rampant viruses and onslaughts of malicious software that continue to this day.
FreeBSD 5 - This was the best server OS I've used. It was highly stable, great performance, and Ports is awesome. I was able to do so many various things with this system it's hard to believe. I regret switching later.
VectorLinux - After inheriting a relatively ancient laptop I was able to use this Slackware varient to get it working. It has a tiny footprint but provides little in the way of ease of use.
Gentoo Linux - When it came time to replace my FreeBSD machine I chose this OS. It had more active development and great documentation. Unfortunately it also had days of compiling and eventually dependency problems.
Windows XP MCE - This was the best version of XP. It has a slightly better UI and just the right mix of enabled features to allow the home user to get things done. Specifically, I liked that it had IIS so I could do ASP.Net development without a hack at home.
Ubuntu Linux - This is by far the best that Linux has for the home user. Setup is a breeze and it recognizes tons of hardware. Of course, using Linux can be quirky and this one comes so close to being complete that it's a let down when something that "requires" a Microsoft product forces you to stop using it.
Windows Server 2003 - Good improvements over 2000, I like IIS 6.
Vista - I used this a few times. What I saw was that Microsoft tried to fix the security problems they've had and overshot creating this annoying system of prompt after prompt after prompt. I noticed that after a weke of using this OS most users would dismiss any and all dialog prompts without so much as a glance. They shifted the security problem from systemic to psychological. It was enough to tip the scales for me to buy a Mac.
OS X Leopard, Snow Leopard - I'll admit that I waited a long time to really try out OS X. I knew what it was like from years in the industry. OS X gets so very much right, and with a few tweaks it's an absolute dream to use. Most things in OS X just work, the usability of the OS is great, and I don't have to jump through hoops to get it to work with most of my stuff.
Windows Server 2008 - I only recently started using this. I'm not sure I've seen a huge improvement over 2003, especially in the management interface which I haven't gotten the hang of yet.
Windows 7 - For the first time since OS X was released it seems that Microsoft has taken the lead in usability. The security problems seem to finally be fixed, there's a clear point where you have to tell the system that you want to be an administrator but you're normally just a user. I'm very excited for this and I can't wait for Apple to truly respond.

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