Popular operating systems and trends

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Common types of operating systems

original Microsoft logo circa 1975
original Apple official logo circa 1977
Tux, the original Linux mascot circa 1996
original Google logo circa 1997

Desktop computers

Windows

  • owned by Microsoft, Inc.

OS X

  • owned by Apple, Inc.
  • based on the UNIX operating system

UNIX

GNU/Linux

Mobile computers

iOS

  • owned by Apple, Inc.
  • the mobile version of OS X
  • based on UNIX

Android

Two ways of interacting with the operating system

Command line

a classic DEC VT100 terminal, circa 1978

The command line is a text-based system that allows a user to interact with a computer. Command line interfaces today are generally modeled after the computer terminals of yesteryear - devices that allowed input into a computer and displayed output from a computer via a keyboard and monitor, but were separate from the computer itself, which was often very large and located elsewhere.

Graphical User Interface

The graphical user interface (GUI) is a visual display of options and controls that allows a user to interact with a computer. This is how most "normal" people interact with a computer.

The two most popular operating systems for personal computers each come with a GUI included:

  • Microsoft Windows
  • Apple OS X

UNIX & GNU/Linux operating systems can sometimes come with a variety of GUIs, such as:

Operating systems for mobile devices usually come with a GUI included:

  • Google Android
  • Apple iOS

What operating systems usually include

Operating systems are software. They typically include:


File system

  • a file system where data is stored using the paper paradigm and metaphor of a filing cabinet:
    • files
    • folders
    • shortcuts
    • applications that allow you to easily browse the file system
      • Mac Finder
      • Windows Explorer

Graphical User Interface

  • graphical user interfaces (GUIs) based on the metaphor of a desktop
    • the monitor is the top of your desk (i.e. your desktop)
    • documents and folders sit on top of your desk (i.e. files and folders)
    • documents can be opened up on your desk (i.e. windows)
    • typical office accessories can be placed on your desk (i.e. application shortcuts)
    • the desktop metaphor falls apart:
      • a trash can sits on top of the desk (i.e. trash and recycling bin)
      • filing cabinets sit on top of your desk (i.e. hard drives, networked drives, etc)
      • menus, task bars, and most applications don’t really fit into the desktop metaphor very well.
    • Linux does not generally include a GUI
      • users can choose which GUI to use
      • X Windows is the most popular Linux GUI

Hardware interfacing

OS’s take care of the most common computing tasks

  • interfacing with hardware
    • monitors
    • mice
    • trackpads
    • keyboards
    • sound cards
    • cameras
    • modems
    • ethernet connections
    • USB devices
    • DVD drives
    • SD drives

Resource management

  • process management
    • multitasking
    • keeping track of all running applications
    • scheduling applications so they share the processor nicely
  • memory management
    • storing data in the computer’s memory
    • retrieving data from hard drives
    • caching data
    • making sure the computer doesn’t run out of memory
  • The main part of an operating system is called the kernel. This part does the following:
    • runs directly on the hardware with no other software below it
    • controls and organizes the hardware
    • receives messages from the hardware about any new devices attached or other hardware data changes
    • passes messages between programs
    • allocates resources, memory, bandwidth, etc.
  • Application software
  • runs “on top” of the operating system
    • depends up on the basic capabilities of the operating system
      • usually only works on one type of operating system


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