If the central processing unit (CPU) is a computer’s brain, then the operating system is how smart that brain is. It’s the common language that you and your computer share so that it can perform whatever task you ask of it. Without an OS, your computer, however gorgeous its specs are, is practically useless.
Currently, there are three major players in the OS arena, namely Microsoft’s Windows, Apple’s Mac OS X, and Linux. There are also less familiar names who have joined the fray, but this guide will focus more on the three’s pros and cons as well as the type of person that will most benefit from each of them.
With its current frontliners, Vista and Windows 7, Microsoft’s OS is the most proliferate system in the world simply because it’s easy to use and supports many kinds of softwares and PC hardware. This means that if you’re knowledgeable enough, you can build your own CPU specs to cater to your own needs and still be able to run Windows’ without compatibility issues. And since more people are into it, you’ll find technical support for OS-related problems everywhere. Windows is also the choice of gamers as it can run many titles.
However, getting the biggest chunk of the market has its downsides; Windows is quite prone to viruses --- or more accurately, more viruses are created for it. You can always download an anti-virus software for free but that can only give you so much protection, which means you may have to purchase its full version. It’s this freedom to choose among a competitive market of third party softwares that gives this operating system both its strengths and weaknesses. In fact, if capitalism was an OS, it will be Windows.
Mac OS X
Released in 1999, the Mac OS version 10-point-onwards, or simply known as the Mac OS X line, is relatively the most expensive operating system in the market. If you have an Apple computer, you’re definitely stuck with it --- not that it’s a bad thing, of course. In fact, Mac users have been known to be quite satisfied with its performance. Since its software and the computer’s hardware are designed to work with – and only with --- each other, Mac users experience less crashes and malfunctions. It is also more efficient in using the computer’s resources. Some will even argue that the Mac OS X’ aesthetically superior interface is reason enough to buy a more expensive Apple computer instead of the cheaper regular PC.
Being a UNIX-based system, this OS is not that prone to viruses. However, it also won’t be able to read executable (.exe) files making it incompatible with many third party softwares like games. Still, its system stability and performance are the key reasons why Mac is the popular choice for multimedia production.
If you’re not a fan of capitalism, monopoly and piracy, but are confident in your programming skills, then you’ll probably love Linux. It’s the newest player on the field but is quickly gaining popularity because of its do-it-yourself nature and absolutely-free policy. Being an “open source” program, Linux will give you free reign over your PC to configure it according to your needs, therefore making it harder to manage than Windows and Mac OS X. It works much like bit torrent file sharing; developers create useful programs called distributions or “distros” and share them to the Linux community at no cost. Again, choose this OS only if you’re very tech savvy, because its performance depends heavily on its user.
UNIX and other operating systems
UNIX and Windows have been at each other’s throat for decades. However, with Microsoft’s aggressive marketing strategy, UNIX was forced to take the back seat and hold on to its core but very loyal following. This does not mean that UNIX is inferior to Windows in terms of stability and security, though. In fact many computer wizards will tell you otherwise.
What makes UNIX even more enticing is the fact it gives you freedom from both programming limitations and unnecessary expenses. These advantages prompted many developers to come up with proprietary and non-proprietary variants of this operating system, the most notable of which are Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD) OS, Linux and as mentioned earlier, even Mac OS X.