Operating Systems | Linux vs Windows vs Mac
The question about Operating Systems is a very common question, not only among newbies in computers but also among experts, developers and many other people in society who are considered to have knowledge about the field of Computers, Computer Science and other Computer-related disciplines. In this article, I will explain all you need to identify which is the best Operating System, a debate that is nowhere near to the end, and that will definitely not end with this article, inspite of the effort.
First, we need to understand Operating Systems [OS];
What is an Operating System / OS?
Operating System ~ It is a set of software [system software] that manages computer hardware resources, software resources and their interaction, and which provides services to computer applications or programs.
Next, we need to agree on the fact that the debate on the better OS is based on there being a competition among the ‘big’ names in the industry. The major operating systems that are majorly argued on are; Linux, Macintosh OS and Windows, which are the ones we’ll discuss today to narrow down the endless list of operating systems that do exist in the world. The list continues to grow each day, and as if that’s not enough, operating systems are still being developed by even unknown entities, for different machinery and systems [including embedded systems] for specific functions.
The conclusion about the best operating system is not an easy one and will be derived from an in-depth analysis of the 3 major operating systems.
The History of Operating Systems
Linux is a Unix-like distribution of Operating Systems based on the Linux Kernel. Linux was developed in 1991 by Linus Torvalds, who was by then a student at the Helsinki University of Technology. The motivation behind developing the Linux kernel was the licencing that was on another Unix-like OS, MINIX [which had been developed to introduce students to OS principles, but which had been licensed and limited to education at the time]. Torvalds developed the linux kernel so that it took over the functionalities of MINIX including development [as a platform]. The Linux Kernel became popular especially as it used software and libraries from GNU [from the GNU Project, started by Richard Stallman in 1983 to provide software that is free (the Free Software Foundation under GNU GPL) and compatible with all Unix-systems].
The combination of the Linux Kernel and GNU software and libraries, referred to as GNU/Linux has been used to develop many free Linux distributions (popularly known as distros). The most popular of these distributions are; Debian and Fedora. Linux distributions are becoming very popular with Servers, Desktops, Mobile Phones as well as Sound Systems and other Embedded Systems, probably because anyone [under terms of GNU/Linux Licence] can modify, distribute and of course use Linux (GNU/Linux).
Under Debian Linux distros, there is a really wide variety of Linux OS including but not limited to; Kali Linux, Ubuntu (Xubuntu, Kubuntu, Lubuntu) and Parrot OS. Under Fedora, the most popular distribution is Red Hat Linux (Scientific Linux, Oracle Linux & CentOS). These Linux Distros continue increasing as more and more free source Linux Kernel-based distros adds up to the distros list. Most of the distros are developed having installation cpabilities as well as Live CD/USB or Installation-free distros, others are developed as Niche-distros (those developed for specific needs, e.g. Kali Linux – for penetration testing, Parrot OS – for computer security & Tails OS ~ for the Tor Service [by the Tor Project], or for anonymity while online).
Macintosh OS[popularly known as Mac] is a Unix-based, GUI (Graphical User Interface)-based operating system, developed by Apple Inc. in 1984. The OS was developed for macintosh computers, apple phones and other apple products. Macintosh operating systems have evolved and have been rebranded from Classic Mac OS [1984 -1997] to Mac OS [1997 – 2000] to Mac OS X [2001 – 2012] to OS X [ 2012 – 2016] and finally to macOS [2016 – Currently].
Overtime, Apple has improved their OS, with major changes when Steve Job [co-founder & CEO of Apple] came in from NeXT [a company he had founded after disagreements within Apple in 1985] in 1997. The macOS, besides being used in Personal Computers and Servers, has been widely used by Apple as their core OS in the development of their other electronic devices including; iPhone [iOS], iPad [iOS], iPod [iOS], Homepod for Smart Speakers, Apple tv set-box [tvOS] and Apple Watches [watchOS].
Microsoft Windows (or as popularly known as Windows) operating system, is a Windows NT (family of Microsoft Windows OS) GUI-based operating system developed by Microsoft Corporation. The initial release of the OS dates back to 1985 when Windows 1.0, right after the release of Apple Lisa and just before the release of Apple Macintosh OS.
Windows was able to gain popularity fast as they were able to invest in multi-tasking and more friendlier UI [User Interface] than Apple’s Macintosh OS. After some few releases, in 1993, Windows developed Windows NT, which became a kernel for developing and improving their OS. In 2001, Windows released Windows XP, then Windows Vista in 2006, Windows 7 in 2009, Windows 8 in 2012 and finally Windows 10 in 2014. Windows 10 is the latest OS by Windows, their latest offficial release being Windows 10 Version 1909.
Windows is being used in a wide range of electronic gadgets just like macOS and Linux. Besides being used in Desktops [Windows NT], Windows OS variations are used in Servers [Windows Server], Phones [Windows Phone – discontinued], Tablets, Embedded Devices (Windows IOT or Windows CE) and XBOX. Windows is currently the most popular OS in the world among personal computers and desktops.
On January 2020, Microsoft said that they will no longer support their Windows 7 OS and advised anyone using the OS to upgrade their computers to Windows 10. This meant that any individual or organization [which were and are still the most affected, due to the large use of the OS] will not receive any exploit patches and other Windows updates. Microsoft however, stated that they could support organizations that could not transit immediately to another variation of Windows [preferably Windows 10] but at a cost until 2022.
IN-DEPTH ANALYSIS / PROS & CONS / CONCLUSION
As I had indicated earlier, it’s not an easy task to analyze the 3 competitors to come up with a final conclusion abaout which Operating System is the Best. The answer to this question really depends on who you ask.
If you ask a novice computer user, they will probably tell you Windows or Mac. If you ask someone who works in an office all day with spreadsheets and other documents in organizations, they will also definitely say Windows or Mac.
On the other hand, if you ask a developer, they might tell you either of the 3 depending on the platform that the tools they use for their developing are based. Finally, if you ask a Computer Security Expert, Network Administrator, Pentesters, Forensics Experts and/or Hackers [Ethical/White-hats, Black-hats, Grey-hats], will will definitely tell you Linux or Linux Distros.
Any and Every Computer User or Operator has an opinion that deserves to be heard on this topic. Depending on your level-of-interaction with computers, the nature-of-your-job and your interest-in-computers, your conclusion on the matter will vary.
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Which is the best Operating System; Linux, macOS or Windows?
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