Comparison of major operating systems: Linux, Windows, macOS
Difficulty in Building an Operating System
By today’s standard of OS (operating system) and the requirements of applications, security, and laws it will be very difficult to build a good functioning securely, and evolving OS. This may be why we have only three major OS in the world today: Linux, Windows, and macOS. OS is a platform that involves hardware, software, and people so this requires a massive continuous collaboration to build, maintain and evolve the OS. An OS needs the collaboration of good designers and programmers as many different functionalities and services must be designed, coded, and integrated to work together such as bootloader, system calls, file system, ability to execute a file, a shell, and multiprocessing, etc. (Black, 2009).
The challenges and difficulties will also vary depending on the type of OS being built. For example, for Internetware OS “technical challenges still need to be resolved, including the architecture of Internetware OSs, performance and applicability issues, as well as security and privacy considerations” (Mei & Guo, 2018).
There are several aspects that will be difficult to build and evolve. For example, we know that OS should allow multiple computations to take place concurrently, divide the hardware’s time between the computations, keep track of where each one leaves off so that it can later correctly resume, control the interactions between the concurrent computations, forbid computations from modifying data structures, provide isolated areas of memory for private use by the different computations and provide support for controlled interaction of computations across time and space (Hailperin, 2019). These give rise to the issues of concurrency, deadlock, synchronization, virtual memory, and security. Any programmer of a complicated system requiring these functionalities is likely to introduce race bugs and security loopholes because concurrency and synchronization for example are hard to reason about (Hailperin, 2019).
Designing fast GUI for example can be difficult that does not crash or hang often or slows down. Also choosing a good shell interface and implementing it’s functionalities will require careful analysis of existing shells and perhaps backward compatibility. These issues also make designing and implementing OS very difficult.
An important but difficult aspect is how theory transitions to actual coding, if there is any use of assembly language or rather which programing languages may be used to implement some of these OS functionalities. Also there may be context or situation when concurrency fails and considering the implications and remedy for such a situation become difficult.
The Linux operating system is used on a wide range of devices, including smartphones, automobiles, supercomputers, home appliances, personal PCs, and business servers. Since its introduction in the middle of the 1990s, Linux has grown to have a global user base (Linux, 2018).
Early in the 1990s, Linus Torvalds developed the open-source Linux Operating System. Linux, which is based on UNIX, enables users to alter the existing code and create various distributions or versions of it, which they can then use and even sell. The majority of websites on the internet are served by systems powered by one of Linux’s distributions since it has emerged as the leading choice for putting up servers. The OS is also widely used in computers, smartphones, gaming consoles, eBook readers, and many more devices (Bhattia, 2022).
Linux easily defeats Windows in terms of speed. When using numerous processes, Linux, in contrast to Windows, tends to reduce “bogging.” Linux’s Ext4 file system does a great job of maintaining the device’s efficiency. Linux no longer supports defragmentation. Any Windows OS can be slowed down to unacceptable and agonizing levels by even reasonable and minimal use; this can only be prevented by strictly adhering to a use plan. When several processes are active, memory and disc hogging frequently occurs. Users of Linux benefit from an operating system that respects their privacy. Additionally, Linux systems come with built-in, cutting-edge encryption, so users can be confident of improved security and less intrusion from other apps. In general, Linux is safer than Windows. Linux still has attack vectors, but because of its open-source technology, anyone may review the vulnerabilities, which speeds up and simplifies the process of finding and fixing them. Since its debut, the Linux operating system has placed a major emphasis on uptime, process control, and system security. Linux has never strayed from putting this emphasis over the years. As a result, it can be referred to as a well-known secure and dependable operating system (Achodio, 2009; Bhattia, 2022; Software Testing Help, 2019). So, in terms of these operability metrics, Linux is an excellent OS.
The Linux OS consists of several components: the bootloader, the kernel, the init system, daemons, graphical server, desktop environment, and various applications (Linux, 2018). Linux shows how much total system memory is currently used, cached, buffered, or free, shows how much time the CPU spends performing system and user duties, stealing jobs from virtual operating systems, waiting for I/O to finish, and processing pleasant tasks, shows the amount of work that a computer system performs like Windows and macOS, tracks growth or reduction in the amount of available disk space used like windows and macOS and other features such as disk utilization, queuing, latency and throughput (Operating System Performance Metrics, n.d.).
Linux is an OS where you would battle less with obstacles like viruses, malware, slowdowns, crashes, costly repairs, and licensing fees (Linux, 2018). Linux is also open source which means it is flexible to use, changes can be made easily, and distributions can be shared among peers and updated easily. Every type of user can utilize one of the many versions of Linux. You can select a “variant” of Linux to suit your needs, whether you’re a novice user or a die-hard. Distributions (or “distros” in the short form) are the names for these variations. Almost all Linux distributions are available for free download, burning to disc (or USB thumb drive), and installation (on as many machines as you like) (Linux, 2018).
Some device drivers are not available for Linux, which is one of the problems that most Linux users encounter. Because they have more customers than Linux, hardware manufacturers choose to create drivers for Windows or Mac. Beginners can easily get up and running with Windows, but understanding Linux is challenging. The command-line interface requires some learning, and finding new software can be challenging. Finding a remedy is difficult if you experience any operating system issues. Compared to Windows and Mac, Linux has fewer experts. Also, there are not many software alternatives for Linux. Consider the popular graphic editing program Photoshop as an illustration. Photoshop can be found on Windows, but not on Linux. Although there is various photo altering software, Photoshop is the most effective. Another example of a program that is unavailable to Linux users is Microsoft Office. Games are typically created for Windows, but not Linux. Game developers are more interested in Windows because it is a commonly used platform (Rehman, 2019).
Linux’s competitive edge comes from its’ appeal to a specific category of customers and users. These are people who would prioritize security, speed, cost, and ease of maintenance. For example, speaking to LinuxLine about the benefits of switching to Linux on IBM, Kuznetsova points out that clients can benefit from both the inherent attributes of Linux and the underlying capabilities of IBM servers by switching to Linux on IBM. “Due to its improved flexibility with subscription-based pricing, lack of fees for version upgrades, and compact footprint, Linux generally presents exceptional cost reduction opportunities. Additionally, Linux operating on all IBM servers fully utilizes the features of the underlying platforms, such as dynamic memory upgrade on mainframes and live partition mobility on Power Systems, to offer clients exceptional performance, virtualization, and system management capabilities.” (Linux and IBM Provide Competitive Edge, 2009)
Microsoft began developing a tool named “Interface Manager” in 1981, which is when Windows first appeared on the scene. Under the moniker “Windows,” it was first introduced in November 1983 (after the Apple Lisa but before the Macintosh), but Windows 1.0 wasn’t made public until November 1985. (A History of Windows — Microsoft Windows, 2016)
Compared to Linux and macOS windows operability is poor yet still, it is the most popular OS. Several historical reasons can be cited for its popularity such as its early introduction of GUI, large market share, various productivity apps, gaming convenience, pirated windows, preinstalled OS, etc. (19 Reasons Why Windows OS Is Popular, 2021). However, windows have some of the poorest operability features such as frequent crashes, slowing down over time, virus, error codes, memory leak, blue screen of death, black screen, WIFI issues, battery problems, and apps suddenly stopping, etc. (updated, 2021; Darlington, 2022)
Windows have some similar features to Linux but some features that are special to Windows are Windows shows the available physical memory, the cached operating system code, and the allocated pool-paged-resident and pool-nonpaged memory, shows how much time the CPU spends on user processes, and system processes, has a start menu, has tablet mode in Windows 10, has a game center which can be connected with XBOX, has multiple desktops and task views, has Cortana assistant manager, unified settings and action center (Low, 2014; Operating System Performance Metrics, n.d.).
Windows looks good for GUI, is easy to learn, has lots of productivity apps, has good gaming functionalities and support, has an app store, has some decent diagnostic and administrative tools, and setting up is easier than Linux, and has a large support base among other strengths.
Windows is costly and some services require paid subscriptions. Windows is less secure than Linux and macOS. Windows can be slow over time and its performance is reduced and requires frequent updates which sometimes fail as well.
Based on the competitive strength of Office and cloud products, Morningstar gives Microsoft a significant economic moat. The three divisions that makeup Microsoft’s business are more personal computing, intelligent clouds, and productivity and business processes. (Downie, 2019)
Steve Jobs launched NeXT after leaving Apple in 1985, and it was there that the roots of what would eventually become macOS could be found. Before being released in 1989, the Unix-like NeXTSTEP operating system was created there. With extra kernel layers and low-level user space code inherited from portions of BSD, NeXTSTEP’s kernel is based on the Mach kernel, which was first created at Carnegie Mellon University. (01_SysOver, 1995)
macOS has been more operable than Windows given its proprietary nature. As Apple develops both the hardware and the OS there are fewer issues facing macOS. Apple has thus been able to provide consistent performance, security, and support to its home users. Providing quality user experience has been a top priority for macOS and they have been delivering it consistently.
macOS uses proprietary hardware. With OS X, you get a completely integrated system in which hardware and software interact flawlessly to provide you with the finest Mac experience possible. The fact that your Mac’s apps can communicate with those on your iOS devices is due to the practical iCloud. To give you an example, anything you do in apps on your Mac will also be reflected on your other iOS devices. (Poole, 2021)
macOS has fewer virus attacks than Windows, has good customer support, consistent GUI for all its products, provides great speed and availability and due to its superior hardware provides long life. It also supports the Windows file system and can run Windows. (Rehman, 2019b)
macOS is the most expensive, provides less software than Windows, has poor support for gaming, and has no hardware customization. macOS also does not provide cloud or server services like Windows and Linux.
Security, ease of use, hardware-software harmony, and superior quality of the hardware is what make macOS standout from the rest. With Apple, you are in control.
This short article discusses on major OS through their operability, features, strengths, weaknesses, and competitive edge. No OS can be regarded as the best but each one is tailored to a specific customer base solving specific problems. For example, Linux is best when it comes to speed, performance, security, and availability at the enterprise level but when it comes to productivity and home users Linux scores pretty bad. However, macOS tops when it comes to home users and ease of use, whereas Windows triumphs in gaming and productivity apps. As for my own use I prefer Windows due to its productivity apps and access to steam gaming.
19 Reasons Why Windows OS is popular ? (2021, November 7). Ourtechroom.com. https://ourtechroom.com/tech/why-windows-os-popular-than-linux-for-desktop-laptop/#mcetoc_1fjssu51d2hr
A history of Windows — Microsoft Windows. (2016, June 11). Web.archive.org. https://web.archive.org/web/20160611182917/http://windows.microsoft.com/en-in/windows/history#T1=era0
Achodio, B. V. (2009, October 23). Windows vs. Linux security strengths and weaknesses. The Last Watchdog. https://www.lastwatchdog.com/windows-vs-linux-security-strengths-weaknesses/
Bhattia, S. (2022, June 1). Linux vs Windows: Which Operating System is Best For You? Hackr.io. https://hackr.io/blog/linux-vs-windows#what-is-linux-operating-system
Black, M. D. (2009). Build an operating system from scratch. Proceedings of the 40th ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education — SIGCSE ’09. Build an operating system from scratch: a project for an introductory operating systems course: ACM SIGCSE Bulletin: Vol 41, No 1
Darlington, D. (2022, June 1). 22 Common Windows 10 Problems and How to Fix Them! Recoverit.wondershare.com. https://recoverit.wondershare.com/windows-10/windows-10-common-problems-and-how-to-fix-them.html
Downie, R. (2019). Microsoft’s Competitive Advantage: An Inside Look. Investopedia. https://www.investopedia.com/articles/insights/072516/microsofts-competitive-advantage-inside-look.asp
Hailperin, M. (2019). Operating systems and middleware : supporting controlled interaction. Thomson Learning, Inc.
Linux. (2018). What is Linux? — Linux.com. Linux.com; The Linux Foundation. https://www.linux.com/what-is-linux/
Linux and IBM Provide Competitive Edge. (2009, August 27). Database Trends and Applications. https://www.dbta.com/Editorial/Linux-News/Linux-and-IBM-Provide-Competitive-Edge-55911.aspx
Low, C. (2014, January 21). Top 10 New Windows 10 Features. Laptopmag.com; Laptop Mag. https://www.laptopmag.com/articles/windows-10-top-features
Mei, H., & Guo, Y. (2018, July 1). Operating Systems for Internetware: Challenges and Future Directions. IEEE Xplore. Operating Systems for Internetware: Challenges and Future Directions
Operating system performance metrics. (n.d.). Docs.datastax.com. Retrieved June 17, 2022, from https://docs.datastax.com/en/opscenter/6.7/opsc/online_help/opscSystemPerformanceMetrics_r.html
Poole, A. (2021, April 14). Definition and Main Features of Mac OS X. Www.macxdvd.com. https://www.macxdvd.com/mac-dvd-video-converter-how-to/mac-os-x.htm#2
Rehman, J. (2019a, September 20). Advantages and disadvantages of Linux operating system. IT Release. https://www.itrelease.com/2019/09/advantages-and-disadvantages-of-linux-operating-system/
Rehman, J. (2019b, October 5). What are advantages and disadvantages of macOS. IT Release. https://www.itrelease.com/2019/10/what-are-advantages-and-disadvantages-of-macos/
Software Testing Help. (2019, November 10). Linux vs Windows Difference: Which Is The Best Operating System? Softwaretestinghelp.com. https://www.softwaretestinghelp.com/linux-vs-windows/
updated, M. H. last. (2021, October 5). Windows 11 common problems — and the fixes. Windows Central. https://www.windowscentral.com/windows-11-common-problems-and-fixes