Operating system advocacy

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Operating system (or OS) advocacy is one of the primary pastimes of people who have a deep and abiding interest in the design, construction and usage of computer operating systems. For these people, the investment necessary -- both in money and time -- to own and operate a computer creates an emotional investment in the operating system of choice. Such advocacy turns to arguments, as people compare and contrast the virtues and faults of different operating systems. These visceral debates include, most notably, Windows vs. MacOS, Windows vs. Linux, Linux vs. BSD. Some wars of the past included VMS vs. Unix. There are related wars over programming languages and text editors.

Here are some of the arguments which people who enjoy this sort of thing use.

Desktop Systems

Microsoft Windows

Total market share: Microsoft Windows enjoys a monopoly in the desktop OS market, 90%+
Audience: all markets. Most dominant in business, though it has the lion's share of the market in all sectors.

Pro

features; market share; support; cost

Anti

complex code (registry, "featuritis"); Microsoft business practices; missing features/usability; reliability; support; cost

Apple MacOS

Total market share: 5-10%
Audience: education (30-50%), arts (graphic design, video/film editing, sound editing), science

Pro

productivity benefits; reliability; ease of use; emotional appeal; support; community; total cost of ownership; aesthetic design

Anti

small market-share; hardware architecture; lack of applications; initial hardware cost


Linux

Market share: 2-5% Audience: information technology, computer science, hackers, educators

Pro

cost; freedom; platform independence; design; support; community

With desktop managers such as KDE and GNOME, Linux offers a graphical user interface more like the MacOS/Windows interface, in addition to the traditional Unix command line]. Many Free or otherwise gratis software packages offer the functionality of programs available on the other desktop operating systems.

Anti

missing features/usability; support; hidden costs; difficulty of migration


Server Systems

Microsoft Windows

Linux

Pro

cost; freedom; stability; hardware support; ease of management.

Linux is the most rapidly-progressing operating system in existence. It supports more hardware platforms than any other operating system. For a moderately skilled administator, ease of installation, management, and support are other advantages. Its support of almost every filesystem in existence makes it especially good for mixed-platform environments. Finally, the zero cost of acquisition combined with undemanding hardware requirements result in a very low total cost of ownership (TCO).


SUN Solaris

FreeBSD

Pro

cost; freedom; support design coherence; stability

BSDs have a unified kernel and userland: the kernel and userland are specifically tested (and versioned) for each other. This, along with the coherent, no-surprise directory structure, gives an excellent sense of a well-designed system. The ports tree makes for a very easy way to download new software: locating, configuring, compiling, recursive dependency handling are all taken care of. Re-building system software is also exceedingly easy with the automated world-building tools. Linux compatibility lets you run Linux binaries manufacturers didn't see fit to release as source or with a FreeBSD binary. Excellent speed and stability.

NetBSD

OpenBSD

Pro

OpenBSD is the most secure free Unix, using integrated cryptography and proactive security measures, including extensive security auditing. It is free, and supports a variety of hardware platforms.

Mac OS/OS X Server

Pro

Mac OS X Server is based on BSD, but with a "friendlier" GUI (nearly identical to OS X). The webserver is Apache; the user management is based on (Next) NetInfo. Many Unix tools and applications (such as mySQL) have been ported to run under OS X.

Anti

Unix users may dislike the GUI management tools; though the command-line tools are available, it may be difficult to determine what actions the GUI tools are taking. Macintosh users may dislike having to occasionally edit command-line files.


  • Note that market share can refer to either new sales or to installed base, which give very different numbers. This kind of information should be spelled out by people with a comprehensive picture.
    • Because Macintosh computers have a longer usage lifetime than Windows computers, their installed base is greater than their share of new sales.
    • Also, market share numbers for market segments. For example, the market share for Linux in the server market is much higher than for the desktop market.
  • and cost must mean TCO (total cost of ownership), right?

/Talk