CommunityFDL Main Blog

Over Easy: The map is not the territory !

Linux logo

This is going to be a very geekie post. It’s about PCs and Operating Systems. Just about anything that has a computer processor has an operating system of some sort From the ISS to the iWatch. From the complex general purpose to the simple single purpose.

An operating system (OS) is software that manages computer hardware and software resources and provides common services for computer programs. The operating system is an essential component of the system software in a computer system. Application programs usually require an operating system to function.

Time-sharing operating systems schedule tasks for efficient use of the system and may also include accounting software for cost allocation of processor time, mass storage, printing, and other resources.

For hardware functions such as input and output and memory allocation, the operating system acts as an intermediary between programs and the computer hardware,[1][2] although the application code is usually executed directly by the hardware and frequently makes system calls to an OS function or be interrupted by it. Operating systems are found on many devices that contain a computer—from cellular phones and video game consoles to web servers and supercomputers.

Examples of popular modern operating systems include Android, BSD, iOS, Linux, OS X, QNX, Microsoft Windows,[3]Windows Phone, and IBM z/OS. The first six of these examples share roots in UNIX.

This post concerns the operating systems or OS that run on someone’s PC.

Microsoft [Bill Gates] wanted a windowing system like the one he saw when he toured Xerox  Windows began as an add on shell to MS-DOS which he purloined from CP/M. Windows did not become it’s own OS until NT came out.

Apple for it’s next computer [ Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak ] wanted to come out with a system where the hardware and software were as one and did not need any command line input to use. It was to be very user friendly and you did not need to be computer nerd to use it. The McIntosh. Black and White screen only at first.

Unix [and derivatives]  got it’s start from Multics.

In the late 1960s, Bell Labs was involved in a project with MIT and General Electric to develop a joint operating system, called Multics (Multiplexed Information and Computing Service). Multics was to be a time-sharing system, allowing multiple users to access a mainframesimultaneously. Dissatisfied with the project’s progress, Bell Labs management ultimately withdrew.

Ken Thompson, a programmer in the Labs’ computing research department, had worked on Multics. He decided to write his own operating system. While he still had access to the Multics environment, he wrote simulations for the new file and paging system[clarification needed] on it. He also programmed a game called Space Travel, but it needed a more efficient and less expensive machine to run on, and eventually he found a little-used PDP-7 at Bell Labs.[3][4] On the PDP-7, in 1969, a team of Bell Labs researchers led by Thompson and Ritchie, including Rudd Canaday, developed a hierarchical file system, the concepts of computer processes and device files, a command-line interpreter, and some small utility programs.[2] The resulting system, much smaller than the envisioned Multics system, was to become Unix.

Unix was eventually rewritten inn the C programming l;anguage making it a lot easier to port to other computers. It eventually becoming the OS de rigueur with university computer science departments. Especially on DEC PDP/11 machines.  By 1975 The University of California at Berkeley came out with their BSD version of Unix which incorporated many additions, most especially to networking.   Other versions followed. But all these versions were built on the original ATT Bell systems Unix so they all had to be licensed through ATT.

Two things happened around 1990, well actually three. Fist of all the personal computer began to become popular but was restricted to various manufacturers Operating Systems. IBM DOS [MS DOS] or Apple’s Mac OS. Both had to be licensed and both very restricted as to what could be attached hardware wise.  Neither supported networking. A group of people were busily removing the ATT code from BSD Unix so it would no need licensing from ATT.

And Linus Torvalds at University of Helsinki, was becoming very frustrated with MINUX [a minimum Unix] licensing so he decided to write his own version.

In 1991, while attending the University of Helsinki, Torvalds became curious about operating systems[27] and frustrated by the licensing of MINIX, which limited it to educational use only. He began to work on his own operating system kernel, which eventually became the Linux kernel.

Torvalds began the development of the Linux kernel on MINIX and applications written for MINIX were also used on Linux. Later, Linux matured and further Linux kernel development took place on Linux systems.[28] GNU applications also replaced all MINIX components, because it was advantageous to use the freely available code from the GNU Project with the fledgling operating system; code licensed under the GNU GPL can be reused in other projects as long as they also are released under the same or a compatible license. Torvalds initiated a switch from his original license, which prohibited commercial redistribution, to the GNU GPL.[29] Developers worked to integrate GNU components with the Linux kernel, making a fully functional and free operating system.[24]

So there you have it. Where we are today. And a nice chart of how we got here,

We have Widows in it’s latest variant, unstable and insecure and loaded on to nearly every non-Apple PC by the manufacture by agreement with Microsoft.

Apple OS X – the official OS for Apple computers. Brought over with Steve Jobs from his Nextsystem. With originally the look and feel of Mac OS to keep the user base happy.

Linux written by Linus Toralds. A Unix look alike but much more now. In various flavors and releases.

BSD Unix in various releases as well. No ready for desktop but very hardened and efficient. Great for servers, where you’ll most likely find it. And no ATT code what so ever.

I will not dwell on Microsoft and Apple as everyone should know about them by now.

The map is not the territory.

With Linux and to a lesser extent with BSD Unix the desk to environment is NOT the operating system. IE the windowing system and desktop are not the OS. The OS as was stated above coordinates the use of and communications to the hardware devices attached to the computer.  Disks and keyboard and mouse and networking etc.

The desk top enables you the owner to make use of and interface to the operating system in a more user friendly graphical mode. on Linux and Unix the basic OS application and code is X11. On top of that is the desk top evviroment or graphical user interface.

The main Linux distributions are Fedora, OpenSUSE, Ubuntu [and variants]  and Debian. The main differences are who maintains them and how they handle the external hardware and kind of machine they are intended to run on. Fedora and openSUSE are geared toward the desktop market mainly and Ubuntu and its cousins like Linux Mint, more toward the laptop market.

Nearly all of the Linux distributions can run any of the Desktop systems. You can even switch to a different desktop when you login. Choosing which one suits you for you purpose.

I run Linux Mint with the Cinnamon desktop. But configured to look like OS X. Like this.  Or Look like Windows or if Using GNOME like you iPhone. And there is little you can do on Windows that you cannot do on Linux. Even run many Windows applications with Wine. Or run Windows itself on the bare machine along side Linux using a dual boot. Or under a virtual machine. Like this. As you can see.  Linux has it’s own Office suite and MP3 Players and some can even communicate with your iPod or iPhone and organize your music etc. Ubuntu has good support for Wifi and Bluetooth. Automount for USB devices and cards.  Some Linux distributions have a try before you by where you can play with them before you decide to install as well.

My take on what’s out there. In another blog I will go into what has to be don to switch from on OS to another.

bon appetit

Previous post

Late Night FDL: People Are Strange

Next post

The Roundup

cmaukonen

cmaukonen

53 Comments