Index Musings on computing

OS Opinions

What I think about the OSes that I work with and use. The column "24H" applies to OSes that I've run on machines that ran round the clock.

In January 2007, my PC that I'd been using since about November 1999 conked out. Thankfully, I'd just bought a 17" MacBook Pro. I did eventually replace the PC as well, no thanks to the incompetent subcontractors in the employ og HP. So, new to the table is MacOS X.

OS Use (hours) 24H Stability Good Points Bad Points
Mac OS X 500
Use it at home in the evenings.
No Haven't crashed it yet. A few times apps have frozen and it's taken a while to get the desktop back, but that's all. Pretty UI. Better choice of apps than Solaris. I quite like the Xcode developer tools. X11 not that well integrated with the Mac look. Annoying BSD command line tools, in particular ps. Not very nice under the hood - bloated universal binaries, mach-o object format lacks many features of ELF. Mac users can be annoyingly obtuse and incapable of doing much more than clicking and dragging.
Solaris 25000
Used it full time whilst working at Netmansys. Used Solaris 7, 8, 9 and 10x86 on my PC. Have been using it full time since I started working with Silvaco, and use Solaris 10 update 4 as my primary OS on my PC. Starting to look at Solaris Express Developer Edition.
Yes Years. I've had two panics when I inserted a UDF formatted CD-RW, which Solaris then tried to automount (both SPARC and x86). I've also had X crash on me a few times, which can result in work being lost. Probably the best supported commercial unix. SPARC workstations poor value for money. Things are still in Sun's favour for large servers, where the SPARC chips scale better, and Sun has no real competition from x86 machines. However, time is against them, the point at which Sun's servers offer competitive performance keeps getting higher and higher. Nothing much bad to say about it. The holy grail of backwards compatibility can be annoying e.g., the obsolete and non-standard compliant C++ 'standard' lbrar, libCstd.so. Sun are no saints (not quite as nasty as Microsoft though).
Windows NT/2000 2000
Used it a little bit at Euronav, and a bit more at Netmansys. Used it full-time at Focal. Use it a bit on my home PC. At Silvaco, I have a PC adapter card in my SPARC workstation, which allows me to boot NT/2000 into a Solaris window. It's not fast.
Yes Blue screen of death around once a month, especially when using removable media. The rate of crashes seems to fall as the Service Pack level goes up. I've put W2K on my home PC (for digital camera software and DVD player). UI is OK but still a glorified menu, mediocre programming interface, tons of applications. It's made by Microsoft! It doesn't really compete with unix for serious work. Not as easy to use (or crash!) as its lame brained cousins, W9X (this is faint praise). The most annoying aspect is that when things do break, then it usually means that you have to re-install. The registry seems to be quite fragile, and whilst there are tools and techniques for repairing the registry on a dead installation, they are a million times more difficult than booting from a CD and typing 'vi /etc/vfstab'. The need for AV software, which slows down the PC by 50%, is also very annoying.
OS/2 10,000
I used it extensively between early 1993 and the end of 1995. From then to about 2001 then it was the OS I used the most at home.
Yes. I reckon a typical uptime would be 2 to 3 weeks. Crashed quite a bit when I was using some dodgy video drivers ("yellow pointer of death"). Otherwise, the OS crashes rarely. However, it's Achilles heel is that it has a single synchronous input queue. This means that the GUI can and does lock up fairly frequently, with the only input that it accepts being CTL-ALT-DEL. Sometimes the GUI can get corrupted, but I've never had to reinstall (though it's been a close shave a few times. Nice UI, nice to program for (Presentation Manager) - sadly IBM are dropping their compiler for both OS/2 and NT. V4 came with lots of voice control integration. IBM marketing. It's dead (client support from IBM ends 2001-01-31). SIQ. V4 has brain dead toolbar "Warp Centre" - very Window 95 me too.
HP-UX 1500
Used it on and off whilst I was a postgrad at Manchester. Occasional use whilst working at Netmansys. Use it a bit now at Silvaco, though usually by remote login rather than at the keyboard.
Yes. Runs for years. Never crashed it, despite some very intensive graphics and network loads (with xpilot!). Crashed X server once or twice, but it just restarted. Nothing especially good about it. Since HP jumped on the Wintel bandwagon, their commitment to PA-RISC hasn't looked 100% solid. I hope that HP never apply their cheap and nasty downsizing to HP-UX. The future is looking a bit rosier, now that HP have bought the big Q. Less competition, and they might be able to cherry pick some nice features from Tru64 and put them in HP-UX. Still, doesn't look like Itanic is going to play a big role in the future, so perhaps dropping Alpha and PA-RISC wasn't such a good idea.
Windows 98 100
Use it on my boot manager partition, and it's on Anne's PC. Installed it regularly at Focal, but didn't use it.
No Crashes quite frequently. UI is far less stable than NT. My wife's PC regularly "forgets" its screen reslolution and boots in vanilla VGA. Perhaps Windows has Altzheimers? Lots of software. Loathsome UI - I much prefer the desktop metaphor to the web browser metaphor.
Windows 95 2500
Used it full-time at Euronav. Since then I've hardly used it.
No I've used 2 machines, one of which didn't crash too often, the other has uptimes of about 5 minutes (you want to look at a network drive? nah, it just locked up, you want to copy a file from CD to hard disk, too bad, it crashed again). I've used a few other PCs with it on occasionally (attached to a colour inkjet printer, for instance), and on the whole, crashing seemed to be a big part of the "Windows 95 experience". Lots of software. Same UI as NT (acceptable). Dreadful programming interface. Never could get the sound card to work on my Gateway at Euronav.
DOS 3000
Used it full-time at IBM. Used it quite a lot in my early postgrad days. Since then, only intermittent use.
No Boots so quickly you don't care about the crashes Great for low level hacking. 640K really isn't enough, doesn't provide "serious" OS features.
Windows 3.x 1000
Intermittent use, but mainly as a contract programmer for Darwell.
No This OS is a joke. Crashes much like DOS. I'm at a loss to think of any good points. You can change the colours in Control Panel Ugly UI, hideous to program for. How on earth did Microsoft succeed with this rubbish?
FreeBSD 250
I installed a copy just when I finished my PhD. Only ever used it to dabble about at home
No Never crashed it. Generally well designed and implemented. It's a bit different to SysV, especially for network programming. Not the greatest range of software. The installer is fairly easy to use, but will happily let you select more stuff to install than you have disk space for.
Oberon 300
Again, installed this at Manchester. I don't use it at the moment.
No NA. Rarely crashed. Not designed for reliability though - it's a radical light-weight research OS. Software very limited. UI unusual to the point of being intimidating. Super fast due to its extreme simplicity. For most non-CPU intensive tasks, it makes my old Dell 486 66MHz more reactive than Windows NT or unix on my homebrew Pentium III 500MHz, which should be at least 10 times faster. The compiler is also like lightning.
Linux 300
Use it via remote login quite a bit at work.
No Booting lockups when config changes, otherwise no problems at home. Hundreds of forced reboots of machines at work, mainly due to lousy NFS implementation hanging Huge choice of worthless free software There's always the risk that the application you want to use has been meddled with. This means that if you've used a real unix, linux can be a pain with all its "improved" tools. There's a substantial amount of incompatibility between even the dozen or so most popular distros. ext2fs is scary. Even though I always do clean shutdowns, about 1/3 of all boots start with fsck, and a good number of those fail and require a manual 'fsck -y'. At the moment, my Fedora Core 6 installation won't start the network interface when booting as it has decided that the address is in use. Even when it's the only PC turned on, behind a NAT firewall using an unroutable 192.168.0.255 address.

Ideal OS?

The characteristics that, for me, the ideal OS should have are:

If I could have the UI and API of OS/2, the range of applications of 32bit Windows, the stability of Solaris and the lightweightness of Oberon, then I'd be satisfied.

Copyright © Paul John Floyd 2002 - 2007.

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