Which Operating System to choose?

Market is filled with number of operating systems. Some are tailor made to run on a particular microprocessor or tailor made systems like z/OS, z/VM for IBM z-architecture while others were for particular systems but are now available for popular architecture like Solaris was for SPARC architecture but now available for x86 architecture. I will describe basic operating systems here Like Unix (SRV4 derivatives including), Linux, MINIX, Windows, Amiga OS and MacOS X. In later post I will dive deep into derivatives of Unix derivatives like FreeBSD, Solaris, z/OS, HP-UX  and Linux derivatives like RHEL, CentOS, Fedora, Debian, Ubuntu, Mint, SEL, openSUSE and many others. Let’s start.

UNIX Operating Systems

First operating system of world derived from ULTICS which is a modified version of MUTICS to run on a personal computers when Bell Labs pulled them self from MULTICS project leaving there researchers Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie, M. D. McIlroy, and J. F. Ossanna. In 1972, Unix migrated from Assembly to high-level programming C-language resulted in much more portable software, only requires only a relatively small amount of machine-dependent code to be replaced when porting Unix to other platforms.

Large sacale adaptation of Unix (BSD and System V) started in late 1970s and early 1980s by commercial startups like Sequent, HP-UX, Solaris, AIX, and Xenix. In late 1980s, AT&T Unix System Laboratories and Sun Microsystems developed System V Release 4 (SRV4) which was subsequently adopted by many commercial Unix vendors.

System V is Unix 5.0 succeeding AT&Ts previous System III in January 1983. First version is System V Release 1 or SRV1 which was succeed by System V Release 2 till System V Release 4 or SVR4 on many version of present days Unix are based main few of which are version certified to The Open Group’s UNIX 03 standard, which are HP-UX and Solaris. IBM AIX  is based on System V  with 4.3BSD-compatible extensions which is also certified to The Open Group’s UNIX 03 standard.

BSD (Berkeley Software Distribution) is other branch of Unix operating system on which DEC ULTRIX and Sun Microsystem SunOS is based on, which are proprietary Unix variants but it was superseded by Unix System V and OSF/1 systems in 1990s, later BSD releases provided basis for several other open-source development project that are ongoing such as, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, NetBSD, Darwin, TrueOS are some. These, in turn, have been incorporated in whole or in part in modern proprietary operating systems, e.g., the TCP/IP networking code in Windows NT 3.1 and most of the foundation of Apple’s macOS and iOS.

MINIX Operating System

A microkernel based POSIX-complaint Unix-Like operating system which was created by Andrew S. Tanenbaum for educational purposes. From MINIX 3 the primary aim of development shifted from education to the creation of a highly reliable and self-healing microkernel OS. MINIX is now developed as open-source software.

MINIX operating system influenced Linux Kernel’s design decisions. but deviated from MINIX when Linus Torvalds used monolithic kernel instead of microernel. MINIX 3 supports Intel x86, ARM, IA-32, SPARC and many old platforms. It was proprietary before and since 2000, BSD license (learn more about these licenses).

MINIX Version 3.1.5 contains gcc, X11, emacs, vi, cc, perl, python, ash, bash, zsh, ftp, ssh, telnet, pine, and over 400 other common utility programs. It can withstand driver crashes, where it can automatically restart drivers without affecting running processes which MINIX as self healing and can be used in applications demanding high reliability. it also supports virtual memory management and from version 3.2.0, userland was mostly replaced by that of NetBSD and packages from pkgsrc became available. Clang replaced the previous compiler with GCC support, and GDB, the GNU debugger, was ported.

MINIX has it’s own file system which copies the basic structure of Unix File System avoiding any complex feature as it was for educational purpose keeping source code, clean, clear and simple. This file  system is also suported by Linux and HelenOS apart from MINIX 3.

LINUX Operating System

A monolithic kernel developed by Linus Torvalds after getting frustrated from licensing of MINIX which limited to educational purpose only. Available for most of the platforms available like ARM, PowerPC, OpenRISC, Itanium, MIPS, SPARC, x86.

Linux is mainly used for server, mainframes and supercomputers. Linux is also one of the main components of LAMP server (know more about web stacks).

Two common family of Linux distributions are Debian(apt based repository) and Fedora (rpm based repository). Some commonly used Linux Operating systems in different places are ubuntu, mint are best for desktop uses while ubuntu server and centos are two best server purposes and for sysadmin Linux distribution like Parrot Linux while Red Hat Enterprise Linux and SUSE Enterprise Linux are paid version of Linux with support form developers and Kali Linux for cyber security purposes. There are lots of distribution of Linux which are tailored made for different purposes.

Linux supports numerous file system like “ext family” (ext2, ext3 and ext4), XFS, JFS, ReiserFS, btrfs, SquashFS are names among few. Android uses Kernel based on Linux.

Microsoft Windows

Microsoft Windows is Graphical User Interface Operating System developed by Microsoft. Previously it was operating environment named Windows for MS-DOS. Kernel was re implemented from Windows NT. Today Windows has two major part:

  1. Windows NT: Developed for servers and workstations. Presently sub divided into three major parts which share common kernel. Members are like Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8/8.1, Windows 10 and Windows RT. It also came with new filesystem NTFS replacing FAT32 due to limitation of FAT32 to store max of 4GB as single file.
    1. Windows: Operating system for personal computers and tablets with latest release is Windows 10 and competitor to macOS by Apple Inc.
    2. Server: As the name suggest these operating systems are for servers. Strong competitor to Windows Server is Linux. Latest release is Windows 2016.
    3. Windows PE: Stands for Windows Preinstallation Environment is a lightweight version of Windows for deployment in PCs, Workstations, Servers and troubleshooting an operating system while it is offline.
  2. Windows Embeded: Developed for too resource limited to call computers under the name Windows CE. Later renamed to Windows Embedded Compact under Windows Compact Trademark. Windows Compact Trademark consists of Wndows Embedded Industry, Windows Embedded Handheld, Windows Embedded Professional and others.

Amiga OS

A proprietary operating system developed previously for platform M68K from version 1.0 to 3.9 and later shifted to PowerPC from version 4.0  as Amiga Systems changed there hardware design. It is based on single user multitasking operating system kernel named Exec with abstraction layer of Amiga’s hardware, a windowing API system called Intuition, a disk operating system called AmigaDOS and a desktop file manager called Workbench.

File system, file and directory management system comes included in AmigaDOS of the components of AmigaOS. AmigaDOS also includes command line interface, file redirection, console windows and so on.

AmigaOS API in a portable open source operating system is implemented on AROS Research Operating System (AROS). Other operating system influenced by AmigaOS are MorphOS, BeOS, pOS, AtheOS, 3DO Interactive Multiplayer by Creator of Amiga’s Intuition user interface,RJ Miaci and Syllable a fork of AtheOS.


Successor of S/390, produced by IBM for there mainframes, first introduced in year 2000. Only supported platform is z/Architecture. It has mainframe standard such as CICS, COBOL, IMS, DB2, RSNACF, SNA, WebSphere MQ, record oriented data access methods, REXX, CLIST, SMP/E, TSO/E and ISPF. The open group certifies z/OS as complaint Unix operating system with Unix/Linux-style hierarchical HFS and zFS file systems. It also supports 64-bit Java, C, C++ and UNIX (Single UNIX Specification) APIs and applications through Unix system services. It can communicate directly via TCP/IP, including IPv6 and includes standard HTTP servers along with other common services like FTP, NFS, and CISF/SMB. It has built-in support for Parallel Sysplex clustering.

z/Architecture also supports z/VM a virtual machine operating system which supports Linux as guest operating system. z/Architecture also gets supports from Linux and openSolaris.

IBM market z/OS as there flagship operating system, suited for continuous, high volume operation with high security and stability.

macOS/Mac OS X/OS X

Operating system developed and marketed by Apple Inc. for there own Apple hardware and second most widely used operating system after Microsoft Windows. Platform supported by macOS are x86-64 form version 10.4.7+ and IA-32 from version 10.4.4 to 10.6.8.

All Operating systems from Mac OS X Snow Leopard are UNIX 03 certified. macOS shares it’s UNIX-based core, named Darwin and many frameworks with iOS, tvOS and watchOS. It also used to have it’s own server operating system but from Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, the server functions were made available as separate package in Mac App Store.

Default file system for Mac was HFS+ but with release of macOS 10.12 Sierra they made Apple File System default due to criticism of HFS+. Recent release is macOS 10.13 High Sierra.

So, here are most commonly used Operating Systems and there brief descriptions. Some particular operating systems will need much more detailed description like Unix and Linux deserves there own article due to there number family tree and distributions. Also, for windows specially in Server version of operating systems.


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