Operating System Introduction And Overview Computer Science Essay

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Discuss the development of an operating system using an open-source platform as is used in the development of Linux. By contrast, trace the evolution of the Windows Operating System from Windows 3.1 to the recently released Windows 7. Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each developmental model. Do you think one model is better than the other? If so, why?

Development of an operating system using an open-source platform

Operating System - Introduction and Overview

An Operating System (OS) is a software program that enables the computer hardware to communicate and operate with the computer software. An Operating System is the first thing that is loaded onto a computer without which a computer would be useless. Operating Systems provide a software platform for the application programs to run. Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, GNU/Linux are examples of popular modern operating systems being used in personal computers. The diagram below represents an operating system as the core of a computer's application and peripherals:

Classification of Operating Systems:

Multi-User: Multi-User operating systems allow two or more users to access the same operating system at different machines and run programs on his/her computer at the same time. Common examples of multi-user operating systems are VMS, UNIX, and mainframe operating systems which includes the MVS system.

Multi-Processor: Multi-Processor operating systems are capable of utilizing and supporting two or more central processing units (CPUs). Linux, UNIX and Windows are examples of Multi-Processor operating systems.

Multi-Task: Multi-Tasking operating systems allow multiple software processes to run at the same time. This is done by dividing system resources between the tasks or processes and switching between the tasks while executing. UNIX, Windows 2000, Windows XP and Mac OS X are a few examples of multi-tasking operating systems.

Multi-Thread: Multi-Thread operating systems allow different parts of the same software program to be run concurrently. This speeds up the execution process. Windows 2000, Linux and UNIX are typical examples of such systems.

Real-Time: Real-Time operating systems are designed to run applications with a specified time constraint and high degree of reliability to prevent failures. The most widely deployed real-time operating systems are Windows CE, IBM's OS/390, VxWorks, RTLinux, QNX.

From the beginning of computers, the operating system has been an integral part and has catered to the needs of users and system developers. The actual usage of each operating system is based highly on the task needed to accomplish. Some users prefer a certain system to the other, some enjoy security debates and some have legitimate claims while others do not.


The name "Linux" originated from the Linux Kernel coded in 1991 by Linus Torvalds (Linux stands for Linus's UNIX), with a goal to have a free system that was completely complaint with the original UNIX. The history of GNU and Linux dates back to 1983 when Richard Stallman started the Free Software Foundation and published the GNU manifesto. Richard Stallman is the author of the GNU General Public License and introduced the concept of copy left.

Richard Stallman modelled a "complete UNIX-compatible software system" composed entirely of free software based on main components from the GNU project that resulted in what is currently known as GNU/Linux. The GNU/Linux distributions under GNU GPL license aims at a software that must be free to copy, distribute and modify. The GPL - GNU General Public License made Linux most popular as the source code can be obtained freely. This differentiated Linux from other popular contemporary operating systems as Linux kernel and other components from the GNU project were made to be freely available.

Linux, a modular UNIX-Like Operating system, has become the most well-known open source software prevalent today, obviating the need for programmers to keep reinventing the operations layer for each new project. Linux was the first UNIX implementation targeted for microcomputers. Linux has made a remarkable impact in the world of computers and is largely used for commercial purposes as well as in homes.

Linux based distributions are highly preferred by developers for their interoperability and capability to sync with other operating systems as well. Linux systems adhere to POSIX, SUS, ISO, and ANSI standards.


By 1990, a great void seemed to have appeared in the area of operating systems. Students and computer savvy's were exposed to UNIX that had a strong position in the server market. But the astronomical prices made small PC users stay away from UNIX which became commercial and left PC users with no choice. It was when MINIX came into play and offered a solution to this problem.

MINIX was coded from scratch in 1987 by Andrew S. Tanenbaum, a US-born Dutch professor who wanted to impart knowledge to his students on operating systems. In 1991, while attending the University of Helsinki, Linus Torvalds, curious about the operating systems was frustrated by the licensing option of MINIX limiting it to educational use only and began to work on his own operating system which eventually became the Linux kernel.

Open Source Software

Open-source software (OSS) refers to a program whose source code is freely available without restricting users to any proprietary or copyright licenses and permits the end-users to use, modify or distribute the software.

Operating system software is always shipped with a license that makes it readily accessible for private or commercial use unlike standard commercial software which is distributed in a binary format (i.e. an .exe file). Open Source software offers the following benefits:

Security flaws and bugs are identified more easily

Increase in the number of users/developers in turn increases testing, identifying and fixing more bugs in the software

Software is easily adapted beyond the original authors conception

Businesses can achieve greater penetration in the market and gain competitive advantage

Reduced cost on marketing and logistical services

A developer or an author achieves recognition by making his/her code publicly available

The user is given full rights to test and modify the source code. This opens doors to software developers to come up with additional functionalities (add-ons) and new abilities that complement the core functionality of the existing software. The availability of source code allows developers to run and test the internal functions of the program.

A major problem with proprietary software occurs once the parent company stops supporting older versions of the proprietary program and users are only left with the option to go for a version upgrade in order to retain access to existing data. This is not the case with Operating system software, as your data will always be available.

The characteristics and release of open source software has resulted in more prominent organizations and developers heading towards the OSS development which includes some of the following open source initiatives such as:


Apache web server

OpenOffice.org and Java from Sun




Linux ranks among the popular operating system software for Internet servers in the world today. Due to a fairly less awareness on its intended use and installation concepts, it is not being preferred as a client operating system. Linux distributions are more secure than any other commercial operating system software available in the market today and it is designed to be compatible on a wide range of computer platforms. The cost associated with open source software, like Linux, is also relatively less compared to other commercial operating system software.

From a historical perspective, it has been identified that open source and free software initiatives have together altered the operating system software markets fundamentally in the recent years. Open source is often defined as a development methodology whereas free software refers to giving full freedom to the user. Critics have commented that today the main operating system alternatives either fully or partly foster the concept of open source UNIXes or Microsoft.

It is indeed difficult to draw a comprehensive picture on how open source and free software actually works as competitive tools. Given below are some facts:

Open source code and free software are proved to be powerful ways to standardize and stabilize new operating system technology and compete against established market powers

Their impact on desktop markets has been limited mainly because of compatibility and usability issues

The server and enterprise application markets have seen more changing impacts based on their benefits of standardized independent technology and other technical features

Open source impacts are yet to reflect on both desktops (e.g. user interface) and servers (e.g. enterprise applications) from where proprietary vendors can generate revenue

Development of an operating system using an open-source platform

The evolution and success of GNU/Linux in the open source world has led to an innovative approach in developing open source software and has paved way for other new emerging open source initiatives such as Ubuntu, Fedora, Mac OS X, MINIX 3, GNOME, KDE, Apache, Mozilla Firefox, Dovecot, OpenOffice, Asterisk, etc.

In this report we consider the development of Fedora, a typical and successful open-source operating system under the family of Linux distributions and sponsored by Red Hat.

Fedora - An insight into Open-Source

Fedora is the acronym for "Flexible and Extensible Digital Object and Repository Architecture" which was released in 2003 is backed by a global community of developers under the Fedora project. It is the powerful and free open source operating system based on Linux Kernel. Fedora developers always follow a well-established practice in distributing all software under a free and open source license and by making upstream changes. The concept of upstream changes provides the possibility to make the changes available instantly to all Linux distributions without any delay.

SELinux (Security-Enhanced Linux), HAL, FreeIPA, NetworkManager, PulseAudio, PolicyKit and D-bus are some of the successful open-source software releases by the Fedora project team. A major highlight of the Fedora operating system is that it can be installed and tested on top Microsoft Windows or Mac OS X operating systems currently running in the machine


The Fedora community functions with the vision to be on the leading edge of technology and to make Fedora the best operating system based on open-source. This makes Fedora developers to implement a variety of security policies and concentrate more on security enhancements like access controls. (SELinux), is the major feature in Fedora that comes with several customized security enhancements that was not found in any other Linux distribution.

Releases and Distributions

Fedora releases began as Fedora Core and comprise of versions 1 to the recently released Fedora 13. Like other operating system releases the Fedora project team releases a new version of Fedora for every six months and provides the necessary updated support packages.

Fedora Core 1-4 are the first set of Fedora releases, which were launched within the period 2003-2005, followed by Fedora Core 5-6 in 2006 and Fedora 7 in 2007. Its should be noted that these versions were not supported by the Fedora project. The other versions of Fedora which were released after 2007 were officially supported by the Fedora project.

The below chart provides a clear understanding on the various release dates starting from Fedora Core 1 to the latest Fedora 13:

Fedora is distributed by the Fedora project in the following ways:

A DVD/CD set comprising of all Fedora features

DVD/CD sized live images for optional installation to a hard disk using USB devices

A minimal CD for HTTP, NFS or FTP installations

Fedora spins which are specialized software packages with a combination of customized software to meet the requirements of the user

An add-on package known as Extra Packages for Enterprise Linux (EPEL) that enables users to create a high-quality repository

Comparison of Windows and Linux Operating System




Windows operating system is usually pre-installed on all new desktop PCs at the time of purchase and configuration.

Linux is pre-installed on very few new desktop PCs at the time of purchase.


Microsoft Windows makes it possibly hard to backup user information and switch between new systems as users have options to store programs and data at any desired location

Linux on the other hand, stores all user data in the home directory making it much easier to migrate from an old computer to a new one. Upgrade from one version of Linux to another is also possible without having to migrate user data and settings

Proven Security

Windows has been tested by a single team of developers and continues to be vulnerable to viruses and other attacks

Linux is open source, and hence been tested by developers all around the world for more than a decade

Ease of Installation

To run Windows, it has to first be installed to your hard disk and the installation is divided into different phases

Linux can be directly installed from a "Live" CD without having to be installed to a hard disk

Customization Capabilities

The customization options in Windows can be used to change the colour and size of the graphical user elements, but changes cannot be made to how the interface reacts to user input

Linux provides customization options that enable users to change colours, size, alter actions, and display. For example, NASlite is a version of Linux that runs on a single floppy disk and is capable of networking, file sharing and acting as a web server.


In Windows, the system usually requires a reboot after system and driver updates. Microsoft's hot-patching technology is designed to manage these situations and reduce downtimes

Linux requires the system to be rebooted only after kernel updates. A special utility in Linux allows us to load the new kernel leaving it for years without a single hardware reboot, thus eliminating downtimes


Microsoft windows offer enormous resources and support for Tech savvy's, IT Professionals, and end-users at relatively no charge. Additional support is also available by third party services.

Linux provides online support and free tutorials by advanced users and developers of Linux through forums and other community registrations. Optional professional support is also available to interested large-scale businesses, and development organizations

History and evolution of Windows Operating System from Windows 3.1 to Windows 7

Since its inception in 1980, Windows has been the de-facto medium to business communities and homes for nearly 30 years. The impact of Windows was felt on almost all tasks performed by users in commercial space or a user with a PC at home. Microsoft Windows became the most popular PC operating system and started to govern the world market of personal computers, going far ahead of Mac OS, which was predominating before its era.

Windows: Early Years

The development of Microsoft Windows operating system began in 1981 as a collection of several operating systems. Microsoft, was founded by Bill Gates together with Paul Allen who began to work on the Windows operating system and announced its release in 1983. Microsoft Windows is a relatively marketable resource and was only considered as a then-new graphical user interface (GUI) component running on top of MS-DOS.

The perception of looking at Windows as just a GUI element changed after the work conducted at Xerox PARC labs. Windows was then considered as a modern operating system and was adapted for Apple Lisa and Macintosh computers.

It is now 30 years since Windows began to dominate the world of computers. The wide technological changes that have occurred in the past years, makes us feel that the current Windows bears only a passing resemblance to first version Windows 1.0.

This descriptive study identifies the revolutionary trends in the history and evolution of Microsoft Windows. The study also brings to light the possible reasons for upgradation, innovation, improvement and development of each version based on its predecessor. The table below lists the various versions of Windows that you may encounter and explains the historical evolution of Microsoft Windows Operating System starting from Windows 1.0 to the latest Win7.

Historical evolution of Microsoft Windows

Date of Release

Type of Microsoft Window System

November, 1983

First announcement of Microsoft Windows (M. Windows)

November, 1985

Circulation of Microsoft Windows 1.0

December, 1987

Release of Microsoft Windows 2.0

December, 1987

Introduction of Microsoft Windows/286 or Windows 286

June, 1988

Introduction of Microsoft Windows/386 or Windows 386

May, 1990

Circulation of M.W. 3.0 full version (Highly successful and


October, 1991

Microsoft released Windows 3.0

April, 1992

Microsoft Windows 3.1 (one million copies sold the first 2


October, 1992

Microsoft Windows for Workgroups 3.1

July, 1993

Microsoft Windows NT 3.1 (A revolutionary product for Microsoft)

February, 1994

Microsoft Windows for Workgroups 3.11

September, 1994

Microsoft Windows NT 3.5 (Two models: NT Server and NT Workstation)

June, 1995

Microsoft Windows NT 3.51

August, 1995

Microsoft Windows 95 released (one million copies sold in 4 days)

August, 1996

Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 (rather difficult to master and administer)

November, 1996;

November, 1997

Microsoft Windows CE 1.0 and M.W CE. 2.0

June, 1998

Microsoft Windows 98 (makes internet connection easier).

May, 1999

Microsoft Windows 98 Second Edition

February, 2000

Microsoft Windows 2000 (a multitasking system)

September, 2000

Microsoft Windows ME (Millennium)

October, 2001

Microsoft Windows XP (provides innovative experiences to

P.C. users)

April, 2003

Microsoft Windows Server 2003 (released in 4 editions. Integrates fully dot Net)

December, 2005

Microsoft released Windows Server 2003 with Service Pack 1

November, 2006

Windows Vista was released to business customers

February, 2008

Microsoft released Windows Server 2008

October, 2009

Microsoft released Windows 7


Microsoft has made an announcement at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, that it its next version of the Windows operating system, which is expected to be called Windows 8 is anticipated to be released in 2012 or later

This below study covers the evolution of Microsoft Windows Operating System and the strengths and weaknesses of each developmental model in detail.


DOS is an acronym for "Disk Operating System", which was released by Microsoft in 1981 and dominated the IBM PC compatible market. Windows evolved from Microsoft's DOS operating system through which first-generation PC users operated their systems.


The only major advantage of MS-DOS seemed to be its speed


Single-user, single-task operating system which allowed only one program to be run at a time.

Minimal operating system which was not user-friendly and required users to memorize a series of text commands to perform input/output and other simple operations

MS-DOS is currently not under development, but the files and text commands (e.g. cmd.exe) are still being used in today's modern Windows operating systems.

Windows 1.0

Windows 1.0 is the first version of Microsoft Windows, released on November 20, 1985. It contained several updates to MS-DOS and was initially sold on floppy disks. The only drawback that made Windows 1.0 unsuccessful was the requirement to have MS-DOS installed before running it.

Windows 1.0 was generally considered as just an expansion of the original MS-DOS system and not as a complete operating system. Calendar, Paint, Notepad, Clock, Control Panel, Cardfiler, Clipboard and Write were the minor applications added in the Windows 1.0 version.


Users can switch between programs without having to restart every time

Exclude the need to type MS-DOS commands


Cannot be run without the DOS operating system

Windows were tiled and there were no options for window overlapping

Initially there wasn't much demand for a GUI and not surprisingly, Windows 1.0 was not widely successful. Windows 1.0 presents incomplete multitasking of the MS-DOS programs and focuses on generating an interfacial pattern, an effecting replica and a steady API for indigenous programs for the next generation.

Windows 2.0

The second version of Windows was released in December 09, 1987, and proved to be slightly popular compared to its predecessor, Windows 1.0. This new version added overlapping windows and allowed minimized windows to be moved around the desktop with a mouse

The big claim for Windows 2.0, was the inclusion of Microsoft's new graphical application such as Word and Excel. Unlike Windows 1.0 which had the capability to just exhibit tiled windows, Windows 2.0 permitted application windows to overlap. A variety of keyboard shortcuts were also added to increase speed.


Replaced "Zoom" and "Iconize" in Windows 1.0 with "Maximize", and "Minimize" options

Inclusion of Word and Excel applications


Inability to use address large memory space (maximum of 1 megabyte of memory)

Although Windows 2.0 was slightly successful compared to its predecessor, Microsoft continued to improve the speed, reliability, and usability of the PC.

Windows 3.0

Windows 3.0 was the 3rd most important production of Microsoft Windows which was released on May 22, 1990. It turned out to be the first broadly used version of Windows and achieved wide commercial success, selling around 2 million copies in the first few months.

Windows 3.0 gained popularity with the release of the then-new software development kit (SDK) which enabled software developers to focus more on writing applications rather than concentrating on device drivers. It offered advanced graphics with 256 colours and incorporated true multitasking capabilities. A variety of new functionalities were also added including a completely rewritten application development environment with improved set of icons.


Acted as an alternative to the dominant DOS operating system of the time

Capable to address memory beyond 640K

Powerful user interface with options like changing colour of the underlying desktop and 3D buttons


Inability to address high memory (> 16 MB)

Windows 3.0 was also shipped with a Protected/Enhanced mode that enabled native Windows applications to make use of more memory than their DOS counterparts.

Windows 3.1

Microsoft released Windows 3.1 on April 06, 1992. This version introduced virtual memory and became a competitor to Macintosh computer selling around 10 million copies in the first two years.


Includes bug-fixes and multimedia support options

Contained screensavers and drag-and-drop operation


Did not support high-end engineering and scientific programs fro businesses

Windows 3.1 can only be run on a 80286 or better processor and excludes support for real-mode

Microsoft also released the Windows for Workgroups (WfW) in 1992 which was later renamed as Windows 3.11. This version provided additional support for peer-to-peer networking and contained add-on features.

Subsequently, Microsoft released Windows NT on July 27, 1993. This 32-bit operating system based on a hybrid kernel that was designed specifically for strategic high-end business applications.

Windows 95

Windows 95 was released by Microsoft on August 24, 1995. This version was designed specifically for memory management with further changes to the user interface. Windows 95 not only replaced Windows 3.1, but also replaced MS-DOS and Windows for Workgroups.


Includes options for plug and play, ease to install hardware and software with dial-up networking and built-in internet support

Enhanced multimedia capabilities and high-end features for mobile computing and integrated networking

Offers connectivity to the World Wide Web through Internet Explorer


Inability to use long file names

Windows 95 was the first to introduce the Start menu, taskbar, close button as well as the minimize and maximize feature on each window.

Windows 98

Microsoft released Windows 98 on June 25, 1998 and the Windows 98 SE (Second Edition) was released on May 05, 1999. It was designed specifically for consumers and was the final version based on MS-DOS. Windows 98 enabled information on PC to be found more easily using internet and extended support for universal serial bus (USB) devices and reading DVD's.


Solves many minor issues and relatively faster with Internet Explorer 5 and better USB support

Increased speed and supported DVD discs and USB devices

System files are checked and replaced automatically with improved memory management


Was slow and unreliable compared to Windows 95

Poor memory handling leading to system crashes

Although Windows 98 supported advanced features, it was still based on MS-DOS and was incapable to handle memory when multiple applications were running, which resulted in system malfunctions.

Windows 2000

Windows 2000 (also called Windows Me) is an extension of the Windows 9x version, and a "professional" line release by Microsoft on February 17, 2000. It was one of the most revealed alterations in Windows Me. Because of some applications that require actual mode DOS to run those could not be made to run on Windows Me.


Multitasking operating system capable of running many tasks efficiently

Possesses a native file system (NTFS system) capable of automatically recovering system errors from different files during system crash

Contained Active Desktop features


Windows Me was criticized, due to slowness, freezes and hardware issues

Was not supportive for home PC's

Windows 2000 came in four different versions and was more stable and secure. All versions incorporated features from Windows 95/98, which made it have a more sophisticated look and feel.

Windows eXPerience (XP)

Windows XP was released by Microsoft on October 25, 2001. Windows XP was shipped with the Home and Professional editions. "XP" stands for 'experience' and symbolizes the innovative experiences of music, movies, messaging, photos etc that Windows offers to personal computer users.


Offers digital enhancements such as Windows Media Player and Windows Movie Maker along with enhanced digital photo capabilities


Faced security issues leading to need for service packs

Windows XP Professional provides advanced features for business and home computing, and specialized networking features.

Windows Server 2003

Microsoft launched Windows Server 2003 on April 25, 2003. It was a significant update to Windows 2000 Server with addition of many new security features and improved performance. Windows Server 2003 was available in six editions.


Twice as fast as Windows NT and more reliable

Server does not crash

Faster, easier to manage and more secure against internal and external threats

Windows Server 2003 is the first operating system that fully integrates Microsoft's .NET initiative.

Windows Vista

After a world-wide success of XP and its service packs Microsoft designed and created Windows Vista the operating system for use on home PC's. Windows Vista was released globally on January 30, 2007.


Included a redesigned Start button

A variety of graphical options were added like Windows Photo Gallery, Windows Flip 3D and Thumbnail Previews

More than 1.5 million devices were tested to be compatible with Windows Vista prior to its launch


Users faced problems upgrading older equipments to Vista

Older peripherals didn't have Vista-compatible drivers

Some XP-era programs never worked right in the Vista environment

Criticism included an expensive price, high system requirements, and frequent User Account Control (UAC) prompts

Vista was designed to run more securely and more robustly than Windows XP. User Account Control was one of the security features added in Vista which was designed to prevent the system from harmful software viruses. The intention was to prevent unwanted access to the system, but the implementation was too intrusive for most users.

Windows 7

Windows 7 is the latest release of Microsoft on October 22, 2009 after Windows Vista


Faster booting options

Improved window management capabilities with User Account Control and multi-touch features

Tested and evaluated by around 8 million beta testers worldwide before released

Windows 7 includes many attractive features and included finger touch options for browsing the web, opening files and folders and flipping through gallery. Windows 7 is reported to be selling at the rate of seven copies a second which is the fastest-selling operating system in history.

The release of Windows 7 concludes the history of Windows so far.


As we have seen, the development of Microsoft Windows has been marked by the technological advances and the demands and needs of the users. Thus, as we have seen, Microsoft released different editions of Windows at more or less the same time to improve the system and to meet different needs. To summarize, we can say that over the last two decades Microsoft Windows have developed from a single 'one-size-fits-all' desktop operating system into a family of operating systems and mobile technologies. Today, Windows help people everywhere to achieve their potential at work, home, and just about anyplace.

The below diagram is the Microsoft Windows family tree, which summarizes the evolution of Windows over the last two decades.

Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_Windows

The evolution (for some people the 'revolution') of Microsoft Windows will not stop. with each succeeding Windows version, the company tries to improve or to cover up as many pieces of MS-DOS and earlier versions as it is possible.

The history and evolution of Windows from 3.0 to Windows 7, explained above gives us a clear understanding of the advancement of one development model over the next.