Two Different Operating Systems Linux And Windows Computer Science Essay

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This research paper analyzes and compares the main structures of two different operating systems, Windows and Linux. The idea leading to this research paper is the difficulty of deciding which operating system is to be chosen. The research paper will focus on comparing and contrasting a few good and bad points of today's two most popular operating systems, one based on an open source, and the other based on a proprietary operating system. Although it is obvious that Windows has a bigger market share, Linux has advantages of price and flexibility. On the contrary, Windows has advantage of compatibility. This research paper will try to answer the question: Which operating system is better and why?

1. INTRODUCTION

One of the most common topics of discussion among Windows and Linux users is comparison of these two computer operating systems. It is obvious that Windows is the most popular operating system. However, its most powerful rival, Linux, is a completely free operating system that has almost the same features of Windows. Windows offers compatibility and ease of usage, while Linux offers a free software, stability and access to its open code. Linux and Windows operating systems are being used both for personal usage and for server operations.

Since home-based users do not necessarily have knowledge of coding and text-based commands, user friendly interface of an operating system is more preferable choice for them. Because of its user friendly and easy to use GUI (Graphical User Interface), Windows is widely preferred by home-based users even if it has a higher price than Linux. On the other hand, Linux operating system is a better a choice for those who have the knowledge of coding. Because of its open coded structure, Linux can be customized for any purpose. Therefore Linux operating system is a better choice for the users who has knowledge of coding.

The source code of Linux can also be changed to use the system sources more efficiently. Today most of the large sized servers use Linux operating system because of its efficient usage of system sources. Similar tasks can be completed by Linux operating system more efficiently without running unnecessary background services that Windows has. On the other hand, Windows offers an eye catching interface that can be preferred by home-based users.

2. OPERATING SYSTEMS

2.1. LINUX

2.1.1. History of Linux

2.1.1.1. Events Leading to Creation

The first electronic computers were developed in mid-1940s. They were power consuming a lot of power and billions of times slower than today's modern computers. They have been developing to be more efficient and smaller for three decades. In 1970s, due to the development of integrated circuit technology, computers got smaller. It was the first opportunity of their efficient usage. In 1980s they started to be used in homes. However, those computers were not more than a type machine or entertainment sets. In those days, no one was expecting that computers to be one of the essentials of daily life. The first efficient usage of computers was after the development of operating systems. In the late 1980s, DOS was still the most popular operating system in the world. DOS was an operating system bought by Bill Gates from a hacker for $50,000. Bill Gates was also a clever businessman. In couple of years, DOS became a necessity for the computer users due to Bill Gates. PC users had no other alternative because the other systems were too much expensive. In those days, Apple's Mac was absolutely better than DOS based computers, however, nobody could afford its price. Mac's extremely high price was the biggest obstacle in front of Apple's success.

UNIX was another expensive alternative of DOS operating system. It was believed that its vendors priced UNIX high enough to ensure small users stayed away from it. The source code of it was heavily guarded and not published. DOS was the best and the cheapest alternative for computer users. One of the reasons why Windows is the most popular operating system today is the success of DOS in those days.

2.1.1.2. Creation of Linux

MINIX was another operating system that seemed to be one of the alternatives of DOS. MINIX was written by Andrew S. Tanenbaum who was teaching the structure of operating systems to his students. MINIX, which was designed to run on the Intel 8086 microprocessors, was not a superb operating system. But it had a unique advantage. Its source code written in C and assembly languages, was open to anyone, who got the book 'Operating Systems: Design and Implementation' by Tanenbaum. For the first time in computing history, individuals could read the source codes of an operating system. In those days, GNU was a popular project which aims to provide free and quality software. GNU was Richard Stallman's project. With his GNU project, Richard Stallman started a movement which leaded to development of Linux world. One of the most important milestones of GNU project was the GNU C Complier (GCC). It helped a lot to individual programmers to develop free software programs. By 1991, those individual programmers from all around the world created many tools. However, the need of a free and strong operating system was still exist. Soon Linux was licensed under GNU General Public License, thus ensuring that the source codes will be free for all to copy, study and to change. In late 1990s, with its advanced GUI, Linux became a more powerful rival for Microsoft's Windows. It was the time that Linux became more popular than ever. It was even used simulate atomic shock waves in 1996. The cost of that project was about one tenth the price of a comparable commercial machine. The notes of Andrew S. Tanenbaum became a strong operating system in less than 10 years.

2.1.2. Design & User Interface

Today, to many home-based users, one of the most important features of operating systems is its eye catching graphical user interface. Therefore, it is obvious that graphical user interface of Linux is a very important feature that leads Linux to be used by home-based computer users. KDE, GNOME and Xfce are the most popular user interfaces of Linux.

On the other hand, graphical user interface is not the only way that users can control the operating system. Linux has also a very powerful command line interface which is the traditional way of controlling a UNIX system.

Today, there are a number of different Linux distributions each specialized for a different task. Some Linux distributions, especially the ones that specialized for servers still do not have a graphical user interface. Those Linux distributions use command line interface instead. By excluding and eliminating GUI processes, the servers can run faster.

2.1.3. Development of Linux

Besides its capabilities and efficiency, the main difference between Linux and Windows is that Linux operating system and Linux compatible software programs are free and open to be modified due to its open source code.

The role of Linux distributions is to provide a bunch of stand-alone free software projects as a package. These Linux distributions are very useful to make Linux more popular operating system. Linux distributions can be downloaded and installed from volunteer organizations' websites. They are also available in DVD media. The only cost to get a Linux distribution on a DVD is as low as the shipment fee and the cost of a blank DVD media.

2.1.4. Uses of Linux

There are many areas that Linux is being used. Some of these areas are desktop computers, servers and embedded systems.

2.1.4.1. Desktop Computers

Desktop computers are still the most popular form of computers. Over 15 years use of Linux on desktop computers has been increasing. The most popular Linux distributions that preferred by desktop computer users are the ones which have a graphical user interfaces. Ubuntu is the most popular Linux distribution among the desktop computer users. Ubuntu has a neat graphical user interface that provides user friendly environment for its users. It is also much faster than Microsoft's Windows. Its open source code helps many applications to be developed. Another popular distribution of Linux is Red Hat. Linux distributions also support a wide variety of languages.

As the popularity and the use of Linux increasing, the number of Linux compatible software programs is increasing. Today many types of applications are also available for Linux.

2.1.4.2. Servers

In the past, the only field that Linux have been used was servers. Today, Linux is the leading operating system for servers. Its efficient usage of system sources is the key factor of its popularity among the other server operating systems. Efficient usage of system sources provides faster servers. Windows is an unwieldy server operating system comparing to Linux.

2.1.4.3. Embedded Devices

Embedded devices can be the large systems or small devices that designed to perform only a few functions. Embedded devices include MP3 players, digital watches, cell phones, game consoles, traffic lights, automation controllers etc. Embedded Linux is a cheap and efficient alternative of controlling embedded devices. Some of the competitors of embedded Linux are Symbian OS, Windows CE and Palm OS. Some of the brands that use embedded Linux for their products are Nokia, Motorola, Linksys, Korg and Yamaha.

2.2. WINDOWS

2.2.1. History of Windows

The first widely used windows release was Windows 3.0 which released by Microsoft Corporation in 1990. However, Microsoft released the first release of Windows in 1985. Microsoft windows 1.0 was the first powerful operating system that provides multitasking computing at homes. Windows lead the personal computers to be used by everyone in every home. It provided useful components such as a calculator, notepad, clock, calendar and a file management program. In years, with the help of Windows operating system, personal computers started to be widely used by home-based computer users. After the first release, Microsoft has started to release a newer version of Windows operating system approximately every 3 years. The longest term that Microsoft has not released a new version of Windows was 6 years, between Windows XP and Windows Vista.

Timeline of Windows Releases:

1985: Windows 1.0

1987: Windows 2.0

1990: Windows 3.0

1993: Windows NT 3.1

1995: Windows 95

1998: Windows 98

2000: Windows 2000 Professional

2001: Windows XP

2007: Windows Vista

2.1.2. Design & User Interface

Windows Vista is the latest release of Windows series. It was released on January 30, 2007. There are several versions of Windows Vista each has different features and different prices. Windows Vista provides many new features for its users. Its new graphical user interface has no competitors. However, the cost of using Windows Vista is not limited to the price of the operating system. It provides an eye catching interface that requires more powerful computers than ever. The need of a new computer with the purchase of a new operating system is the most criticized policies of Microsoft.

3. COMPARISON OF WINDOWS AND LINUX

3.1. MARKET SHARE

It is very difficult to determine the exact numbers for the market shares of operating systems. Because of the unlicensed copies of Microsoft Windows and its former releases still in use, the statistics does not show real market share of operating systems. However, based on the number of licensed users and the number of computers sold that includes operating systems, it is believed that the market share of windows was decreased below 80%. In the recent years, the rapid increase in Mac OS X users and the increasing popularity of open source coded operating systems caused the number of Windows users to be decreased. Besides that, the number of Linux users was increased 7% since the year 2007. Although Windows is still the dominant operating system around the world, the number of its users is being decreased. Ubuntu is the most popular Linux distribution since the year 2007.

3.2. FEATURES

Both Windows and Linux come with many features. The only producer of Windows is Microsoft, whereas many companies are the supporters of Linux. Therefore, different features of Linux come from different companies. Over 25 years, Microsoft has developed its Windows. Microsoft has released a newer version of Windows approximately every 3 years. However, the main structure of Windows has never been changed as being expected. A start menu that contains the shortcuts to installed programs, a few classic card games, a file management program, a media player and a text editor has always been the main components of Windows operating system series. On the contrary, Linux has always been easy to be modified and faster. The biggest difference between Windows releases were the system requirements. It is almost impossible to install and use Windows Vista on a five year old system. On the other hand, a Linux operating system can be installed and used efficiently even on a ten year old system.

3.3. GRAPHICAL USER INTERFACE (GUI)

Although both Linux and Windows have a graphical user interface, GUI is not the only way to interact with the system. To many people, GUI is just a processor and memory consuming eye candy. On the contrary, for many people GUI is a necessity to interact with the system. In my opinion, GUI is a very useful tool for a home based computer users. It can also be considered as an unnecessary component of a server operating system. Sometimes these systems do not have a monitor. Due to the development in capabilities of computers, the difference between GUIs of Windows 1.0 and Windows Vista is incredible.

3.4. COMMAND LINE INTERFACE (CLI)

Command line interface is the oldest way of interacting with the system. CLI was the only way to interact with the system until mid-1980s. It is still preferred by advanced users, programmers etc. It is also used for interacting with some Linux server operating systems. Sometimes CLI provides faster and easier interaction with the system than GUI does.

3.5. COST

The price of Windows operating system starts from approximately $100 per computer, while all Linux distributions are completely free. Besides that, most of the software programs designed for Windows is not free. However, the free Linux is not always the best solution for the computer users. Although it is expensive, windows is the most preferred operating system because of its compatibility and ease of usage. However, embedded Linux is the best and the cheapest solution for embedded device manufacturers. Because of the lack of compatible software programs, using free Linux distributions can turn into a time consuming choice for many home-based computer users. Therefore, Linux operating system still seems to be only for advanced users.

3.6. SECURITY

Both Windows and Linux have their own security structures. Their security structures differ from each other. The security structure of Linux is more complicated and modifiable, whereas the security structure of Windows is limited.

4. CONCLUSION

Windows and Linux have always been the two competitors. Comparison of these two computer operating systems shows that each of these operating systems has advantages and disadvantages. In different fields they both have different advantages. Linux is free, open source coded, flexible and fast, while Windows is eye catching, user friendly and compatible with more software programs. To operate a server, Linux is better. On the other hand, Windows is a better choice for inexperienced home-based users. As a conclusion, the question, "which is better?" has more than one answer. It depends on the purpose that is going to be used for.

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