There are many choices for operating systems. In this video, you’ll learn about Microsoft Windows, Linux, Apple macOS, Chrome OS, Apple iPadOS, Apple iOS, and Google Android.
So far in this course, we’ve talked a lot about operating systems, but we haven’t really talked about why we would need an operating system. The OS is tying together everything that’s running on our computer, the memory, the storage, any keyboard, CPU, and all of the other components that make our computers operate.
The operating system is also a standard platform that application developers can write their applications to, so they know when they’re writing an application for Windows, that anyone who’s running that Windows operating system would be able to use that application. And of course, we as humans need some way to interact with this machine, and the operating system provides us with this user interface that allows us to take advantage of these applications.
Although there are significant differences between all of the different operating systems that you might find, there are some similarities across every OS. One of these commonalities is that these operating systems provide us with a way to interact with the files that are stored on that operating system by adding, removing, renaming, and changing any files that are there. These operating systems also allow us to run applications.
And behind the scenes, the OS is managing memory and making sure that the CPU is able to operate properly with that application. Operating systems also give us a way to put data into this computer and to get data out of this computer. Normally, that input and output process is provided through printers, keyboards, storage devices, USB drives, and other systems that we can connect to this OS. And of course, we need some way to manage this OS, so many operating systems will include management and configuration tools as part of the OS.
One of the most popular operating systems in the world is Microsoft Windows, used across millions of different systems. And there are many different versions of Windows available. You could be running Windows 10, Windows 11, or Windows Server. One significant advantage of using Windows is there’s so much support for this operating system in the industry, and it becomes easier to find applications when the operating system has that level of support.
We also commonly make changes to operating systems, and there are tools built into Windows that allow us to customize exactly the way Windows will operate. Of course, Windows does have some disadvantages. Because Windows is this popular operating system, it’s a very big target for people that are trying to take advantage of these systems through the use of malware, spyware, or some other vulnerability.
And of course, the Windows operating system supports so many different types of hardware that you have to make sure that if you’re installing a piece of hardware, that you have drivers that will work for your specific version of Windows. As we go through these different types of operating systems, you’ll notice there are a number of common traits to the user interface. There are icons to be able to choose the application. There’s a desktop that you could have the applications running on, and there might be a toolbar at the bottom that gives us even more options for configuring and customizing the OS.
Another popular operating system that you’ll find both at home and at work is Linux. Linux is a Unix-like operating system that provides us with the power of Unix in an operating system that is open source and free to use. There are many different distributions of Linux available. Some are general use desktop type operating systems, and other versions of Linux have been specifically created to perform a particular function.
One of the big advantages of Linux of course, is that it doesn’t cost anything. You can download Linux and begin using it immediately without having any type of cost or licensing associated with it. Linux also runs on almost any hardware, so it doesn’t matter what type of processor or system you have. There’s probably a flavor of Linux that will work on your computer. And the Linux community is worldwide and provides extensive support for this operating system.
Because we rely on the users of the operating system to help support it, there may be times when you’d like to use a type of hardware, but there’s no hardware driver for the Linux operating system. This is certainly common with specialized hardware, but you might even find that the wireless adapter in your computer may not have a compatible driver in Linux.
And because Linux is community supported, there are limited support options if you’d like to be able to solve a problem. You can’t call the Linux company to be able to provide support. Instead, you have to go to one of the many communities available on the internet, or to a company that specializes in providing Linux support.
Here’s a screenshot of just one type of Linux distribution, and you can see the functionality of Linux is very similar to what we saw in the functionality of Windows. We have icons that allow us to choose applications. There’s a toolbar that we can customize, and we can run many different applications all in this Linux operating system.
Folks with Apple hardware have an operating system built specifically for them through Apple called Mac OS. Mac OS is the desktop operating system you would run specifically on Apple hardware. One of the well-known characteristics of Mac OS is that it is very easy to use and very compatible with the applications that run in Mac OS.
And because Mac OS was built by Apple, and they’re the only contributor to this software, they’re able to make sure that the software is as secure as possible before it’s distributed to the users. However, one of the benefits of having this closed system of hardware with Apple is also one of its disadvantages. It may be possible that there would be a piece of hardware that you would like to use on your Mac OS system, but there’s no device driver that would allow you to integrate that into the operating system.
Apple also tends to price their hardware a little bit higher than the rest of the industry, so you may find that the price is what drives people towards a certain operating system. As with Windows and Linux, Mac OS also includes those characteristics that we saw in those previous operating systems, such as icons available to be able to run applications, and a toolbar that you might use to be able to select them quickly.
Another operating system you might run into is one made by Google. This is the Chrome OS, and it’s based on the Linux kernel to provide capabilities on a very low-end platform. This operating system is based around the functionality of the Chrome browser, and many applications you would use are browser-based and operate in Chrome.
Chrome OS tends to run on systems with a minimum of hardware requirements, and there are many manufacturers who create these Chrome OS-specific hardware platforms. But since this device does have hardware limitations, a lot of the applications will run in the cloud. So you’ll often see Chrome OS very closely tied to cloud based applications.
If you’re using a tablet from Apple, then you’re using an operating system called iPadOS. This is a variant of the iOS operating system that you would commonly use on an Apple iPhone, but it has been specifically created for the tablet environment. IPadOS includes a desktop browser with Safari. You can use this as a second monitor using a feature called sidecar. You can support keyboard and mouse input, and the iPadOS supports multitasking for running multiple applications simultaneously.
If you’re using an iPhone, then you’re using Apple’s iOS operating system. This operating system is based on Unix and was written specifically for the iPhone platform. You won’t find iOS being used on anything but Apple iPhones. To write apps for iOS or iPadOS, you would use a software developers kit that runs on Mac OS. Apple is also involved in the testing and approval process for any apps that are deployed for the iPhone. So before you see it appear in the Apple App Store, it’s been thoroughly checked by Apple, and then deployed for the rest of the world to download.
The other big phone-based operating system is Google’s Android OS. This is from the open handset alliance and it’s an open source operating system based on Linux. This is supported on many manufacturers’ hardware, so you can find exactly the phone with the features you’d like, and then use the Android operating system on that phone.
There’s an Android SDK, or software developers kit, that allows you to write Android apps in Windows, Mac OS, and Linux. You would then download those apps from the Google Play store, and there are a number of third-party sites, like the Amazon App Store, that can also provide you with Android-based apps.
Each vendor of an operating system has their own set of requirements and standards. And different manufacturers will have different end of life policies depending on the operating system, the version, and the support they provide. Although these operating systems are relatively complex, they do have automatic functions built into them to keep the operating system up to date. This includes bug fixes, security patches, and enhancements to the operating system itself.
Although these operating systems are created by different companies, there are certain applications and certain data files that can be shared between operating systems. For example, you could take word processing documents, video documents, and other common document types, and use them across different operating systems. Unfortunately that’s where the compatibility ends.
When you start running applications, you need to make sure you can find an app that’s built for that operating system. You can’t use an app that’s been written for Mac OS and try to install that on your Windows computer. However, some manufacturers do create different versions of their software depending on the operating system you’re using. So if you’re using a word processor, that word processor may have a version that’s been written for Windows, for Linux, and for Mac OS.
You’ll need to reference the documentation for your application to see what operating system is supported. And if you’re using web-based applications, you can simply use the browser that’s available in your operating system and be able to use it across all of these different OSes.