11 August 2009

Choosing an OS For a Computer

Counting both systems and versions, you have many operating systems to choose from. If you're planning to run Microsoft Windows, you have to choose which version, a choice with significant technical and performance implications. If you're planning to run Linux on your PC, you still have to choose which distribution (essentially, which company's enhancements to and packaging of the standard Linux) and which version of that distribution. Linux isn't yet suitable for a beginner who doesn't have a captive expert nearby, but it's made great strides in the last few years, and the day when a beginner can succeed unaided with Linux isn't far off.

WindowsThere are two technically distinct Windows architectures. One what we'll call Win9X in this article - originated with Windows 95, a successor to Windows 3.1 and ultimately DOS, and inherited both compatibility benefits and reliability problems from its parents. The other architecture originated with Windows NT, and is available today as Windows 2000 or Windows XP. Windows 2000 and Windows XP are the most reliable versions of Windows, but are not necessarily compatible with all the software and hardware built for Win9X.

Practically, however, there are only three useful versions of Windows: Windows 98 Second Edition (Win98 SE), Windows 2000, or Windows XP. No version of Windows prior to Windows 98 Second Edition (Win98 SE) is more stable, and SE includes Universal Serial Bus (USB) support without additional patching.

Linux and UNIXThe many varieties of UNIX are mostly used to run servers, computers used to perform tasks remotely for you across a network. Of the non-proprietary versions of UNIX, the two best known are Linux and FreeBSD. Both are available from a variety of companies; we use the Linux versions from Red Hat or Mandrake, and the FreeBSD version from FreeBSD Mall (formerly Walnut Creek CD-ROM). Linux is the most widely used version, but all versions of UNIX are less common than Windows on desktop computers because of these factors....

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