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1001 Computer Words You Need to Know$
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Jerry Pournelle

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780195167757

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195167757.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 17 October 2021

Which Operating System Is Right For You?

Which Operating System Is Right For You?

(p.16) Which Operating System Is Right For You?
1001 Computer Words You Need to Know

Jerry Pournelle

Oxford University Press

It’s the age-old computer question, approached with the same intensity as politics and sports: which operating system (OS for short) is right for you? But ask yourself a more fundamental question first: what will you use your computer for? Is it casual word processing and e-mail? The Great American Novel? Number crunching? The Internet? Recreational gaming? Video editing? Graphic design? The point is this: how you use your computer determines what software you need, and the availability of that software for a given operating system in turn guides your choice of OS. But remember, an operating system is linked to a specific kind of computer. For the home buyer, that means, essentially, a choice between a Mac and a PC. And your comfort level, as you try out different user interfaces, will ultimately have a profound effect on your choice of computer and operating system. Broadly, there are three popular OS families currently available: Windows, Macintosh OS’s, and countless flavors of Linux. Windows—If we include versions from Win 95 on, Microsoft Windows has the largest present and potential market share— so much so that many third-party software companies simply cannot afford to develop programs for any other OS. This alone is reason enough for many people to choose it. But others point out that just because 100 million cows eat grass, that doesn’t mean that they should eat it too. For those dissident cows among us, there are indeed some conspicuous cons to consider: Windows (particularly in its older incarnations—95 through ME) is notorious for its frequent crashes as well as its dangerous security holes, with Microsoft having to release dozens of security patches annually. And nearly all of those nasty computer viruses, trojans, and worms that you hear about are written to exploit its weaknesses. In addition, a Windows PC generally requires more technical support over its lifetime than an Apple Macintosh. On the other hand, there are pros to balance the cons. Recent versions of the OS (2000, XP, and beyond) are much more reliable, Microsoft promises updates and long-term support, and—more important—Windows systems are compatible with the largest variety of the latest software applications (from office suites, reference works, and utilities to vast quantities of games) as well as with the newest peripherals.

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