Episode #10 | Date Recorded: 2023-04-19 | Runtime: 16:17

About This Podcast Episode

Take a deep-dive into the history of operating systems with our latest podcast episode! Here, we discuss many strengths and weaknesses of Windows, Mac OSX and Linux.

You’ll learn how you can select the right operating system for your needs and why it’s important to make sure your system is kept up to date!

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Podcast Transcript

Jason Bittner (CEO): Hello everyone, I’m Jason Fender from Triple Helix Corporation and welcome to our Helix Insider podcast. I’m joined in studio today from two of my teammates, senior developers Sam Sheldon and my Systems Engineer Shawn Coover. Welcome to the studio guys.

Today we’re going to talk about the history of operating systems. We all know we have one and we all either love or hate them, but for good, right, wrong or indifferent. They are a very integral part of our lives in terms of our computers and our operating systems and what we do every day. So we wanted to kind of go back in time and talk about, you know, the evolutions of where these operating systems came from and more importantly, you know, what they’re good for, what they’re not good for, and maybe consider using a different one if you’ve never tried one. So we’ll dive right in. Talk first about everyone’s favorite, at least everyone’s favorite that they know of is Windows. Sam, why don’t you start us off and talk about the evolution of Windows and strengths and weaknesses of that particular system?

Sam Sheldon: So Windows is the operating system that we know. It started back in the era of DOS and the operating system that we know, the, you know, Windows part of Windows came about as a user interface built on top of DOS. It wasn’t actually originally Microsoft specific, but it evolved to be so over time. And a lot of the things that we see in Windows today are actually holdouts from long, long ago when everything was built on DOS. You can, you can find interesting tidbits in your operating system that trace all the way back to how printers worked in the days of DOS and things like that.

Jason Bittner (CEO): So Sam, what is DOS? For our listeners, what is DOS?

Sam Sheldon: It stands for disk operating system. And as I recall, Windows actually started as a program that you ran from DOS from the command line. Is that right?

Jason Bittner (CEO): Yeah, that’s right. It was a separate program that you could use to set up a user interface to interact with DOS in a way that was a lot easier than what we would know today as the command prompt. Let’s talk about everyone’s other favorite or at least the two big competitors that kind of fight each other all the time. Let’s talk about the Mac or more specifically the Mac OS. Shawn, why don’t you tell us a little bit about that and where that came from?

Shawn Coover: Mac OS originally developed out of Next OS, Unix based platform. Unix was one of the first operating systems that was released in 1971. For reference, MS-DOS was released in 1985. But Mac OS evolved from Unix as what was previously known as Next OS. And Next OS was built on Unix much like Linux is and is a Unix based system now. Its strengths and weaknesses tend to lean into more audio and visual recordings and software editing tools such as video editing, audio editing, things of that nature. But it evolved from a version of Unix.

Jason Bittner (CEO): Obviously, we all know and love the Mac OS as it runs on all the Apple computers and whatnot. I understand that it’s considered to be much more user friendly than Windows necessarily. So if you’re not a really highly sophisticated technical user, not to say that it can’t do technical things, it tends to be more friendly for someone who’s not as technically savvy. Is that right?

Shawn Coover: That’s how it’s marketed. Yes, correct. It’s marketed as something that’s easier to use than than even Windows. But I mean, Microsoft’s worked really hard on making Windows easy to use as well, though.

Jason Bittner (CEO): That’s true. That’s true. All right, let’s talk about everyone’s favorite then. And the one that we here prefer Triple Helix is Linux. Very powerful operating system. Sam, why don’t we kick off with your thoughts about Linux?

Sam Sheldon: Yeah, so Linux is definitely a much more flexible operating system than either Windows or Mac. And part of that is because Linux in and of itself doesn’t really describe the operating systems that use Linux, because there are many different flavors, they call them of Linux. There are ones like Ubuntu that have an almost Mac OS like look and feel very, you know, graphics oriented, very user friendly. And then there’s other versions of Linux that are designed for things like servers and the like that don’t have a graphical user interface at all. They’re just a terminal and you do everything the old fashioned way. There’s a lot of variety. If you’re if you’re willing to put in a little bit of legwork, you can probably find exactly the right flavor of Linux for you.

Jason Bittner (CEO): That’s been my experience as well as Linux is very, very plentiful and very flexible and customizable, almost to a fault in that if you’re not technically savvy, it can be very overwhelming. But Shawn, talk to us a little bit about where Linux came from. I think you were talking earlier about, you know, where it started in the 70s, I think.

Shawn Coover: Yes, Unix, the original Unix platform in which both Mac OS and Linux is built on was released November 3rd, 1971. Linux didn’t debut until I believe it was September of 1990. About 20 years later, Linux hit the market. One thing that I like the most about Linux is that the entire product itself, the core of the operating system, the kernel, is an open source kernel. Every bit of code that you see that goes into it, you can see if it’s the base Linux kernel. Now, obviously, there’s companies who have taken the base Linux system and started developing it as their own, such as Red Hat, Canonical with Ubuntu. The basis of Linux is that it’s open source.

Jason Bittner (CEO): And open source is really, I like to say, a fancy way of saying free, right? I mean, we don’t pay for this operating system, unlike Windows and Mac, where you have to pay for their licensing, right?

Shawn Coover: Correct, correct. Now, Red Hat does offer a paid service for their Linux configuration, but that is for putting the actual Red Hat logo on your server and for their support. You’re paying for the support, really, not the license itself.

Jason Bittner (CEO): You know, with the three operating systems we’ve just gone over, we’re talking about Windows and Mac and Linux. Sam, why don’t we talk to our listeners about how someone can find out what’s the right operating system for them out of that mix?

Sam Sheldon: So, obviously, the first consideration is, if you’re in a work environment, what are the requirements for your work environment? If you’re in an office where everything is run through Windows Active Directory and all the backend stuff is running on Windows, your workstation is probably going to be Windows and there’s not going to be a ton you can do to change that. That said, outside of requirements for work, the thing that I would recommend is looking at what you want to be doing with it. Do you want to do a lot of audio and video editing? If so, Mac is probably going to be what has the best, you know, proprietary software. Do you just, do you want to do gaming like a lot of us do in our free time? In that case, Windows is probably your best bet because most games are configured to run on Windows and a lot of them don’t have Linux and Mac ports. If you’re wanting to do software development, I know that Mac is popular for that. Linux has a lot of flexibility and as I said before, different Linux flavors all are aimed at doing different things. I know that at least at one point there was an Ubuntu version called Ubuntu Studio that was built around audio editing and video editing kind of like Macs. There’s versions of Linux that are specifically set up to emulate Windows games. Yeah, a lot of it comes down to what kind of software you need, where it’s available, and what kind of support you want to be able to get for your operating system. Because if you go with something a little bit less popular in say the Linux sphere, you’re going to have to, you’re going to have to use some Google food to solve obscure problems. Whereas if you’re using Windows or Mac, you can probably just do a quick search on whatever your problem is and dozens of other people will be counted.

Jason Bittner (CEO): Right, I mean here at Triple Helix, I mean we almost exclusively use Linux. I mean in the business applications where I work, it’s more likely to be Windows, but all our development work, all our programming, we use Linux for exactly the reasons that you stated. It’s free to use, very extensible and customizable. Not necessarily easy to use, but then again, you know, we’re experts in the operating system and getting it to do what we want. It kind of brings me to my next point is like, you know, when you talk about any of these operating systems and when you have to upgrade them, obviously Windows is pretty aggressive about its updates and if you’ve ever been the misfortunate bystander of a forced Windows update and it prevents you from doing what you need to do, it’s very frustrating. But Windows does that on purpose, particularly for security updates which are pretty frequent. So this brings up an interesting point is like, you know, we talk about our operating systems and, you know, how frequently they need to be upgraded and that’s very, very true of the Linux operating system. They do go end of life and they need to be updated. Shawn, why don’t you talk to our listeners about the importance of upgrading the operating systems, particularly Linux because it happens, I think, much more frequently than Windows or Mac?

Shawn Coover: Okay, yeah, it’s very important to keep all of your systems up to date and stay ahead of the curve when it comes to your end of life cycles because packages and software goes end of life and the developers who created those packages move on to different versions of those packages or different versions of the entire course operating system itself. Like recently Linux 5 was released. It’s been a while and it’s up to Linux 5.11. But for example, Canonical with Ubuntu, they’re on a five-year long-term support lifecycle for their LTS versions. They will release a new version and support it for five years. But once that five-year threshold hits and they go past it, they no longer provide package support. They no longer provide new packages or package patches, which will leave your system very vulnerable to vulnerabilities that are being discovered daily, technically. So it’s very important to keep your packages and your system up to date. I know it’s kind of frustrating to say, hey, I’ll have to see a Microsoft update when you didn’t want to see it, but you have no idea what could be in the back end of that, what kind of security update, what kind of vulnerabilities being patched that could expose you and your personal information. So it’s always important to keep your systems up to date, even if it’s a little frustrating.

Jason Bittner (CEO): You mentioned how Ubuntu has the rolling five years for their long-term support. It’s interesting. I noticed that different versions, they overlap by a few years. So you have time to get to the next version and your current version, when it does expire in year five, there was already another release that you could have moved to and you could have upgraded into. Very important to note that these updates are being provided very frequently and usually with a lot of important updates and patches and things like that. So that’s a really good point. Sam, why don’t you talk to our listeners about knowing when to upgrade, especially if you have the option?

Sam Sheldon: As far as operating systems go, because we were just talking about Linux versions, the ideal time for most users to upgrade is going to be when the new version that you’re looking to upgrade to, once it’s had a chance to settle. So basically, you don’t necessarily want to be on the cutting edge unless you’re specifically wanting to help filter out bugs and see the ins and outs of the system before all those things get hammered out. You don’t want to be the one who’s finding all of the workflow breaking bugs in an operating system for the most part. So give it a little bit of time, maybe six months, let it settle out, and that’s usually a good time to upgrade. But yeah, you usually want to do it before it’s dire for your current version, but after the next version has had a chance to shake out and settle in.

Jason Bittner (CEO): That’s an excellent point because I think a lot of our listeners here right now will notice that if they’re running on Windows, Windows 10 specifically, Microsoft have been pushing the Microsoft Windows 11 upgrade pretty heavily. And if you know, occasionally you’ll bring your computer online, it’ll pop up and say, hey, Windows 11 free upgrade, you want to upgrade now, and they’re kind of pushy about it. And I made the mistake of upgrading one of my machines to Windows 11, I think a little too early, because when I got into it, it is not completely different than 10. But as it is a little bit different, the UI is noticeably different. And I ran into an issue that had not been solved yet. And so I was stuck with that machine and that hardware issue for probably about six months, it did get patched eventually. So I can absolutely concur what you’re saying about, you know, don’t want to be on the bleeding edge of the software, it’s good to have the new and updated software. But you know, you don’t want to be on that bleeding edge, like you said, and Windows 10 is still actually being patched and updated. So if you’re in 10 and you’re considering 11, you know, and you know, you don’t necessarily want to deal with a lot of changes, you know, recommend staying with 10 for the time being.

Sam Sheldon: The other factor that important to consider when you’re looking at upgrades, and this is why it’s important not to fall behind is the further is the older your version gets, the less support you’re going to be able to get. There are because technologies, you know, phase in and out, things improve. And as Shawn mentioned, developers move on to newer versions. If you’re still running on say Windows 7, the only support you’re going to get from Microsoft is telling you to move up to Windows 10. But you think you’re going to get from them. And this is true for software too. And I know that Jason, we do a lot of new ERP analysis tasks for clients. And old systems are often a problem, if you let it go for too long, it gets harder and harder to upgrade because you’re having to go through all of those upgrades all at once. That can be a challenge. And if you have old technology that you’re still using, you might run into cases where it’s not compatible with new technology. We’ve had that happen, actually. We’ve had to find workarounds for systems that are too old to connect with newer technology, which is always, it’s always awkward and difficult and can be avoided if you upgrade regularly and keep your operating systems and software up to date.

Jason Bittner (CEO): That’s an excellent point, especially with browser standards. We’ve run into issues where an older server, older software just wouldn’t run on a modern browser and it caused pretty significant issues. I remember that’s a very good point. All right. Well, this has been the history of operating systems. And I want to just get some final feedback from my two guests here. Shawn, before we wrap up, any final thoughts?

Shawn Coover:: On the note of when to upgrade, I definitely concur with both of you. Definitely want to wait six months to a year after a new operating system been released before you upgrade to it. That’ll let all the bugs settle out, unless you’re willing to commit to helping the company with that. Because there’s always bug reports. Free beta testing, right?

Jason Bittner (CEO): Sam, shame question. Any final thoughts for our listeners?

Sam Sheldon: I think my final thought would be that there is no one-size-fits-all correct operating system for anyone. There’s pros and cons to all of them. And the best thing you can do is pick the one that’s right for you. And that might be two operating systems. You might need two computers. You might need to run two operating systems on the same computer. There’s no one-size-fits-all. So always good to look around and do your research.

Jason Bittner (CEO): That’s an excellent point. I think many of us do run two operating systems for two different reasons and various things that we need the computers to do. That’s a really excellent point. Well, hey, I want to thank my two special guests today, Shawn Coover, my senior systems engineer, and Sam Sheldon, my senior developer here at Triple Helix. And this has been the history of operating systems.

Until next time, thanks, everybody. Bye.