Operating Systems (OS) provide interfaces for computer hardware. Operating systems maintain, manage, and coordinate a computer's activities while acting as a host for various software applications. Because the OS commands hardware operations, individual software programs require less work to perform. As a result, it becomes easier to write computer programs. Older computers have embedded operating systems, and newer machines have standalone operating systems.
Operating systems are packaged with interfaces that allow users to interact with the computer. A command line interface (CLI) allows users to type commands, and a graphical user interface (GUI) allows for aesthetically pleasing interactions through pointing, clicking, and dragging objects. Most operating systems are packaged with aesthetically pleasing GUIs. Microsoft Windows, Linux, Solaris, Unix, and Mac OS are examples of popular operating systems.
Sun Microsystems developed Solaris in 1992 on a Unix platform. The OS is mostly open source, includes a Java Desktop system, and supports SPARC, x86, and x86-84 platforms. Solaris is well known for its scalability and its ability for symmetric multi-processing. Solaris does not need to be installed on the machine from which it is run and can be launched remotely. Many server manufacturers include and provide technical support for Solaris on their systems.
There are many server operating systems that have been released by Microsoft Corporation. They resemble the Windows OS, but they are designed specifically for servers and networks. Microsoft has released user friendly server operating systems for a homes, small businesses, and large businesses. Windows has released the following server platforms: Windows 2000 server, Windows server 2003, Windows HPC Server, Windows Small Business Server, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2008, Windows Essential Business Server, and Windows Home Server.
Apple Inc. has developed a number of operating systems for its Macintosh computers. The most prominent include versions of Mac OS, which was first introduced in 1984 as a user-friendly operating system. The OS included an advanced GUI that eliminated the need for command line. Mac OS was ideal for businesses and home users that needed to multitask. In 2001, Apple released Mac OS X, which is a UNIX based operating system. Releases of Mac OS X are named after wild cats, with the most recent called "Snow Leopard." Mac OS X has been commended for its stability, ease of use, and multitasking capabilities.
A group at Bell Labs developed Unix as an operating system in 1969. Unix is used on both servers and desktops and provides a platforms for other operating systems. Unix is characterized by a number of core concepts that include plain text for storage of data, inter-process communication files, command line interpreter, and use of a large number of different software tools. Many Unix-based and Unix-like operating systems are available for free. The Open Group currently owns the UNIX trademark.
Linux is an open source, Unix-like OS. The term "open source" means that all versions and distributions of Linux are available for free. Source codes can be viewed, edited, and redistributed. Linux can be installed on a range of platforms including small electronics and cell phones. Users can install Linux on workstations with a GUI. Because the Linux source code is available, software developers can package the OS into distributions. These distributions redesign Linux to meet the needs of different users. Linux is the most popular server operating system because it is stable, secure, versatile, and can support a number of users. Popular Linux server distributions include Ubuntu and Red Hat Enterprise Edition.