Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

Does the OS matter anymore?

Filed under
OS

With desktop market share still ranging from miniscule to small, relatively speaking, there's an enormous interest in Microsoft alternatives such as Linux and Mac OS X.

Most of us have been conditioned for so long that the Microsoft "platform" is essential that we scarcely pause to think about alternatives. But as long as we can perform our essential tasks - print that report, send that email - does the operating system really matter?

Today, most applications offer a browser-based interface and most of the popular browsers - Internet Explorer, FireFox, Opera - can be had free of charge in versions that run on non-Microsoft platforms. And running Outlook Web Access, for example, on an Apple Mac using either Microsoft's own Internet Explorer 5.0 or Apple's Safari browser is 99 per cent the same as running it on a Windows machine. With a few minor adjustments - such as holding the control key while clicking to download an attachment - you are on your way.

Basic email - most people's key application - essentially is operating system independent already. Those who require synchronization with central servers, such as Exchange, have a bit more to deal with - but more about that later.

In terms of importance, "office" functions usually are right up there on the list alongside email. While most of us are married to "Office 2003," we typically don't need to be. The document formats used for Word and Excel can be manipulated by "freeware" office suites such as OpenOffice and NeoOffice/J that run on Linux and OS X. If you just can't live without Microsoft Office you can get Office: Mac 2004 that will give you highly compatible versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

In June 2005, Microsoft announced that the next version of Office - Office 12 - would introduce native XML file formats for Word (docx), Excel (xlx) and PowerPoint (pptx) that would - are you sitting down? - be "open" and even "documented." Thus, any current compatibilities are likely to disappear before too long.

But what about Access and Outlook on non-Microsoft platforms? There, things get more complicated. While there are quite a few good quality relational database offerings out there, if Access is a "must" then having a Windows operating system is a "must," as well.

Fortunately, these days, you can use products such as Microsoft's own Virtual PC for Mac or VMware's Workstation product for running on Linux. While this adds complexity and expense (you need to buy the virtualization product and license the Windows operating system) it does let you run a "native" Windows environment on your Mac or Linux machine. This provides the best bridge between the two worlds. And, at least in the case of Virtual PC, it is a breeze to share folders between the Mac and Windows environments.

Mac users of Exchange have another twist. Microsoft used to offer Outlook 2001 as a native client but in recent years replaced it with Entourage (as part of the office suite for Mac). While this is very compatible with Outlook 2003, it is not completely so. Core functions, such as messaging and scheduling, work fine but, for instance, public folder functions are somewhat limited.

Do operating systems matter?

In terms of short-term productivity, they probably do. Even easy systems such as a Mac take getting used to. And, if you need to reach out for help to your company's tech support for, say, getting your Citrix connection to work - well, you probably know better than to try. But most problems get resolved with a bit of experience.

Tolly is president of The Tolly Group, a strategic consulting and independent testing company. Source.

Doest matter

It doesnt matter as long as it is Linux! Big Grin

re: doesn't matter

That's what my lilo boot message says! Pick one, any one - as long as it's linux!

of course that's all I got on here /now/. Big Grin

----
You talk the talk, but do you waddle the waddle?

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

More in Tux Machines

Security: Google and Morgan Marquis-Boire

  • Google: 25 per cent of black market passwords can access accounts

    The researchers used Google's proprietary data to see whether or not stolen passwords could be used to gain access to user accounts, and found that an estimated 25 per cent of the stolen credentials can successfully be used by cyber crooks to gain access to functioning Google accounts.

  • Data breaches, phishing, or malware? Understanding the risks of stolen credentials

    Drawing upon Google as a case study, we find 7--25\% of exposed passwords match a victim's Google account.

  • Infosec star accused of sexual assault booted from professional affiliations
    A well-known computer security researcher, Morgan Marquis-Boire, has been publicly accused of sexual assault. On Sunday, The Verge published a report saying that it had spoken with 10 women across North America and Marquis-Boire's home country of New Zealand who say that they were assaulted by him in episodes going back years. A woman that The Verge gave the pseudonym "Lila," provided The Verge with "both a chat log and a PGP signed and encrypted e-mail from Morgan Marquis-Boire. In the e-mail, he apologizes at great length for a terrible but unspecified wrong. And in the chat log, he explicitly confesses to raping and beating her in the hotel room in Toronto, and also confesses to raping multiple women in New Zealand and Australia."

Review: Fedora 27 Workstation

On the whole there are several things to like about Fedora 27. The operating system was stable during my trial and I like that there are several session options, depending on whether we want to use Wayland or the X display server or even a more traditional-looking version of GNOME. I am happy to see Wayland is coming along to the point where it is close to on par with the X session. There are some corner cases to address, but GNOME on Wayland has improved a lot in the past year. I like the new LibreOffice feature which lets us sign and verify documents and I like GNOME's new settings panel. These are all small, but notable steps forward for GNOME, LibreOffice and Fedora. Most of the complaints I had this week had more to do with GNOME specifically than Fedora as an operating system. GNOME on Fedora is sluggish on my systems, both on the desktop computer and in VirtualBox, especially the Wayland session. This surprised me as when I ran GNOME's Wayland session on Ubuntu last month, the desktop performed quite a bit better. Ubuntu's GNOME on Wayland session was smooth and responsive, but Fedora's was too slow for me to use comfortably and I switched over to using the X session for most of my trial. Two other big differences I felt keenly between Ubuntu and Fedora were with regards to how these two leading projects set up GNOME. On Ubuntu we have a dock that acts as a task switcher, making it a suitable environment for multitasking. Fedora's GNOME has no equivalent. This means Fedora's GNOME is okay for running one or two programs at a time, but I tend to run eight or nine applications at any given moment. This becomes very awkward when using Fedora's default GNOME configuration as it is hard to switch between open windows quickly, at least without installing an extension. In a similar vein, Ubuntu's GNOME has window control buttons and Fedora's version does not, which again adds a few steps to what are usually very simple, quick actions. What it comes down to is I feel like Ubuntu takes GNOME and turns it into a full featured desktop environment, while Fedora provides us with just plain GNOME which feels more like a framework for a desktop we can then shape with extensions rather than a complete desktop environment. In fact, I think that describes Fedora's approach in general - the distribution feels more like a collection of open source utilities rather than an integrated whole. Earlier I mentioned LibreOffice can work with signed documents, but Fedora has no key manager, meaning we need to find and download one. Fedora ships with Totem, which is a fine video player, but it doesn't work with Wayland, making it an odd default choice. These little gaps or missed connections show up occasionally and it sets the distribution apart from other projects like openSUSE or Linux Mint where there is a stronger sense the pieces of the operating system working together with a unified vision. The big puzzle for me this week was with software updates. Linux effectively solved updating software and being able to keep running without a pause, reboot or lock-up decades ago. Other mainstream distributions have fast updates - some even have atomic, on-line updates. openSUSE has software snapshots through the file system, Ubuntu has live kernel updates that do away with rebooting entirely and NixOS has atomic, versioned updates via the package manager, to name just three examples. But Fedora has taken a big step backward in making updates require an immediate reboot, and taking an unusually long time to complete the update process, neither of which benefits the user. Fedora has some interesting features and I like that it showcases new technologies. It's a good place to see what new items are going to be landing in other projects next year. However, Fedora feels more and more like a testing ground for developers and less like a polished experience for people to use as their day-to-day operating system. Read more

6 Reasons Why Linux is Better than Windows For Servers

A server is a computer software or a machine that offers services to other programs or devices, referred to as “clients“. There are different types of servers: web servers, database servers, application servers, cloud computing servers, file servers, mail servers, DNS servers and much more. The usage share for Unix-like operating systems has over the years greatly improved, predominantly on servers, with Linux distributions at the forefront. Today a bigger percentage of servers on the Internet and data centers around the world are running a Linux-based operating system. Read more Also: All the supercomputers in the world moved to Linux operating systems

Android Leftovers