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OSdata.com: sophistication 



    Sophistication in an operating system tends to vary by area of the operating system. Only the most simple and unsophisticated operating systems will be uniform in their level of sophistication.


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     Areas that are typically sophisticated include: user interface (such as the Macintosh, OS/2, and BeOS), file, record, and data base services (such as OpenVMS, MVS, Tru64 Unix, Solaris, AIX, and Pick), multimedia capabilities (Macintosh, BeOS, and IRIX), scheduling of tasks (OpenVMS and MVS), object oriented systems (NeXT, Rhapsody, Mac OS X Server, and Macintosh OS X), file systems (BeOS, AIX, OpenVMS, and HP-UX), and business-related utilities and services (AIX, Solaris, and Tru64 Unix).

    The UNIX approach to operating systems is actually anti-sophisticated. Because sophisticated and complex systems are more difficult to code, debug, and test, they can be subject to more errors, especially obscure special case errors. The UNIX approach is to solve dependability and reliability problems by keeping things simple. UNIX programmers are urged to write small special purpose routines that are easy to make highly reliable and then string (“pipeline”) them together to perform more complex tasks. Some of the most powerful computer systems in the world use some form of UNIX.

    Sophistication carries the possibility of decreased reliability, but offers the possibility of more complex or more efficient operations.

     On the other hand, just because an operating system is unsophisticated does not necessarily mean that it is reliable. Windows is among the least sophisticated operating systems around, yet also has the worst reliability of any operating system available.

     “Perhaps some customers are expecting too much from NT—after all, the operating system is still in its infancy when compared to OS/390 and Unix. Business demands are so intense that IT shops often must push technology to meet those needs. Maybe users are pushing NT beyond its limits and putting operations at risk, say industry analysts.” —“The Hidden Cost Of NT”w69

    Manage Expectations Few claim that NT Server can do the job of mainframes and high-end Unix systems. However, NT servers are supporting growing numbers of business users and running crucial applications for Web commerce, enterprise resource planning, and E-mail. NT has also made inroads into industries such as banking and health care.
    Many first-time users are often surprised to learn that most NT servers are capable of running only a single application per machine—be it mail, ERP software, or a custom application. If companies need to scale beyond the 1,500 or so users that Microsoft says the server will support, they must buy an additional piece of hardware and software. Another alternative is to opt for Windows NT Enterprise Edition, which supports eight-processor servers and includes the SQL Server database, clustering, and transaction support. The performance boost that comes with NT Enterprise Edition comes at a price—up to nearly $4,000 more than the standard edition.
    But if you opt for standard NT, running one application per server, you could encounter a proliferation of hardware that must be managed. That’s the complete opposite of the trend in the Unix environment, where IT departments are consolidating multiple applications and users on high-end servers. This centralization of computing resources greatly simplifies maintenance and software upgrades and can reduce support staff requirements.” —“The Hidden Cost Of NT”w68

    Because there are differences in which area where each operating system is sophisticated, it pays to match operating systems to your particular needs.

     “Last but not least, UNIX operating systems are equipped with scripting languages (Bourne Shell, Korn Shell, C Shell, and sometimes Perl, just to name a few) and a "cron" facility for scheduling jobs to run at fixed intervals (every n minutes, every n hours, once a week, once a month, etc.). Cron scheduling is highly configurable and not just limited to these examples here. In short, high-level scripting languages + cron = a powerful resource for system administration, the likes of which cannot be found in Microsoft NT Server 4.0. A great deal of UNIX system administration is automated and customized for site-specific needs through the use of these tools, which in effect cuts down on personnel costs. As one reader pointed out, NT does have a "Scheduler" and an "at" command, and that Perl is available for NT. Yes, this is true, however, I don’t feel that NT’s limited cmd.exe scripting environment combined with the "Scheduler" or "at" can even begin to approach the functionality offered by the UNIX tools I’ve mentioned. Running automated tasks is only useful when the scripts/tasks/executables can be run without human intervention. So much that runs on NT is GUI-based, and thus, requires interaction with a human administrator. If seen realistically, the types of automated tasks that are being run in most shops are site-specific routines that have to be programmed by system administrators. Based on my own industry experience, it is a rare site indeed where Perl is installed on NT servers and there is any NT administrator who knows the first thing about Perl. The driving force behind buying cheap hardware goes hand-in-hand with the hiring practice of selecting the cheapest NT administrators available; after all, it’s NT, all you have to do is point and click!”—John Kirsch, “Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0 versus UNIX”w22

     “To summarize, once you logon to an NT network, all you can do is read files and print. In a UNIX environment, once you log in to a UNIX server, you can be on that machine and do anything on it that you could do if you were sitting at its keyboard or mouse! With NT, don’t plan on being able to set up an e-mail server with the software at hand. You will need to buy expensive mail server software like Microsoft Exchange Server separately. If your NT server should function as a file server — what else can you do with it really? — don’t plan on being able to prevent users from crashing the server by filling up the disk(s) with their data.”—John Kirsch, “Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0 versus UNIX”w22

    Bob Canup, computer engineer, on the complexity of computer systems:

    “Computers are very difficult to understand well for a very simple reason: every time that you look at a computer it has changed; it can be a fax machine one moment, and a printer or a calculator the next. My estimate is that it takes most people about 20 years of experience and work with computers to really understand them. My own views and understanding of computers have changed significantly over the last 20 years.
    Indeed computers are the single most complex technology which [humanity] has ever created.
    Consider for a few moments attempting to diagram the Internet. Before you could even complete such a task the system would have changed from what it was when you started. Because they are so complex it takes about as long to really grasp computers as it does to become an adult.
    I have found it useful to explain computer operating systems by drawing an analogy between various operating systems and books.
    DOS is a primer: “See Dick run, run Dick run.”
    Windows 3.1 is a Casper the Friendly Ghost comic book: “Hi, I’m Casper and I want to be your friend.”
     Windows 9x is a Batman the Dark Avenger comic book: More serious and meant for a more mature audience.
     Windows NT is the “Classics Illustrated” version of Unix.
    Unix is a serious piece of adult literature, a novel or a physics reference book, written by adults, for use by adults.
    Comic books are very important to children for a very good reason: children lack experience, and it is difficult for them to form a mental picture of what written words mean. A comic book, however, gives a child both words and pictures to go with them; giving them more understanding than the words alone could give them.” —Bob Canupe87

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    Last Updated: May 11, 2001

    Created: June 5, 1998

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