Kays ideal collection of computers.
So, what would I have in my collection... No doubt I would have a Windows box and a Linux box, I would also have a Macintosh. I have a Solaris box I hope to use on a regular basis someday, I would also like to get my SGI Octane working sometime. Why the different systems you ask? Well, I have found that each system can deal with a certain set of tasks better than most other systems. I also like variety, I get tired of the same thing constantly, sometimes I will try out an OS just because of that. Notable examples of such are Open STEP and BeOS, I did not intend on heavily using them, but I did install them and play with them quite a bit.
So, you got there two reasons for operating system diversity: Specialization and variety, let me introduce you to another one: Feel.
The look and feel of an operating system or piece of software often dictates what types of people will prefer them. I have noticed many graphic artists and musicians like MacOS, I theorize that they like it for similar reasons to me: Its easy to use, unobtrusive and a quick start, you don’t have to sit there for hours getting up to speed on how to do something to do it. Also, MacOS X doesn’t have as many issues crashing as Windows. In the creative world this is critical, one annoying dialog or a crash can completely wipe out the creative mood. This is probably why creative people don’t like Windows as much.
Macintoshes seem more oriented towards the visual type of person, laying out things in a less structured and more visual manner, you choose applications from a group of icons rather than a list of names. In Windows its the other way around, you have a list of names to choose from, this is important because visual memory tends to be more of a right brain, the creative side, activity, whereas language is a left brain activity. when you are using your right brain, having to slip over to your left brain interrupts the right brain and makes it harder to stay deeply involved in a right brain task.
We have established that Windows is more language oriented, this reflects its primary target market: the office. Offices run off of left brain activity, communications in the forms of phone calls, memos other typed stuff. And often deal with other left brain activities: Accounting, tracking, finite work, etc. This means that an operating system targeted towards the office will lean more heavy towards using words instead of pictures, because a picture is a non-finite right brain entity and a word is finite and left brain.
Windows also targets the home user, primary tasks for the home user is web access, which is based on and not easily separable from left brain language language orientation. Home office tasks, which are quite the same as business office task if not exactly the same. And games, most games tend to be left brain oriented, heavily based on skill and strategy. So we can see why Windows is a left brain operating system, there may be hope in Vista, but I wont hold my breath. It looks like eye candy rather than actual effort towards a visual rather than linguistic interface.
Linux is a versatile operating system, it tends to reflect those who made it more than anything else: it weighs in heavily on the command line, most any discrete task can be performed on the command line, often better than in the GUI. But recent changes then to branch towards the realm of MacOS X, in that interfaces are being designed around visual elements rather than linguistic elements, it still borrows heavily from Windows linguistic dependence, or rather uses the same dependence, because Linux and its GUIs base a lot of their foundation on Unixes prior than them. Linux tends to look like an OS that could take on the entire market, like Windows wants to, but with a higher chance of success because if its independence from a single interface, you can choose any UI in any configuration, or make your own. Its truly a hobbyists and experimenters OS in that regard. But it still has major underpinnings and stigma of being a programmers OS, more so than Windows.
Linux does lack in major right brain creative applications, Gimp simply is too left brain an application to make up for this. You may be able to do anything with Gimp that you can with Photoshop, but Photoshop still fells better to the right brain person than Gimp.
Solaris is one of the minor Unixes on the desktop, in that regard its more of a developers OS on the desktop than Windows or Linux. Its hasn’t been a major host to many creative applications of note. Most uses I can see for it is in experimenting with the Solaris platform and in many web and Java oriented tasks. I still want to use it, it has an eclectic feel I need now and then.
Irix, the operating system of the once dominant 3D player SGI, is an operating system centered around 3D animation and the movie business. At one time in the movie business what wasn’t done on a Mac was done on a Silicon Graphics workstation. And with most 3D animation and modeling packages, it shows. The operating system itself is reflected as a Unix that never went without a GUI, all the administration tools are made so that an artist could handle them, and they don’t require the command line. The OS is built around visual tasks, and sports a sometimes flaccid command line. Of all the operating systems I have used Maya, a popular 3D modeling and animation tool on, Irix has seemed like the one that program seemed most home, it doesn’t have as many issues on Irix than on windows.
Open STEP seemed like an OS that was beyond its time, it incorporated many technologies that would turn into buzzwords years later and only now have are ingrained in our computing lives. It may seem quaint and outdated today, but for its time it was a revolution that never took hold, if only it had where would we be today.
BeOS is another revolution that unfortunately did not take hold, I likened it to be a hobbyists OS based on a visual interface rather than a text based one. It shipped with a machine, called the BeBox, that incorporated may features that only a hobbyist or experimenter would find useful, like the geekport, a port on the BeBox that incorporated several lines of TTL I/O, DAC and ADC lines, switch sensors and such. Later on in its life it took on the profile of an audio and visually oriented OS that was lighter weight than its competitors, the basic version coming in a 50MB download.
There are other OSes, I cant remember much details about them right now. I might talk about them sometimes later, but we need to get on to the more important topics.