What is an operating system?

This is a discussion on What is an operating system? within the General Discussions forums, part of the Community Boards category; As an aside to the thread about windows7 launch which received so many posts i think it should be asked ...

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    Registered User rogster001's Avatar
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    What is an operating system?

    As an aside to the thread about windows7 launch which received so many posts i think it should be asked 'what is an operating system'? i.e. when there is discussion over copying of ideas, and who came first and which is best i think it should be said that surely there is a common or natural end goal of operating system design, working in a similar way to evolution where changes and 'improvements' and 'environmental pressures' are pushing a design envelope which at some unknowable, unreachable point will create a perfect user interface.
    Now clearly we are seeing more convergence in the available products despite who thought of what first they are bound to become more similar as 'evoultion' gets closer to the design ideal, they will all be providing a very similar optimal solution to the given problem.
    If we were to say for example that moores law had been borne out and little further technological development could take place (silicone based etc) ask 'how much innovation is left?' given that the operating systems would not suddenly have to deal with supporting a teleportation device or new hologram internet conferencing etc.
    I believe that as with other industries, with so many high quality products all offering and able to offer the solutions required by the end user that it will simply come down to aesthetics and preference, "i like the big bubbly icons", i like the sharp edgy ones and snap screen effects blah blah"

    What is an operating system? an interface that lets us make use of the operations that a computer can do for us in an easy way, without which 99% of the worlds population could never use a computer to do anything. Have we not already reached as useful and easy to use as an operating system can get, if technology were not to place more demands, will and should the main advances be in our 'hard' interface with the OS? would people want to use other interfaces like being able to speak in any old way to your machine and have it understand, a la star trek computer? would people like an interface similar to the one in that Tom cruise movie were you pick and move items on a virtual screen, but then do you not just become a glorified mouse?

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    I think you are using the term "Operating System" in the context of the user interface. Keep in mind that the UI is a very small (and in fact optional) part of the overall functionality of the OS. The biggest piece of the OS is the kernel which manages the memory, CPU scheduling, and hardware access.

    The Windows7 thread was mostly comparing the Windows UI to KDE. KDE is just one of many window managers that runs on Linux.
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    What is an operating system? an interface that lets us make use of the operations that a computer can do for us in an easy way, without which 99% of the worlds population could never use a computer to do anything. Have we not already reached as useful and easy to use as an operating system can get, if technology were not to place more demands, will and should the main advances be in our 'hard' interface with the OS? would people want to use other interfaces like being able to speak in any old way to your machine and have it understand, a la star trek computer? would people like an interface similar to the one in that Tom cruise movie were you pick and move items on a virtual screen, but then do you not just become a glorified mouse?
    Well there's way too many variables to answer that question. When you want to define an OS, you could be talking about the collection of all installed software, you could talk about a common distribution, you could be talking about the kernel, the UI, pretty much anything. I wouldn't consider the programs I run part of the operating system, even though they might be part of a distribution. In Linux the UI is very separate from the Kernel, and so I don't consider the UI to be a part of the OS either - but on Windows it's very integrated.

    As for your questions about the UI, we definitely don't have an OS that "as good as you can get". People always say that only because they don't know what the future holds. I bet when Windows 3.1 came out, people would have had a hard time visualizing all the features we have today. And then you have to deal with individual tastes. I like working with the command line for most stuff, and I love a very minimalist albeit powerful setup. Other people like Macs, other people like Windows. Sooner or later, new advances are going to come out, and some people will like it, other people wont.

    Look up G-Speak on YouTube if you're into that kinda thing - it's a cool demo of a Minority-Report kind of interface. I've seen a lot of researchers and graduate students playing with this kind of idea lately.

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    In the interests of fostering debate i threw in some of the points earlier, is difficult to reply properly now on this cursed phone device but yes its a classic we cannot know the future or how 'good' things can get, there was a funny sketch on that where

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    Some medieval folk were brought into and lived in 1985 (on uk tv show) then the presenter travels back from future t tell them t come with him and about all the tech and games in his time, but they wont go they swear 1985 is peak of what can b achieved;-)

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