What is an operating system? Concept, Uses, Types and Examples

What is an operating system?

We explain what an operating system is and what it’s for. In addition, what types of operating systems exist, and some examples.

What is an operating system

MacOS has been developed and sold on Apple computers since 2002.

It is known as Operating System (OS) to the computer program or set of them that manage a computerized system, both the performance of physical resources (hardware), as the protocols of execution of the digital content (software) and the interface with the user.

In short, these are programs that allow and regulate the most basic aspects of the system and without which it could not function properly.

Virtually all computerized devices have some kind of operating system, from personal computers to smart phones to specialized calculators.

Operating systems, also called kernels, are usually executed (i.e., operate) in a privileged way with respect to the rest of the software, without allowing any program to make important changes to it that could compromise its operation.

The operating system is the basic operating protocol of the computer, which coordinates all its other functions: communications, processing, user interface, etc..

Many of them consist of graphical interfaces, desktop environments or window managers, which gives the user a graphical representation of the processes in progress.

It can also be a command line, that is, a set of instructions ordered according to their priority and that works on the basis of user command and system response.

Most operating systems come pre-installed on new systems, but they can also be replaced or upgraded by a user with sufficient administrator privileges.

What is an operating system for?

As mentioned above, operational systems are an essential part of the functioning of computer systems.

They are the central piece of software in the process chain, as they establish the minimum conditions for the thing to walk: the administration of resources, the method of communication with the user and with other systems, additional applications, etc..

Operating system types

Operating Systems can be classified according to the following criteria:

  • Task management criteria. They are classified into single-task operating systems, i.e., those that run a single program at a time, apart from the OS’s own processes; and those multi-tasks that manage CPU resources to achieve a certain simultaneity in the executed processes.
  • User administration criteria. We can speak of single-user operating systems, that is, that allow the control of a single user, and other multi-users, which are managed on the basis of user sessions.
  • Resource management criteria. There are centralized operating systems, limited in their area of influence to a single computer or computer system; and also distributed operating systems, which handle several computers simultaneously.

Operating system examples

Microsoft Windows. Of the most popular that exist, initially it was a set of distributions or graphical operating environments, whose role was to provide other older operating systems such as MS-DOS, a visual representation of support and other software tools. It was first published in 1985 and has since been updated to new versions.

MS-DOS. The MicroSoft Disk Operating System was one of the most common operating systems for IBM personal computers during the 1980s and mid-1990s. It relied on a series of internal and external commands, displayed on a sequentially dark screen.

UNIX. This operating system was developed early in 1969, to be portable, multitasking and multi-user. It is really a whole family of similar OS, some of whose distributions have been offered commercially and others in free format, always from the kernel called Linux.

MacOS. This is the name given to the operating system of Apple’s Macintosh computers, also known as OSX or Mac OSX. Based on Unix and developed and sold on Apple computers since 2002, this is the fiercest competition of the popular Windows.

Ubuntu. This operating system is free and open source, that is, everyone could modify it without violating any copyright.

It takes its name from a certain ancestral South African philosophy, focused on man’s loyalty to his own species above all else.

Based on GNU/Linux, Ubuntu is oriented towards ease of use and total freedom, and the British company that distributes it, Canonical, subsists providing technical service.

Android. This operating system, based on the Linux kernel, operates on cell phones and tablets and other devices equipped with a touch screen.

It was developed by Android Inc. and later purchased by Google, making it so popular that sales of Android computer systems surpass those of IOS (for Macintosh cell phones) and Windows Phone (for MicroSoft cell phones).

What is Free Software? Concept, Freedoms, Types and Examples

The free software allows the access of the source code to its users.

What is Free Software?

Free Software is defined as those computer programs that give their users, by explicit decision of their programmers and designers, access to the original source code or programming code in which they were manufactured, so that they can copy, modify, customize and distribute it freely.

This gives rise, therefore, to multiple versions of the same program, the appearance of which does not represent a legal or ethical violation of the original program.

The term Free Software is attributed to the American Richard Stallman, who was the founder of the Free Software Foundation in which a significant number of computer experts aspired to develop a totally free Operating System, which they called the GNU Project (to distinguish it from Unix).

This project would allow its advanced users to collaborate with its development and improvement, in a free and communitarian way, going against the traditional software companies, that cellate the source code of their products.

While many Free Software submissions are free or cost the equivalent of their distribution only (and not royalty payments), Free Software should not be confused with Freeware or Free Software (usually in trial versions), nor should it be interpreted as a plea in favor of piracy (theft of copyrighted software).

The idea is precisely to create software that belongs to those who use it and that can be adapted to their needs by themselves.

There is an important tendency, especially in so-called Third World countries, to implement in their official institutions or state organizations only Free Software, thus replacing copyright-protected programs that generate annual expenses in the renewal of licenses.

This, in addition to saving money, gives them greater autonomy in the handling of their information and allows them to avoid risks to their sovereignty, since the free code of these pieces of software can be freely adapted to their specific needs.

Essential freedoms

Free software can be altered to perform the desired functions.

Known as the “four essential freedoms,” the following set of permissions is fundamental to distinguishing between Free Software and traditional commercial-type software.

  • Freedom #0. Freedom to run the program as desired, for whatever purpose, without the need to notify anyone.
  • Freedom #1. Freedom to study the operation of the program and alter it so that it performs the tasks desired. For this, free access to the program’s source code is a requirement.
  • Freedom #2. Freedom to redistribute copies of the original program, for the enjoyment and support of the community, without the need to notify anyone.
  • Freedom #3. Freedom to distribute copies of modified versions to third parties, without the need to notify anyone, allowing the entire community to benefit from alterations and new versions of the program.

A program is considered Free Software if it gives its users all these freedoms described. Otherwise, it’s not a free program. There are several non-free distributions of programs obtained by modifying the source code of these free programs, which is considered by the Free Software community to be unethical.

Types of free software

In principle, Free Software can be of any type, from operating systems to custom control the operation and resources of the computer, to applications adaptable to the user’s needs, intervening video games, and peripheral management programs that can be modified to meet the specific requirements of various pieces of hardware.

Examples of free software

Chrome OS will use Google Chrome as its main interface.

Some of the most popular distributions or presentations of the Free Software world are the following:

  • GNU/Linux. One of the most important programs historically and popularly, he led the effort for open source software in the world of the Internet since 1983.
  • Chrome OS. Based on the Linux kernel, this operating system currently under development by Google Inc. will use the Google Chrome browser as its main interface and is 100% cloud-based.
  • VALO-CD. It is a CD with open source software designed to operate under Microsoft Windows environment, developed by Finnish programmers in 2008.
  • OpenDisc. Another set of open source tools designed to run on Microsoft Windows, created in 2007 to educate users on the use of Linux.
  • Ubuntu. It is a free GNU/Linux distribution that uses GNOME technology as its virtual desktop environment, whose creator company survives by offering technical support to its users.

What is application software?

In computing, application software, application programs or, in some cases, applications, is understood to be the set of computer programs generally installed in the system by the user, and designed to carry out a certain and specific objective, of a recreational, instrumental, communicative, informative, etc. type.

In other words: all those programs that have nothing to do with the operation of the computer, but that we install in it to give it specific functions as a work tool (spreadsheet, word processor, graphic design programs, etc.), leisure (video games, audio or video players, etc.) or information (digital encyclopedias, Internet browser, etc.), among others.

The application software is normally designed and marketed separately from the system software that is factory-built into the computer, and its selection and installation into the system is at the user’s discretion.

It is not impossible, however, that many programs of this type come pre-installed – due to business agreements and specific promotions – on the hard drive of a newly purchased computer.

Application software examples

The Call of Duty is programmed by Infinity Ward.

Some popular examples of application software are:

Google Chrome. This is the name of this Internet browser designed and published by Google Inc. and distributed free of charge on the Internet. He revolutionized the industry by being one of the lightest and fastest explorers of the moment.

OpenOffice. An office software package, freely distributed over the Internet, to compete with popular paid versions, such as Microsoft Office. OpenOffice operates with open source and has both a word processor (Writer), a spreadsheet (Calc), a presentation and slide software (Impress), a database (Base) and a mathematical formula editor (Math), as well as a graphics and visual effects editor (Draw).

Call Of Duty. Title of a range of war games, characterized by their narrative in first person and programmed by the company Infinity Ward (although distributed by Activision). It was one of the most popular video games in its branch and its burden of violence and political content has often been criticized.

Skype A software designed to establish telephone communications or videoconferences using the transmission of data from the Internet.

It allows the user to establish their contact agenda, manage various accounts and broadcast and receive both audio and video signals in real time. It is currently owned by Microsoft.

MediaMonkey. This is a multimedia player: for audio and video files, developed by Ventis Media Inc. It allows you to organize, tag and play files, and operates on various operating systems.

Adobe Illustrator. Designed for graphic editing and virtual representation of an art workshop, this program operates on the basis of a drawing board called “working table”, in which the work of artistic and creative design is carried out, aided by various digital tools. It is owned by Adobe Systems and is in the Adobe Creative Cloud package.

System software

The system software comes pre-installed on the computers.

System software differs from application software in that it does not offer the user the ability to perform their tasks, but rather takes care of keeping the computer system running. In other words, it is an operating system: a program designed to run the machine and keep it turned on and ready to run the application programs.

This type of software is usually pre-installed on computers, although it can be replaced by others at the will of the user. In that case the new system software must be purchased and installed as with any application software.

Some examples of this type of programs are: Windows, Unix, Linux, iOs, etc.

Programming software

The programming software is used to design other programs.

This is how programming languages are known, i.e. programs that are used to design other programs. For this the user or programmer has various tools to assist in writing the code of the new piece of software, such as test functions or friendly interfaces.

All the existing programs come from a programming software, and each software of this type allows to “write” a different language or protocol, although many, of course, are the equivalent of polyglots.

Some examples of this type of software are: QBasic, Visual Pro, C++, Java script, etc.

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