The Microsoft Windows operating
system has carved a massive market, especially as it integrates
networking, an operating system and a graphical user interface into
a single package. It has proved popular, but many versions have
been unreliable when compared with UNIX . Microsoft Windows, though,
works well as a stand-alone operating system, which mounts network
drives as local drives. It also supports a whole host of different
peripherals from many manufacturers. It took a long time for Microsoft
Windows to properly support network. Early versions of Microsoft
Windows were a nightmare, and even Microsoft Windows Version 3 was
basically just a graphical user interface which sat on top of the
horrendous DOS . The first real Microsoft networking system was
Microsoft NT Version 3, which was quickly followed by Windows
95. These two operating systems were built to support networking.
Their great advantage was that they supported many different network
protocols, such as TCP /IP , SPX /IPX , AppleTalk , IBM DLC
and even the old Microsoft Windows network protocol, NetBEUI . This
allowed the Microsoft Windows operating system to co-exist with
other, existing, network operating systems. This was a great strategy
as it allowed organizations to gradually migrate their existing
networking operating systems towards Microsoft Windows. It has been
a strategy which has been extremely successful, especially when
Microsoft Windows NT Version 4 was released, which had the
robustness of NT, added to the slick user interface of Windows 95.
Further versions have enhanced networking, and Windows 2000 is
likely to become the standard networking operating system for most
strength of UNIX is its networking protocols, many of which
have become industry standard. Protocols such as TCP (for
reliable connections), IP (for addressing ), UDP (for
unreliable connections), NFS (for connecting file system s
over a network), ARP (to determine a MAC address
from a known IP address ) and DNS (for naming systems)
have all grown up within the UNIX operating system . It is an operating
system which has always supported networking, and it shows it. The
big problem with UNIX, though, is that it is relatively difficult
to setup, but once it is setup it will generally run reliably without
any problems. UNIX systems also tend to be setup to operate with
a global file system, thus when one of the disk drives becomes unavailable
it can have a great effect on the rest of the system. UNIX is the
last great defender against a global domination by Microsoft Windows
. Its success depends on many things, including its ease-of-use,
its robustness, its support, its support for standard protocols,
and its non-Microsoftness (I made that one up!). Apple has
found that the PC is a difficult beast to fight against. There
are just too many developers making hardware and software, and there
are too many great packages to dismiss it as a top purchase for
any organization. But along with Microsoft Windows, it has
led a privileged existence.
The PC is
an amazing device, and has allowed computers to move from technical
specialists to, well, anyone. However, they are also one of the
most annoying of pieces of technology of all time, in terms of their
software, their operating system , and their hardware. If we bought
a car and it failed at least a few times every day, we would take
it back and demand another one. When that failed, we would demand
our money back. Or, sorry, I could go on forever here, imagine a
toaster that failed half way through making a piece of toast, and
we had to turn the power off, and restart it. We just wouldnít allow
So why does the
PC lead such a privileged life. Well itís because itís so
useful and multitalented, although it doesnít really excel at much.
Contrast a simple games computer against the PC and you find many
lessons in how to make a computer easy-to-use, and to configure.
One of the main reasons for many of its problems is the compatibility
with previous systems both in terms of hardware compatibility
and software compatibility (and dodgy software, of course). The
big change on the PC was the introduction of proper 32-bit software,
Windows 95/NT /2000 .
In the future
systems will be configured by the operating system , and not by
the user. How many people understand what an IRQ is, what
I/O addresses are, and so on. Maybe if the PC faced some proper
competition it would become easy to use and become totally reliable.
Then when they were switched on they would configure themselves
automatically, and you could connect any device you wanted and it
would understand how to configure (weíre nearly there, but itís
still not perfect). Then we would have a tool which could be used
to improve creativity and you didnít need a degree in computer engineering
to use one (in your dreams!). But, anyway, itís keeping a lot of
technical people in a job, so, donít tell anyone our little secret.
The Apple Macintosh was a classic example of a well-designed
computer that was designed as a single unit. When initially released
it started up with messages like Iím glad to be out of that bag
and Hello, I am Macintosh. Never trust a computer you cannot lift.
One of the
classic comments of all time was by Ken Olson at DEC , who stated
that there is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.
This seems farcical now, but at the time, in the 1970s, there were
no CD -R OMs , no microwave ovens, no automated cash dispensers,
and no Internet . Few people predicted them, so, predicting the
PC was also difficult. But the two best comments were:
in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons. Popular Mechanics.
there is a world market for maybe five computers, Thomas Watson,
chairman of IBM , 1943.
Novell NetWare has, over the years, proved to be
a reliable networking operating system . It is still extensively
used and works well. Many large organizations use Novell NetWare
as their core corporate networking operating system. With NDS
, organizations can control resources and users around the network
without having to setup each server . This allows the network
to reflect the setup of the organization, rather than organization
resources around servers . Microsoft Windows
supports SPX /IPX , as this allows organizations
to use Microsoft Windows to communicate with a Novell NetWare server,
and it uses a different protocol to communicate with a Microsoft
Windows server. This type of approach allows organizations to slowly
migrate their systems away from Novell NetWare towards an integrated
Microsoft Windows networks.