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Operating System Comparison

An operating system or OS, is a fundamental component of a computer system that manages activities and resources on the machine. As a host application, it handles the operations of hardware devices which makes it easy for the associated programs to function. Nearly every computer including desktops, laptops, supercomputers, hand-helds and even video game consoles use some type of operating system.

While there are many different options, there are essentially four operating systems commonly used today: DOS, Linux, Windows and Mac OS X.

DOS

DOS (Disk Operating System) gained a reputation by supporting operating systems developed by IBM and Windows. DOS was prominent in the industry up until support was terminated for Windows ME. Though it's not as sophisticated as modern systems, DOS offers many advantages to the user. This system is very stable and rarely endures crashes. It can display content on an arcade monitor without the aid of special hardware and the use of batch files offer a high degree of customization. While the system is still used, DOS has become more difficult to manage as support is limited.

Linux

The Linux operating system is developed on a kernel based on Unix. It is known as one of the most secure platforms, yet Linux is often viewed as more complex. Linux is the result of an open-source project, allowing users and developers to access the source code for free. Because it requires less hardware, Linux is capable of providing exceptional performance even on a smaller hard disk. Large communities of users exist for this system, constantly contributing to the code and making improvements. The server-based concept of Linux has resulted in fewer home users and a lack of multimedia support for the system.

Mac OS X

Mac OS X is Apple's trademark operating system software for their line of Macintosh computers. The system was based in part on Unix and mimics it's format with the administrative controls. Mac OS X software requires a low level of maintenance with fewer occurrences of computers worms, viruses and spyware. The Apple operating system does have some disadvantages, primarily in regard to software and hardware compatibility.

Windows

The Microsoft Windows operating system is the most popular choice and currently has a stronghold over the market. This platform has made significant advancements from version 1.0 all the way to the new Vista system. The Windows system is highly compatible, feature-rich and has a much larger selection of software applications. Unlike the Linux kernel, Windows is proprietary software and tends to be more expensive than others. Despite widespread usage, Windows has been heavily associated with the term "insecure" as a number of security vulnerabilities have made it the most targeted system. Frequently exploited by hackers and malicious code writers, it is recommended that any Windows operating system with internet access be protected by some form of security software. Although the XP version is still popular among users, support for this system will conclude in 2009 as more emphasis will be placed on developing the Vista series.

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Spyware has many ways of getting onto your computer, such as:

When you download programs - particularly freeware, or peer-to-peer sharing programs.

More covertly, spyware can install itself just by you visiting certain sites, by prompting you to download an application to see the site properly.

ActiveX controls. These pesky spyware makers will prompt you to install themselves while using your Internet browser