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The Best, Worst, and Ugliest OSes of the Decade 378

itwbennett writes "Hundreds of Operating Systems were released during the past decade, finding their way into microdevices, watches, refrigerators, mobile phones, cars, motorcycles, jets, even the International Space Station. Some worked; some even worked well. Others, sadly, didn't. And some were just ahead of their time. Blogger Tom Henderson takes a look back at the best and worst OSes of the decade. Among the worst? Vista, as you'd suspect, along with WinME. But what about GNU Hurd? And some of the best? Solaris/OpenSolaris 10, Mac OS X, and newcomer Google Android."
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The Best, Worst, and Ugliest OSes of the Decade

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  • BeOS (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JesseL ( 107722 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @01:48PM (#30525768) Homepage Journal

    I still miss it. So much potential and such high hopes. I suppose I should check out Haiku.

  • I have never had an operating system that I loved more than Windows 95.

    If there was one feature I wish I could have back, it is reboot into DOS.

    Seriously, if they had included this with Vista, and I could boot my games from DOS, it would have made up for all other deficiencies.

    There is a reason why they made you do this in old games. I wasn't actually old enough at the time to know what they were, but if I had to venture a guess now, it might have to do with saving resources (More RAMs for Graphix!).

    Since V

    • Server 08 Core may interest you then

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_2008_core#Server_Core [wikipedia.org]

    • by sopssa ( 1498795 ) *

      Included what in Vista? There is no DOS. The "dos window" is a command line dialog, not a real DOS.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Dunx ( 23729 )

      More RAM, yes, but also direct access to hardware resources, and predictable response times (a lot of the same reasons that made DOS a reasonable basis for embedded PC systems).

      OTOH, DOS barely counted as an operating system.

      • I used it for a good portion of my childhood, I'd say it counted as an operating system. We had a DOS PC that didn't have Windows or anything on it. We could still install games (Oh Kings Quest...) or perform work (There was a version of Word on there. It was terrible though, it had an all red background, and no spellcheck).

        Given that I still have to use DOS on the odd networking Fix (IPconfig, winsock resets) - it seems Odd that I can't use JUST Dos anymore.

        • by badboy_tw2002 ( 524611 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @02:27PM (#30526320)

          You're not using DOS. You're using a command prompt. Given that you were a little kid, I'm sure your dad helped you get the autoexec.bat set up just right so it'd load your CD rom driver in and make sure high mem was available. Also, gotta make sure that the sound card starts up on the right IRQ, don't want to screw that one up. Oh, and gotta clear out the TSRs to eek out the just over 3.75 megs that the game needs to even boot. Its nostalgic to think about that stuff, but I'll take a real operating system that can configure its drivers and doesn't think 640K is enough for everyone. Oh, also one that I don't have to roll my own TCP stack.

          I'm guessing your just old enough now to what we call "nostalgia", which is great in some ways but can also lead to bad things like bell bottom revivals and trucker hats. Its great to acknowledge the past, but generally the future has more going for it.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            Well I was told it was DOS, it didn't have anything else. Maybe it was just Command Prompt, but there wasn't an inch of windows on it. My dad didn't help at all, I ended up teaching him about it, by the time I was 5 or 6. I knew how to navigate file structures better than he did. It didn't have a CD Rom. It didn't have 3 and a Half inch Floppy. It used an 8 Inch Floppy. I remember we eventually upgraded to a Soundblaster so that we could even -get- sound. (Where yes, -I- was the one who memorized the IRQs)


            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by ckaminski ( 82854 )
              We did upgrade it. It's called Linux.

              Now get off my lawn.


              Seriously. Let. DOS. Die.
    • by Bagels ( 676159 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @02:05PM (#30526014)
      Simple fix: grab Dosbox. It probably has better compatibility than your '95 based computer ever did, although I admit that the fiddling was part of the fun of those old games.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        I do use Dosbox to run the Old Monkey Island games and The Dig and Full Throttle, as well as the original Duke Nukem and Lemmings.

        It does fine, for a spell, but what I was getting at is that alot of games today will specify in the Miniumum requirements: 2 Gigs of Ram for XP, 3 Gigs for Vista, because Vista eats up about of Gig of Ram. If I could free up even a portion of that, todays games would run better and smoother.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by acheron12 ( 1268924 )
          For Monkey Island and other supported [scummvm.org] games you should definitely try the Scumm Virtual Machine [scummvm.org].
    • The stock answer for a modern DOS would be to hack up single user mode Linux. Or, just have Linux and startx and exit it when you feel like you need to.

      The beauty of DOS was that one application owned the entire computer but unfortunately, modern hardware has made it beyond the ability of most programmers to really do everything and you genuinely need an operating system to manage all of it, and part of that is that I think even modern hardware is probably not real time itself. I mean, is a PC-Express bu

    • by MrHanky ( 141717 )

      MS DOS is garbage, though, and it certainly doesn't give the games any more resources, as it has the old '640 KB ought to be enough for everyone' limit. What you love isn't the OS, it's the games it could run.

    • by Orange Crush ( 934731 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @02:35PM (#30526454)

      DirectX was Microsoft's solution to the "exit to DOS to run a game" workaround. It also targetted the "You must have one of these sound cards, one of these graphics cards, etc." that hampered DOS games because the OS wasn't doing any hardware abstraction--they had to roll their own drivers for every game engine/runtime. DirectX *was* the runtime that enabled direct hardware access and hardware abstraction so the game designers could focus on making games, rather than which sound card a user had.

      It wasn't a perfect solutions--still isn't--but DirectX did kill DOS as a gaming platform.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @01:52PM (#30525826)

    TFA is a waste of time. It's the worse kind of drivel and doesn't have any interesting technical facts or points.

    I mean if they had broken OS's down by functionality, design and architecture it might be worth some time but this strikes me as an article anyone with quarter a clue could write in about a half hour - I mean did the author research ANYTHING for this versus pull out general comments that are generally known.

    Come on editors you gotta be able to do better than this!

    • Roland (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sxltrex ( 198448 )

      And somewhere Roland Piquepaille is smiling.

  • Just when we lost Duke Nukem Forever as the epitome of vaporware, TFA gives us the following:

    Yet the GNU Hurd kernel, the ultimate free re-write of the Unix kernel, has languished. Yes, something like it can be used inside of the Linux Debian-Hurd construct, but almost no one does this. The pure kernel, it seems, may never see the light of day. It's the ultimate in free vaporware.

    So we can finally put GNU/Hurd up there with the Phantom console* and DNF?

    *Note to venture capitalists: if the product name tel

  • by bonch ( 38532 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @01:52PM (#30525838)

    A tiny, three-page article, with each page only having three to four paragraphs, and the list has exactly what you'd expect it to have. You really don't have to RTFA this time.

    • Yeah, very bad article. The little paragraph for each entry barely makes sense. Does not deserve your time.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by corbettw ( 214229 )

      You really don't have to RTFA this time.

      Well that's a refreshing change from my usual Slashdot experience.

    • by Rary ( 566291 )

      And who writes this crap? Do they even proofread it? Seriously, try to parse this sentence:

      GNU rewritten Unix utilities tool set were invented by through the purity in effort of Richard Stallman-- the pillar of free software.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Dunx ( 23729 )

      And the writing is redundant, terrible and repetitive:

      "lack and dearth of appropriate hardware drivers"

      Lack _and_ dearth? That's pretty bad. Just put the thesaurus down and step away from the keyboard.

  • Again? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Last_Available_Usern ( 756093 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @01:53PM (#30525856)
    What is this, the third post today alone that primarily slams Microsoft? I was glad to hear today that MS at least wasn't threatening the wild species of coffee beans.
    • I was glad to hear today that MS at least wasn't threatening the wild species of coffee beans.

      Well, the Gates Foundation (which derived most of its money from the Microsoft activities of its founder Bill Gates) is funding anti-AIDS efforts in Africa, which might lead to a higher population, and that might place more pressure on native coffee habitat! Close enough for Slashdot... So do I win the "six degrees" prize for bashing Microsoft today?

  • Windows bias (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 1000101 ( 584896 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @01:55PM (#30525868)
    I agree with most of the article, but when people have attitudes such as "It's not easy to nominate them here as their business practices aren't very kind" (Windows Server 2008) I tend to take the article less seriously. The OS either holds up to the criteria of the article or it doesn't. Keep it at that.
  • by Timothy Brownawell ( 627747 ) <tbrownaw@prjek.net> on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @01:56PM (#30525884) Homepage Journal

    Any more than Linux by itself is. It's half an OS.

    Or really, a quarter of an OS because it won't be finished until the Second Coming of RMS to lead the faithful out of a world where all hardware (even your toaster) will only run software approved by the MPAA.

  • Crap Article (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @01:57PM (#30525898)

    This article is shit. First they split Windows down to the Service Pack level, but go on to say "all of OS X and all of Linux" are in the best? Really? OS X 10.0 was a dismal, WinME failure, for one. And then to throw in Android, which is also Linux? WTF? The author clearly just named a handful of OSes he knew of, grabbed a blurb about them from Wikipedia, and is laughing all the way to the bank with the ad impressions from fanboys/haters.

    • by CannonballHead ( 842625 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @02:29PM (#30526340)

      For example, he recognizes Windows Server 2008 R2 as a great OS, but fails to mention Windows 7; Windows 7 and 2008 R2 are on the same code base.

      Linux as one group? Seriously, what distro you choose can make or break your Linux experience. Especially depending on your hardware.

      Android? Isn't that kinda new to be saying it's amazing already?

      Mac OS X bias, too:

      It just works. Darwin BSD underneath, mostly luxury on top. The upside is beauty, quietness, control, and stress-free existences. The downside is that it isn't a business plan for computer consultants and virus removers. Onerous is the fact that the most recent release of MacOS-- Snow Leopard-- had a sufficiently large number of post release patches to make our PTSD of Microsoft Windows patching come to mind. Apple's QA now faces a bit of what Microsoft does: so many hardware platforms that QA is difficult as Apple releases new hardware platform variants. The OS isn't pricey, and this isn't about hardware captivity, this is about quality and architectural philosophy in an operating system. Yet MacOS is also the underpinning for the cell/mobile OS to beat on the iPhone. Attention to detail pays.

      Sure. It "just works" on Apple approved hardware. :) Luxury on top? Hm. Control? I wasn't aware that Mac OS X allowed you to control your system as much as Linux or Windows. I thought it actually was simpler and didn't allow as much control - which is fine, it's a design decision that many people like, I have no problem with it. And what is "architectural philosophy" anyways? I thought Mac OS X was about being a good OS, not an architectural POC...

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by abigor ( 540274 )

        Mac OS X bias, too:

        Sure. It "just works" on Apple approved hardware. :) Luxury on top? Hm. Control? I wasn't aware that Mac OS X allowed you to control your system as much as Linux or Windows. I thought it actually was simpler and didn't allow as much control - which is fine, it's a design decision that many people like, I have no problem with it. And what is "architectural philosophy" anyways? I thought Mac OS X was about being a good OS, not an architectural POC...

        You are basically a non-technical person, correct? Your post would indicate it. It's also clear you know nothing about OS X or Darwin and have never used it.

  • uh, what? (Score:5, Funny)

    by amicusNYCL ( 1538833 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @01:58PM (#30525918)

    GNU rewritten Unix utilities tool set were invented by through the purity in effort of Richard Stallman

    Why did the author feel the need to run his text through a Chinese translator then back to English?

    • by PCM2 ( 4486 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @03:18PM (#30527172) Homepage

      Your post made me go back and read the article. And it's true -- this is one of the worst-written articles I have ever seen. Every paragraph is a mish-mosh of subject/verb confusion, mixed metaphors, redundant wording, run-ons, and just about every other mistake you could make. You cherry-picked the best example of the lot, but among other howlers we have:

        1. The world was looking for the joiner of Novell's time-honored and rock-solid NetWare network operating system to be joined fully to Linux.
        1. Technically, it arrived late in the 1990's, but its inclusion here is to remember the pain of the name.
        1. The love/hate relationship becomes anchored with deep emotions about the merits/detractions of the devices they use-- through the lenses of operating systems.
        1. Even a leopard can change its spots, sometimes as scar tissue.
        1. A natively 'jailbroken' open phone will test carrier promises to just deliver wireless pipe.

      Taken as a whole, TFA becomes a kind of demented poetry. Kudos to whatever maniac got it published.

  • by Wee ( 17189 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @01:58PM (#30525922)
    Android is just a bunch of Java apps running on Linux. That's an OS?

    • OS Kernel (Score:3, Informative)

      An operating system is more than just the kernel. An operating system is the software which provides the basis for everything else that will run in that environment - at least that is the way I perceive it. Given this description Android is an operating system, since it provides the base environment for everything else to run.

  • Has anybody RTFA'd yet? Most costliest... invented by through...

    God, since when did they let just anybody post something on the interwebs?
    • Has anybody RTFA'd yet? Most costliest... invented by through...

      God, since when did they let just anybody post something on the interwebs?

      When AOL users discovered that there was something beyond AOL.

  • What ever can be said for desktop OSs, embedded and mobile OSs probably win for being amongst some of the ugliest OSs. Given that few of them are intended for anything beyond a single use solution, is can be understood.

    The issue for me has always been Windows Mobile (aka Windows CE), since this was designed for a larger market, where thoughtful design would have been good. Instead Windows Mobile was essentially a desktop OS shoe horned into a handheld device, for which the UI was ill suited, not taking into

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Instead Windows Mobile was essentially a desktop OS shoe horned into a handheld device, for which the UI was ill suited, not taking into account the unique design and usage issue of such a device. This is why OSs such as the iPhone/iPod Touch OS and Android had such an impact on destroying the Windows Mobile market.

      It's actually worse than that. MS made Window CE/Mobile more like a desktop OS by including concepts and features that don't really belong in a mobile device. To MS everything should be a deskt

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by dunkelfalke ( 91624 )

        I actually like it that way. Don't need a dumbed down UI when my PDA behaves the same as my desktop computer. I can even attach a bluetooth mouse and keyboard to it.

  • z/OS forever (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gelfling ( 6534 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @02:02PM (#30525964) Homepage Journal

    As always z/OS is the ratio sum ultra.

  • a complete waste of my goddamned time in the pursuit of pandering advertising space along 5 pages of "im not going to see it because i have noscript and adblock software," so ill save you a few seconds of your life:

    the author is trying to say "i think all operating systems are ugly, even the ones you think are pretty." surprise, no big news here, its just some asshole with an internet connection.
  • Andriod? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by roe-roe ( 930889 )
    I think Android has a lot of great possibilities, but putting it on the list of best OSes of the decade is similar to giving Obama the Nobel Peace Prize. I'm not saying it doesn't deserve being on the list, I just think it is a bit premature.
  • by selven ( 1556643 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @02:11PM (#30526098)

    Honest question. Solaris seems similar but different enough from the Linux I'm used to to be interesting. What are its features that Linux lacks/doesn't implement as well? I'm not a file system geek, so what's so good about ZFS that I'm going to notice? Is it much slower than mainstream desktop Linux, or is it doing fine?

    • by JerkBoB ( 7130 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @03:11PM (#30527062)

      ZFS is really awesome. Sadly, it's saddled with a lot of painful baggage in the form of Solaris/*BSD, so it's a big balancing act between ZFS and everything else.

      Why is ZFS awesome? From an administration point of view, it makes managing large amounts of storage ridiculously easy. I recently acquired a couple of secondhand Sunfire x4500s (aka "Thumper"), each of which has 48 250GB drives. The next gen box (x4540, "Thor") has 48 2TB drives (!!). I briefly considered using Linux with MD/LVM to manage all of this, but having done a lot with MD/LVM in the past I knew I was looking at a world of pain in terms of flexibility and ongoing maintenance. I figured that all the ZFS fanboys might be onto something, so I grabbed OpenSolaris 2009.06 and threw it on there.

      Ok, well, "threw it on there" is a bit of an oversimplification. I'll spare you all the nonsense involved, some of which was due to ignorance on my part, some of which was due to the fact that the OpenSolaris people have inexplicably chosen to try and out-Ubuntu Ubuntu and make OpenSolaris a killer desktop OS or something. There is no official text-based install, for example... Great fun to install from 2500 miles away over SSH. ;P

      To keep this simple, after all the pain of getting OpenSolaris installed and then experimenting with different layouts, I now have this:

      root@host:~# zfs list tank
      tank 321G 7.68T 58.5K /tank

      What can I do with it? I can create new NFS shares:

      root@host:~# zfs create -osharenfs=on tank/www

      I can create volumes (block devices created from ZFS pools) and share via iSCSI:

      root@host:~# zfs create -s -V16G -o shareiscsi=on tank/vol/build_centos5.4-x86_64

      Every one of these new filesystems/volumes is automatically snapshotted on an hourly/daily/weekly/monthly basis, and the snapshots are available via NFS. This is really awesome when it comes to home directories...

      me@nfsclient:~$ ls -l .zfs/snapshot ...
      drwxr-xr-x 54 me users 83 2009-12-22 06:56 zfs-auto-snap:hourly-2009-12-22-11:00

      me@nfsclient:~$ ls -l .zfs/snapshot/zfs-auto-snap:hourly-2009-12-22-11:00/ ...my homedir contents from 11:00...

      There's a lot of other stuff, but those are the high points. Using OpenSolaris was worth the pain because of the way ZFS is integrated into the management framework. I don't believe that NFS exports and iSCSI target mangement are integrated into ZFS on the BSD ports, but I could be wrong.

      That's my experience. True ZFS/Solaris zealots will go on and on about data integrity and ... ? I dunno what else. Compatibility with older releases? Maybe with real Solaris, but OpenSolaris threw all that out anyhow. I wouldn't recommend (Open)Solaris for small systems with a disk or two, unless you're the sort of person who jams tacks under your fingernails for fun.

  • Doesn't an operating system need to be actually completed and released to qualify for either of these lists? Putting Hurd on here is analogous to including Duke Nukem Forever in a "Best/Worst games of the decade" compendium.

  • In related news (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Icegryphon ( 715550 )
    FreeBSD was unavailable for comment.
    Friend of FreeBSD, Netcraft is reporting that he is dead.
    As of yet this rumor is still unconfirmed.
    ;_; [freebsdfoundation.org]
  • "Hmmm, what can we type to make it appeal to the fanboys?".

    That's nearly two minutes of my life I won't get back.

  • by Skuld-Chan ( 302449 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @02:21PM (#30526252)

    Oh please. I'm kinda glad I lost my job supporting Solaris apps. Our apps were relatively easy to get working, but the Solaris machines management dropped off at my desk (last one was a Blade 1500) were just stupid and showed a blantant lack of quality assurance, and nothing ever worked out of the box. You'd think by now you could buy a desktop machine from them and expect the backspace key to actually work as just one example - or to be able to log into the desktop without facing a dozen cryptic errors. No - expect to spend days or years applying patches, tweaking config files - and even then nothing will ever work as seemless as Windows or Mac (or even Linux these days). Oh sure on paper Solaris might be superior to anything out there, but as anyone who has worked in software knows - its the little problems that make a failed product.

    Most every patch I got from Sun as well - never worked on the first go. I honestly think its a conspiracy - only system vendor I can think of btw that charges you for a) access to their KB and b) access to hotfixes - not even Microsoft is that evil. It wasn't uncommon for hotfixes/patches to break all kinds of crap too. I once wrote up a list of weird things I never was able to fix on the Sun boxes I and others had on their desks and it was easily pages long. Mind you - these were ALL minor issues, but annoying enough to make it unpleasant. At the job I have now - all the Solaris machines (servers mostly) have the same track record...

    In terms of user friendlyness, ease of use, support - I'd take Vista any day of the week.

  • Love the droid (Score:4, Insightful)

    by w0mprat ( 1317953 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @02:41PM (#30526572)
    Best OS: Android IMHO it is more sophisticated than it's competitors. Before you mod me down iPhone fan bois, Android has brought genuine multitasking to the smartphone platform amongst other things. Oh and the aftermarket firmware and themeing community is thriving. It's not great, but it's the newest thing thats making alot of hackers, tweakers and gadget addicts learn to love again. Hopefully an official Google phone will re-center the AOSP and do more than keep the project alive, but really ramp things up.

    Worst OS: Solaris without a doubt. In my own experience it doesn't perform like linux does now, ZFS is cool but just confuses me and the userland is the most horrible thing ever.

    Ugliest OS: $ANY_LINUX_DISTRO Seriously show me a pretty one. I can make a linux pretty, but I'm talking about defaults. Often with some of the most amateurish desktop backgrounds. People make better art with MS Paint. No really they do. http://www.techeblog.com/index.php/tech-gadget/incredible-ms-paint-artwork [techeblog.com]
  • by terjeber ( 856226 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @08:28PM (#30531312)

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"