A Single-User Operating System And A Multi-User Operating System

We are all familiar with the concept of sitting down at a computer system and writing documents or performing some task such as writing a letter. In this instance there is one keyboard and one monitor that you interact with.

Operating systems such as Windows 95, Windows NT Workstation and Windows 2000 professional are essentially single user operating systems. They provide you the capability to perform tasks on the computer system such as writing programs and documents, printing and accessing files.

Consider a typical home computer. There is a single keyboard and mouse that accept input commands, and a single monitor to display information output. There may also be a printer for the printing of documents and images.

In essence, a single-user operating system provides access to the computer system by a single user at a time. If another user needs access to the computer system, they must wait till the current user finishes what they are doing and leaves.

Students in computer labs at colleges or University often experience this. You might also have experienced this at home, where you want to use the computer but someone else is currently using it. You have to wait for them to finish before you can use the computer system.

A multi-user operating system

A multi-user operating system lets more than one user access the computer system at one time. Access to the computer system is normally provided via a network, so that users access the computer remotely using a terminal or other computer.

In the early days of large multi-user computers, multiple terminals (keyboards and associated monitors) were provided. These terminals sent their commands to the main multi-user computer for processing, and the results were then displayed on the associated terminal monitor screen. Terminals were hard-wired directly to the multi-user computer system.

Today, these terminals are generally personal computers and use a network to send and receive information to the multi-user computer system. Examples of multi-user operating systems are UNIX, Linux (a UNIX clone) and mainframes such as the IBM AS400.

The operating system for a large multi-user computer system with many terminals is much more complex than a single-user operating system. It must manage and run all user requests, ensuring they do not interfere with each other. Devices that are serial in nature (devices which can only be used by one user at a time, like printers and disks) must be shared amongst all those requesting them (so that all the output documents are not jumbled up). If each user tried to send their document to the printer at the same time, the end result would be garbage. Instead, documents are sent to a queue, and each document is printed in its entirety before the next document to be printed is retrieved from the queue. When you wait inline at the cafeteria to be served you are in a queue. Imagine that all the people in the queue are documents waiting to be printed and the cashier at the end of the queue is the printer.

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How an Operating System’s File System Works

File systems are an integral part of any operating systems with the capacity for long term storage. There are two distinct parts of a file system, the mechanism for storing files and the directory structure into which they are organised. In modern operating systems where it is possible for several user to access the same files simultaneously it has also become necessary for such features as access control and different forms of file protection to be implemented.

A file is a collection of binary data. A file could represent a program, a document or in some cases part of the file system itself. In modern computing it is quite common for their to be several different storage devices attached to the same computer. A common data structure such as a file system allows the computer to access many different storage devices in the same way, for example, when you look at the contents of a hard drive or a cd you view it through the same interface even though they are completely different mediums with data mapped on them in completely different ways. Files can have very different data structures within them but can all be accessed by the same methods built into the file system. The arrangement of data within the file is then decided by the program creating it. The file systems also stores a number of attributes for the files within it.

All files have a name by which they can be accessed by the user. In most modern file systems the name consists of of three parts, its unique name, a period and an extension. For example the file ‘bob.jpg’ is uniquely identified by the first word ‘bob’, the extension jpg indicates that it is a jpeg image file. The file extension allows the operating system to decide what to do with the file if someone tries to open it. The operating system maintains a list of file extension associations. Should a user try to access ‘bob.jpg’ then it would most likely be opened in whatever the systems default image viewer is.

The system also stores the location of a file. In some file systems files can only be stored as one contiguous block. This has simplifies storage and access to the file as the system then only needs to know where the file begins on the disk and how large it is. It does however lead to complications if the file is to be extended or removed as there may not be enough space available to fit the larger version of the file. Most modern file systems overcome this problem by using linked file allocation. This allows the file to be stored in any number of segments. The file system then has to store where every block of the file is and how large they are. This greatly simplifies file space allocation but is slower than contiguous allocation as it is possible for the file to be spread out all over the disk. Modern operating systems overome this flaw by providing a disk defragmenter. This is a utility that rearranges all the files on the disk so that they are all in contiguous blocks.

Information about the files protection is also integrated into the file system. Protection can range from the simple systems implemented in the FAT system of early windows where files could be marked as read-only or hidden to the more secure systems implemented in NTFS where the file system administrator can set up separate read and write access rights for different users or user groups. Although file protection adds a great deal of complexity and potential difficulties it is essential in an environment where many different computers or user can have access to the same drives via a network or time shared system such as raptor.

Some file systems also store data about which user created a file and at what time they created it. Although this is not essential to the running of the file system it is useful to the users of the system.

In order for a file system to function properly they need a number of defined operations for creating, opening and editing a file. Almost all file systems provide the same basic set of methods for manipulating files.

A file system must be able to create a file. To do this there must be enough space left on the drive to fit the file. There must also be no other file in the directory it is to be placed with the same name. Once the file is created the system will make a record of all the attributes noted above.

Once a file has been created we may need to edit it. This may be simply appending some data to the end of it or removing or replacing data already stored within it. When doing this the system keeps a write pointer marking where the next write operation to the file should take place.

In order for a file to be useful it must of course be readable. To do this all you need to know the name and path of the file. From this the file system can ascertain where on the drive the file is stored. While reading a file the system keeps a read pointer. This stores which part of the drive is to be read next.

In some cases it is not possible to simply read all of the file into memory. File systems also allow you to reposition the read pointer within a file. To perform this operation the system needs to know how far into the file you want the read pointer to jump. An example of where this would be useful is a database system. When a query is made on the database it is obviously inefficient to read the whole file up to the point where the required data is, instead the application managing the database would determine where in the file the required bit of data is and jump to it. This operation is often known as a file seek.

File systems also allow you to delete files. To do this it needs to know the name and path of the file. To delete a file the systems simply removes its entry from the directory structure and adds all the space it previously occupied to the free space list (or whatever other free space management system it uses).

These are the most basic operations required by a file system to function properly. They are present in all modern computer file systems but the way they function may vary. For example, to perform the delete file operation in a modern file system like NTFS that has file protection built into it would be more complicated than the same operation in an older file system like FAT. Both systems would first check to see whether the file was in use before continuing, NTFS would then have to check whether the user currently deleting the file has permission to do so. Some file systems also allow multiple people to open the same file simultaneously and have to decide whether users have permission to write a file back to the disk if other users currently have it open. If two users have read and write permission to file should one be allowed to overwrite it while the other still has it open? Or if one user has read-write permission and another only has read permission on a file should the user with write permission be allowed to overwrite it if theres no chance of the other user also trying to do so?

Different file systems also support different access methods. The simplest method of accessing information in a file is sequential access. This is where the information in a file is accessed from the beginning one record at a time. To change the position in a file it can be rewound or forwarded a number of records or reset to the beginning of the file. This access method is based on file storage systems for tape drive but works as well on sequential access devices (like mordern DAT tape drives) as it does on random-access ones (like hard drives). Although this method is very simple in its operation and ideally suited for certain tasks such as playing media it is very inefficient for more complex tasks such as database management. A more modern approach that better facilitates reading tasks that aren’t likely to be sequential is direct access. direct access allows records to be read or written over in any order the application requires. This method of allowing any part of the file to be read in any order is better suited to modern hard drives as they too allow any part of the drive to be read in any order with little reduction in transfer rate. Direct access is better suited to to most applications than sequential access as it is designed around the most common storage medium in use today as opposed to one that isn’t used very much anymore except for large offline back-ups. Given the way direct access works it is also possible to build other access methods on top of direct access such as sequential access or creating an index of all the records of the file speeding to speed up finding data in a file.

On top of storing and managing files on a drive the file system also maintains a system of directories in which the files are referenced. Modern hard drives store hundreds of gigabytes. The file system helps organise this data by dividing it up into directories. A directory can contain files or more directories. Like files there are several basic operation that a file system needs to a be able to perform on its directory structure to function properly.

It needs to be able to create a file. This is also covered by the overview of peration on a file but as well as creating the file it needs to be added to the directory structure.

When a file is deleted the space taken up by the file needs to be marked as free space. The file itself also needs to be removed from the directory structure.

Files may need to be renamed. This requires an alteration to the directory structure but the file itself remains un-changed.

List a directory. In order to use the disk properly the user will require to know whats in all the directories stored on it. On top of this the user needs to be able to browse through the directories on the hard drive.

Since the first directory structures were designed they have gone through several large evolutions. Before directory structures were applied to file systems all files were stored on the same level. This is basically a system with one directory in which all the files are kept. The next advancement on this which would be considered the first directory structure is the two level directory. In this There is a singe list of directories which are all on the same level. The files are then stored in these directories. This allows different users and applications to store there files separately. After this came the first directory structures as we know them today, directory trees. Tree structure directories improves on two level directories by allowing directories as well as files to be stored in directories. All modern file systems use tree structure directories, but many have additional features such as security built on top of them.

Protection can be implemented in many ways. Some file systems allow you to have password protected directories. In this system. The file system wont allow you to access a directory before it is given a username and password for it. Others extend this system by given different users or groups access permissions. The operating system requires the user to log in before using the computer and then restrict their access to areas they dont have permission for. The system used by the computer science department for storage space and coursework submission on raptor is a good example of this. In a file system like NTFS all type of storage space, network access and use of device such as printers can be controlled in this way. Other types of access control can also be implemented outside of the file system. For example applications such as win zip allow you to password protect files.

There are many different file systems currently available to us on many different platforms and depending on the type of application and size of drive different situations suit different file system. If you were to design a file system for a tape backup system then a sequential access method would be better suited than a direct access method given the constraints of the hardware. Also if you had a small hard drive on a home computer then there would be no real advantage of using a more complex file system with features such as protection as it isn’t likely to be needed. If i were to design a file system for a 10 gigabyte drive i would use linked allocation over contiguous to make the most efficient use the drive space and limit the time needed to maintain the drive. I would also design a direct access method over a sequential access one to make the most use of the strengths of the hardware. The directory structure would be tree based to allow better organisation of information on the drive and would allow for acyclic directories to make it easier for several users to work on the same project. It would also have a file protection system that allowed for different access rights for different groups of users and password protection on directories and individual files.Several file systems that already implement the features I’ve described above as ideal for a 10gig hard drive are currently available, these include NTFS for the Windows NT and XP operating systems and ext2 which is used in linux.

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Windows Operating System Software – Why is it So Slow?

It is not just the windows operating system software that is slow other operating systems are also slow compared to when they were first developed. The vast majority of people especially those who have not been involved in the technical area of computers grew up with the likes of the windows operating system software or Mac operating system. They have not known the time when computers seemed to be lightning fast yet were only a fraction of the power of today’s PC’s.

Let me give you a bit of history. Computers in the past were programmed in what were called low level computer languages, assembler and even machine language that made the programs much more efficient. But as the years went by calls for more functionality and languages that were easier to write programs.

Then came the higher-level language compilers like Cobol, Fortran and a sudden splurge in a many others. Although these were still reasonable efficient, the fight began for compiler companies to produce more efficient ones to combat the need for that increasingly extra functionality being asked for that were slowing the computers down.

The efficiency of compilers was measured in how much machine code was produced to perform a certain task. If one compiler only 10 machine code instructions to perform a single task and another 20 you can guess which one was the more efficient. This was not always the case because it was also dependent upon the actual machine instruction used. The hardware was more efficient performing some than others.

Getting back to why the “windows operating system software” The first release of “Windows” seemed to be pretty fast and was so (compared today’s PC’s) working on pretty low powered computers. As Windows matured and users upgraded to new versions of the windows operating system software they found that their PC’s were running slower and slower. They also found that they needed to use more and more space on their hard disks for the new operating systems.

The slowness of the windows operating system software was partially offset by buying a more powerful PC and a bigger hard disk. Buying more disk space and memory became mandatory in some cases because the new operating system could not even be installed on the old PC. There even came a time when programs users had bought would no longer run under the newer versions of windows. Talk about double whammies. It would almost appear that OS suppliers and hardware suppliers where in cahoots with each other to keep the money rolling in.

This is not totally the case as users were asking for all this extra functionality quite unaware that it was going to come at a cost. At the same time there is another double whammy. Because of high-powered computers the “developers” of software used, efficiency of the produced software was thrown out of the window. (Pun) Developers didn’t give efficiency a very high priority, (Just buy a more powerful computer). They want to get the product out the door and start earning.

Some operating systems are more efficient than others the most efficient being “Unix” the next is “Linux” probably followed by Mac and last being the windows operating system software.

You may find that if you have “hosting” and check what your host provider is running your hosting account on, you will invariably find that it is running the “Unix” or “Linux” operating system. You will find some that are using the windows operating system software. Personally if I find this is the case I will not go anywhere near that hosting company.

Unfortunately higher-powered PC’s also make us slack. You start off with your windows operating systems software running at a fairly fast pace but as time goes on it runs slower and slower. This is the case with any operating system no matter how efficient it is. The windows operating system software is like your car it needs maintaining periodically. If you did not maintain your car it’s performance would gradually decrease and the number of breakdowns would occur more and more often. That is why you need to do some maintenance your self and have some done by specialists. With a car you check the oil, tyre pressures and other small tasks but you send your car off to the service center for the more difficult things.

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The Human ‘Operating System’

How do we ‘operate’? What makes us ‘work’? Where does our knowledge stem from? Where do our beliefs, cultures, phobias, superstitions, etc., originate? What gives us our individuality?

We can see quite clearly the importance of an ‘operating system’ (O/S) to the computer. Every general-purpose computer must have an O/S. The computer will not function without one. This fact has made Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, one of the richest men on Earth.

The ‘operating systems’ in the computer environment provide a proprietary software platform on top of which other computer programs, called ‘application programs’, can run. For example you can run the ‘application program’ Word, Excel or this PowerPoint presentation from the Microsoft Office Suite on one of the most popular ‘operating systems’, Microsoft Windows – Windows 95, 98, 2000, Windows NT, Windows ME, Windows XP, Windows 7…

All of these ‘operating systems’ reside in Read-Only Memory (ROM) that means you cannot gain access to the O/S. It is non-volatile and is never erased. But what you can manipulate is the ‘application programs’ in Microsoft Office – Word, Excel, etc.

‘Operating systems’ perform basic tasks, such as recognising input from the keyboard, sending output to the display screen, keeping track of files and directories on the disk and controlling peripheral devices such as disk drives and printers. For large computer systems, the O/S has even greater responsibilities and powers. It is like a traffic cop – it makes sure those different programs and users running at the same time do not interfere with each other. The O/S is also responsible for security, ensuring that unauthorised users do not access the system.

I believe this ‘operating system’ in humans is comprised of genes from not only our parents but also ancestors reaching back to the beginning of life on Earth. Within our ‘operating systems’ I believe we have what I would call a ‘trans-generation’ subconscious memory that is made up of data gathered from the point when life began to when we were conceived.

In addition to this we accumulate experiences and information during our life span on Earth that adds to this knowledge and might be likened to an ‘application program’ similar to Word or Excel, where we add our own files in a similar way to adding software and files to a computer’s hard disk which gives each computer its individuality. There are some experiences and information which change our personalities and seemed ingrained into us and there are also things which leave little impression on us and this might be compared to a game run on the computer’s CD ROM for a few weeks and then never played again. I hope this comparison starts to show how we can be individual even though we are born with common genes. So, it is possible to influence your life span on Earth, but you cannot change your inherited ‘operating system’!

We can get a very basic idea of the complexity of our ‘operating system’ by imagining a series of circles expanding from a small inner circle to the largest outer circle, like the cross section of an onion cut in half. The small inner circle representing when life began on Earth to the critical “missing link” point when the human race was created following the arrival of a highly intelligent extraterrestrial life-form that bred with, or somehow implanted its genetic material and educated our Homo ancestors around 13,000 years ago up to the outside circle representing our parents’ generation. The ‘onion’ diagram would need to be quite large just to show around 500 generations that will have come and gone during the 13,000 years that have elapsed since the arrival of the extraterrestrial visitor(s). Of course contributions to our ‘operating system’ from the Homo sapiens side of the family began long before the arrival of the ‘Alien Visitor’. From the point when life first began on Earth up until the arrival of our early Australopithecine/Homo ancestors, 500 million years of evolution had taken place. An important point for us was the emergence, from an unknown natural disaster that wiped out the dinosaurs, of a pig-like creature known as the lystrosaur. The lystrosaur slowly evolved into small ape like creatures called australopithecines that made the first steps on the human journey some 15 million years ago. But, for the purpose of this article I will assume that the Homo sapiens contribution to our ‘operating system’ may have been similar to a present day Chimpanzees’ ‘operating system’.

How can we prove that this O/S exists? This can be clearly shown when we look at the ‘interface’ of the O/S and the beginning of our life span on Earth. When we see a new baby for the first time we remark on which features it has inherited from which parent or grandparent. Diplomacy can be important at this time! I have a photograph of my great-great grandfather. Even though the photo is very old, I can see clear resemblances to my father and brother. With the advent of video cameras, future generations will be able to see more clearly the ‘similarities’ in appearances and mannerisms across the generations.

When a baby is born, the basic survival functions are already there adapted and developed from the earliest circles! A baby just ‘knows’ how to breath, cry, yawn, suck. If you drop the baby in a swimming pool it will swim. It will also know not to suck and swim at the same time!

It is clear that the new baby has come into the world with characteristics and a memory inheritance program that enables it to operate or to live its life as an individual on Earth. A cat will have the characteristics (O/S) of a cat, a swan a swan, etc.

It is very important to recognise that we have inherited this individual O/S. I hope the complexity of our multi-million year old O/S demonstrates just how amazing and precious we all are!

To explain further let us look at how we access our memory. In a computer it is very easy to locate a file, for example a Word document, and open it. But, unlike the logical silicon circuits in computers, our brain or memory is not accessed logically, because it is made up of chemicals that can be easily ‘disturbed’, thus creating many strange phenomena. So, in the Human O/S, is our intelligence, our IQ, a measurement of how easily we can access information from our memory?!

In the human it is important here to highlight three states of memory – Conscious, unconscious and subconscious. The first two relate to our life span on Earth, the third to our inherited ‘operating system’. My definition of conscious is ‘alert and awake’, the unconscious ‘forgotten experiences’, ‘still there but no longer aware of’ – (meet an old friend, begin to remember forgotten experiences) and the subconscious – ‘not experienced in our own life-time’ information.

Every second of every day, we subconsciously access our O/S, but there are occasions when we can inadvertently access our O/S consciously, with some interesting results.

Disturbances to our brain cells can be caused by bereavement, illness (fever), drugs (deliberate or accidental), fasting, and sleep deprivation. There are long-term hereditary mental illness problems such as paranoia and schizophrenia, or problems during pregnancy, which can result in conditions such as Autism, Dyspraxia etc.

It is important to recognise that our conscious insights into our subconscious memory (O/S) are all in the memory which we sometimes refer to as the mind! Let us look at some of the amazing results. When we experience deja vu, our minds seem to recall memories based on our experiences. This tricks us into believing there is a displacement of time in our present conscious lives. But I also believe that as a race, we are trying to decipher memories of events that we have not experienced. I think we can accidentally introduce our past subconscious information, that is to say, data from our ancestors that is stored in our subconscious memory (O/S) to our present conscious memory.

As far as I know, there is no evidence of anyone touching a ghost but many people have ‘seen’ ghosts. I believe the memory of the ancestor exists in an individual’s subconscious memory (O/S) and under certain conditions the ‘video clip’ of the ancestor or location can be accessed from the subconscious memory and appears as a ‘ghost’. The same process applies to most Unidentified Flying Objects (UFO) sightings. Many people around the world have ‘witnessed’ this phenomenon. Some claims UFOs are currently mapping our planet. I think they were doing these 13,000 years ago and where people believe they see UFOs today they are actually seeing an inherited memory hidden in their subconscious.

People who believe they are reincarnations of our ancestors may also be bringing forward memories from a subconscious collective memory. I believe these memories are not resurrected from the individual’s own life on Earth but from a database of human history which we all possess in our inherited trans-generation memory genes. In extreme cases, some individuals may find it difficult to lead their lives on Earth because of easy access to information stored in the brain of earlier generations. So, when Arthur Pendragon claims he is the twentieth-century reincarnation of King Arthur he is perhaps experiencing flashes of information from this trans-generation subconscious memory, which he has inherited and cannot easily control. Some people may believe they are reincarnations and others do not, depending on whether or not they have flashbacks from the trans-generation memory. A computer can also be seen to have ‘flashbacks’. We may do a search to find a file and come up with a completely different one that was thought to have been erased several years ago.

Some of us can be party to new ideas and inventions that have yet to be launched on the general public. Having this knowledge can give the impression that we can foresee the future.

Apart from having memories, we are also contained in the memories of other people. We may meet someone and be reminded of past experiences and sensations, but in the same way other people will meet us and recollect memories associated with us. Even if we do not have children our ideas are still transferred to consequent generations of people because of the impact we make on our peers and even on pets in our own lifetimes.

Our human tissue, our flesh and blood is comprised of a multitude of chemicals. So our brain or memory tissue is by no means a secure means of storing and retaining data. We can observe this reality as we grow older. The ‘links’ between the memory cells become weaker and we begin to look back on the memory that is easiest to access, our early memory of our life-span on Earth, our childhood and those we grew up with.. As we grow ever older we can become very confused as we slip back into information stored in our memory inherited from previous generations. Much of this uttered information does not make sense to even the closest member of the family. Perhaps, in trying to understand inherited memories we will gain a greater understanding of senility.

The silicon chip is a much more stable method of storing information. However, compared to the human brain, this silicon chip technology and the level of complexity is still in its infancy and computer ‘hackers’ can gain access to the information stored in these silicon circuits. As mentioned previously all sorts of ways and means have been tried to dislodge or in some way manipulate our memory genes, but we are still some way off before we can ‘hack’ into the hidden memory in the human brain. I think we can try to excavate this knowledge using our imagination in addition to our intelligence.

It is important that we are aware our genetic ‘operating system’ can be counterproductive. Under given conditions we can revert back to fears, beliefs, superstitions, etc., contained in our subconscious memory. Sometimes we experience irrational fears, such as sense of horror when we see spiders, but we have no past experience in our own lives that could explain why we would be so frightened of this creature. This fear is not learnt, it seems to already be within us and is sometimes triggered but we do not know why. Perhaps our phobias and superstitions were once logical to us but during our evolution we have become unclear about why we have these impulses. The knowledge to understand them is still within our subconscious memories but is obscured or has been altered by the addition of more information through the generations. People sometimes suffer so badly from these irrational fears that they try to overcome them using hypnotherapy. Maybe this works because the hypnotherapist is able to draw out the forgotten knowledge in the patient and match it to the trigger so that it is no longer irrational and therefore alarming. Some among us, for example politicians, religious leaders, psychologists and marketing executives, have learnt how to manipulate our subconscious memories, so beware!

From the origin of life to the present, we slowly evolved, gathering data and developing our senses with each surviving generation. I believe this collection of knowledge and experience is passed on to every human as a kind of ‘operating system’. I also believe from the many geniuses and remarkable inventions we are aware of in our history, it is clear our knowledge is not evolving, but rather it is being rediscovered.

Once we understand we have this amazing ‘operating system’ stored in our subconscious memory and accept that we are all pretty much equal in terms of our inherited ‘trans-generation’ data, then we might begin to bridge the formidable barrier between one person’s thoughts and those of another.

The great benefit of knowing we have an ‘operating system’ is that we can appreciate and understand how we operate and begin thinking for ourselves. I believe acknowledging our ‘operating system’ will move us forward to the next phase of our evolution where we can empower future generations with the knowledge to explore the mysteries of the universe and discover the path to universal love.

Revised from the original article – copyright November 2001

On the 26th December 2004 an undersea earthquake occurred, recorded at 9.1 on the Richter scale, just north of Simeulue Island, off the western coast of northern Sumatra, Indonesia. The earthquake triggered a series of devastating tsunamis that spread throughout the Indian Ocean, killing large numbers of people and inundating coastal communities across South and Southeast Asia, including parts of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand. The furthest recorded death due to the tsunami occurred some 8,000 km (5,000 miles) from the epicentre.

This earthquake was also reported to be the longest duration of faulting ever observed, lasting between 500 and 600 seconds, and it was large enough that it caused the entire planet to vibrate at least half an inch, or over a centimetre. It also triggered earthquakes in other locations as far away as Alaska.

This catastrophe is one of the deadliest disasters in modern history and highlights just how vulnerable our civilization is to natural events.

Is it possible that a similar event occurred some 10,500 years ago, which devastated an ancient civilization which was thriving on our planet at this time? Are we the offspring of the survivors from this earlier catastrophic event as described in John Cowie’s book “Silbury Dawning: The Alien Visitor Gene Theory?

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What Is an Operating System and What Does It Do?

The question “What is an operating system?” is one I get asked often and I have even been told in the past while trying to sort out a customer’s problem that their operating system is Google when in fact that is the browser they are using not the operating system. (Google does have an open source operating system called Chrome OS I should state) That seems to be the problem people but computers and no one ever tells them the basics of what they are using. Once paid for you are kind of forgotten and left to fend for yourself.

So lets clear it and go through the main operating systems and exactly what they are and do.

What operating systems are there??

There are many different operating systems out there but the ones you will be familiar with by name will probably be:

Microsoft Windows 95

Microsoft windows XP

Microsoft windows ME

Microsoft Windows Vista

Microsoft Windows 7

Microsoft windows 8 (due for release later this year possibly October)

Mac OS 8

Mac OS 9

Mac OS X




Open Suse

Free BSD




The list goes on but most of the well-known ones are there.

Ok but simply what is an operating system?

It is a complex set of programs that are designed to manage and control your computer hardware resources and software. This means they can provide services to programs you run on your computer.

OK so maybe that was not that simple. Think of it as the middle man between your physical hardware in your computer and the game or software you want to run.

You open your game or your program and this could be the conversation between your game/program, windows and the hardware.

Program: Hey windows I want to run can you sort me out some resources.

Windows: Sure what do you need?

Program: I could do with a bit of memory, a bit of processing power and some place to store my setting if that’s ok?

Windows: Let me have a chat with hardware and see what we can do. Program Pete: Cheers

*Windows goes to talk to Hardware*

Windows: Hey hardware hows it going down there? Program Pete is at it again “get me this get me that” do you have some free resources?

Hardware: He never leaves me alone does he. Tell him he can use 100% of the processor if he needs it as nobody else is using it at the minute but if anti-virus Annie comes in he will have to share it with her. Tell him he can have half the memory too and as much storage as he wants within reason.

Windows: Cheers hardware I will let him know and allocate it to him

*Windows goes back to Program Pete*

Windows: Right Pete here is what I can do for but is someone else comes along you are going to have to share the resources.

*Uri USB is plugged in and anti-virus Annie wakes up*

URI and Annie together: Can we please have some resources!!

Program Pete: *sigh* now its going to take me a nano second longer to do my task because I have to share with those two

And so the conversation continues….

It may sound silly but if you want to make it really basic this is pretty much what is happening although granted how it happens is very complex. Without the operating system the programs you use would not be able to run as they would not be able to talk to the hardware which is why you will find pretty much every desktop computer, laptop, mobile phone, iPad smart phone has an operating system.

Are there any free operating systems out there?

There are many free ones out there and over the years they have got more and more compatible with software we use on a regular basis. For example the new Raspberry pi comes with a Linux which is free and allows you to do all the basics such as go on the internet create documents.

Below is a list of some of the free Linux ones out there


Open Solaris


Free BSD

Chrome OS


There are many more out there this is just a sample of the most popular. You will find arguments all over the internet on operating systems that cost vs free operating systems so I wont go into it here but I will say if you are going to move to free software be sure to do your research. The most important thing to remember is Linux is not windows and is very different so be ready for a learning curve.

Ok so these all go on my computer so what are mobile operating systems?

Mobile operating systems are much the same as an operating system for your desktop or laptop but they are designed for tablets, PDA`s or mobile phones. These tend to combine a number of features such as touch-screen, Bluetooth, GPRS, video cameras, cameras and many other features. The most common mobile operating systems are:

Android – Open source from Google

Blackberry iOS

Apple closed source used on iPhones, iPads.

Symbian – Used by Nokia

Windows phone – Closed source software from Microsoft.

How do I find out what operating system I am using

If using a smart phone or iPad you should be able to determine what you are running from the above list. On a Mac you are most likely to be using OS X snow leopard.

To find out what you are running on a windows based machine find the my computer Icon on your desktop (if it is not on your desktop press your start menu button/windows button and you should find My computer or computer on the right hand side). Use your right mouse button to click on it and select properties. The screen that comes up will tell you the operating system you are running

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