Way OT: Your favorite OS of all time?


June 21, 2013

With all the recent news, the board seems to veering back on topic. So I hope this is not inappropriate.

I came across this article on lifehacker, and I thought there were some interesting comments. I don't comment on lifehacker anymore, since they now require a facebook login (have not created a fake account yet). Still some interest comments.


Any thoughts here? I am not sure myself, but the following comes to mind:

1) Windows NT 4.0: brought some security to windows. Fairly stable. Business-like interface. Low resource requirements.

2) Windows 2000: my favorite windows ever. Stable. Business-like interface. Higher system requirement than NT 4.0, but still not too bad.

3) Ubuntu 10.04: the last version of Ubuntu that didn't suck. Fast boot. Great interface.

4) Coherent 4.2: ran just like UNIX. Ran great on a 386SX with 20MB of disk space and 4MB of RAM. Great documentation. Great system for learning UNIX. Only cost $99.

5) Debian: you do not have to download anything you don't want. Run with whatever WM/DE, or none at all, all the same to Debian. Option of super-stable to bleeding-edge. Runs on many platforms. Do not have to re-install to upgrade. I am running CentOS 6.4 to get caught up on Red Hat - IMO: Debian package management puts Red Hat to shame.

6) iOS: gotta give credit where it's due. Smooth, and fast, right from the beginning. Took Android some time to catch up.

All JMHO, of course.

12:21:54 PM

Re: Way OT: Your favorite OS of all time?


June 21, 2013

I didn't start using Windows / DOS until 1993 when I want from a Mac only product to a cross platform product.

So I would say:

Classic Mac OS 7, known at the time as System 7. This was a huge step forward in the Mac OS:
I could also say System 8, it brought a few minor improvements.
System 9 brought no visible improvements, mostly hardware compatibility with the new Steve approved iMac after the messiah had returned.

By the time of System 9, while I still was extremely fluent with Mac OS, and programming for it, I was getting disillusioned and starting to look at this "Linux" thing. :-)

If you want to go back to 1982, I would say the UCSD p-System. On very primitive hardware (8-bit, 64K memory) it was very fast, and greatly superior as a development tool compared to anything else at the time. Remember this is pre-Turbo Pascal days. Most everything in the world was BASIC or Assembler. Imagine a compiled, fast, Pascal -- that was binary portable! In fact, it became Apple's development tool of choice (and they said so) late in the Apple II, during the Apple ///, but fell out of favor before the II GS came along trying to be more Mac like with a GUI.

But we should also discuss 'worst' operating system experiences. Looking forward to hearing YOUR best and worst. :-)

In 1993, I had to use both Mac, and Windows 3.1 / DOS.

I said YUK. This is awful. But I can work with it.
* drive letters (who's stupid idea was that?)
* eight character file names with extension
* using the extension to determine the file type (insane!)
* using the extension also to determine which application the file goes with (which conflicts with the previous line usage) Can't a text file go with multiple applications? Can't a GIF file go with multiple applications?
* pathnames? You've got to be kidding? I guess non-Mac users were not creative enough to imagine that there could be a better way. And Linux still uses pathnames. So I guess we're stuck with it forever.

1:47:08 PM

Re: Way OT: Your favorite OS of all time?


June 21, 2013

Would you believe Unixware? No?
Well, how about Dosplus (TRS-80 Model I):

I actually ran this baby for several years on a diy LNW-80:
It was the best disk operating system of its time for micros
and had an advanced version of BASIC, much improved from Bill Gates'
overhyped take on the language. When I first booted the 3.5" floppy
system disk, I was in heaven.

2:31:51 PM

Re: Way OT: Your favorite OS of all time?


June 21, 2013

SunOS 4.x with Sunview. It's been all downhill from there though Linux Mint is getting close to parity. On the other hand, I can actually afford to own a Linux box and I could never afford a SparcStation even with employee discount. You didn't ask, but my favorite machine of all time is that SparcStation 10. The chassis was a work of art even if the SuperSparc chip was underwhelming.

2:47:51 PM

Re: Way OT: Your favorite OS of all time?


June 21, 2013

Depressing how narrow peoples' experience has become, especially for young uns, who will never have the chance to experience something way outside of MS/Mac/Unix.

Best of all time: Multics, by a million miles

Second best: present and recent Slackware

Then Dynix/ptx

Then Solaris

Then George 3/4

Then the better community Linuxes.

Then Windows 2000, the minimally-fixed knockoff of VMS with a minimally-fixed Win95 gui.

Then VMS itself. (And I'll dance on its grave when it's dead - not long now ;-)

About here (*below* Win2k and VMS) is where I'd put the lousy corporatist Linuxes of 2013 -- Ubuntu with Unity, Fedora with Gnome 3 and systemd and the /usr migration

Then we're into the poorer genetic Unixes, including the vastly overrated BSDs. Nominations for the Oscar for Worst Unix are HP-UX, Digital Unix, AIX and SCO. And the winner is ...

Then I guess we're into the ancient interactive systems: Maximop, RT-11, Netware, DOS in that order, with a special exorcism for RSX-11M and a wooden stake for PR1MOS. The good old days weren't good. They were shit, mostly.

Finally, below all that -- it's Windows all the way down

6:29:39 PM

Re: Way OT: Your favorite OS of all time?


June 21, 2013

What about Domain/OS?

Perhaps my preference for this is due to the fact that the Apollo workstations seemed to be much faster than the equivalent Sun workstations at that time and other nice features, such as the ability to use (IIRC) "..." as a wildcard, meaning all files, including in subdirectories. I remember being shocked that you could not easily copy a tree of directories and subdirectories on a Sun machine (the solution was to use the tar command).

6:42:01 PM

Re: Way OT: Your favorite OS of all time?


June 21, 2013

I loved Domain OS...my company was exclusively on Apollos at the time, token ring and all. I used to have to travel to customers with a washing-machine sized DN series computer in my company car.

I also loved Vax VMS a LOT.

7:23:31 PM

Re: Way OT: Your favorite OS of all time?


June 21, 2013

When one considers time frame and available hardware, I think my vote would definitely be IBM's CP/CMS (Control Program/Conversational Monitor System), back in th 60's and 70's.

"CP" was, of course, IBM's virtual machine offering for System 370. It was by far the most rock solid piece of code that I have ever experienced. If you asked an IBM marketing type what CP was for, they would tell "It's for debugging OS/370 (IBM's mainline, big bucks OS) -- OS/370 is so buggy that it's too expensive to require real hardware of each debugging activity required for that turkey -- er, I mean, masterpeice." And, indeed, that usage of CP is where the development money for CP came from. Interestly, whenever a bug popped up on OS/370 running on CP, the problem was ALWAYS in OS/370 rather then CP -- people just stopped thinking of a bug in CP as even a possibility. Truly an nice piece of code. And likely what keeps us from paying big "intellectual property" markup the Virtual Machines floating around today -- significant "invention" then, with "virtualized" components (card punch, card reader, and "card decks," for example) everywhere that were much better than the real thing.

CMS was actually a somewhat DOS like operating system that took advantage of CP to provide its multitasking (each user got a virtual machine, along with a bunch of "minidisks," and ran their own copy of CMS on the VM). Back then, though, things were largely command line, except that IBM came out with the 327x terminals that buffered a 80x25 character based screen, allowing screen editors and such, and hence meant that a user could go for more than a keystroke before having to have a "transaction" with the cloud, er, mainframe. (Bandwidth between 327x's and mainframes was on coax, and was quite good, but the cost of a "transaction" was pretty high.)

The 327x terminals gave rise to a program called FULIST (as I recall), which simply listed a screenful of files, but allowed you to then type in a "verb" (which could be any application, such as "copy" or "edit") to be applied to one or more of the listed files. (Today's "file managers" are in some way "dumbed down" versions of FULIST, because they typically limit the "verb" to "copy" or "move" or "erase," as opposed to an arbitrary command (yeah, I know you can "right click" of choices, but each available verb has to be preinstalled, and the right click mechanism is still not nearly as flexible as what FULIST did, since FULIST allowed the inclusion of "switches" and/or "target" filenames derived from each listed filename -- this gave FULIST a very rich palette of available "operations" that were instantly and always available.

Anyway, FULIST increased the productivity of CMS by an order of magnitude, IMO, and really changed what CMS was. I've always been surprised in the lack of programs like it, since then.

Another interesting property of CMS was its file system, which was not a journaling file system, but was just incredibly reliable. In particular, it was designed so that, for any update, new metadata defining the update was written, after which any no-longer-needed metadata was freed, so that no "interrupted" or unsuccessful write could damage the overall filesystem. Like CP, it just never failed.

Not the glitzy stuff of today. But really productive for its time, and super RELIABLE for any timeframe.

But CP/CMS was not the IBM "strategic" product, so IBM practically hid it from customers. Sane people inside IBM wouldn't use anything else.

Wally Bass

8:40:12 PM

Re: Way OT: Your favorite OS of all time?


June 22, 2013

Unfortunately, RSX-11M has a "special" place in my heart. Mostly from long days battling with the overlay linker to get overnight COBOL runs to speed up by minimising the number of swap-ins. It entailed stripping out unwanted routines, re-organising the overlays, finding referred routines were in another overlay, trying again, rinse and repeat.

I didn't write the COBOL, was mostly hacking on a TP system running a banking system. 3270-compatible terminals over BSC3. Nice. 11/44s IIRC. Of course, everyone else's banking systems ran on RSTS, not RSX/11M. Badly, from what I heard.

I never got to see Multics, but of course knew it by reputation from the Unix stories.

I must add TOPS-10 to the list. Its strength was the ability to do both timesharing and (true) realtime. So when it came to be time to do data acquisition from the Hough-Powell Digitiser (over the non-DMA I/O bus) no data was lost. Then it all went back to number crunching the data and running Trek. Which one of our RAs rewrote, I remember.

3:36:56 AM

Re: Way OT: Your favorite OS of all time?


June 22, 2013

Linux, hands down.

Which one? That's tough.

Linux 1.1 from SLS Soft Landing Systems, a basement seller that supplied a complete Linux implementation on 42 (yup) 3.5 " floppies via parcel post for the outrageously cheap price of $88.

At the time my shop was using SCO, Interactive, Sun and some M$ DOS 3 and Windows 3.x (and mainframe rental time). Our main goal was to convert 'old' computer records/files/data from various sources, on 50+ types of media, to standard format(s) for National Archives of Canada permanent retention. Unix had the most comprehensive tool set and reliability. Some conversion jobs were measured in weeks of processing time, so uptime was a major factor. We had run across Linux 0.90 on a local Freenet and it was taking over our shop. The SLS compilation sealed the deal.

Right now I'm running Kubuntu 12.4. I have a truly embarrassing collection of laptops, towers, tablets and toys running Linux variants, a lot of them Android. I also have a couple Macbooks for Garageband use, but I have no urge to do anything else with them. I recently removed that last Windoze (XP) drive from the one remaining pc that I had kept only to do income tax once a year. From time to time I rescue some friend's stuff using one of the Linux emergency variants after their machine stops working.

Yeah, it's partly habit and familiarity. But it's more to do with reliability, speed, and the availability of software (cheap) plus the freedom to do pretty much anything I want. Oh, and I don't run McAfee or any other malware defense stuff to suck up cpu cycles.

Linux 1.x was surprising and amazing; still a fond memory.

11:13:51 AM

Re: Way OT: Your favorite OS of all time?


June 22, 2013

Didn't have the experience of many but enjoyed the educational experience of using and hacking FLEX (TSC for 6800 stuff) and comparing the early ones in various small systems. Liked what MS ended with at DOS 6.22 although an earlier version that allowed multiple open jobs (can't remember the name of the program) was handy. I've got 98SE available on one so I can dual boot to DOS and XP on on the rest. Came to SCO at Xenix, then Unix, then Open Server. My work was hardware so the choice was the customer's. OS5 is probably best but their 3.2v4.2 sure was stable with the right hardware.

12:46:02 PM

Re: Way OT: Your favorite OS of all time?


June 22, 2013

Ah. Distributed Object Multiple Access Integrated Network.

Every object in the network had a UUID and could be moved anywhere else yet remain unique. Operated in 2 GB of RAM and with 20 GB of disk.

Transparent file sharing with ACLs. DSEE, which became Atria Clearcase when HP pissed off the entire development staff after the acquisition.

Ran both BSD4.3 and sys5.3 alongside DOMAIN. Micro-kernel with shared library implementations of the favorite flavor of the day. Want the sys5.3 version of "df" on your BSD4.3 environment? Make a link. Links could contain environment variables, which were interpolated at link-reading time.

Distributed virtual memory. Real locking. By "phase 2" boot (after boot) the network was active, so you could link remote "thingies" to your system and have them be valid. 10 Mbps token ring with quick connect/disconnect.

At one customer, I had over 800 nodes in a single ring.



12:54:03 PM

Re: Way OT: Your favorite OS of all time?


June 23, 2013

Linux 1.1 from SLS Soft Landing Systems

I also started with SLS.
The SLS guy eventually stopped the distro, and Patrick Volkerding picked it up and it became Slackware. I've been using Slack ever since.
GEM on Atari ST was pretty good. They got it before Apple forced DR to stop using overlapping windows. GEM on top of DOS and the early Windows versions never had overlapping windows.

12:54:31 AM

Re: Way OT: Your favorite OS of all time?


June 23, 2013

TOPS-20 would be my single all-time favorite. But I consider myself fortunate to have come of age in an era where there were many OS' in widespread use and having the opportunity to work with many of them. Good or bad I found that each had strengths and weaknesses and each could be used for a particular purpose. Even TSO, which was inappropriately pushed on many business users who wanted more direct access to data, could be used effectively by a technical end user with some understanding (not to mention ISPF). MS-DOS 3 and 5 weren't bad bare-metal low rent systems, and in respectful disagreement with others in this thread I found Netware 3.11 extremely useful and flexible. Then again, most of my experience after the minicomputer days was in the implementation, operations, and business support; my opinion of Netware might have been different if I had tried to develop software for it.

MUSIC, TSO, RSX-11, TOPS, VMS, UCSD p-System, VMS, BSD (on VAX), MS-DOS, Mac Finder, Windows (286 through XP), and others I've probably forgotten: each was useful in some way, and it is unfortunate that the majority of those working in IS today - having grown up post-1995 - don't get to work with that variety.

ERP Expert

OK, I'll draw the line at IBM JCL - that was and is more like the book of useless brain-damaging information used as punishment in Stephenson's Anathem.

1:21:24 PM

Re: Way OT: Your favorite OS of all time?


June 24, 2013

Hmmm. FreeBSD for sure (ran a P5-166 for years as my house server, firewall, apache, apache-ssl, dhcp, etc. On 128M of RAM. )

Unix v7 - the great grandaddy. Ran a small departmental server for years on a Z8000 with 384K (not M) of RAM, and 2 160Mb disks (plenty of space left.) Didn't like it's replacement (SCO Xenix on i386/33) nearly so well.

Amiga OS - only 1(!) fixed address in the whole damn system. Everything else teed off that system base address. Did some printer drivers for an unsupported color printer. Easy peasy, just follow the examples in the manual.

Still have the original Soft Landing Systems Linux floppies downloaded from Compuserve (ooohh, charged by the minute. Anybody remember Whap! ?)

12:18:18 PM

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