An example: If your company is running Windows, then the users are happy (somewhat), since they have an OS that they are familiar with. They know, they have it at home. But you in the back office are running yourself ragged, trying to figure out how to plug all the security holes, and dealing with the at-random outages. The suits are not pleased that we have to keep buying 800 copies of a new OS every two or three years at $200-$500 a pop.
Alternately: If your company is running Linux, then the sysadmins (assuming they are proficiant in Linux) are happy. They have their ideal network, but the users are now griping. They are not leet. They do not know how to use Linux, and most likely have never even seen a Linux box before you set it on their desk. Whole new problem... your help desk is now swamped with calls asking everything under the sun. And the suits are also not happy, because the meeting that they had with BigCorp International fell through because MS Office couldn't open their StarOffice documents.
So what is the solution? Every OS out there has its pros and cons, but could it be possible to combine only the best parts of each, while still minimizing the cons? And what about other features that no OS right now offers, but would be of great convience? What follows are just some of the ideas that would need to be addressed...
DISCLAIMER: My specialty is with Windows 9X/NT. My memory of the MacOS is over five years old, and my experience with Linux is extremely limited. If I have made factual errors, I apologize...
What ideas might you, the members of kuro5hin, have? After all, the design of our operating systems affects all of us.
- Ease Of Use:
If this mythical OS is to succeed, it must be easy to use, or it would get slaughtered. The main thing behind the entire Apple platform has always been that it was easy to use. It would let you do what you wanted, without the interface forcing you through its own hoops. Along the same lines, the Windows interface has succeeded the way it always has: through brute force. It has been out there for so long that it has burned itself into the engrams of everyone's mind. If you sit the majority of the computer-literate public down at a standard, default setup Windows box, within minutes, or even seconds, they will be playing solitaire.
Obviously the need for security is there. Any little script kiddie with an internet connection, a handful of canned hacks, and a dab of youthful curiousity can start cracking into Windows boxes, whereas a well-secured, well-designed Linux system will take far more work, patience, and knowledge to root. And while you may have all the diligence required to protect your system, will your users? They'll set their password to '12345678' in a heartbeat, simply because it's easy for them to remember, and no amount of memos from the sysadmins will ever change that. While the password settings can be modified to make them enter line noise, you then run into a different problem: most people cannot remember a completely random password. You then have the problem of the users flooding the help desk with forgotten password trouble calls. A good middle ground must be laid out, between the need to keep a secure network, and the smooth operation of the buisness as a whole.
- Process Control:
If you work in industry, then you're probably very intimate with this subject. There are often these PCs that are connected, usually via a parallel or serial port to some sort of machine. The OS on them is probably some version of DOS, and the program controlling everything is probably completely undocumented. The question becomes: how could this new OS convince some of these companies to finally get rid of the older systems and move up to the new OS? They have no real motivation to upgrade... upgrading costs money, isn't sure, disrupts the schedule, and the old system works anyways. What can we offer these people to make them want to upgrade?
- Business Applications:
Let's face it. No one will touch an OS with a ten foot pole unless it's got a good office suite. VisiCalc made the PC a useful office tool, and WordPerfect put it on every desk, whilst Harvard Graphics made the suits happy in conferences. Nowadays, MS Office has a firm lock on the market, while StarOffice and Lotus Smartsuite gives it a run for its money. If this OS is to survive, a top-notch office suite needs to be included, bundled with the following:
And then, you have other applications that are a "must have" for any system to be remotely popular:
- Word processor
- Presentation creator
- Web browser
- Mail client
Why games? you might ask? Because if games are there... good games, something really good, will draw in a younger market. Younger market will probably lead to more home sales, since the parents will generally be trying to figure out the whole computer market through their children. Put all of these items together, possibly bundled with the OS, and the user base is greatly increased.
- Anti-Virus (on Win32/MacOS at least)
- Compression tool (i.e. WinZip)
- Image / Movie Viewer
- Internet Connectivity:
Windows 9X made a big deal about getting connected to the internet, and with good cause. Internet usage has exploded over the past five years, from being amazed at seeing an http:// in small print at the bottom of a commerical, to the dot com boom. The question is: How will this OS connect to the internet? Obviously the question of the web browser is there... what to base it off of? Use Netscape as a model, Mozilla, Internet Explorer, or something else? Will web browsing and FTP searches be integrated into the basic look and feel of the desktop, or will it be in a class by itself? Will it incorporate instant messaging in itself, or leave it to third parties like AOL, Yahoo, and ICQ?
And although security has been covered, security on the internet is almost in a field of its own. Will a person feel safe sending their credit card number, or social security number out through their computer using this OS? Or will greater steps have to be taken? What of encryption? The current standards are often broken far too easily, but then again, an apt hacker can pick apart the code and watch it all take place. From that point, all breaking the codes would be is a matter of reverse engineering. How would this OS handle that?
- The Open Source Card:
It's not exactly going to come as a surprise that many people would advocate this being an Open Source OS. But what about if the company making this wants to turn a Microsoftish profit? Free speech, free code, and free beer are all fine and good, but the suits will not be happy campers if we're just charging for tech support and packaging. So I humbly submit this idea: Remember Doom? The true A-List game of its time, and still a great play. Well, you could purchase the base game from id, and then download whatever freeware apps you wanted to make your own levels, sounds, graphics, and whatnot. You could practically turn the whole thing into a new game entirely, as long as you paid for the original copy. So this would be my idea: you purchase the OS for a price. In exchange for this, you gain the right to modify the OS to your hearts content. Want to build in better encryption? Go for it. Want to hack your web browser? Go for it. Want to change the second letter in fsck? Go for it. There would be only two stipulations:
In this way, the Open Source people would be happy, since they can once again have the right to make their own programs, and do what they will with their OS. It would also have the added bonus, I believe, of creating a secondary market for modifications to the OS. Anything from just modifying the look and feel, to simplifying or expanding the interface.
- By doing this, you are hereby taking responsibility for the system. You will not recieve tech support from the OS's maker.
- If you wish to distribute your modified OS, for either fun or profit, you will do so in the form of a patch. The patch belongs to you. The OS belongs to its makers.
- Separate or Together?:
In my admittedly limited experience with Linux, it seems to be a very powerful OS, in the regards that it can run as a server, a workstation, or a stand-alone. Would this be the model for this perfect OS, or would it follow more along Microsoft's model, where the servers have one version of the OS, the workstations another, and the stand-alones and home users a third. Would there be issues in using the same OS for servers as home users? Or would there be a needless seperation between them, causing only conflicts?
How do we want our LAN/WAN set up? Do we want many small LANs, or do we want a few large LANs? Or alternately, could we combine the two into a multi-echelon setup? I know that NT is more apt to allow something along the lines of tying multiple LANs together through trust relationships. Also, Banyan VINES, if you are familar with it, was set up to have a few large LANs, then subdivided into smaller LANs, the resulting accounts coming out something like JOHN Q USER@TTP PROJECT@TOKYO OFFICE. The large LAN (TOKYO OFFICE), subdivided into smaller ones (TTP PROJECT), with members on each being able to log in from anywhere in the world, number of hops permitting. Would this be the ideal setup for a WAN, especially a global one, possibly with more subdividing? Or would a WAN acting almost like a LAN, with everyone being in the same domain be preferred?
- Plug and Play:
Better known as Plug and Pray, it has been held to a higher standard than it really was capable of, but the theory behind it was sound: Let the computer realize that you have new hardware installed, versus you telling it. But can it be improved upon? Or is it about as good as it's going to get? No matter what, it would be a much-desired addition to the ideal OS, especially for those that remember what loading device drivers was like before Plug and Play...
- Roaming Profiles:
On our perfect OS, we would probably wish to carry our personal settings wherever we went. Such things as mouse sensitivity, desktop wallpaper, sound effects, and such. Would these things be stored on a central server, or would a copy be downloaded to each machine you logged into? Also, might this OS make the settings available as a file, so that if someone had customized their settings in a certain way at home, that they might be able to carry them to work with them?
- Portable Computing:
The idea of picking up and going on the road presents new challenges for the perfect OS. From the networking aspect, how easily can it be for a laptop to pick up from one LAN and go to another? And how well will this OS run if it is loaded onto something like a PalmPilot or a palmtop computer? Will there be any changes that need to be made, or would an entirely new OS be needed, a la Windows CE?
- Other features:
- We have generic CD-ROM drivers and generic video drivers. The rest of the drivers, especially if in a corporate enviroment, are usually on the network. So is it not time that a generic network card driver was made? Something that doesn't have to have an enormous amount of bandwidth, just enough compatibility to load the necessary network protocols, log in, and snag the proper drivers.
- Multiple desktops, a default selection on Linux, if I am not mistaken, would be an awesome thing to have built into this dream OS. For those that have worked on NT networks with some of the more strict security settings, often one must have the user quit everything that they are doing, log out, have the sysadmin log in, fix their problem, and then log back out, and allow the user to log back in to see if the problem has been fixed. The ability to just switch screens, log in with an administrator account (root or otherwise), change the necessary settings, then pop back over to the user's screen would be a great timesaver.
- The ability to lock one's desktop with a simple keystroke would help improve security, even if it was just a small "coffee break" type password. Coupled with the idea of multiple desktops, it would allow someone to take a quick coffee break while someone else hopped on momentarily to check their e-mail.
Had to get here somehow, you know...