IOS, You Win, He *NIX

Hundreds of debates, countless flames, innumerable passionate supporters, no limits, no ending lines, no result. The conflicts keep on going and going and going. It doesn’t matter if it’s Cisco’s IOS, Microsoft’s Windows, Suse’s Linux or FreeBSD. People struggle to prove their
platform’s superiority ignoring that an Operating System is just a tool focusing on specific needs.Willing to meet certain needs and provide reliable and cost effective solutions, an Operating System is the mean; not the purpose. Every platform and every OS targets certain groups of users meeting their specific needs. Windows provide a well known interface and functions as well as
a bunch of programs coming along. An individual familiar with Windows will be more productive working with it. Flash drives can be plugged-in and plugged-out with no hash while finishing uploading and burning Christmas pictures. Patches can be downloaded and installed automatically while picking up last minute goodies from It works and it
works simple. The user is happy, the job is done and mom and dad are laughing with these new funny pictures of little Joe. A UNIX like OS costs nothing or less and it comes with hundreds of applications ready to run
or install. It takes advantage of the latest bit of memory installed and its office suite is sufficient enough to satisfy a SOHO user. The GUI it’s polished and it’s getting better and better. Patches can be downloaded and installed easily but something is wrong with this new web cam
and the portable mp3 player. Some of the documents look weird when using Microsoft Word while others are just fine. It’s tricky to find what you need through menus and submenus and other extra submenus and the fonts look kind of odd. Most of the job is done and more features are
continuously added. Nevertheless a SOHO user will be satisfied using a UNIX like OS even when left with a bitter taste.

Building a network is essential and cheap and reliable solution is using *BSD boxes only instead of Cisco’s. I’ve never heard of anyone supporting BSDs against Cisco routers and switches. A Cisco router for instance is a computer, a dedicated computer, doing a couple of jobs and nothing else. It’s preferred for its advantages but it comes with IOS and Operating System with bugs, lots of bugs to be honest but it’s still there and Cisco reports earnings! In a low or limited budget organization a BSD system can serve as mail server, firewall, DNS server and router just to mention a few. A Linux distribution might serve this purpose as well as a Juniper router (Juniper’s network equipment runs on FreeBSD-derived kernel). None of the above is doomed and none of the above is praised as the king of networking. Everything is used for building
sufficient networks.

Besides the networking, server and workstation scenarios, there are core features an OS misses and others is succeeds. OpenBSD is very well known for its robust security. In more than 7 years it has only one remote hole in the default installation but it lacks SMP (Symmetric Multi Processing) capabilities. Windows NT/2000/XP support SMP but the remote holes of the OS are numerous (all of the three versions of Windows are based on the same kernel thus they’re considered an OS). Is OpenBSD useless or Windows rocks? Neither is true. Both OSes are tools for solving
problems; giant or minor ones. Picking up and installing the one fitting our needs and we’re ready to go on vacations to a wonderful Greek island 🙂

When it comes down to selecting an OS, things might get tricky. Buying a laptop means paying for Windows leaving no choice for the novice user while frustrating someone else. When deciding between Operating Systems one has to think about the applications running on them and choose
based on that. Purchasing, maintaining, training, supporting and repairing cost is another significant factor when choosing an OS. Compatibility and interoperability is something to keep in mind when expanding or
upgrading a system. This applies to employees not only to software. Imagine the Sales Department using Windows and the Public Relationship department running on Linux. In case someone uses OpenOffice and asks for help
on adding a web link to a document, a Sales Department employee will be unable to assist so support will take over meaning money and time spending on something trivial. Trying to keep a rock solid, unified and
secure system is one more concern not to mention licensing, backup and hardware support.

There is no panacea in the OS world and it won’t be any time soon. There are new services coming up and there are problems waiting to be solved; all in the most cost effective and productive way. Either it’s a web
server or a DVD application the need for immediate response and high quality output heavily depends on the OS itself, its application support, its resources usage, its security and robustness. It always narrows down to user’s preferences and choices. There is no bad or good OS; There
are only tools!

About the Author:
Stefanos “Titanas” Kofopoulos is a Computer Science Student in branch of State University of New York in Athens, Greece.Sys admin – Support in govermental and european services and organizations. You can reach Stefanos at titanas AT mycosmos DOT gr


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