Magazine article Curriculum Administrator

Not Your Father's Operating System

Magazine article Curriculum Administrator

Not Your Father's Operating System

Article excerpt

Deciding to switch operating systems is a hard choice when made personally, but when pulling the trigger for an entire school district, the decision becomes even dicier. Windows XP, Office XP and Apple's Mac OS X, all tantalize, but there's more to consider. Microsoft's new software licensing policies, for instance, alter academic, enterprise and individual upgrade options. Mac OS X lacks applications, though not sex appeal. And can your hardware even handle it? So should you upgrade sooner, later, or perhaps not at all?

We lay out the basics to help you decide.

Apple's Big OS Step

For Apple users, Mac OS X is big news (recognized as the most important upgrade to the venerable OS since 1984). While its Aqua user interface gets all the attention, the real hero is in its guts, namely a BSD-based Unix core and Mach 3.0 kernel. These combine to supply unprecedented performance and system stability to OS X. Finally, Mac users can have an application crash without the whole system necessarily following suit.

Aqua is what Apple labels the look of their new user interface, and it's pretty gorgeous. A new Quartz 2D system for onscreen graphics delivers antialiased fonts, drop shadows for windows, and true transparency to windows even when dragging. Navigation gets simpler and better organized too.

You'll need a relatively new machine for OS X. Power Mac G4 and G3 models, plus iMacs and iBooks will handle it, according to Apple, as will all PowerBooks later than the original G3. Moreover, this Mac will need to be robust: 128MB of RAM and at least 1.5GB of disk space.

Initially, native OS X third-party applications were slow to market, but they picked up somewhat over summer. Mac OS X runs programs in three modes: Classic (under a spawned OS 9.0 session); Carbon (under 9.0 or OS X, partially optimized); and Cocoa (under OS X only, fully optimized). Early reports indicate that many popular applications run faster and more reliably in Classic mode than under OS 9.0 itself.

This is an easy call. Most Mac users will want to upgrade to OS X if their hardware can support it, perhaps adding RAM if necessary--and the sooner the better. After all, a shiny, new user interface that is vastly more stable, beckons.

Ready for an eXPerience?

The XP designation on their newest versions, Microsoft says, does indeed stand for "experience." It's yet another way to convey that their next generation of software intends to create dynamic environments for humans, ones that help foment communications and foster collaborations. …

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