“A computer is like an Old Testament god, with a lot of rules and no mercy”

Saturday, December 5

6. Picking the Right One: Picking the OS

Let's start with the 800 pound gorilla in the room:


If you've been awake for the last quarter of a century, you'll probably be at least familiar with Microsoft. They're particular brand OS is called Windows, and has been throughout its various incarnations. They used to have something else, but there's no need to discuss it because it's built into Windows these days.[i] Windows has a very easy to use graphical user interface (gui), which is the tech way of saying, it's easy to use because you can use a mouse to point and click to do most anything you want. For the most part, Windows is very user-friendly. You'll hear that word a lot in computer circles. Companies spend fortunes on making things “user-friendly”. The upside, and admittedly it's a huge upside, is that Microsoft is so big and ubiquitous that most everything you can buy for computers was made to work with it. Most all the games you look at in stores, most of the desktop software you see works great on Windows and was designed to do just that.

That by itself is a huge advantage for you. Software is easy to get, and because so many companies compete for your money, relatively inexpensive.
Another large advantage to using Windows is that almost everyone knows it. Most businesses use Windows on their computers, so most likely you'll feel comfortable using it. Most of the computers you'll look at buying will come pre-loaded with Windows.

The downside of Windows is a biggie, though. Microsoft, by definition, is a software company. They really don't produce hardware, and they certainly don't produce computers. Windows is written in such a way to make it compatible for virtually every piece of hardware on the market. That is both good and bad. It's good because you can buy virtually anything and most likely it will work. It's bad in that Microsoft doesn't actually make the drivers for those products, and when they don't work, it can be a problem.

Drivers are programs that make your hardware interact correctly with the rest of your computer. If your drivers aren't working correctly, odds are that device won't work correctly either. That could be a large headache for you, because then you'll need to figure out if the problem is Windows or the drivers. From experience, each company will blame the other and neither wants to help. There is hope! I'll cover what to do in this circumstance later, but I just wanted you to be aware of it now.

Another large downside, if you'll pardon the pun, is the size of their OS. Every generation Windows seems to get bigger and bulkier. In large part, this is to keep it compatible with older software. Windows isn't picky about its roomies. It will talk to just about anything. Again, this is both good and bad. Good because it makes interoperability much easier Bad in that there are many, many, many holes in the software with which virus makers and people who want to steal all your information can drive trucks through. This can be fixed, but requires some work on your part. We cover this in more detail a bit later.

I'm not trying to scare you off Windows. By far, Microsoft has really improved the OS with almost each generation (there are exceptions in every family). It's a fantastic software in as much everything mostly just works. It has its problems, but as you'll see, so do the competitors.

If Microsoft were a car, I'd describe it as a mid-70's Cadillac. Incredibly powerful, bloated, rides like a dream, chugs gas like a frat-boy does Heineken, isn't the prettiest thing, but you're not ashamed to be seen using it.

[i] I'm referring to DOS, or Disc Operating System