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What’s an operating system?

by | May 4, 2010 | Technology | 1 comment

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If you read my last lame excuse for a post, you know that I have been under-the-weather the last few days. I’m starting to feel like myself again, so I thought I might as well contribute to the blogosphere today as planned. Better late than never, right?

Last week, we talked about computer viruses, which are a form of malware (malicious software). Don’t think that the irony of talking about viruses while becoming ill is lost on me. Just living the message, man.

Today, let’s touch on operating systems (heard of Microsoft Windows?). This is a topic so vast that even a very high-level overview (my specialty) could bore you to tears. So I’ll avoid the Kleenex and just say that the operating system is the software that allows a user to interact with the hardware. Using our previous analogy, the operating system allows us to access items in the bookshelves (hard drive), to put notes on the bulletin board (memory), and to interact with every other computer part.

In that analogy, the processor is represented by you, the person that runs your home. Let’s extend the analogy and say that the operating system is represented by your brain. You (the processor) can do things only because your brain (the operating system) provides the instructions.

The operating system also provides a framework for other software, like Microsoft Office and Internet Explorer. Beating on that analogy even more, let’s say that your kids represent these other pieces of software. If your kids want to remember stuff by putting notes on your bulletin board, they need to ask you first. If they want to store their text books – oh, who am I kidding – their COMIC BOOKS on your bookshelf, they need to ask you.

See how important you are?

Then one day you start feeling a little achy. Something unpleasant is happening in your throat, and you’re falling asleep standing up. Yes, ma’am, you have a virus. (That pretty much sums up my past week.)

You see, a snotty-nosed kid snuck into your house and tried to move in. He tore down notes from your bulletin board, stole some books from your bookshelf, messed up the buttons on your remote and then lied to you about it. That’s what happens when you get a virus on your computer. Viruses can delete or replace operating system files so that your computer doesn’t behave the way it should.

That’s when you need the Super Nanny (antivirus software). Installing antivirus software is like having the Super Nanny live in your house to keep the kids from getting out of control.

Ok, I think I’ve taken that metaphor as far as it will go (and then some). It’s time for a question:

Do you use an operating system other than Windows?

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1 Comment

  1. Michelle Potter

    I still use Windows most of the time. We homeschool using a computer-based curriculum, which requires Windows (and uses Internet Explorer!!! Awful!) Plus, I’m a bit of a photography nut, and I really love Lightroom. (I use open-source software instead of Photoshop, but I have yet to see an equal to Lightroom.)

    However, I grew up using Mac at school and at my grandmother’s house, and my husband and I have used Linux off and on for years. Currently our home theater system runs on Linux, and it rocks.
    .-= Michelle Potter´s last blog ..Bubbles =-.

    Reply

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