January 18, 2004

Windows vs. Unix. Is that it?

Joel Spolsky's article on Biculturism suggests two things to me:

  • it more or less implies Windows on the desktop and Unix on the server, which is probably not how Microsoft sees the world but seems to be what many organisations do.
  • I may be a member of the last generation of programmers who got to work on operating systems other than variants of Unix or Windows, there's some supporting evidence from Rob Pike. Should we get on the boat with the elves and sail away?
Posted by stevef at January 18, 2004 11:14 PM

Joel completely ignores the embedded and mobile markets: Symbian, PalmOS, QNX, VXWorks, Epoc and Windows CE are all used on mobile and embedded devices and give many programmers exposure to operating systems other than the big two. Some of those are based on Posix or Win32, some are quite different, and some are both. QNX, for example is a Posix API above a tiny, network transparent, message passing microkernel.

Rob Pike's comments are very true though. There is so much good OS research that has not made an impact, or even a ripple. Many ideas from recent OS research would be ideal for mobile, networked computers: transparent persistence, capability based security, JIT optimisation of the OS on a per-program basis, etc.

I cut my professional teeth on HP minicomputers running the MPE/3000 OS. However, I'm quite happy programming on Unix or Windows. I'd rather use a pleasant high level language and drop into C when necessary, or even program in Java, than write another line of COBOL!

Posted by: Nat Pryce at January 18, 2004 11:55 PM