An operating system is a software program in a computer that provides the interface between the user and the computer (Smolka & Kifer, 2007). It also manages the very many applications. An operating system can be installed by the owner of the computer, but most computers are sold with an operating system already installed in them. Operating systems are said to be proprietary source and open source. The varied operating systems have different capabilities in terms of their functions. This paper shows the two types of operating systems as well as the basic functions of any operating system.
There are generally two classes of operating systems based on their program code accessibility. These two classes of operating system are the open source operating systems and the proprietary source operating systems. In programming the term open source refers to any software development project operating in the public domain (Hill, 2005). Following this notion then, an open source operating system code is not owned, but rather it can be available freely and any one can alter it. Linux and BSD are two examples of Open source operating systems (Hill, 2005). In line with Hill (2005), no body owns Linux although several companies own their respective operating system products based on it. This therefore means that Linux is a family of operating systems, all with similar features. Like wise, BSD is an open source family of operating system based on UNIX (Hill, 2005). BSD is an acronym for Berkeley Software Distribution.
Proprietary operating systems have their source codes closed or they are only available to a select few. Microsoft Windows and Macintosh operating systems are excellent examples of proprietary operating systems (Lucas, 2008).
Different operating systems have varied operations but there are basic operations that any operating system is capable of performing. For example, any operating system should be able to manage resources. The programs that manage resources coordinate all the computer’s resources including mouse, keyboard, memory and storage devices.
Another function of an operating system is to provide support for built-in utility (Dhamdhere, 2006). The utility programs are used by the operating systems for maintenance and repairs. More over the utility programs locate lost files, backup data and identify problems in the computer.
Computer operating systems also have the basic function of running applications. Programs such as spread sheets and word processors are run by these programs.
All operating systems provide a user interface which enables the user to interact with application programs and computer hardware (Dhamdhere, 2006). Most of the operating systems provide the windows Graphical User Interface (GUI) whereby icons objects are used to represent the commonly used features.
According to Dhamdhere (2006), it is a feature to all operating systems to enable control to the computer hardware. The operating system links the programs and the Basic Input Output System (BIOS). It is the BIOS that control the hardware. Because all the programs that must execute through the hardware devices must pass through the operating system, then the operating system is vital for the communication between the BIOS and the programs.
The operating system links the user and the computer. All operating systems manage the resources in a computer, provide support for built-in utility and enable control to the computer hardware. Open sourced and the proprietary sourced are the two categories of the operating systems. Linux and BSD are examples of open sourced operating system while Microsoft Windows and Macintosh are examples of proprietary sourced operating system.