158. New Operating Systems: Fall
By Andrew D. Wright
Fall of 2009 marks something pretty rare - three major new computer
Operating Systems are being released: Microsoft's Windows 7, Apple's
Macintosh OS X 10.6 "Snow Leopard" and Ubuntu Linux 9.10 "Karmic Koala".
Windows 7 is the latest version of Microsoft Windows, due out in late
October 2009. It can run on many older computers that would not run Vista
well, though it is best suited for new computers. An extensive public beta
test program allowed thousands to test-drive it before release and driver
support for Windows 7 is much better than it was for Vista when it first
From a user standpoint Windows 7 seems much quicker. The user interface
has been extensively remodeled. The taskbar in particular is much easier
to work with than previous versions of Windows and the User Account
Control prompts are better organized than in Vista. Search functions on
the hard drive are very much improved and results are both incredibly fast
and relevant. Looking for Resource Monitor? Typing "r" in the search bar
brings it up immediately as one of the top ranked items before you can
type in the "e".
As a rule of thumb, any hardware that can work with Vista should also work
with Windows 7. Some devices will need new drivers.
Microsoft is not supporting any direct in-place upgrades from Windows XP
so XP users looking to upgrade to Windows 7 will need to do a fresh
install. Windows Vista users can do an in-place upgrade but this is
limited: 32-bit Vista can upgrade to 32-bit Windows 7 and 64-bit Vista can
upgrade to 64-bit Windows 7 but a 32-bit upgrade to 64-bit will need a
fresh install of Windows 7.
If your newer computer supports it, and most do, the 64-bit version of
Windows 7 is the way of the future, allowing better use of larger amounts
of memory. Check for the availability of 64-bit Windows 7 drivers for your
hardware first for an easier upgrade.
OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, Apple's new version of OS X for use on Apple
Macintosh computers also offers 64-bit computing, though this is disabled
by default and will only work on new Macintoshes. To boot into 64-bit,
hold down the 6 and 4 keys when starting the computer. Snow Leopard cannot
run on PowerPC Macs, only those with Intel CPUs. Users can upgrade from OS
X 10.5 Leopard to the new 10.6 and, despite it being against the
Tiger Macs with Intel CPUs.
Apple does not condone the installation of OS X on anything except
official Apple computers, which makes driver issues much easier to deal
with than in the Windows world with its wide range of hardware. Since its
release in late August 2009 there have been a few issues reported with
Snow Leopard - some older software and some network-based programs have
issues - but on the whole it has had a pretty warm welcome from the Apple
community. Snow Leopard frees up several GB of disk space from earlier
installs of OS X and upgrades typically take about an hour.
Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala, the newest release of Ubuntu Linux, the free
Open Source operating system, is set to come out the end of October 2009
and promises fast boot times (about 30 seconds), an improved redesigned
user interface, wider device support, support for the newer more robust
EXT4 hard drive format and support for cloud computing, where many
computers can share resources to run software.
Ubuntu Linux can run on pretty much any fairly recent computer and has
32-bit and 64-bit versions.
Microsoft Windows 7:
Apple Macintosh OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard:
Ubuntu Linux 9.10 Karmic Koala:
The Mousepad runs every two weeks. It's a service of Chebucto Community
Net, a community-owned Internet provider. If you have a question about
computing, email email@example.com or
click here. If we use your question
in a column, we'll send you a free mousepad.
Originally published 11 September 2009