I’m a nerd, and as a nerd I like playing around with various computer operating systems. Some are current and widely-used, some are outdated but bring back pleasant memories of younger days, and some are experimental—destined to become a computer science footnote or, possibly, the widely-used systems of the future. Click screenshots to see the full version.
Apple Mac OS X 10.4.10—This is what I use day-to-day right now, but my MacBook Pro also runs all the other systems you’re about to see too. I find OS X to be the most capable, usable, reliable system for day-to-day use and I can’t imagine switching to anything else any time soon.
Ubuntu Linux 7.04—This is the current version of my favorite Linux distribution, and one of the few Linux systems that a mere mortal can install and use. In addition to running in Parallels Desktop on my MacBook Pro, I also use Ubuntu to run our apartment file and network server on actual hardware. Slowly-but-surely, Linux is becoming a viable alternative to Windows for people with standard PC (non-Mac) hardware.
Microsoft Windows 2000 SP4—This is an aging, but still good and usable system. It’s effectively the same architecture as Windows XP and Vista (the latter of which I consider ‘beta’, since there haven’t been any service packs released yet). Running in Parallels Desktop at near-native speed, this is my primary Windows install—an NT core without all the junk.
Microsoft Windows XP SP2—Since Windows 2000 doesn’t run Internet Explorer 7 or the Pocket PC emulator (thank you, Microsoft), I have a whole Windows XP install just to run IE 7 for testing web sites and the Pocket PC emulator for mobile web testing. Windows XP runs in Parallels Desktop at near-native speed.
Apple Mac OS 9.0.4—Before the Unix-based Mac OS X system that I love so much, Apple’s ‘classic’ operating system was the only real Windows alternative (Linux hadn’t evolved to where it is today). Since my MacBook Pro has an Intel processor, the only option for running Mac OS 9 on my computer is an emulation product called SheepShaver, and it will only run up to version 9.0.4 (while development continued on ‘classic’ Mac OS until version 9.2). It runs a bit slower than it would natively, but it’s hardly noticeable.
MS-DOS 6.22/Microsoft Windows for Workgroups 3.11—My first computer with a graphical user interface was a Gateway 2000 386 which ran Windows for Workgroups 3.11. On that computer, I learned how to make web sites—which led to my career in Information Technology. Windows 3.11, which is really just a graphical interface dropped on top of the MS-DOS command-line system, lives in Parallels Desktop merely for nostalgic purposes.
IBM OS/2 Warp 4.52—While Microsoft was pushing Windows 3.1x on the world, they were also working with IBM to develop a better system. Microsoft soon abandoned the project to focus on Windows (and parts of the code were used in Windows NT, which is the core behind Windows 2000, XP, and Vista). Meanwhile, IBM took what they had developed with Microsoft and released a system called OS/2, which I’m running in Parallels Desktop. It never caught on, but it was far advanced of where Windows was at the time.
Be, Inc. BeOS 5—In the 1990s, a company called Be, Inc. (made up mostly of former Apple employees) came out with a media-oriented operating system called BeOS. Ultimately discontinued after Be, Inc. was bought-out by Palm, BeOS is still regarded as an advanced operating system (even by today’s standards) and still has a small-but-loyal following. A little known fact is that BeOS almost became the Mac OS, though Apple ultimately went with another OS called NeXTstep which became the basis for OS X. BeOS is installed in QEMU, an open source emulation product.
Haiku (Alpha)—Haiku is an open source project to recreate BeOS. It’s come quite a long way, but has limited networking ability so it’s not particularly useful just yet. I’m hopeful that Haiku will grow into a solid competitor for the open source desktop, since it’s more people-oriented than Linux. Haiku is installed in QEMU.
ReactOS 0.3.1—ReactOS is an open source project to create a free, Windows-compatible operating system. It runs many programs, but few of them perfectly (see Firefox in this screenshot, with discolored icons and black gremlins on my web site). Maybe, someday, ReactOS will be available for people who absolutely must have Windows compatibility and don’t want to give Microsoft their money. ReactOS is installed in QEMU.
Syllable 0.6.4—Syllable is an open source project to create an operating system, loosely inspired by BeOS. It is in very early development and has limited software available, so I’m mainly running it just because I can!
FreeDOS 1.0—FreeDOS is an open source version of DOS and compatible with MS-DOS and other legacy DOS systems. This screenshot shows the built-in text editor, but I’m successfully running Word Perfect 5.1 and other DOS programs I remember from yesteryear in this Parallels Desktop install. Ah, memories.
NeXTstep—The only major operating system of yesteryear that I have not been able to get running on my MacBook Pro is NeXTstep. NeXT, founded by Steve Jobs, produced NeXTstep (later OpenStep) in the 1990s and it later became the basis for Mac OS X when NeXT was bought-out by Apple. I have the NeXTstep 3.3 installation media, but have been unable to get it installed in either Parallels Desktop or QEMU.