OS Comparisons

by Eric Schwartz
From the AmiTech-Dayton Gazette, September 2009

Another month passes, and another meeting approaches. This month I plan to bring in my Pegasos system to show off the latest version of the MorphOS system: 2.3. I don't have any formal presentation planned, but my system and I will be available for showing off and answering questions where possible. Overall I am quite satisfied with the new version of the operating system. There's not a lot new and different about it... mostly fixing some bugs and tweaking to improve the way previous updated features work. It would seem elements of the graphics system or video card drivers were updated, as I noticed a few differences and some minor glitches that I hadn't seen before. Nothing that amounts to a real problem though. MorphOS 2.3 can be run on the Pegasos 1, 2, and Efika systems, with a version for PPC Mac Mini and possible other Mac models on the way. Unfortunately the new Efika MX system is not supported, as it uses a different CPU. See you guys at the meeting.

Not long ago, I read a few articles on MorphOS and Amiga OS4. One was a comparison between the two, which largely showed MorphOS as running faster for most tasks on the same hardware. Another was a review of Amiga OS4 on OSnews.com. The review was notable for being written by someone with no previous experience with the Amiga. It was fairly positive, though it was obvious to me (as someone with a lot of Amiga experience) that a fair amount of his issues with OS4 stem from ignorance about how Amiga operating systems work, bias or assumption that they work like Windows or Mac. For example, he stated the system would forget window or icon positions, compared to something like a Mac, which will save things where you left them by default The Amiga requires you to "snapshot" the object positions if you want them remembered (it was a little vague in the comments whether the snapshot function works the same in Amiga OS 4.1 as it did in 3.9 and earlier), which adds a step but gives you an extra level of control to test and check things without committing, or writing to disk if you don't want to. The same goes for preferences and settings, where you can test and use them temporarily, or save them permanently, unlike most other operating systems. It's not necessarily easier, but it's easy enough to understand and make use of the extra control when you get used to it.

I remember years back in college, when I had a graphics class that used Amigas. The instructor introduced the Amigas as "Similar to Macs, but only enough to confuse you." After years using a variety of systems, it's become clear that most people prefer what they are used to using, which more often than not is their first system (or perhaps their first operating system with a graphical interface). If that is a Windows system, them's the breaks. Look at all the various flavors of Linux -- it's pretty much possible for it to have any sort of interface you want, via any window manager and configuration, but most end up a rather direct copies of the Windows interface, to help current and former Windows users feel comfortable. It doesn't take much to provoke a trading of insults between the Windows and Mac camps. I remember clearly in an argument someone called the Mac desktop interface "retarded" for having the window close button in a different corner than it is in Windows, or for using a "dock" instead or a "start bar." I myself felt much better after configuring the window manager on the Linux laptop into a more Amiga-like configuration (because everyone knows having a close button on the right side like Windows does is retarded). It's a pity that these preferences and designs aren't likely to change soon, at least not before the whole paradigm changes, much like the graphic user interface changed the game from the text screen and the DOS prompt. Until then, I'll remain a fan of the way Amiga (and its relatives) do things, and probably for some time afterward too.