What’s in an operating system? Most computer users would find it fairly difficult to use a computer without one, but what operating systems do people choose and why?
In 2017, Microsoft Windows was the most popular operating system in the United States with about 75 percent of the market share of desktop operating system.
“I choose to use Windows because it’s more accessible, and compatible with more systems than Apple,” physiology sophomore Marie Garcelon said. “I’ve found it to need less frequent updates and function properly for longer periods of time than [Mac OS X].”
Mac OS X had the second largest market share of operating systems in 2017 at about 20 percent.
But for about 2% of users, GNU/Linux, usually just called Linux, offers an alternative to popular operating systems like Windows and Mac OS X.
The GNU/Linux operating system was developed in 1983 by Richard Stallman. Anyone can download, use and modify the system, but only if they re-distribute their changes to it under the same licensing terms.
Not only is Linux free to download and install, but for some users, it’s also more secure. Food Science senior Tam Lin describes Linux as “more safe” than other operating systems.
“There’s less programs dealt towards like going in and putting a virus on Linux,” Lin said. “So that’s one thing that’s okay.”
For Chemical Engineering junior Julian Gabrail, protecting privacy is also a concern when it comes to choosing an operating system.
“They’re not pretty much stalking you like they are with Windows,” Gabrail said. “That’s kind of a thing. Linux doesn’t have tracking like Windows does. And Linux was also free, and I didn’t really want to buy an OS.”
For Gabrail, collecting data is one thing but acting on that data is where he draws the line.
“Sometimes, it helps with advertisements with certain interests and they can put ads to relate to that,” Gabrail said. “So I guess in some aspect it’s okay, but I’d say in terms of legal issues, if it’s not a threat to other other people, then they shouldn’t pursue it. They shouldn’t have the right to pursue that.”
Although Garcelon said she doesn’t generally have privacy concerns when it comes to using Windows, she also admitted “that stems from being uneducated on what data I give and allow them to share.”
“I think it’s unethical to spy on product users for money,” Garcelon said. “I can agree that collecting data is important for a company’s demographics but there is a certain standard of privacy that must be granted to users.”
Although Lin uses Windows more often than Linux, he says there are privacy concerns with using both operating systems.
“There aren’t as many things that are compatible with Linux so I don’t see a problem with putting information on there,” Lin said. “But at the same time, someone’s always going to have some way to reach that, so I wouldn’t say one has more of an issue.”
Despite their privacy concerns when it comes to their choice of operating system, Lin and Gabrail said they use Windows more often than Linux because it’s more convenient.
They also both described their lack of programming experience as a barrier to using Linux to its fullest extent.
“Though I did switch back to Windows because one, I wasn’t really that great with coding,” Gabrail said. “I know you have way more control with Linux.”
Installing GNU/Linux on your computer can seem like a daunting task, especially if you’re not very familiar with the ins and outs of operating systems. Keeping the system running properly is another issue in and of itself.
“Yeah, but I’m sure if I got comfortable with Linux, I could probably use it,” Gabrail said.