Advantages and Disadvantages of the Unix Operating System

by Alan Hughes
Unix runs many systems that drive the Internet.

Unix runs many systems that drive the Internet.

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Unix originated in 1969 as a small, limited functionality operating system, but has since developed into a robust, full-featured operating system that many companies depend on for their daily business operations. While Windows is predominant in the desktop computer world, Unix runs the computers that, among other things, manage phone systems, electronic commerce and the Internet.

History

The Unix operating system was birthed in Bell Laboratories in 1969 by several programmers who decided to tinker with a computer that had been ignored for a while. The result was a new operating system, and because it was written in the C programming language, it was portable across computing platforms. There are now many vendor flavors of Unix, including POSIX, AIX and HP-UX. Linux is a Unix-compatible operating system written by Linux Torvalds specifically for x86 Intel chips, the most common processor in desktop and laptop computers.

Advantages

Unix provides true multi-user, multitasking, protected memory operation, while using a minimal amount of memory. Unix also provides solid user security via its account validation and authentication. In Unix, everything is a file, including the terminal and all devices, which simplifies input/output operations. Linux is very portable, which means it can run on a number of different hardware platforms, making it easy for users to install on whatever hardware they choose to use.

Disadvantages

Unix is not a very user-friendly operating system. Its basic interface is the command line, and even experienced users can make mistakes using this interface -- and mistakes in Unix can be disastrous. Some of the commands, as well as their options, can be cryptic, and even though there are numerous utilities and applications for the Unix/Linux platforms -- which is an advantage of sorts -- it can be too much for someone new to Unix. In addition, documentation on many of these tools is hard to find, and is also often incomplete.

Uses

Unix makes a great platform for utility servers such as Domain Name System, or DNS, Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol, or DHCP, and Web servers. Its lean architecture preserves resources for the actual applications that you want to run, rather than consuming them just to boot the operating system itself. Unix also provides a stable and secure platform for applications that do not require direct user interaction with the operating system.

About the Author

Alan Hughes has more than 30 years of experience in IT including mainframes, programming, client/server, networks, project management, security, disaster recovery, information systems and hardware. He holds a master's degree in applied computer science and several certifications. He currently teaches information technology at the university level.

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