Great and Disappointing Operating Systems of the Decade

We loved them, we hated them, we nursed them in the wee hours...


Writing about the best and worst in operating system is like a crap magnet: I'm pressing the big red button. People develop a personal relationship with operating systems, whether on servers or their personal machine or phone. The love/hate relationship becomes anchored with deep emotions about the merits/detractions of the devices they use-- through the lenses of operating systems.

Great in this case means possibly really great, and alternatively, really awful. Some made us happy. Others made us sad, or worse, mad. Some we toiled happily with the winners, while others burned up precious weekend time in fits of compatibility issues, installation nightmares, and startling kernel traps and various blue/black/red screens of death. Some deserved to become dumpster fodder, and others are still humming away, quietly, and doing their job. This is about both kinds.


Windows Millennium Edition (WinME)
This was the last version of Microsoft Windows that ran on top of Microsoft DOS, and it wasn't well-designed. Microsoft released it as a stop gap version to address slightly more memory and disk before the two Windows code bases would be merged together into Windows 2000 client and server editions. Technically, it arrived late in the 1990's, but its inclusion here is to remember the pain of the name.

Windows Vista
Initially, it was boasted that Vista would be the most costliest-ever operating system to develop, and the results were uniformly disastrous. Confusion over what hardware characteristics would be needed to run Vista, lack and dearth of appropriate hardware drivers, OEM confusion, perceived (generally untrue) software compatibility issues, and vastly mixed messages caused this operating system to be avoided by most businesses, and used mostly by hapless consumers who had no choice when they bought a system. Although an architecturally safer system then predecessor Windows XP, Windows XP SP2 heralded an similar architectural change to Vista that demoted the user from root, and stanched Windows security problems, although certainly not altogether.

NetWare 6.5
The world was looking for the joiner of Novell's time-honored and rock-solid NetWare network operating system to be joined fully to Linux. Novell had just purchased SuSE Linux and it looked as though the world might have a powerhouse to rival the initial foibles of Microsoft's then-embryonic Active Directory. Would eDirectory become a rival and gain authentication market share. Today, that goal is an unfulfilled dream for most.

Windows Mobile
The 'smartphone' hardware genre changed everything. When PDAs were merged into cell/mobile phones, the list of possible winners were neck and neck with each other. Palm, RIM, Symbian, and other rivals raced forward only to be stopped in their tracks (like Asimov's 'Mule' in the Foundation Trilogy) by Apple's iPhone.

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