Which operating system is best?

So, I do computational science work. More particularly I do astronomy.  I do lots of computational coding as astronomy is a computational heavy field. One great perk of my job that I really enjoy is that I get to run stupidly overpowered computational machines quite often. I use the bash terminal quite often. I run virtual machines, I install operating systems, I debug network problems (probably my least favorite thing to do). Generally the only time I ask for help from the IT department is when I need permissions to install something if I don't already have them. On my off time I play video games, I've edited 4k video, I even write blogs like this.

The operating systems I've used and become familiar with are windows XP all the way to windows 10, the latest versions of Mac OSX, various linux distros such as Scientific Linux, CentOS, Debian, Ubuntu and Raspbian, installed android on various devices, reinstalled iOS on iPhone (may or may not have jailbroken/hacked iPhones as well). Currently I own a MacBook Pro running Mac OS Catalina, I own an iPhone and iPad, own two android tablets, own a nexus 6p and pixel 2, have owned windows laptops, built my own gaming PC that boots Windows 10 pro and the Linux distro CentOS/Ubuntu, own and used a raspberry pi with Arduino for science projects, own a Nintendo Switch (I could hack it if I wanted to, but I support Nintendo by buying their stuff and thus have little reason too), and work with overpowered science computational machines at work running Linux. Basically, what I 'm trying to say is, I spend all my money on tech I don't really need. Why? I don't know, maybe you could call me a tech addict. Basically, if there is something that can be done on a computer, I have very likely dabbled in it.

Maybe I'm also trying to say that I am experienced enough to know the different strengths and weaknesses of many things in the tech world, or at least experienced enough to have a pretty good idea of how I feel about each one I've used. Except for chromeOS. Not only would a Chromebook running chromeOS give me nothing of any unique value, it's wide lack of support and inability to do any real computer work would frustrate me to no end.

Do I have an overall favorite? Not really. At the end of the day it actually surprises me how passionate people sometimes get about the computer that they use. I mean really they are all the same thing, just a bunch of bits being flipped on and off which are organized in insanely complicated circuits. However, each one is better or worse at doing certain tasks, just like a semi truck is better at towing large containers than a Honda Civic while a Honda Civic is much more appropriate for commuting to work.

This is going to go over my personal feelings on the different OS's and you should consider everything an opinion. If you get mad based upon my opinion, well too bad I guess. If you don't like my opinion, it might be because you hate Apple. You might even label me an iSheep. But really, It's hard to say I'm bias towards Apple when I use so many different machines daily. The truth is that I do think that some Apple products have real value (not all of them), even though they can be pricey. I'll be focusing on modern day, up to date operating systems around the time this was published since you know, that's what I currently use while writing this.

Day to Day use and Reliability

For me, Apple is the clear winner in this department. Now before any of you metaphorically burn me at the stake, I do have my reasons. When I say reliability I mean a system that is reliable in many different areas, things generally work, core software (notice I say core software not 3rd party software/apps) is generally bug free. One example is how much of a better bluetooth eperience I have with Apple devices. Another is free software like iMovie which is super useful for simple video editing compared to Windows which abandoned its movie making software (for good reason too). The hardware quality/durability is top tier (most of the time) in nearly every category.  Except maybe for some windows OS versions, is supported for longer than competitors. In the tablet space, Apple is unchallenged. No Android tablet I've found comes close to the digital writing experience provided by the Apple Pencil/iPad Pro combo and yes I have owned a Samsung spen tablet. In fact, every Android tablet I've used doesn't really come close in daily fluidity and usability like the iPad has. It's why Apple dominates the tablet market as of today.

When you have several Apple products, the Apple ecosystem is just next level. An example of Apple tier intercompatiablity is the Sidecar functionality introduced in macOS Catalina. After the update, I literally plugged in my iPad, selected it using Sidecar, and immediately turned it into a second display without a single hiccup. Functionality like this added incredible value to my iPad. When I browse safari on my phone, I can immediately open the same page on my MacBook Pro. My text messages appear on each device which I can respond to from any of them. If I have a PDF I need to sign, I can airdrop it to my iPad, sign it, then export the signed PDF to my MacBook. There are ways you can try to replicate these things using Android/Windows, which I have tried to do, but it just doesn't compare to the level of integration Apple has achieved.

Software Stability

For me this is different than reliability. Stability to me means that someone can write a piece of code and still have it work later in the future. Linux wins in this department. If you do any sort of coding, especially code which is more complex, your code is almost certainly to be broken by Microsoft or Apple due to an update in the future. If you code something to run on linux systems, as long as you choose an appropriate distro, it's much more likely to be able to run 10 years after you write it with nothing needing to be changed. I strongly contend no other generally operating system can claim such a feat.

Customer Service

This is a stomp for Apple. Don't even get me started on the God tier level of bad experiences I've had with Windows hardware suppliers like Dell and Toshiba (after a bout with Dell customer service I did not stop getting, 'your computer is infected' scam calls for months, they refused to fix my computer due to 'physical damage' which was very likely caused by their technicians, and literally passed me around departments for hours! Never again Dell). Both my Nexus 6p and Pixel 2, hardware apparently backed by Google, had serious hardware defects, defects they lost lawsuits over, but I was basically left out to dry anyway (why I went back to iOS). I've even used Samsung customer service as well and basically felt like I was talking to the "We have 300 kilos of gold we want to ship you" email scammers.

Apple has stores where you can literally walk in and get something fixed.  Every time I've had something that needed fixing (within warranty or apple care), it got fixed or replaced. Even though it may take Apple time or even threats of lawsuits, they generally will issue wide repair policies for defects in their hardware, the MacBook Pro keyboard being one of the recent issues. I rarely see this from any other large company. It's one of the top reasons I'm willing to spend a bit extra for their stuff.

Gaming

This is definitely a category that Apple does not win. In fact, I'll surprise you and say that it's the Nintendo Switch/Windows combo that wins.

It's why I own a Nintendo Switch and it's the only console I'll end up buying. Yes, I am counting it as an operating system for this section only. Is it a graphic powerhouse machine? No. Does it have the largest library of 3rd party titles? No. Does it do anything besides game? No. Does Nintendo basically do anything and that's not gaming? Also no. I've always felt that's probably why the quality and polish of their first party titles generally (not always) blows me away. The incredible gameplay their unique titles is what gives them the cutting edge in this department for me, not the power of the equipment. If you look at a game like Breath of the Wild, there's just no other game on other systems that competes with the level of fun I generally have.

However right next to the Switch is Windows PC. What about PS4 and/or Xbox? Any game you can buy for Xbox you can buy for Windows. This is partly due to Microsoft owning Xbox and as such have the ability to make games compatible with both the Xbox and the Windows platform. If you have a gaming PC, there isn't much reason to buy an Xbox. PS4 has some exclusive titles found here, but I'll be honest, it doesn't compare to Nintendo's exclusive IP.  In terms of power, a personal PC is only limited by how much money you are willing to spend and the current state of technology. If you want 40 of the latest NVIDIA cards running in parallel, that's actually a thing you can do and actually is done in the science world. It's basically one way we make a low-tier, relatively cheap, DIY supercomputer. Also if you want to play VR, you basically need a PC. Overall, a gaming PC and Nintendo Switch give you access to literally anything a gamer could possibly want.

Well what about phones you ask? Games on your phone don't compare to dedicated systems.  Have you seen the general market for mobile games? It's swamped by crap, time-sucking, pay-to-win apps. Those aren't games. Those are companies exploiting your primate brain in order to extract money from you. It's why EA has become a company many gamers dislike due to their inclusion of pay-to-win game mechanics. There are a couple of fun games on mobile, some have a good stories, but it doesn't compare to what is available on a dedicated gaming system.

What about other operating systems? I've attempted to game on Mac OS, it's a pretty poor experience compared to almost anything else. I say almost as with Linux, you can't even install the graphics drivers at times. Steam had support for Linux but has now dropped it. If one has to tweak the code of the driver or run the game in a VM, I'm going to say it's just not a very good OS to game on.

Customizability and Flexibility

Linux stomps. You can literally tweak the underlying drivers in the system since it's open source. This is a blessing and a curse. Linux is good for making some sort of tool to do some specific task. It generally isn't something designed for the average consumer, but for those who need a flexible systems or like to tinker with software. If you are using Linux it's probably because you need to do something technical that would be a problematic if you tried to use anything else.

I will say that the least customizable would probably be Apple's mobile operating system iOS. If Apple doesn't want iOS to do something, there is little you can do about it beyond a jailbreak. However, Apple isn't as bad as some might think with macOSX. For example, if you say macOSX isn't flexible, I would retort that is only because you don't know what you are doing. Because you have a bash terminal at the core of macOS, it basically becomes a closed source Linux Distro. As long as you have root privileges, you can install/do whatever your heart desires using the terminal without hacking, which is much different than iOS and even Windows. It will even let you recursively change every permission in every folder if you so desire (something I accidentally did once). Apple does make it macOSX harder than Linux to customize, but it isn't impossible.  It does have some handholding it likes to do, particularly when you install programs from the internet (which I often do), that I find annoying, but I've always found ways around macOSX's handholdy behavior.

Security and Privacy

All operating systems are losers in the security department. Anything can be hacked if you are determined enough to hack into it. It's why the US government backed down from the Apple lawsuit as they successfully hacked iOS without Apple's approval. Any OS can get a virus, get hacked, and/or be rendered unusable. As long as you are using something up to date and as intended, security is more or less provided by how you are using a computer and not the OS itself.

With privacy, it's another story. I will give you my complete, totally without bias whatsoever, and extremely well thought out ranking. This list only includes OS's that I think are at least somewhat relevant.
  1. Linux. It's open source. No company wanting your data means less worry about someone collecting all your data.
  2. Apple. Willing to go to court to keep the government out of your phone. Besides maybe advertising their own services, they don't sell your information or advertise to you as far as I can tell. The data they collect is usually self contained within their products.
  3. Microsoft. I mean they do collect data and serve you ads. Not as bad as Google though.
  4. Android. Like seriously, their whole business is collecting info about your personal life and using it to sell stuff to you. It's why they give Android out for free. It's partly why android phones are so much cheaper as hardware makers don't have to pay an army of OS developers. If you don't care about those things, Google does do some pretty smart/handy stuff with your data, like tell you about traffic on your commute. 

Coding

This one is subjective to say the least. It's also highly dependent on what exactly you are working on. Are you making Windows apps? Windows is very likely your best bet. Are you making apps for iOS or Mac OSX? Mac OSX stomps. What about Android? Completely subjective. What about web development? Any of them will do well enough.  Are you making some random service that needs to run for years on end? Linux is a great choice. Are you doing science? Stable, open source Linux distro's generally stomp (using anything closed source can become a nightmare when things go wrong or need something custom done on a low level). Making a high end game? Windows. Really it's about what you need to do, what your target audience is, and your personal preference.

Personally for my work I do most my coding in Mac OSX. Like I said earlier, since OSX is UNIX based, you could consider it a closed source Linux distro. Nearly every single command I find that runs in a bash Linux terminal runs in the bash terminal in OSX. This is extremely useful for the science work I do since most machines I work with are Unix based. It also means if I write some Python script on a Mac, it generally transfers fairly well to any Linux machine.

Pure Linux can be nice, but if you don't have compatible hardware drivers for a particular distro (like a Asus touchpad), a particular program doesn't install quite right (like Chrome on Scientific Linux), or something doesn't quite work as expected, all I have to say is welcome to Hell. An example of Linux Hell is when I wanted to install a particular Nvidia driver for Scientific Linux. I disabled the GUI, used a terminal to go into a particular folder, modified some random variables using Nano, ran a graphics installer, restarted, modified more random variables with Nano, finally got to the very end of the install just to have it completely fail with no clear fix (trust me I tried, but I'm not going to decompile stuff just to get it to work), all for a chance at being able to have several different monitors with different resolutions scale icons/programs predictably, something I'm going to say is just not very user friendly.

The freedom Linux provides can be extremely powerful, as evidenced by my tweaking with core functionality, but this freedom can lead to endless frustration. Some people like/need this.  Regardless of how friendly Microsoft may get with the Linux crowd, unless they design their system to be Unix based, I will continue to choose macOS due to my work environment, it's far greater Unix compatibility compared to Windows, along with Apple's far better hardware support compared to Linux, being what sells me on using the MacBook Pro as my main machine.

At the End of the Day

I guess the real winner is the company I've given the most money to, which is Apple followed by hardware which runs using Windows and Nintendo. If I were to rank it by the work I do, Linux definitely stomps as it is everywhere in astronomy, with the computers I use at work being far costlier than my measly income could ever hope to afford. 

Maybe that answers your question. Probably not as at the end of the day, it comes down to personal preference, what you want/need to do and how you want to do it. Hopefully though you learned something from my long ass deliberations.

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