Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Operating System Features I'd Like to See
FOSS operating systems are great and I enjoy using and adapting them, but they are missing certain features which could make them even better.
One issue with FOSS operating systems is the plethora of package managers. Fedora even has two different package managers: apt-get and yum. Slackware has their own version of apt-get that they call slapt-get. The three BSDs use pkgsrc and the Sharp Zaurus used a similar package manager called ipkg. If you use KDE you are probably familiar with kpackage.
All these different package managers do take a bit of getting used to but it's the package names that are really confusing. One can't assume that the package names used by openbsd have the same names used by Fedora or Debian, or even if they have grouped programs together in the same fashion. One can't assume the every package used by Debian has a BSD counterpart and vice-versa.
But what I find most lacking in every package manager I've tried so far is that there is no way to see different categories of packages. There should be some way to list all text editors or browsers or games. Perhaps some package manager can do this but I haven't seen it yet. Another feature I'd like see is a suggestion feature based on the amount of ram available on the computer. For example, if your computer has 256 megs of ram or less it could suggest you to install dillo rather than the more voluminous firefox. Package managers could also tell you exactly how much hard drive storage space will be consumed before you actually install the package. (UPDATE: Fedora 14 does warn users when hard drive space is low.)
In general the resource management of computers could use a lot of improvement. It should be impossible for the user to lock up the computer by over-using it's resources but the truth is that it's easy to do (I'm looking at you firefox). It would be nice if one could tell the operating system not to let any individual program to use more than 50% of the available ram or at least have the operating system ensure that there is always a minimum amount of ram in reserve so the OS doesn't become unresponsive. Ditto for hard drive space, the OS should at least warn the user that the drive is becoming full and that some space should
be freed up.
Along the same lines any interactive program that becomes unresponsive should generate a warning message from the operating system to the user asking them if they would like the program killed. This process could even be automatic: e.g. the OS could kill any interactive program after zero response after a certain length of time.
Any operating system should be able to completely reset it's video driver. Assuming there is no hardware failure it should always be possible to reset the video card to a usable state without having to reboot the computer. My understanding is that this is not the case with current video drivers.
Labels: Operating Systems
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