Mac OS is the flagship series of GUI (Graphical User Interface) based operating systems designed for Apple’s Macintosh computer. The first version was very integral to the original Macintosh in 1984, yet unnamed and simply referred to as system software. According to CEO Steve Jobs, Apple purposely downplayed the existence of their operating system to distance it from systems like MS-DOS, which was viewed as more technically challenging.
Mac OS X was officially released in 1997, with early versions only supporting Motorola 68000-based Macintosh computers. Shortly thereafter, Apple released computers with PowerPC hardware, eventually updating their operating system to support the new architecture. Mac operating systems are currently compatible with PowerPC and Intel hardware.
Evolution of the Mac Operating System
Mac OS X introduced a Unix-like memory management system and preemptive multitasking to the Macintosh platform. This system was built on the Mach kernel
and BSD implementation of Unix, features originally incorporated in the NeXTSTEP operating system. This memory system enabled more applications to run simultaneously, tremendously reducing the possibly of programs crashing each other.
PowerPC versions of the Mac OS X came with built-in layers to support old Mac applications, allowing a full copy of the Classic Mac operating system version 9.1 or higher to function in the Mac OS X environment. These Macintosh computers were shipped with both operating systems with the Mac OS having to be manually installed by the user. Most of the old applications functioned well on this platform but there have been some compatibility issues. The Classic Environment is not supported on Intel-based machines mainly because of incompatibilities with the Mac OS and the hardware. Mac OS was removed entirely with the release of Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard.
Most users of the classic Mac operating system upgraded to OS X, though some criticized it for being less user-friendly. The new version also lacked certain features, ran slower and also had major compatibility problems with older software. With a number of drivers for printers, scanners and tablets of the Mac OS incompatible with the OS X, several Macintosh users continued to use the classic version. It was reported in 2005 that significant upgrades allowed more users to run the Mac OS X while only a handful still use the classic OS.
The Mac operating system has always been more secure than Windows with fewer malware infections and other security threats. However, this system is far from perfect. In July of 2008, a security patch was released for versions of the Mac OS X Leopard and Tiger to address multiple issues. Among several fixes, one of the most critical was for the BIND (Berkeley Internet Name Domain) server feature. Though it’s not enabled by default, when switched on the feature is potentially vulnerable to flaws in the DNS system that help facilitate Internet Protocol and translate websites into IP addresses. Any user failing to apply the patch are susceptible to having their DNS cache poisoned, tricking the browser into visiting malicious sites even after typing in a legitimate URL.
Users of Mac OS X Leopard are specifically vulnerable to the system’s QuickLook feature and Microsoft Office files that could allow the execution of malicious code.