As long as computer operating systems have been around, there have been zealots and advocates for each and every one of them. OS/2 anyone? This includes all platforms, big and small… I remember working for a large pharmaceutical company near Chicago immediately after college, where there were regular heated debates about the superiority of DEC’s VAX/VMS operating system over whatever flavor IBM mainframe OS was running (I forget what it was — it was over 16 years ago — maybe AS/400).

This phenomenon has only gotten more and more intense on the desktop OS side — with Windows Vista, Mac OS X, and all the various Linux distros out there. It can be a fun discussion to have amongst technically inclined people — just be sure to keep sharp objects out of reach. But when it comes to end users, are we setting people up for failure? Or at least repeated headaches and heartaches?

My point is this — the best operating system is the one that works best for the individual. Full stop. I’m sure this is not a unique position to take. But as many of us who read Lockergnome are people looked to for computer advice and guidance, we ought to rethink how we dispense that advice. We owe it to our friends, family, customers, and clients. Stop with the knee jerk type of response we’re all prone to use: “[Insert OS here] is the best.”

Look at the big picture. Ask questions and listen before responding. What OS do they currently run? What applications do they current run (and rely heavily on)? What kind of peripherals do they have? What is their tolerance level for learning something new? How willing are they to spend money if upgrades are required? The more interactive the discussion, the more likely you are to get that big picture. And the more likely you give better advice to those asking for it.