Software Technologies

By Alex Toner

Operating systems

The purpose of an operating system is to organize and control hardware and software so that the device it lives in behaves in a flexible but predictable way. In this article, I tell you what a piece of software must do to be called an operating system, show you how the operating system in your desktop computer works and give you some examples of how to take control of the other operating systems around you.

Not all computers have operating systems. The computer that controls the microwave in your kitchen, for example, doesn't need an operating system. It has one set of tasks to perform, very straightforward input to expect (a numbered keypad and a few pre-set buttons) and simple, never-changing hardware to control.

For other devices, an operating system creates the ability to:

  • serve a variety of purposes
  • interact with users in more complicated ways
  • keep up with needs that change over time

All desktop computers have operating systems. The most common are the Windows family of operating systems developed by Microsoft, the Macintosh operating systems developed by Apple and the UNIX family of operating systems (which have been developed by a whole history of individuals, corporations and collaborators). There are hundreds of other operating systems available for special-purpose applications, including specializations for mainframes, robotics, manufacturing and so on.

The operation system

  • The operation system controls the backing store and peripherals such as scanners and printers
  • Deals with the transfer of programs in and out of memory
  • Organises the use of memory between programs
  • Organises processing time between programs and users
  • maintains security and access rights of users
  • deals with errors and user instructions
  • allows the user to save files to a backing store
  • provides the interface between the user and the computer - for example, Windows Vista and Apple OSX. For more information, see the User Interfaces Revision Bite.

Investigate application software used to develop games

Applications are programs written to carry out a specific task or set of tasks, for example: word processors, spreadsheets, accounting packages, media players and games.

Types of applications software

Applications come in several different types:

  • Utility programs - examples include virus scanners, disk defragmenters and backup utilities.
  • Generic - general purpose software that is not written for any particular type of business. Examples of this include word processors and spreadsheets.
  • Integrated - a collection of software that has a common set of commands/icons. Usually they include word processors, spreadsheets and graphics software, but they can contain databases as well. They tend to be cheaper than purchasing each application separately.
  • Specific - software written for a defined purpose. Accountancy software is a good example of this that can be bought by anyone.
  • Bespoke - bespoke software is written when a company requires a piece of software to perform a very specific task or function and there's no existing software that does what they need. It can be very expensive.

Investigate drivers for sound, graphics and network interface cards for game platforms

A device driver or a driver, is a computer program that operates or controls a particular type of device that is attached to a computer.

A driver provides a software interface to hardware devices, enabling operating systems and other computer programs to access hardware functions without needing to know precise details of the hardware being used.

Investigate graphical and sound APIs used for game platforms

An API is a set of functions and procedures that allow the creation of applications which access the features or data of an operating system, application, or other service.

Investigate software technologies used for games on television

With both the PS4 and Xbox One having already shifted in huge numbers and sales still brisk to say the least, it's clear that for many of our TVs are no longer just TVs.

They also need to be gaming TVs. Which is actually pretty unfortunate considering that many TVs really don't lend themselves to gaming at all, potentially even significantly damaging your gaming skills.

To make sure this doesn't happen to you, here's my pick of the top 3 best gaming TVs in order of all-round desirability once value as well as gaming quality has been taken into account.

Sony KDL-50W829

  • Combines superb HD pictures with incredibly low input lag.
  • Price: Around £600

There are three great reasons for gamers to love this TV. First and most importantly, its input lag - the time it takes to render pictures - measures just 19ms. This is an exceptionally low figure for a TV, and clearly helps your performance in fast-reaction games.

The 50W829 also works wonders with game images thanks to its excellent contrast, colour and motion reproduction. And finally at £600 it's outrageously good value for such a high-quality 50-inch TV.

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Samsung UE65JS9500

  • Delivers astonishing 4K pictures ever with exceptionally little input lag
  • Price: Around £6000

With its 4K resolution and incredible high dynamic range (HDR) colour and contrast support, Samsung's flagship 65-inch TV for 2015 provides an incredible gaming experience. The 4K upscaling is so good it makes your console games look better than HD, and its unprecedentedly dynamic pictures are ideal for game graphics.

Plus, amazingly, the UE65JS9500 delivers all this while only suffering around 30ms of input lag - exceptionally low for a 4K TV. It's only problem is it's eye-watering price.

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Sony KD-65X9005B

  • Superb 4K pictures meet terrifyingly good sonics
  • Price: Around £2,800

If you like the idea of your gaming getting a 4K spit and polish like you get with the Samsung UE65JS9500 but can't afford six grand, Sony's 65X9005B is a spectacular cut-price alternative. It costs only half as much, yet still delivers excellent - albeit not HDR - 4K pictures handily accompanied by the most powerful integrated sound in the TV world. Modern games, after all, are as much about sound as visuals. Its input lag is low at 33ms too.

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Investigate platform dependency of game platforms

Macs come with Mac OS X, but you can easily install Windows on them with Apple's built-in Boot Camp feature. Boot Camp installsWindows in a dual-boot configuration. You'll know what to expect ifyou've ever installed Linux alongside Windows. Both operating systems will be installed, but you can only use one at a time