All of the lab's general-purpose computers are currently running OS 10.5 ("Leopard"). Older ones based on the PPC processor also run OS 9 ("Classic") programs but those programs are obsolescent and should be used only to read old files. Do not use them to create new files.
OS X is built atop BSD unix, which is one of the most reliable operating systems available, and supports virtually every open standard. If an application is written to run under Unix or Java, it can probably be made to work on OS X. Perl and Python are also built in.
Normally, however, you will want to use applications written specifically for OS X. These "native applications" use two generations of programming code and graphical interface with the user—two generations of technology—which Apple have arbitrarily named Carbon and Cocoa. Carbon is the adaptation to OS X of what they had before; Cocoa is a rethinking and enhancement. Cocoa applications are usually easier to use and integrate better with one another, and they draw text more legibly on the screen.
Lab computers fall into these categories:
Problems and maintenance of the file server and general-purpose desktop computers are the responsibility of Research and High-Performance Computing Support (RHPCS). However, RHPCS are strapped for personnel and we are strapped for funds to pay them, so we try to use their services as little as possible. Problems should normally be filtered through Daphne, who will decide when it is necessary to call in RPHCS and when it is appropriate to ask Charlie to do something instead.
In the interests of security, the lab's system has no public access and has disabled all facilities for sharing files directly with Windows clients and servers, although files can be transferred by SFTP. None of the computers will send or receive a fax because faxing requires an analog telephone line and the University's phone system is digital. (Never plug a computer's analog modem into a digital telephone line.)