Feeds

Fed up with Windows? Linux too easy? Get weird, go ALTERNATIVE

Something really different to broaden your worldview

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

It's hard to believe, looking at the modern computing world, but there is still more to life than Windows or Unix… and today, most of the alternatives run on vanilla x86 hardware and are free.

Most of them need considerably lower resources than the market-leaders, too, so an old PC is ideal for trying them out. VMs are fine, but you can't get a real feel for an operating system until you've installed it on bare metal.

If you were around in the late 1990s, you might have heard of former Apple exec Jean-Louis Gassée's startup Be. Be Inc started out making its own hardware, then ported to Apple's Power Macintosh hardware, then to x86 and then, after a few final struggles, went under and was bought out.

You can still download the evaluation version of the final release, BeOS 5 Personal Edition, but it was built for tail-end-of-the-'90s hardware, so it's a bit dated today.

However, its spirit lives on in the form of Haiku, a from-scratch FOSS reimplementation which runs the original Tracker desktop and some of the handful of BeOS 5 apps. It's one of the most polished and modern-looking alternative OSes out there, too.

Haiku is well on its way to being a complete FOSS replacement of BeOS. (click to enlarge)

(If you miss BeOS but are content with Linux, there's also ZevenOS, an Xfce-based Ubuntu remix that manages to look uncannily like the real thing.)

ZevenOS, meanwhile, is Ubuntu with Xfce, but skillfully re-skinned to offer the BeOS look and feel.

The BeBox was intended to be a geeks' machine, akin to the Amiga before it. AmigaOS itself lives on – there's a modern PowerPC version, a commercial clone and a FOSS reimplementation: AROS. It's API- but not binary-compatible, but it can emulate the old hardware, and even has an 68000 version for an all-FOSS install. If you're not an old Amiga hand with suitable software hanging around to try on it, there's also Icaros, a distribution with additional preloaded apps.

Huzzah for Windows NT...

Another re-implementation of an existing system aims at something more contemporary: Windows. Yes, there's an open-source effort to recreate Windows NT: ReactOS. It's an interesting idea, but if it ever gets close to completion, I suspect that it will get sued into oblivion with remarkable swiftness.

Another interesting offering, from the turn of the century, is AtheOS – made even more remarkable by the fact that it was a one-man effort. Its creator, Kurt Skauen, has moved on to other things, but the FOSS community has since forked AtheOS to create Syllable. (There's a server product of the same name, too, but it's a Linux distro rather than the Syllable OS.) Although AtheOS started out as an AmigaOS-like system, Syllable doesn't remotely resemble anything Amiga-like any more.

Another ground-up project – albeit one which went closed-source – was Robert Szeleney's SkyOS, but sadly he halted development in 2009. The last beta version was made freely available this year though, if you can find it.

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
NO MORE ALL CAPS and other pleasures of Visual Studio 14
Unpicking a packed preview that breaks down ASP.NET
KDE releases ice-cream coloured Plasma 5 just in time for summer
Melty but refreshing - popular rival to Mint's Cinnamon's still a work in progress
Leaked Windows Phone 8.1 Update specs tease details of Nokia's next mobes
New screen sizes, dual SIMs, voice over LTE, and more
Another day, another Firefox: Version 31 is upon us ALREADY
Web devs, Mozilla really wants you to like this one
Put down that Oracle database patch: It could cost $23,000 per CPU
On-by-default INMEMORY tech a boon for developers ... as long as they can afford it
Mozilla keeps its Beard, hopes anti-gay marriage troubles are now over
Plenty on new CEO's todo list – starting with Firefox's slipping grasp
Apple: We'll unleash OS X Yosemite beta on the MASSES on 24 July
Starting today, regular fanbois will be guinea pigs, it tells Reg
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.