I have always had a fascination with the idea of alternative operating systems and over the years i have come across and played
with (even developed applications for) a variety of them. However there has always been a few I've followed closely which have stood out, head and shoulders above the crowd. I have compiled a short list and description of what in my opinion are the top 5 best alternative, open source operating systems out there.
Number 5: AROS Icaros 1.4.1
AROS, formerly known as Amiga research operating system, since changed to the recursive acronym AROS Research Operating System to avoid trademarks troubles, was started in 1995 by the small AROS development team and had its initial release in 1997. Its goals where to create a modern Amiga OS clone for personal computers (PCs to you and me) and over the years it has largely succeeded in doing so. The platform is released under the GPL and has seen several spin off distributions including Broadway, the Acer Aspire One (one of which i own) centric AspireOS and my personal preference, Icaros Desktop which includes 3D accelerated graphics for Nvidia cards and 3rd party applications.
If you want to know more about AROS or try it for yourself, you can find it all via their blog (http://vmwaros.blogspot.com/). So thats AROS, our number 5.
Number 4: MenuetOS M64 0.98.51
MenuetOS is a real time operating system with preemptive scheduling developed by Ville M. Turjanmaa out of russia. It saw its first release in 2000 and is licensed under the GPL.
Menuet features a fully fledged graphical desktop environment which includes basic applications for general use, graphics drivers and a monolithic kernel all (astonishingly) written in assembly language (FASM to be precise) which is no small feat. It runs on fat32, supports multi core processing and comes in 32bit and 64bit variants, it can also play Quake. Need i say more? If you want to learn more about this sub 2 megabyte wonder you can find it at their project site (http://www.menuetos.net/). Again thats MenuetOS, our number 4.
Number 3: Syllable OS 0.6.7
After the AtheOS project stagnated and died a small team of developers decided they would fork and Syllable was born. Syllable is a much more modern take than the previous two entries with a native, WebKit based web-browser (the same engined you would find under the hoods of Chrome and Safari) called Webster, and
email client called whisper media player, spatial file manager, fully featured Graphical desktop environment built on its own GUI toolkit and much much more. It also has its own IDE for
3rd partyapplication development , a scripting language called REBOL, is POSIX compliant and supports preemptive scheduling, SMP and has its own 64bit, journaled file system called AFS (Atheos File System). It also provides good hardware support with drivers for a large amount of modern devices. Syllable is yet another GPLs liscensed OS and If you wish to test drive Syllable or grab the source code for yourself, you can head over to their main page (http://web.syllable.org/pages/index.html), grab a copy of either the desktop or server LiveCD image and get tinkering. At number 3, SyllableOS.
Number 2: ReactOS 0.3.14
Our number four is a small project is big aspirations. The GPL’d ReactOS was started in 1997 as a spin off at a former attempt (FreeWin) to clone windows 95. Its aims where to build a modern operating system with fully binary compatibility with Windows 2000/XP using Wine, Which stands for (yet another recursive acronym here) Wine is not an emulator. After various
incremental updates over the years now supports a slew of Windows applications, games and drivers, and does so quite well, It also has its own Shell32 clone which as of the current release, supports theming.
Controversy arose however in 2006 when an accusation was made that dis-assembled assembly code taken directly from Window had been used for various parts, after a lengthily code audit this was proven not to be the case (fair play to them for not succumbing to that temptation). React boast the proud achievement of being able to play a variety of Direct X 9 games such as Unreal tournament, Quake 1-3 and Halo 1 and as the releases roll on applications and games are added to that list. For more, head over to their home page (http://www.reactos.org/en/index.html) and dig trough their documentation and application test results database. The venerable Windows clone, ReactOS at number 2.
Number 1: Haiku OS R1 alpha 3
Some of you may be old enough to remember BeOS, the software platform from the now defunct Be Inc which ran initially on the companies incredible dual AT&T Hobbit (as well as 3 AT&T 9308S DSPs) powered BeBox and eventually PowePC and x86 platforms. After the untimely demise of Be Inc. in 2001 an effort began in 2003 to re-create an open source clone of Haiku, carrying on in the legacy of its former parent. OpenBeOS as it was then known, was based on the NewOS kernel written by former Be Inc. engineer Travis Geiselbrecht and was released under MIT license by the newly formed,
non-profit organization Haiku Inc. However after a trademark infringement notification from the then owners of Be Inc, Palm (which are now themselves dead and gone) in 2004 the platforms name was changed to Haiku OS. Haiku has an interface model which supports interaction by thirdparty applications developers with key components in the system for gaming, input, audio and so on. It also has its own filesystem (OpenBeFS) OpenGL, and support for rudimentary hardware acceleration as well as a beautifully functional, wing-tabbed desktop environment . Haiku also has slew of modern desktop orientated applications like a webkit based browser, dubbed Web+ (or Web positive) after the BeOS browser Net plus, VLC support, graphical editing and so on. The OS adopts the principles and ethos of BeOS has done a great job in carrying on its legacy.
In fact i may have to do an article soon on BeOS and its advanced features such as protected memory which are only now seeing use in modern operating systems. Haiku is sadly only available for 32bit and comes in a few varieties which are compiled both using the older GCC 2 to maintain backward compatibility with BeOS and with the more modern GCC 4. If you are interested in getting your mitts on Haiku then you can either download the current “stable” release, R1 alpha 3 from their main page (http://haiku-os.org) or head over to haiku files (http://www.haiku-files.org/) which i strongly suggest as much has improved since the last public release. So at our top spot i give you Haiku OS.
So that wraps up my top 5 list of alternative operating systems, i hope you have enjoyed reading it as i did compiling and i hope you enjoy exploring them as i have. So please feel free to show your support to the projects above, With all of the work they have done over the years in the name of computing god knows they deserve it.