Wednesday, 20 June, 2007

Five PC Operating Systems You’ve Never Heard Of

Well, maybe you’ve heard of one or two… after all, you’re reading this site!

But largely in the computing world, there are the Big Three, with Microsoft leading the pack, Apple making a strong second, and Linux coming up from the rear. On the server side, Solaris and BSD have some light numbers (though they’re adapting to the desktop presently). But when you want to establish yourself as UBER-leet, check out one of these arcane systems and you will forever have bragging rights as one who ventured far off the beaten path.

Plan 9 From Bell Labs - What a tangled history it has! Created by the same visionaries who made Unix, this was an experimental venture to try to re-define the multi-tasking system. Bell Labs orphaned the project and then sold the lab out to Lucent technologies, which killed it completely. If it hadn’t been released as open source, it would be dead today, but instead it has a very tiny cultish following. Arcane in the extreme, it doesn’t see much use today beyond a hobbyist system, some server use, and the parent to Lucent’s own Inferno embedded system project. You can get the live CD free for download from the site.

Minix - While Linux, of Linus Torvalds making, has gone on to acclaim, the professor grading Linus’ papers didn’t think Linux was good enough. Much debate ensued, and professor Tannenbaum released his own idea, dubbed Minix. It is actually very close to Unix-like systems, and has some active development. You can get the live CD free for download from the site.

ReactOS - It’s ironic how many Windows users seeking an alternative to Microsoft never hear of this. ReactOS is being built from the ground up as a free Windows-like system. The project is still in alpha stages, while the team struggles with a code audit amidst accusations that they’re copying Windows too closely. The system does run and does look and feel just like Windows, but getting third party software to run on it is still mostly a gamble at this point. You can get the live CD free for download from the site.

YouOS - Two projects are at the forefront of bringing the concept of an operating system into the web browser application, and one of them is YouOS. YouOS is like an AJAX application that took over. The environment boasts an easy-to-use interface and a tight little following, with a modest suite of applications. There is even a system to install new programs (in Javascript). Free to join.

EyeOS - The other prominent web-based operating system. EyeOS is taking the idea of an operating system a bit more seriously. EyeOS boasts a slick interface that looks sharp, and a full suite of system software. Some innovative tricks are being used to give the whole system more of the feeling of a full system. Free to join.

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