BeOS 5 - Quick Introduction.


What is BeOS?
Brief History
Why BeOS? Advantages
Disadvantages
The Future
 
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1. What is BeOS?
BeOS is a modern Operating System, specially optimized for speed, efficiency, ease of use and multimedia. It is also known as "The Media OS".

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QuakeII, QuakeI, VoidRunner, Axia, RollemUp, Abuse, Hexen, Descent, Doom, Heretic. An extremely stable and fast OS, running all those games simultaneously, on a dual 533 Celeron PC.

2. Brief History
Jean-Louis Gassee and Steve Sakoman, both former Apple employees, formed Be, Inc in 1991. Shortly after, Benoit Shillings joined them and started designing and developing BeOS from scratch. In contrast with popular belief, BeOS kernel and OS design is not based on Unix. In the beggining, BeOS could run on a 7-proccessor machine using AT&Ts' Hobbit CPU (1993). But, soon after, AT&T stopped developing this CPU, so Be took the decission to port the OS to Macintosh based machines (1995). However, BeOS never took off on PPCs, mostly because of the already relatively small PPC userbase, and because Apple was not that "kind" to Be... In March 1998, and while BeOS has reached Release 3, BeOS came to Intel x86 machines. With very limited hardware support, and even fewer software available, it was not well received by the consumers the first 6 months. But, this bunch of only 50 Be engineers, brought Release-4 on November 1998, which cleared up a lot of issues in the Intel platform. Release-4.5 came out on June 1999, and for the first time, someone could say that BeOS had come to age, adding a lot of hardware support, other OS specific improvements, and a lot of freely available software by third parties. On March 2000, BeOS 5 Personal Edition came out, for the first time BeOS is FREE, easier than ever to install (no partitioning required - it installs in an existing fat32/ntfs/ext2 partition through an easy Installer program) with more hardware compatibility than ever.

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TVCard, OpenGL based VoidRunner, Astral Demo from TBL, Doom, Descent, Hexen...

3. Why BeOS? Advantages
Why someone would like to try BeOS? Well, there are certain advantages that someone can enjoy in comparison to the other "traditional" OSes:
a. Speed
BeOS boots in less than 10 seconds. The applications are launching instantly. Media operations are faster than anywhere else. For example encode videos in the 1/3 of the time than it would take to another OS!
b. Ease of use
BeOS has the easiest OS environment to use of all - it was created with simplicity in mind. It's using some ideas of the Mac User Interface, others from the Windows, and it has a lot new features too. The great thing about BeOS is that it is so portable that you can change your hardware, and BeOS will never ask you for drivers! If the new hardware is supported, it will work out of the box. You can even remove the hard drive that BeOS is installed, install it to a *completely* different machine, and BeOS will boot like nothing happened (provided that the new machine meets the hardware comp. specs). Even if you have to install drivers for some reason, just by copying the driver file to a directory will be enough most of the times! Drag it, drop it, and that's it! You probably won't even have to reboot!
c. Responsiveness and stability
Do this test for me please: Clutter your desktop with as many windows you want, open videos, games, format a floppy disk, encode an mp3, browse the web and you will still be able to have immediate response from the OS! No cursor lagging, no crashes. Why? Mainly because BeOS has been developed from scratch. The no-existant backwards compatibility issues, its great multitasking and multithreading design is giving the OS wings.
d. Journaling, attributed file system
BeOS features a 64-bit journaling file system. Using the power of the attributes, you can sort, search and view your files as it was a database. BeOS filetypes are based on the Internet MIME-typing standard, and they can be customized on a systemwide basis, for individual files, or for large groups of files.
e. Symmetric multiprocessing
If your PC has more than one processor, BeOS will work out of the box with up to 8 CPUs squeezing out as much horse power as it is possible. No additional tweaking required. Plus, you can turn ON/OFF your CPUs on the fly with a click of a button! (Linux anyone? :)
f. Clean, C++ API
Because the BeOS does not contain any legacy code, and because of its 100% Object Oriented clean API structure, makes it the easiest platform to develop for. The Be API and other resources can be found either online for PE users or in the BeOS 5 PRO CD installation. The IDE, compiler (gcc), libs, samples, and documentation are all distributed freely! BeOS also contains a POSIX compliant layer, that makes easier the porting of Unix programs and also features a BASH terminal for all the CLI lovers out there.

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GoBe Word Processor, TVCard, Bash Terminal, ICQ, mp3... BeOS proves to be an excellent desktop OS

4. Disadvantages
As all human creations, BeOS has some dissadvantages too... :)
Still, the hardware support is not up to par with Windows. So, don't expect your all singing and dancing DVD-RAM to burn DVDs. But, we have to grant respect to the folks at Be, who gave such a big push to hardware compatibility on version 5.
Another problem is hardware accelerated OpenGL. While software rendered OpenGL is incorporated to the OS, the accelerated API and device drivers are not here yet. At the moment, Be is re-writting the whole OpenGL support. 3Dfx Voodoo2/3/4/5, Matrox G200/G400, ATI Radeon & Intel 810 are among the cards that will enjoy full 3D acceleration with the new drivers coming out shortly after the BeOS 5 Pro Edition.
Networking is not that great too at its current state, but again Be is hard at work to bring BONE, the new networking stack, which will be as efficient as the *BSD one.

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Multitasking, multithreading at its best:
2 MPEG videos, 1 AVI, 1 MOV, 2 WAV, 1 MIDI, 1 mp3, TVCard, OpenGL render, and the CPU monitor

5. The Future
BeOS 5 Personal Edition, which is freely available for download, does not feature the licensed items found on the BeOS 5 Pro Edition. While the Personal Edition is fully functional and unlimited, the full version features lots of other goodies (Real Player, mp3 encoding, Indeo CODECs, unlimited partition size etc). Among the new things to come in a later date is also full Java 2.0 support and maybe Opera 5.

Quick BeOS 5 Troubleshooting

For more information about the BeOS, make sure you visit:
http://free.be.com - Download BeOS 5 for FREE
http://www.BeNews.com - The place with more Be News
http://www.BeBits.com - The ultimate BeOS software site
http://www-classic.be.com - BeOS development resources and API guide

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Last Updated: 20 March 2001