Haiku Alpha 1: Rebirth of legend (Part 1 of 5: Startup and first look)

Autumn has come and with it a successor springs

As a quick recap or the ‘too long, didn’t read’ (tdlr) version of the intro to the Haiku Alpha series, Be had started life making its own software (BeOS) and hardware (BeBox) — but in the end, three things had hurt Be: struggling to compete in a Windows dominion, the lost candidacy at becoming the next generation Mac OS (and the end of Mac clones), and finally, their push into the Internet Appliance market (which failed as the technologies needed to make it attractive to consumers were ahead of Be’s time). By 2002, Be was gone (1).

Thus, in the ashes of Be’s collapse, there were aficionados of the BeOS who tried to keep the legacy going through various distributions and forks (such as Max and Zeta) — but there really wasn’t one successor to lead the way. That is… until the appearance of the OpenBeOS (renamed Haiku later in its development), which finally reached Alpha status in the autumn of 2009 on September 14 (2).

And so — without further prologue, that brings us to today’s topic: Haiku Alpha 1.

Contents

Like the BeOS reviews, this one for Haiku Alpha 1 will be split into several parts:

Part 1 of 5: This article — Startup and first look

Part 2 of 5: Applications

Part 3 of 5: Demos

Part 4 of 5: Applets and Preferences

Part 5 of 5: Tracker, Odds and Ends, and Shutting Down

Bonus: Installing Haiku R1/Alpha 1

Sector 1 of 9: Startup

As a quick visual review, the last time that we saw the BeOS back in Exp/Dano, the startup screen looked like this (and I’ll also add this same design dates back to R4.5 “Genki”):

Compare the old purple and white theme to the fresh new look Haiku presents the user with. Like we’d seen back in Zeta 1.21, Haiku decided to dispense with the top left alignment and instead opts for a centered boot splash.

Like the Be logo at the bottom of the classic boot splash, Haiku’s logo is also in color with green, orange, and yellow leaves on it. Notice that the progress bar is now made up of gray rounded rectangles or ‘blocks’ rather than orbs. Oh, and, when the icons light up from a dimmed out gray, they’re in color as shown below:

When all the blocks load, it appears like this:

This one theme would be the standard for all subsequent Haiku releases, from Alpha 2 to the current Nightly builds (as of when this article was written).

Now, the next screen that we’ll see (if we’re booting from the CD) is this one. Any time we boot into a live session, we’re prompted with a simple: “Do you wish to run the Installer or continue booting to the Desktop?” with buttons for the Desktop and Installer.

Alpha 1 not only supports booting directly from the CD (as modern media in late 2009 did), but it also allowed booting directly to the Desktop from the CD. While this is something that popular distributions (like Ubuntu in the Linux world and Max in the Be world) had already done and offered out of the box, keep in mind the classic BeOS CDs usually would boot to the Installer. So when I see this little box, I think of how Haiku meshed together the live CD era with a continuation of the past. And even though this box is simple, Haiku set a precedent for all the subsequent releases and Nightly builds.

Like in BeOS, when the Desktop loads, we get a nice shade of blue that comes up (and is still there to this day):

Now again, for comparison, this was the last time that the Be world had seen an official BeOS desktop (Release 5/“Maui”):

And as a bonus, this is what “Dano” (a leaked beta of BeOS after R5) looked like — which is really cool in more ways than one! If you are new to BeOS, definitely check out Dano! It really has so much to explore unique to itself — an experimental decor set in Screen preferences, net features in Boneyard preferences and Spy-o-Matic, and so much more.

Sector 2 of 9: Desktop exploration

Anyway… at last, we get back to the true focus of our review. This is Alpha 1. Other than a few subtle differences, you can see how Haiku truly is the BeOS reborn:

The Deskbar

Now, just like in the classic BeOS, we have the Deskbar anchored to the top right of the Desktop (and as usual, if one chooses to drag it by the handle on the right side of the clock, the Deskbar can then align to any edge or corner). 

In this version, we have the tray with desk applets (the ever useful ProcessController) and the clock, tiles for running applications (currently Tracker), and its Leaf menu. This new icon is a pleasantly blue leaf, maybe because it makes me recall the gorgeous blue Apple menu logos in Mac OS X 10.0–4. And though I’ve never used it, the blue here also is reminiscent of the MorphOS butterfly…

For comparison, here’s the Deskbar from Dano — the final BeOS. There are a few subtle differences (Haiku features gradients and a flat applet tray), but as you can see in the above screenshot with Haiku… it’s definitely the Deskbar.

i. Inside the Leaf menu

And since it is the main piece of the Deskbar, let’s switch back to Haiku and look inside the Leaf menu itself. Here, we have About This System, Find, a Show Replicants check toggle, and submenus for Mount, Deskbar Settings, Shutdown, Recent Documents, Recent Applications, Applications, Demos, Desktop Applets, and Preferences. (And if enabled, Recent Folders can appear as well; also, you’ll notice ‘Mount’ which doesn’t appear in the Be menus).

ii. Comparison to the Be menu

And once again, since Haiku (Alpha 1) is the direct successor to the BeOS, let’s compare the contents of the two menus. As you can see between the top screenshot (Haiku Alpha 1) and bottom screenshot (BeOS “Dano”), it’s very similar to BeOS… (oh, and as for the open Deskbar Settings, I’ll get to those momentarily):

iii. Configure Deskbar Menu box

Inside the Deskbar Settings submenu (which again, I’ll open soon), we have the Configure Deskbar menu box, which is pretty much the same as “Configure Be Menu” from the old BeOS. On its left, we can add a new group, and there’s check boxes to toggle Recent Documents, Recent Applications, and Recent Folders. Each has a text box which defaults to showing 10 items. On the right, there’s a pop-up menu and a menu-like pane with ‘groups’ or folders. And finally, there’s buttons to Edit, Open, Add, and Remove the listed groups.

Now… what’s always intrigued me about the Configure box is why it was made when the Be menu can more readily be edited in Tracker. This thinking is something the next Haiku release thankfully saw also— as it did away with the Configure box.

iv. Deskbar Settings

And… at last — I’m getting to the Deskbar Settings menu in Alpha 1. In here, we can opt to Configure Deskbar Menu, and set Always On Top, Auto Raise, Sort Running Applications, Tracker Always First, 24 Hour Clock, Show Seconds, European Date, Full Date, Show Application Expander, and Expand New Applications.

Now, if you scroll back up to Dano, you’ll notice Haiku adds in Auto Raise, and Show Application Expander and Expand New Applications. What this does is fold open the app tiles to show open window lists under them — which is super useful. And this is something that Zeta 1.21 featured as well if you remember it’s Deskbar pane.

And also, before we leave them, it’s worth noting this list of options would be unique to Alpha 1, as Alpha 2 and later releases would add a preferences box. It’s special to me, as it’s a final ode to the options in the menu from Dano.

Shut down in style!

Also, for the first time (that I’m aware of) in the Be timeline, Haiku Alpha 1 added a shutdown box just like the Mac OS did in System 7 onward. Awesomeness!

This Mac nerd finds this to be pretty cool 🙂

Cue a happy dance for the shutdown box! 🙂 Getting to this either takes pressing Shutdown from the menu (instead of directly shutting down or restarting the classic way with links Haiku has moved into a submenu) or running shutdown -a from Terminal (which allows this to be mapped to a keyboard shortcut to really get it closer to the Mac feeling of pressing the restart key or control+eject).

Context menus and Add-ons

Context menus in the Tracker (the file manager in BeOS and Haiku) work the same across both eras. Just like you’d expect from the BeOS, Haiku includes drill down menus, which allow navigating the system in place (and when available, this also allows instant moving and copying of files). There’s also New, Icon View, Mini Icon View, Clean Up, Select, Select All, and finally, Mount and Add-ons submenus.

And like R5, we get a clean menu rather than being fed templates, which is a nice touch. One can click Edit Templates as well for those that like their New menu to work more like Windows 95:

And… just in case anyone is new to the BeOS or Haiku, picture add-ons as being somewhat similar to services in the application menus in Mac OS 10.0+. Here, in Alpha 1, these allow you to check disk usage with DiskUsage, search for a ‘string’ of text within files, set the (desktop) Background, modify the FileType, open a Terminal window on the spot, or zip up files (via Zip-o-Matic).

And just in case anyone was wondering what’s in the Mount menu, it’s a list of disks, Mount All, and Settings.

As for Disk Mount Settings itself, it’s roughly the same two sections inside one pane as in the classic BeOS. The first (Automatic Disk Mounting) has “Don’t Automount”, “All BeOS Disks”, and “All Disks” radio options, and the second (Disk Mounting During Boot) has “Only The Boot Disk”, “Previously Mounted Disks”, “All BeOS Disks”, and “All Disks” radio options. At the very bottom are “Mount all disks now” and “Done” options.

So that’s a look at the menus on the Haiku Desktop.

Sector 3 of 9: About and Find boxes

About box

The next thing I’d like to look at here is the About box in Haiku Alpha 1. Like BeOS R5 and Dano, it has a dichotomy of quick system stats on the left side and copyright info on the right.

On the left, Version has “R1/alpha1 (Revision 33109)”, Processor shows an “Intel Core 2 Extreme [at] 2.25 GHz”, Memory shows I’ve allocated “256 MB total”, with “80 MB used (31%)”, the Kernel was built on “[September] 12, 2009 [at] 17:45:45” and Time Running is “16 minutes, 9 seconds”.

On the right, “Haiku” is shown in dark green with a copyright spanning from 2001 to 2020 (this expands to the current date). There’s also a hyperlink to the Haiku website, and a list of current maintainers. Under this are lists of Past Maintainers, Website, Marketing and Documentation maintainers, Contributors, and a Special Thanks To section. And… under this is a list of copyrights and licenses for the various open source pieces used in making the Haiku operating system, such as elements from the GNU Project and FreeBSD Project, NetBSD Project, and so on.

Only thing is I wish Haiku didn’t go with the cool black About box from R4.5 though… but that’s just me. 😉

Definitely take a moment to notice the revision here is 33109 — with the current Haiku Nightly revision or hrev at 53867 (as of this article), it’s amazing to see just how far Haiku has come in the years since its breakout release.

Find box

Okay, so as the final area of focus in this article before we head into the Applications and Demos folders in the next part — let’s take a look at Find.

In BeOS Dano, the Find box had looked like this… with the experimental Origin decor and Dano widgets:

Okay… so, maybe, the more fair thing would be to show the R5/“Maui” box:

There we go. And as you can see from both BeOS perspectives above, when we compare them to Haiku Alpha 1 (in the below screenshot), it’s pretty much the same box:

And I definitely want to take this opportunity to say look how much crisper the remastered query icon and control look is between R5 and Alpha 1. And as an extension, this also really shows that between the two UI designs, Haiku aims to model itself (both then and now) after R5 rather than Dano.

So, that said, let’s look at the rest of what’s in here. The little button in the top left of the Find box that looks like a classic Mac’s restart key in reverse in the top row is a ‘query’ menu showing the ‘default’ query and an option to “Save Query as Template”.

Next to it is the “All files and folders” menu, which allows choosing the file type to search for. And here, there’s a noticeable (and welcome) difference.

In Dano, the ‘all files and folders’ menu was a long list of MIME types, and this definitely makes searching a bit more pleasant. Huge kudos to the Haiku developer who decided to get this organized into categories (application, audio, image, text, video).

Like in BeOS, we can search “by Name”, “by Attribute”, or “by Formula”, so it’s the same as one would see back in Dano.

And as a fourth menu (or the third if you’re just counting the menus with text), the “All disks” pop-up allows changing the search scope to a particular disk, like “Haiku”.

But enough looking around the text box — let’s search for something already! I’ve made a text file called ‘maui’ for fun (since that was the name for R5), and by searching for it, as shown below, Haiku both finds the document almost instantly and makes a query for it that I can refer to later.

Search on the BeOS and what would start as Alpha 1 here with Haiku is really versatile and powerful, and I’ll definitely look at this in more detail when we get to Alpha 2.

The File menu is the standard Tracker menu (which I’ll go over in the Tracker part of this review), and in the queries or results window we get an “Edit Query” option. So again, it’s identical to what one would have in BeOS.

If we open the Window menu, we get Resize to Fit, Select, Select All, Invert Selection, and Close. This is the same as Dano, (with an added ‘Invert Selection’ option for the results window).

And Attributes include check options for Name, Size, Modified, Created, Kind, Location, and Permissions. But what I believe is new to Haiku Alpha 1 (as I don’t remember this from Dano), is that there’s an option to Copy Layout and Paste Layout.

Finally, like in the classic BeOS, queries are stored inside their own folder in the home folder (so, this would be /boot/home/queries). And as shown below, there’s both the ‘maui’ query and the ‘default’ query. As one last note, I definitely want to say: notice the detail in those icons! For a first release, you can really see the love that went into every detail here.

And that is the opening look at Haiku Alpha 1! Please join me again for the next part of this review where I will be taking a look at the Haiku Alpha 1 application set and demos.

Hope you enjoyed this article! 🙂

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Referenced Materials

1. Be Incorporated. “Welcome to Be Incorporated!”. 24 January 2002. http://web.archive.org/web/20020124162157/http://www.be.com/

2. Haiku Project, “Project History”. https://www.haiku-os.org/about/history

Retro Review: Zeven OS

Xubuntu with Be and Zeta style thrown in the mix.

(This article is on my Be/Haiku blog, Isometric Leaves, my OS exploration blog, the OS Voyager, and is also on Medium.)

Here we are at the last article in this trilogy following the BeOS review series! Originally, this article was going to be next after BlueEyedOS, but I decided to cover the “Gonx” concept first, as I knew this review was going to be larger.

And as we meet Zeven, the first thing to note is that both ZevenOS and BlueEyedOS share something in common: rather than being powered by a BeOS foundation, they use a common Gnu/Linux base. And also — where BlueEyedOS tried to offer a compatibility layer of sorts, ZevenOS does not. It is purely a Xubuntu distribution (Ubuntu + Xfce) with several cosmetic themes that take after a Be/Zeta look. Zeven does, however, include several tools that make it both useful and enjoyable, as we’ll see while looking at the system.

I’m going to try to fit today’s article into one piece, rather than splitting it into several pieces. This means this one cumulative article will be a longer read, but at the same time, I’ll also try to be more brisk when looking at some points to save space.

So, definitely get a nice hot or cold drink and a good snack, as we enter the last retro review before entering the Haiku age!

Part 1 of 7: Starting up

Okay… so the first part of diving into any review is to start up the system. It’s an Ubuntu offshoot, so we get the same ‘accessibility’ screen here where pressing a key will bring up the boot menu.

And while it usually automatically continues from here… if I happen to press a key (for the sake of the article), I’ll then be presented with a set of function key options for Help, Language, Keymap, Modes, Accessibility, and Other Options for keys F1 through F6. In front, I have a wraparound menu of languages — again, just like I would expect on a classic Ubuntu disc. I’ll go ahead and pick English.

The boot options are fairly close to classic Ubuntu as well. We can “try ZevenOS without installing”, “Install ZevenOS”, “Check disc for defects”, “Test memory”, or “Boot from first hard disk” (i.e. cancel). Since we’re focused on the main desktop, I’ll go ahead and run it as a live CD.

The boot splash is very reminiscent of classic Ubuntu. For those that may remember, Ubuntu used to load on a black screen with a bar that had an orange progress bar that would bounce from side to side when the system was starting. This is very similar… and I’ve taken two screenshots to give an idea to the viewer what this animation looks like:

Here, you can see the white line on the right of the progress bar:

Now, since we are using a Live CD session here, so the login screen won’t appear here. But, for the curious, if you are wondering what this would look like, this is Zeven’s login screen:

At the live desktop, we can see Zeven definitely has a Zeta look to it. The File System icon and the yellow logo is very reminiscent of Zeta, as is the glossy yellow button for the Zeven OS menu.

Part 2 of 7: The Zeven OS desktop

The Zeven OS menu is definitely a spin of the Xfce desktop environment menu… but as I look at it (thanks to the default theme and icons), I think of Zeta.

There’s entries for About, Catfish File Search, Settings, Log Out, and 8 categories: Accessories, Development, Games, Graphics, Internet, Multimedia, Office, and System. Below these, there is a link to the Ubuntu Software Center.

The “Deskbar” itself on the right of the menu (and screen) has a clock (in 24 hour time), the tray, and several pinned shortcuts. As applications are opened, they appear as horizontal, stacked tiles underneath all the above.

It’s also worth mentioning (as a quick side note) that Zeven includes a third party package called “Docky” as well, which is a dock widget that imitates the one from OS X:

About box

Zeven definitely sticks to its BeOS inspiration here with a box that is very similar to BeOS R5. In the little splash box in the top left, Zeven OS is in all capital letters (and in red and blue as homage to the Be logo).

And just like in BeOS, on the left side of the window, there’s Platform (IBM PC/AT or clone) — which curiously looks pasted in as a raster clipping from R5 — CPU (Intel Core 2 Duo on this machine), Kernel (3.13.0–24-generic), System Version (ZevenOS 6.0), and Running (up 4 minutes).

The right side reads: “This is ZevenOS based on Ubuntu 14.04 / Thanks Canonical for Ubuntu. Thanks Debian Community for Debian and many useful Tools. / Zeven OS Team: Alex, Anatolij, Fredreichbier, Stefan, Lubomir, L33k, Leszek / Thanks to all testers and the community” in the first visible part.

The second part reads: “Special Thanks to: Eppo, Hiob10hiob, rolan, zedc / ZevenOS (including tools) released under the terms of GPL or BSD”. This last part most likely refers to the Zeven tools (like the Magi utility).

Catfish 1.0.2

After the About box, the next entry on the menu is Catfish: a search tool usually included in distributions that use Xfce. (In other words, this is not authored by the Zeven team).

Catfish is pretty simple. There’s a location drop-down, a search bar, a list or icons toggle, a gear menu with settings, etc. and the window’s main body for Filename, Size, Location, and Modified.

It is set by default to a live home folder, so there’s really not much to search for. How about ‘documents’? And as shown below, here’s what this looks like in a tiled icon view (Documents, 40 bytes, /home/zevenos, Today):

Now, inasmuch as I so wish Zeven had its own search box with a Be theme… Catfish is a good choice. It isn’t processor intensive, it’s simple to understand and use, and it does support basic indexed search. Options in the gear menu on the right include searching for Exact Match, Hidden Files, and Fulltext Search. It’s also possible to “Update Search Index” and pick the type and date modified through a “Show Advanced Settings” option that toggles a sidebar on the left.

Last but not least, “About” reveals this is Catfish 1.0.2, GPL licensed, and from what I gather from seeing the two authors, it was written by Christian Dywan and Sean Davis.

Moving down the menu from Catfish File Search, the settings in Zeven OS are mainly the Xfce 4 set. And as shown below, the Settings menu has a link to the (Xfce) Settings Manager and a list of settings.

These include (not all visible in the screenshot): About Me, Accessibility, Additional Drivers, Appearance, ARandR, Bluetooth Manager, Desktop, Display, File Manager, Input Method, Keyboard, Keyboard Input Methods, Language Support, Light Locker Settings, Menu Editor, MIME Type Editor, Mouse and Touchpad, Network Connections, Notifications, Panel, Power Manager, Preferred Applications, Proxy Settings, Removable Drives and Media, Screensaver, Session and Startup, Settings Editor, Software & Updates, Theme Configuration, VPNC-GUI, Window Manager, Window Manager Tweaks, and Workspaces.

And because Zeven OS is based on Xubuntu, we have the Xfce Settings Manager, which is an all-in-one settings manager similar to what one would find on Mac OS 10.0+, Gnome 3, and others. There’s a search filter, an All Settings and Close button, and the main body of settings are divided into 3 main sections (or 4 if a user counts “Settings Editor” in Other):

  • Personal has Appearance, Desktop, File Manager, Notifications, Panel, Preferred Applications, Screensaver, Theme Configuration, Window Manager, Window Manager Tweaks, Workspaces.
  • Hardware has Display, Keyboard, Mouse and Touchpad, Power Manager, Removable Drives and Media.
  • System has Accessibility, MIME Type Editor, and Session and Startup (and again, Other has Settings Editor).
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Part 3 of 7: What’s inside the menus

There’s 8 different categories or menus here, thanks to this using the Xfce Desktop which organizes applications this way. The layout coincidentally is very similar to what the Max distribution, Zeta, and others have done… and so, even though this is Xfce, to me, this really also gives the system another touch of Zeta.

In going through what’s in each…

Accessories includes: About Xfce, Application Finder, Archive Manager, Bulk Rename, Calculator, Catfish File Search, Character Map, Clipman, Docky, File Manager, MAGI, Menu Editor, Mousepad, Notes, Orage Globaltime, Run Program, Screenshot, Task Manager, Terminal Emulator, Thunar File Manager, Xfburn, and Xpad.

Development has one lonely item, Geany.

Like the previous folder, Games just includes Mines.

Graphics includes: Document Viewer, GIMP Image Editor, ImageMagick (display), Inkscape, Shotwell, and Simple Scan.

Internet includes: Claws Mail, Firefox Web Browser, Liferea, Mail Reader, Pidgin Internet Messenger, Remote Desktop Viewer, Transmission, VPNC-GUI, Web Browser, and XChat IRC. (And as a quick note, as for Web Browser, this appears to open Firefox when I tested it).

Multimedia includes: Audacity, Audio Mixer, DeaDBeeF, Encode, GNOME MPlayer, OpenShot Video Editor, PulseAudio Volume Control, Xfburn, YAVTD.

Office includes AbiWord and Gnumeric (a word processor and spreadsheet application), rather than a larger office suite like OpenOffice.org or LibreOffice. There’s also Dictionary, Document Viewer, Orage Calendar, Orage Globaltime… and yes, in real Be nostalgia, there is People.

System is the second largest category in here. Like Accessories, there’s a lot to list here. Items include About, Bulk Rename, Compmanager, GDebi Package Manager, Gigolo, GParted, Htop, Install ZevenOS 6.0 LTS, Log Out, Network, Printers, Software Updater, Startup Disk Creator, Synaptic Package Manager, System Profiler and Benchmark, Task Manager, Thunar File Manager, Time and Date, Users and Groups, Windows Wireless Drivers, and Xfce Terminal.

Part 4 of 7: Xfce’s file manager

Next in this look at Zeven I wanted to take a look at the default file manager it comes with.

And, since we are looking at menus, let’s go ahead and take a look at the set of menus here… and think of Tracker (the file manager used on Be systems) a bit along the way. First, I’d like to open up the Go menu. Like on the Mac, the Go menu in Xfce’s Thunar allows the user to open the home folder, desktop, file system, network, or a location based on its path. A person can also browse templates and the trash can, and navigate back, forward, or to the ‘parent’ or enclosing folder. This is something that Tracker didn’t offer… and something that I do find useful.

And secondly, unlike Tracker, Xfce’s Thunar has a Help menu. This is something that I have often wished (maybe as a Mac fan) that Be applications included (although because the overall idea of the Be desktop was to let users feel power and discover the system as they used it, it makes sense).

As for View, we can Reload, choose options for Location Selector or Side Pane, toggle hidden files, status and menu bars, Arrange Items (per a submenu), Zoom In, Zoom Out, or view as Normal Size, and choose between View as Icons, Detailed List, and Compact List. Overall, in Thunar, we have a few novelties like a sidebar, a reload option, and zoom options… where writing a hypothetical clone of Tracker wouldn’t have these features built in (although as two examples, Haiku and Zeta do feature icon scaling, which works to zoom in and out nicely).

Edit in Thunar is pretty standard. It has options to Cut, Copy, Paste, Move to Trash, Delete, Select all Files, Select by Pattern, Invert Selection, Duplicate, Make Links, Rename, ‘Configure custom actions’, and open Preferences. However, one thing I did notice is that even though several options are inside an Edit menu, and not in the spots they would be in Tracker (in versions past R5), Thunar does include them, like the ability to Select by Pattern. So this is roughly equivalent in that respect.

And finally, here’s the File menu. One curious thing I’ve always liked about free desktop environments is that long before the Finder on the Mac had tabbed windowing in 10.9 Mavericks, free file managers had this years before. Beyond New Tab and New Window, there’s Create Folder, Create Document, Open, Properties, Close All Windows, Close Tab, and Close Window.

Thunar’s File menu also includes links to Open Terminal Here, Add to playlist, Open as root, Send with Bluetooth, and Search.

And the default home folder looks like this. We have a neat Zeta like Desktop folder (and pretty much all the icons take on this theme). The rest of what is inside the home folder includes Documents, Downloads, Music, Pictures, Public, Templates, and Videos. Kudos to the icon theme author for including the righteously retro red notes and BeBox in Music!

But despite all the stuff that I truly believe makes Thunar a good fit for this distribution, there’s one big feature that I think every Be reader out there can feel is missing here. I’d be remiss to not mention this. It would be like talking about a NeXT or Mac distribution without mentioning Miller Columns in the file manager. And as anyone who’s used BeOS knows, the feature I’m referring to here is drill down folders…

As shown in the above context menu, yes, Thunar has a Send To menu like Windows/ReactOS, but there’s no drill down functionality in it.

And beyond Send To, the context menu (shown above) includes the same links as the File menu (such as Create Archive, etc.), can summon “Properties” (the PC realm’s equivalent of Get Info), and do the usual open, copy, cut, and delete operations on the file. But again, no drill down fun.

The good news, however, is that Xfce 4.10 itself does allow directory menus in the panel — which means the Zeven Deskbar can have similar functionality, akin to using docked items (or later Stacks) in the Dock in Mac OS 10.0+. It’s not a total replacement for drill-down folders as it just allows looking… but it at least fills in some of the missing functionality I’ve been pining for.

As for what version of Thunar that this distribution is using, it appears it is Thunar 1.6.3, which per the about box “is a fast and easy to use file manager for the Xfce Desktop Environment”, with copyrights given to Benedikt Meurer, Jannis Pohlmann, and Nick Schermer.

And furthermore, it appears that we are using version 4.10 of the Xfce Desktop Environment in Zeven. The About box lists the about info for Xfce here, mentioning “Xfce is a collection of programs that together provide a full-featured desktop environment”. And… to save a lot of reading and writing in this article by quoting everything in the box, here is a link to the Xfce About page.

Part 5 of 7: The Magi Configuration tool

Okay, so that was a look around Xfce’s Thunar file manager, the Catfish search tool, the various menus, and some stuff around the Desktop.

But… since we are here to review Zeven, let’s get back into actually reviewing Zeven! The Zeven OS includes a configuration utility called “Magi” and I’m not quite sure what it means or stands for, but I do know the Magi from a historical perspective were magicians and/or priests in various religions, and also from a Biblical perspective that this also can refer to the ‘three Kings’ or the ‘three wise men’. So if I had to guess what the meaning here was, I’d say from both definitions, Magi would denote a feeling of wisdom or power within the distribution, maybe as a ‘smart’ tool for managing the system.

There’s four tabs in here, and its layout really does give me an ‘inspired by Zeta’ feeling. Back in Zeta, there was System, Copyright, Team, and Thanks. Here in Zeven, there’s System, Personal, Hardware, and Network.

The first stop is System. Here, we get a big BeOS kernel icon, and minus the memory usage meter, platform, and uptime stats, we get very similar info. Here, there’s Version (ZevenOS 6.0), Kernel (3.13.0–24-generic), CPU (an Intel Core 2 Duo), and Memory (1026008 or about 1 GB).

Below the info is a line of links to settings or preferences. I’ll open some of these, but for the sake of time, can’t get to everything. These include Users, Time & Date, Update, Softwarecenter, and Services with crisp icons and names below them.

Next is Personal, which just has 8 settings links in here for Desktop, Workspaces, Appearance, Language, Panel, Compositing, Autostart, and Windowmanager.

Hardware likewise has 8 settings links. These include Printer, Mouse, Keyboard, Screen, Powermanager, Sound, Devicemanager, and Drivermanager.

Lastly, Network has 5 settings links to Network, Ndiswrapper, Share, Proxy, and VPN.

Okay, so with our trip through Magi, let’s look at a few of the appearance settings on the system…

Style, icons, fonts, and mice!

First, here’s Theme Configuration. Here, we can specify custom highlight, panel, and menu colors with a sliding on/off switch. Text and background colors can be set for each with color well buttons, and from there, we can Revert or Apply per two buttons on the bottom. By default, we get a nice shade of sky blue, and R5 style grays.

Appearance has various Gtk chrome styles or themes that apply system (or rather desktop-wide) to applications, with a whole list of themes. By default, this is set to “Haiku”, which curiously doesn’t follow Haiku’s color scheme. It’s similar to how the curved title tab decor was named “Haiku” back in PhOS.

Zeven also ships with the “Be” icon theme by default (which isn’t actually the classic BeOS icons, but rather is more of a Zeta inspired set in nature), and also has the high contrast, Humanity, and Gnome icon sets from Ubuntu.

The default font here is “Ubuntu”, size 10 (set with a pane by clicking the button with this info on it). Xfce’s Appearance settings also also toggling anti-aliasing with a check box, as well as changing hinting, DPI scaling, and sub-pixel order through various controls, as shown below:

And also, Zeven comes with several X.org mouse schemes, like Redglass, Whiteglass, and Handhelds, but also comes with black and white DMZ mouse themes, Adwaita (from Gnome), and by default, has the BeHand (BeOS Like cursor) set enabled. On the right, there’s a box to scale the size up or down (set to 24 here), and a preview pane of the set, showing the cursor in its different states (like moving, busy, link, etc.)

Default backgrounds

Next up, I wanted to quickly show the thumbnails at least for Zeven’s default background set. Here, we can pick thumbnails for desktop backgrounds (called wallpaper here) quite nicely. The first half dozen in the set are roughly shown here:

And here’s the next batch:

And two more at the bottom. Xfce’s Desktop preferences also allows changing Menus and Icons settings as well via tabs, and we can pick different folders, background styles, or gradient/color solids through pop-up menus. Colors can be set through color well buttons, and it’s also possible to set a timer to cycle through backgrounds, or use check boxes to “Apply to all workspaces” or shuffle the pictures.

Compositing

The “Compmanager” dialog is pretty simple. There’s two check boxes for “Fade-In” and “Shadow” and buttons to Deactivate and Activate.

If I choose to turn on everything, I get nice fades and a very deep shadow on application windows.

To show just how deep this throws shadows, here’s an example of the main menu open. The shadows give the illusion of elevating it above the Magi window, and the Magi window itself appears to be hovering over the desktop this way. Overall, these shadows are definitely deep and dark, and while I love shadows in GUIs, not everyone does. Really, the only thing I wished (as I’m guessing this is xcompmgr) is that the settings box would have had a shadow depth setting to it.

As another example, look at how much shadow is cast onto the page white background of Thunar under the Magi window. It really does give the desktop a different sense of depth than with compositing turned off.

Part 5b: Miscellaneous settings picks

Now, beyond our quick look at the appearance controls, I don’t have the space in this article to open and go through every preference in here, but I did think I should go through the highlights, so here’s a quick look at 17 settings picks:

Settings pick 1 of 17: Xfce Power Manager

This one I had to pick to illustrate one big advantage running Xubuntu (what Zeven is based on) has over the classic BeOS. Not only can the power manager here “put [the] display to sleep” and turn it off, with sliders for both (as shown in the Monitor tab below), but it also can perform an action when the battery is really low, put the computer itself to sleep, and also has options to tone down how much power traditional hard disks and the processor uses in the Actions tab. And notice that in between General and Extended in the sidebar on the left, there’s “On AC” and “On Battery”; it’s possible to have two power profiles here if someone is using a mobile computer.

Of course, in General and Extended, there’s several more options available here, like to also lock the screen (which BeOS can do per ScreenSaver preferences), show the ‘tray icon’ (desktop applet in Be parlance), choose what happens when power buttons get pushed, and whether to be what manages power (since Linux has multiple DEs, power managers, etc.) The point, however, is that when comparing this to ScreenSaver preferences in BeOS (which sort of doubles as its basic energy pane), it’s pretty clear that Xfce’s Power Manager has more to offer to the end user here.

Settings pick 2 of 17: Users

Now, again, because this is based on Ubuntu, there’s yet another advantage that several distributions in the post-Be era tried to work on: multiple users. Here, each person added to the system gets their own home folder and environment to play with.

A list appears on the left with the ‘full name’ and ‘username’ (in this case, “Live session user” and “zevenos”) and we can Add and Delete users as well as Manage Groups with several buttons. On the right, we have an icon (currently a Be person), “Live session user” again, Account Type (Custom) and Password (which is “Asked on login”) with links to change these settings. There’s also an Advanced Settings button — and beyond the nice frontend here, it’s worth adding Linux has excellent tools for managing users that aren’t shown in this review.

Settings pick 3 of 17: (Ubuntu) Software Updater

The next highlighted feature in here is Ubuntu’s “Software Updater”, which means that ZevenOS can receive updates to the system quickly and easily… although it’s worth pointing out that because this LTS (long-term support) release is aged, the repositories will more than likely need to be updated to the newest Ubuntu LTS in the configuation files inside the /etc/apt folder to keep receiving the latest updates. But still — this is definitely an additional feature that Zeven offers, as its plugged directly into the Ubuntu universe.

Settings pick 4 of 17: Languages

The next settings pick I wanted to show is a “Language Support” box. While it does need to fetch language packages to be useful, the point is that one can pick the “language for menus and windows” from a list here, “Apply System-Wide” and “Install/Remove Languages” via buttons below the list as well. It is also possible to choose the “Keyboard input method system” with a pop-up menu; Regional Formats allows changing money, thousands, and the usual regional settings.

And my point here is that while the classic BeOS (R5) had some language support, it really wasn’t until the post-Be era where distributions like Vimba, Max, and Zeta began to work together that the Be desktop had better translation. 

And today, of course, modern-day Haiku has great localization support. But from the perspective of R5, this would’ve been cool to see.

Settings pick 5 of 17: Printers

Another setting here is Printers. There’s Server, Printer, View, and Help menus, and a toolbar with an Add button/menu, Reload, and Filter (a search box). Of course, because we’ve started from a Live CD, “There are no printers configured yet” and we’re offered an Add button.

And my point with showing this one is that (again, compared to the classic BeOS), Ubuntu supported more new printers out of the box.

Settings pick 6 of 17: Panel

I wanted to pick this one because it offers a huge amount of customization and to show how the ‘deskbar’ in Zeven OS 6.0 is setup. Xfce offers what are called ‘panels’ which can be customized to behave like the BeOS deskbar in “Deskbar” mode (set in Zeven), like a dock, or like a taskbar. And there can be multiple panels as well. There’s check boxes for “Lock panel”, “Automatically show and hide the panel”, and “Don’t reserve space on borders”. Below these, there’s also sliders to set both row and panel sizes and the number of rows.

Setting pick 7 of 17: Mouse and Touchpad

As shown below (thanks to the Device pop-up menu), yes, I am using VirtualBox to run Zeven. And there’s sliders to set Acceleration and Sensitivity, a checkbox to enable it or not, another to “reverse scroll direction” (i.e. enable natural scrolling), as well as radio buttons to set it to “right-handed” or “left-handed” mode.

But aside from describing what’s in here, what I hope to show with this settings box is that until the arrival of Haiku, having the ability to manage a trackpad and the ability to choose devices in Xfce definitely had functional advantages over classical BeOS. (Although… I will openly say as a fan of both Apple and Be desktop design, this window is a lot uglier than the old BeOS Mouse preferences!)

Settings pick 8 of 17: Keyboard

Next up is Keyboard. It’s possible to set shortcuts and the layout in the other tabs. This is kind of a staple of traditional desktop computing, so I had to show the Keyboard box. Here, there’s check boxes to “restore num lock state on startup”, “Enable key repeat” (with repeat delay and speed sliders), and “Show blinking” (with a ‘Blink delay’ slider under it):

Settings pick 9 of 17: Time and Date Settings

But around this point of the exploration I also began to really feel the difference between Xfce and the Be preference set more.

Here, in Time and Date, there’s pop-up menus for Configuration and Time zone, -/+ value pickers for hour, minute, and second, and a calendar widget underneath… but really, even though it gets the job done, it’s not the same. Things feel different here and it makes me miss the BeOS version.

Settings pick 10 of 17: Workspaces

Opening the “Workspaces” settings in Zeven will open one pane of the ‘Sawfish Configurator’ for the Sawfish window manager. On the right, there’s drop down menus to choose workspace behavior, a list of workspace names, and a checkbox to “preserve outermost empty workspaces”. Very different again from how Workspaces are managed on the classic BeOS.

Settings pick 11 of 17: PulseAudio Volume Control

Here, we have a piece of PulseAudio… a graphical volume control box from the pavucontrol package. Here, it’s possible to change input and output volume, playback and recording devices, etc. through the 5 tabs at the top.

Settings pick 12 of 17: Display

There is a “Display” settings box in Xfce (and by inheritance, in Zeven) which has a list of displays on the left side, and on the right, there’s pop-up menus to set Resolution, Refresh rate, Rotation, and Reflection. Again, like with Time and Date (or really the settings we’ve explored so far), it’s really not the same as in the classic BeOS. And also, I’ll add that Ubuntu does handle the displays differently. However, in adding a positive note before moving on, I will say it’s at least nice Xfce has the screen options on the right side.

Settings pick 13 of 17: Ubuntu Software and Additional Drivers

Now I wish I could go into full detail on software-properties-gtk, but we’re limited on time. But in short, the first four tabs of this window allow specifying locations where packages are fetched within the Ubuntu repositories, from extra sources (like the CD or Zeven’s repo), what sources and how often to check for updates, and keys for package repos.

As for the fifth tab, because this is Ubuntu, some modules may not be installed by default as they may contain non-free areas. And so “Additional Drivers” comes in useful for finding and installing said modules to get (mainly graphics or wireless cards) working. Here, as noted, “No proprietary drivers are in use.”

Settings pick 14 of 17: Network Manager

And here is a quick peek at the pretty Gtk window for network-manager. We can Add, Edit, or Delete connections using the buttons on the right, and on the left, there’s a list with “Ethernet” expanded out to show I’m currently using a wired connection, last used ‘3 minutes ago’.

Settings pick 15 of 17: Ndiswrapper

Ndiswrapper (or rather the ndisgtk frontend to it shown below) I thought was worth covering, because it allows using Windows drivers for wireless networking cards with Linux. At the moment, the list on the left is empty. Here, it’s possible to install or remove a driver, Configure Network, or close the window using the buttons on the right.

Settings pick 16 of 17: Shared Folders

“Shared Folders” would normally allow connecting to shared folders across the network on machines running Gnu/Linux or Windows… but as shown below, this is one of the annoying parts of not using the classic BeOS, despite the advantage that Ubuntu offers here. In order to use “sharing services”, we have to install these packages, as shown below:

Settings pick 17 of 17: System Information (hardinfo)

Last but not least, hardinfo (what the System Information tool is here) was a great choice to include. Again, because I’d like to keep the main body of this review in one article, I can’t go through everything this does, but this not only lists good info, but provides several graphs and benchmarks as well. Overall, I think it’s a good choice.

Part 6 of 7: A look at a few applications…

Now, like the BeOS distributions I had looked at back in the post-Be part of the BeOS series, there’s not enough time to go through every application that’s included here. So, like with the settings in the last part, I’m just going to pick a few out of the set it comes with:

People

Per Zeven’s Be inspiration, I wanted to start by opening an original app on the system: People. Now, every time I tried to start it on Zeven OS 6.0, it wouldn’t open… not sure exactly why at the moment, but People 0.2 from Zeven OS 5 does start just fine, so I’ll go ahead and launch it from there.

And… wow! People is very close to its Be counterpart. Here, we have File (with New, Open, Save, Save As, Export as vCard, Quit) and Help (with About) and text fields for Name, Nickname, Street, Zip, State, City, Country, E-Mail, Homepage, Tel (telephone), Mobile/Fax.

And per its about box with a nice People icon in there, it’s People 0.2, “A clone of the famous BeOS People application”, copyrighted to Leszek Lesner in 2009, under the BSD license.

Ubuntu Software Center

Ubuntu Software Center is the default application center on Zeven, as it is an Ubuntu distribution. There’s not much to say here about the app itself, other than it’s pretty much the standard app store of the era. There’s File, Edit, View, and Help menus and back, forward, All Software and Installed (with side menus), History, and Progress buttons, with the package storefront in the main body of the window.

But one thing I can say is that because this is an Ubuntu distribution, it has full access to the world of Ubuntu packages and the Aptitude package manager (inherited from Debian), which means that in addition to the packages and/or the software titles that are bundled in Zeven (like GIMP, Inkscape, Firefox, etc.), it is possible to choose between and add thousands of packages.

And as shown by the about box for Ubuntu Software Center, this is version 13.10, with a copyright of 2009–2013 by Canonical, which shows the age of this copy.

Xfburn

Next up is the bundled Xfburn application Zeven OS 6 comes with (version 5 had included Brasero instead). And… there’s no burners available to the system… oh well. But I did want to keep this here to illustrate the rather gorgeous BeOS alert icon though… look at how crisp that is!

Xfburn is pretty easy to understand. There’s File, Edit, Actions, View, and Help buttons, “Welcome to xfburn!” and four big buttons in the center for four main operations: Burn Image, Blank Disc, New Data Composition, and Audio CD.

Geany & Mines

Next up is Geany, an IDE for Gtk environments, and the only game included in the distribution: Gnome Mines (a clone of mine sweeping games on other platforms).

Evince

Also, here is the default PDF “Document Viewer” that comes with Zeven, Evince. While I don’t have any PDFs to open here, the about box reveals it is copyrighted to The Evince authors from 1996–2012 (and today as well).

GIMP & Inkscape

Next up we have the GIMP, which really needs no introduction. This is the alternative to Adobe Photoshop on free desktop environments. An example screenshot of it with a blank main window and tools palette is shown below:

This distribution also includes Inkscape, a definite essential to anyone doing graphics work in a free desktop environment.

Claws

Next up we have Claws Mail. Upon first starting it, there is a “setup wizard” box that pops up, and since we’re taking the express route through looking at applications, I’ll just mention this takes the user through the standard mail setup.

Once that’s done, Claws opens it’s main window, which looks like the standard mail clients of the 1990s and early 2000s. There’s File, Edit, View, Message, Tools, Configuration, and Help menus, and a toolbar with big Get Mail, Send, Compose, Reply, All, Sender, Forward, Trash, Spam, and Next buttons at the top. The left side has a Mailbox tree with Inbox, Sent, Drafts, Queue, and Trash. From there, the right body of the window has a message list with Subject, From, Date, etc. and a preview pane on the bottom that shows From, To, Subject, Date, and the letter itself. To save time (yet again) with the about info, here’s the page for Claws.

Firefox

The default Web browser included here is Firefox. And really, this doesn’t need an introduction — it is, by far, one of the most powerful modern Web browsers out there. It’s an older version that uses the curvy Australis design, with round tabs, a big back orb, the ‘awesome’ location bar, search, bookmarks, a more button, and the ‘hamburger’ menu on the right side. Here, the page is set to the “Ubuntu Start Page”.

And here is Firefox’s about info, which reveals it’s age as version 34.0. This is definitely a big upgrade from Zeven OS 5, though, which if I remember right had Firefox 17 in it. The about box itself has a big Firefox logo, Firefox, the version and “Mozilla Firefox for Ubuntu canonical — 1.0”, along with various links and a summary of who builds it. And so, again, to save time in this aspect, here’s a link to the Mozilla Firefox webpage for the interested.

GNOME MPlayer & Audacity

Next up, I’ve put both GNOME MPlayer and Audacity in the same screenshot to save room.

  • GNOME MPlayer has File, Edit, View, Help menus, back, play, stop, and forward buttons, a time slider, volume control, and fullscreen button. Overall, it’s a very simple frontend to MPlayer. And in the interests of moving forward, here’s a link to the MPlayer info page.
  • Audacity is basically a digital audio studio, where someone can cut, mix, edit, record, play, etc. audio files. It’s got File, Edit, View, Transport, Tracks, Generate, Effect, Analyze, and Help menus, and a toolbar set full of buttons. There’s pause, play, stop, previous, next, record, editing buttons, volume meters, volume and mic/input sliders, a set of buttons for cutting, pasting, and zooming in on audio, etc. and menus for choosing audio sources. Below all this is the main body of the window, where all the audio tracks appear. And as I’ve been doing so far, to save time saying more, here’s the Audacity webpage.

AbiWord

The little word processor included in Zeven is the nimble AbiWord by AbiSource, as shown below. It’s Word compatible and very easy to use; on the free desktop, it’s easily one of my personal favorites. Across the top, there’s a traditional set of menus (File, Edit, View, Insert, Format, Tools, Table, RDF, Collaborate, Documents, Help) and the standard and formatting toolbars one would see in word processors of the late 1990s and 2000s. The About box shows this is version 3.0.0, credited to “Dom Lachowicz and other contributors”.

Gnumeric

Of course, where there’s AbiWord, usually Gnumeric accompanies it as a simple spreadsheet app. Overall, I have to say that including this and AbiWord was definitely a good choice for the distro, as OpenOffice.org or LibreOffice would’ve made it heavier.

As shown below, there’s a band of menus, a standard bar, and a formatting at the top similar to AbiWord. There’s also a forms bar as well with several widgets, like one would see inside an app builder.

According to the About box, Gnumeric 1.12.9 is running here, and “is the result of the efforts of many people”. To save time here, here is a link to the Gnumeric webpage.

Orage Calendar

Here is the very simple Orage Calendar that is part of the Xfce Desktop… which basically is just a Gregorian calendar with clickable days, File, Edit, View, and Help menus, and month and year navigation widgets:

GParted

And here is GParted, which is the de facto disk utility for the Gnu/Linux desktop. It somehow looks different in its Zeven appearance, and yet instantly familiar. We have GParted, Edit, View, Device, Partition, and Help menus on top, and a toolbar with new, delete, resize, copy, paste, undo, apply, and a disk selector pop-up menu. Below that is the usual drive ‘window’ and list view showing the Partition, File System, Size, Used, Unused, and Flags. And as I’ve used it over the years, I’m really thankful for it being included in this distribution.

Startup Disk Creator

Because Zeven is an Ubuntu distribution, it has the luxury of inheriting all the good tools from Ubuntu, like their “Make Startup Disk” or Startup Disk Creator utility. The premise is simple. Simply choose a source medium or image in the list chooser at the top, choose a destination disk in the list chooser below that, choose how much space to keep for persistence (so files aren’t lost in the live disk) via a set of radio buttons and a slider to set the amount. Once all done, click “Make Startup Disk” and Ubuntu usually will automate doing this for you.

Synaptic

Next up — I had to pick this one! Synaptic. The “Quick Introduction” dialog is a bit lengthy to cover here, so I won’t. But in paraphrasing what’s in it, it’s like a cheat sheet card that basically explains what packages are, what the purpose of the app is, how to highlight packages with it, and a little advice.

Ah… the nostalgia. Synaptic definitely feels like a relic from before the application store age… and in a way, I miss it. I remember installing stuff with it (and granted, it’s still around, but not as popular as it used to be). Here, packages could be picked and managed from the columned list on the right, with info usually showing in the right quadrant. The left side has buttons for Sections, Status, Origin, Custom Filters, Search Results, and Architecture, and there’s a list that usually allows narrowing packages in the right list by category.

And as shown here, this is Synaptic version 0.81.1 made by Connectiva S/A and Michael Vogt.

Installer

And speaking of installing stuff, this is the ZevenOS installer. Or rather, the Ubuntu (graphical) installer. This version starts with a Welcome page where it’s possible to pick a language from the sidebar and read the release notes, then Continue from there or Quit. There’s also a Back button as well. And basically… I won’t cover installation in this article, as the steps are pretty much the same as in Ubuntu (14.04).

Xfce Terminal

Last but not least, here’s a really quick peek at the Xfce Terminal. I’m sorry we don’t have more time for it today, but I really am hoping to fit everything into one big article (with an installation extra) rather than splitting it up into 4 or 5 pieces this time.

But as shown in the above screenshot, we have the usual live Ubuntu list here: bin, boot, cdrom, dev, etc, home, lib, media, mnt, opt, proc, rofs, root, run, sbin, srv, sys, tmp, usr, var, initrd.img, and vmlinuz, the contents of the home folder (Desktop, Documents, Downloads, Mail, Music, Pictures, Public, Templates, Videos), the Ubiquity installer on the Desktop, and the lsb-release file contents (with the distribution ID, releaes, codename, and description reading Ubuntu, 14.04, trusty, Zeven OS 6.0).

Part 7 of 7: Shutting down

And so, at last, we are ready to shut down the system. To do that, I’ll go ahead and click “Log Out” from the main menu. From there, Xfce presents a box with a check box to “Save session for future logins”, Cancel, and five big buttons with icons to Log Out, Restart, Shut Down, Suspend, and Hibernate. And since it’s time to wrap up the review, I’ll go ahead and shut down…

And at last, we’re asked in live Linux CD fashion to “please remove the installation media and close the tray (if any) then press ENTER”.

Closing thoughts…

ZevenOS is a really cute distribution in a nostalgic sort of way. It’s classic Ubuntu with a zing of Zeta and BeOS in the mixture that (in this geek’s humble opinion) makes it fun and enjoyable to start up and explore. While it is certainly different than having the real, vintage BeOS running, and doesn’t have all the advantages of the BeOS, it definitely is something that I really wish would be resumed someday. From what I can tell, it appears dormant, as there’s been two LTS releases since 14.04 as of when this article was written. And overall, I hope you enjoyed this look at ZevenOS 6.0. Thanks for reading, and I hope you’ll come back again as we enter into the world of Haiku!

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Retro Review: BlueEyed OS

A start of Be apps on a Linux foundation.

(Also available to read on Medium.)

In my previous series, I went on a digital journey of the Be timeline, starting at BeOS R3 (the first release to run on Intel) to the final “Dano” beta, and from there, the journey continued into the ‘post-Be’ distributions that came out of the Be community’s love for the operating system that came out of Menlo Park. Of every distribution, everything had one thing in common: a BeOS foundation. Even Zeta.

The only system in said group (that I’m aware of) that I didn’t look at in the past series was the “Extended BeOS Operating System” or eB-OS (as I can’t find a bootable image of it). Nevertheless… in today’s article, we venture into another space. What if someone wanted to go beyond using a Be foundation? What if a developer thought of merging two ‘worlds’ into one?

Enter the realm of interesting possibilities in the post-Be era. There were proposals, such as BeBian, and software projects like BeFree (but alas, the Internet Archive doesn’t have the top gz archived), and Cosmoe, which was mentioned on FreeLists in 2007 and reveals its author was Bill Hayden.

Shown below is a demo screenshot of “Cosmoe” from its author (fetched via an Internet Archived link of the picture from the earlier message, so in short, as both a disclaimer and to give credit to the author, this is his screenshot, not mine!) That said, below, we can see “Pulse” (the CPU monitor tool Be aficionados will instantly recognize) and “Guido” which is a ‘test’ tool with various elements. And from looking at this window (below Pulse), we can see it includes: File and Edit menus, Controls and GUI Elements tabs, and a duo of check boxes and radio buttons above a button, and a scrollbar and “Show Alert” button on the right:

Screenshot of Cosmoe by Bill Hayden, retrieved via the Internet Archive on 12/03/2019 from: https://web.archive.org/web/20070217103539/http://www.haydentech.com/cosmoe.png

However, today, out all the historic, varied efforts to have Be applications on top of a different kernel, the one (as of when this article was published) that still has a working website and a demo ISO (if one goes through the list of links to find one that works) is the “BlueEyed OS”. And so, the vintage demo system that is the main topic of today’s retro review is… the BlueEyed OS

Website shown below in WebPositive on Haiku (from December 3, 2019):

Part 1/4: Starting up…

Our adventure with the BlueEyed CD starts with a Knoppix 3.2 splash with a boot prompt that quickly disappears as the system automatically boots. The CD has a light footprint (or at least the copy I’m looking at), which is about 110 MB — and from what I was able to tell, it’s using Linux 2.4.20 as the kernel.

We’re then brought to the next screen that reads, “Welcome to the KNOPPIX live Linux-on-CD!” and the Knoppix boot process. In paraphrasing what’s on the screen below, we see our CD is at /dev/scd0, we have 512 MB of memory, and the system has generated and populated a RAM disk. From there, the init scripts take over and we see CPU info, that an “APM Bios [was] found” along with USB. The hot plug manager is enabled, and Knoppix automatically configures devices. We have a generic triple buttoned PC mouse, AC97 sound card, a VMware graphics card on a generic monitor, and common modes for the era: 1024 by 768, 800 by 600, and 640 by 480.

Now, what’s interesting about the graphics card part is that I’m using VirtualBox (as usual, on a Mac) for this article (and I’ve captured the window frame to prove it), but opted to use VMSVGA in the settings so this is probably why it’s reporting this card.

Anyway… in continuing on, Knoppix creates a filesystem table file, configures the network device, and starts the ‘automounter’ before entering run level 5.

The live CD then gets to work trying to start the X Window session:

Part 2/4: The BlueEyed environment

And that brings us into graphical land! We see a familiar X in the center on a gray background as the window system comes to life.

From there, the BlueEyedOS shell comes up with a smoky, slate blue sort of background. Along the top, it reads, “1. Click here to create a new window” and “B.E.OS window managing demo”. Toward the middle, but off to the top left somewhat is “2. Move the windows and enjoy the speed (on supported hardware)”. And finally, on the bottom is “Your CPU usage:” with a nice black and white usage meter and in the right corner “3. Click here to go further.”

And that’s it. Unlike in Zeven (the next system I’ll be taking a look at), there’s no Deskbar, no panel or taskbar, icons, or anything else to the home screen.

In following the “click here to create a new window” tip, I can do just that. We get “aWindow 0”, which apparently, is a sample application to show off what the little system can do. It has two tabs, “WorkSpaces” and “Status”, but I couldn’t switch between the tabs… so it’s on Status.

Inside this tab, there’s “You are logged in as: root user” and “You can go elsewhere…” bullet points, a “Leave this place” button, a “User name” combo box, Password box (which reads “not required, you are the root user!”, a “Change all identity” button, and another “You no longer want to use me, so I can…” point, with “Restart” and “Shutdown” under it. Finally, in the bottom right is “Settings”, (which didn’t open).

However, I could move the window around freely and close it if I want to, plus bring up several more instances to play with for fun, and… that’s basically the first screen.

The second screen shows “B.E.OS app_server demo” in the top right, “4. Let’s play with BeOS apps” somewhat in the top left, “B.E.OS window managing deactivated / Standard X11 window manager enabled” in the top middle of the screen, and finally, a “5. To be continued…” label on the bottom. And of course, we have the CPU meter from before here as well.

In here, we have an untitled window with a blank text field, a “Change Border” button, an “Enable String text” check box, and a disabled one under it aptly called ‘Disabled’. Under this is plain sans-serif text that reads “StringView” and larger, bold text that reads: “Even bold is working!”

On the right is “Be Puyo”, which basically looks to be like a tetris style game, where different colors of bubble faces fall in groups of two to the base of a skull bordered drop zone. Under this is “Next” with the next group to fall and the Score, which so far is 1.

And so, since we’re out of screens to click on (“To be continued” does nothing) and control clicking and contextual clicking appeared to do nothing for me as well, that’s basically a quick tour of the little environment in BlueEyedOS. Of course, it is entirely possible to explore the Gnu/Linux filesystem that’s underneath it, but since the main point of this distribution was to showcase running programs really quick — that’s how I’ve decided to leave this review. We’ll get into more detail when we look at the next system in my journey following a Be and Haiku theme, Zeven. 🙂

Part 3/3: Conclusion

So, in conclusion, from what I can tell, this is basically a special Knoppix distribution with a rudimentary demo shell on top when the live system comes up. There’s really not much more to say here, other than it is impressive that the developers got it to do this… and this goal is pretty much what this disc is about.

Honestly, I think BlueEyedOS would have had huge potential, had it been completely finished (as it only comes three GUI programs here, at least as far as I can see). It appears to me after looking at it that the system was essentially a concept in the works that could have went so much further — perhaps it could have been similar to the OpenBeOS/Haiku in a desire to preserve the legacy of Be, (while opting to be inside the land of Linux).

But, for now, this is the end of this article, and I hope you’ll join me again next time where we’ll be taking a look at the Zeven OS!

Hope you enjoyed this article! 🙂

And if you like my work, (and want to help me get some more stuff out there), please link to or follow my page, or support me on Patreon!

Want to read more?

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Be Retro Review Anthology

Welcome to a saga on one of the best operating systems made.

If you’re a Be aficionado who loves anything about Be, a computer enthusiast or historian, or if you’re a Mac lover who wants to read about the hopeful candidate for OS X that lost to NeXTstep, this series was written for you. Inspiration for writing it came after I felt BeOS needed a fresh look, as both a fan of the Mac and Be. I’m really excited to have finished this, and hope that you enjoy the journey!

The post-Be era

This collection explores several unofficial releases that were made after Be, Inc. went under and before Haiku came to be. (However, please keep in mind this just covers releases that used the Be codebase, and not other system bases, such as in BlueEyedOS, Cosmoe, or Zeven.)

BeO5 Max

BeOS Max Review: Part 1 of 2: Full Overview

BeOS Max Review: Part 2 of 2: Installation

Be “Developer’s Edition” (BeDE/Vimba)

BeDE 1.1 Review: Part 1 of 4: Startup, Deskbar, desk applets

BeDE 1.1 Review: Part 2 of 4: Applications and preferences

BeDE 1.1 Review: Part 3 of 4: Development folder

BeDE 1.1 Review: Part 4 of 4: Trek through folders, odds and ends, shutting down

PhosphurOS

PhOS: Full Review

Zeta

Zeta 1.21 Review – Part 1 of 5: Startup, intro, Tracker, about box

Zeta 1.21 Review – Part 2 of 5: Deskbar and Zeta menu

Zeta 1.21 Review – Part 3 of 5: Zeta Preferences

Zeta 1.21 Review – Part 4 of 5: Opening some apps

Zeta 1.21 Review – Part 5 of 5: Finishing up with apps, Conclusion

Zeta 1.21 Review Extras: Installation

BeOS R3 – Dano series

This series was made as an exploration of the Be operating system from R3 (the first release on Intel) to R5 and the final (leaked) beta “Dano”. In addition, the series also takes a quick look at the Be website, which shows the Browser and Dock (found in pre-R3 versions) inside the review extras.

Review extras

BeOS Review Extras: A peek at the old website and pre-R3 topics

Grayscale (with colorized photos)

Releases 3.x — 4.0 were released in and were meant to live in full color. But since the graphics card wasn’t supported in my VM (even with safe graphics), these started up in black and white.

However, to give my readers the best experience of what these would have been like, I’ve added color versions of most of the photos in both reviews.

R3: Release 3.1 (2 parts)

BeOS R3 Review (Part 1 of 2): Revisiting 3.1 in gray

BeOS R3 Review (Part 2 of 2): Revisiting 3.1 in gray

R4: Release 4.0 (2 parts)

BeOS R4 Review (Part 1 of 2: The journey into gray concludes in 4.0)

BeOS R4 Review (Part 2 of 2: The journey into gray concludes with 4.0)

Full color reviews (4.5 onward)

All these releases work in full color in modern VMs, and the reviews for everything below were done in full, true color:

Release 4.5 “Genki” (3 parts)

BeOS 4.5 Review (Part 1 of 3: Desktop, queries, and apps)

BeOS 4.5 Review (Part 2 of 3: Software, Terminal, and Preferences)

BeOS 4.5 Review (Part 3 of 3: Fun with demos, and some folders)

Release 5.0 “Maui” (3 parts)

BeOS R5 Review (Part 1 of 3: Desktop, decors, and applications)

BeOS R5 Review (Part 2 of 3: Demos and Preferences)

BeOS R5 Review (Part 3 of 3: System folders, install, and finish)

Beta Release 5.1d0 “Experimental/Dano” (4 parts)

BeOS Dano Review (Part 1 of 4: Startup, new decors, and NetPositive)

BeOS Dano Review (Part 2 of 4: Deskbar, Find, Tracker)

BeOS Dano Review (Part 3 of 4: Applications and Demos)

BeOS Dano Review (Part 4 of 4: Preferences, installation, and conclusion)

In case you missed it, check out the BeOS Review Extras!

BeOS Review Extras: A peek at the old website and pre-R3 topics

Hope you enjoyed this series! 🙂

And if you like my work, (and want to help me get some more stuff out there), please link to or follow my page, or support me on Patreon!

Want to read more?

Feel welcome to visit my list of articles:

Post-Be series: Zeta Review (Extra: Zeta installation)

Before a long-awaited alpha came Zeta.

(Also available on Medium.)

Since I’d pretty much finished up the full review, this isn’t a true part of it, but rather is a look at the installation process for Zeta that is included as an extra piece. I decided to save this for last and basically made it optional since I wanted to cover the installation process by itself (since it’s different from the BeOS style).

So, first, as mentioned in Part 1 of the Zeta (1.21) review, the startup splash is in color and looks like the screenshot below. There’s a large Zeta logo, magnussoft, ZETA, and Version 1.21 centered in the middle, and a centered line of rounded rectangle icons that haven’t yet lit up.

Similar to Haiku today, these light up in color from left to right as the system starts up:

Once everything is ready, we are brought to the first window of the ZETA Installer. The first step is to select a language, which appears to default to German. I’ll go ahead and change this to English…

Next is the end user license agreement, which is pretty much common to any operating system one would install. In this case, it is the YellowTAB EULA. To agree, one needs to click the check box for “I agree with the terms of the license” and from there, click Next.

The next screen will then show “Scanning disks and partitions.”

After that, the Partition Setup Guide window opens. Like in Network preferences, this basically is a form of setup assistant (or a wizard). So, instead of needing to set up drives manually using DriveSetup like in versions of the BeOS, this can easily be done from here. The text underneath reads “This guide will assist you in setting up a partition or drive for installing ZETA”, and in bold in a separate paragraph, cautions to “Please ensure that you have backed up all your important data before proceeding. Installing over a previous version of ZETA will erase all of your data.” And as shown in the bottom corner, this is powered by Paragon Software Group and uses their engine. Cancel and Next buttons are nicely spaced apart at the bottom, and so I will go ahead and press Next to continue with partitioning.

The second page then mentions, “Please select the location to install ZETA from the available partitions. ZETA requires at least 1 GB of space to install” and “Disk: 1” since that’s where we are installing to. After selecting the first partition in the list, I’ll then click Next. (At this point, a Previous button also appears go one can navigate back and forth in the guide.)

The next page prompts me to “Please choose a name for your label, or just click Next to leave it as ‘ZETA’.” There’s a text box under this, and as mentioned, the Zeta label is the default. I’ll leave it like this and click Next again.

And… that’s it. The final page mentions “You have successfully completed the partition setup. Press ‘Finish’ to continue installation.” And so, I’ll go ahead and click Finish to finish up!

Once that’s done, the ZETA Installer comes back, and a pop-up reads “Building package list…”

Once that’s done, there’s a pop-up menu to choose the Configuration, which is set to “Normal install”.

Zeta lets me know I’ve “chosen the following to install ZETA to: Drive 1, Partition 1, Device /0/0/0/0_0” and to “Click the ‘Install’ button to begin. To customize your installation, choose ‘Custom install’.” And so, since this is a big retro review, I’ll go ahead and see what customizing it will do.

Upon doing so, there’s a list pane on the left with check boxed categories (that open or close to show or hide packages underneath each), and under that the Total size (the disk space needed to install) and a pop-up menu for “Install from”. On the right is a tabbed pane with Description and Screenshot, which is used to show info for the selected groups. Without anything selected, it mentions (with slashes added for new sections):

“Welcome to the ZETA installer. Please select the partition or disk drive you wish to install to. / You may also select from the Install Presets or completely customize your install by picking and choosing individual packages.”

Well, why not select everything? So, that’s what I’ve opted to do — CDTools, Demos, Development, Emulators, Games, Graphics, Input Methods, Internet, Music, Office, System, etc. Under these the total size now reads “752.79 MB”.

So, with everything selected, let’s install. The installer now switches to an Installation Progress view, and starts “Copying files” as mentioned in a header above the progress bar. At the point I took this screenshot, it reads: “File: yellowTAB_Support” and 13% on the right, and under it there’s “Estimated time remaining: 7 minutes”.

And after the copying is almost done, the bar fills up and our estimated time is now “Less than one minute”.

Finally, we’re asked: “Would you like to install the ZETA boot manager? / The ZETA boot manager will allow you to choose which operating system to boot when your computer starts up. / You should not do this if you have another boot manager such as PowerBoot or System Commander installed on your system.”

As far as I can tell, this is pretty much identical to the Boot Manager in BeOS, with the name of the distribution put in place of the BeOS — and what’s strange about that from the wording, it appears as if Zeta wrote this utility as part of their own installer.

In fact, after clicking Install (instead of No), we’re offered the same radio options of “Install Boot Menu” or “Uninstall Boot Menu” as the Be Boot Manager.

And so, without demoing this in every screenshot, I’ll just quickly go through the steps. The next step lets us know the MBR will be written to /dev/disk/scsi/0/0/0/raw and provides a text box (with a prefilled path and Select button next to it) for backing this up.

Then, once we’ve done so, the boot manager tool lets us know it’s successfully saved it and asks whether to “create a rescue disk” with Yes or No options for it. I don’t, so I’ll actually go ahead and press No. I almost clicked Yes!

And so, now we get to the second stage of setting up the boot menu. This part starts with a columned list view, where we can check what partitions are listed, what their entries will be called (with a text box), and can see info about them, like their filesystem, device path, etc. and since everything looks good, I’ll click Next.

And… almost done. Just a few more steps to go. Now, we’re presented with the option to choose a “Default partition” with a pop-up menu (set to ZETA), and have the same options as BeOS to “Wait Indefinitely”, “Wait 5 Seconds”, “Wait 10 Seconds”, or “Wait 15 Seconds” with a set of radio buttons.

And after these two steps are done, the next window mentions: “About to write the following boot menu to the boot disk (/dev/disk/scsi/0/0/0/raw). Please verify the information below before continuing.”

And that info is basically the partition name and path. And so, I’ll click Next again.

And with everything done at last for this process, an alert dialog pops up and mentions, “About to write the boot menu to disk. Are you sure you want to continue?”, to which we can click Yes or No buttons. Of course, I’ll click Yes. I think what’s interesting is all the streamlining Zeta tried to accomplish with the installer, but decided to rename this part and leave the process the same.

And so, with everything set, “The boot manager has been successfully installed on your system” and thus, I can click Done. At last.

A little pop-up dialog then appears on the screen that (at least in this screenshot) reads, “Rebooting in 2 seconds”.

And once that’s done, we’re brought back to the beginning once again with the welcome dialog box, where we started from…

And that is a full look at Zeta (including the installation process). Like I had mentioned back in Part 5 (where I wrote my concluding remarks about Zeta) Zeta truly was a unique distribution that definitely has its place in computer history and in its own way, tried to keep the Be desktop alive, while also pushing the boundaries of what a Be desktop could be forward.

I truly hope that you enjoyed these articles, and that you also enjoyed this series!

I really, really like this stuff (and hope you do too)!

And hey, it takes time for me to bring all this together. If you like it, (and want to help me get some more stuff out there), please support me on Patreon! Either way: Thanks for reading (especially this part)! 🙂

Want to read more?

Feel welcome to visit my list of articles:

Post-Be series: Zeta Review (Part 5 of 5: Finishing tour of apps, conclusion)

Before a long-awaited alpha came Zeta.

(Also available on Medium.)

Parts 1–3 of this review were mainly about the Zeta desktop and of course, the preferences set, and in the last article (Part 4), I’d begun to look at several of the apps on the system. This continues as a ‘part 2’ to where I’d left off and continues to look at the remaining apps in the batch…

App pick 13 of 25: Mozilla Firefox (BeOS/2.0 Beta 2)

I’d taken a look at a Mozilla browser before back in the BeDE/Vimba distribution, and a lot has chts aaanged since. Now the browser feels more like its own than it does a child of Netscape, and here it mentions “Server not found” for Zeta. But here, we have File, Edit, View, History, Bookmarks, Tools, and Help, with a gear indicator now instead of a throbber, and a Firefox toolbar that has back, forward, reload, stop, home, the address bar, and a search bar.

It’s very much Firefox — and very much on the BeOS. It’s amazing how times have changed and how the browser has moved past its younger days.

Here, we can see the browser version is 2.0b2 (or 2.0 Beta 2), and the copyright goes to “© 1998–2006 by contributors to the Mozilla Project.”

App pick 14 of 25: Vision

Vision is an IRC application for the BeOS. Here, we can see the “Setup Window”, with the Vision logo, a Network pop-up menu, and three buttons: “Connect” (faded since nothing is set for connection), “Network Setup…”, and “Preferences…”

The good news is that this application hasn’t gone away; it’s still available on the modern successor to BeOS today.

App pick 15 of 25: Whisper

I’ve never used Whisper before, but from reading a bit of its help guide and looking around it, it’s a conferencing application. On the top is its app menu, Edit, View, and Actions, and below this is its toolbar. Buttons include a traditional phone icon (connect), a globe with a plugin in it (go online), a set of three people in the Be style (bookmarks), a yellow screwdriver and wrench (preferences), and an old fashioned light bulb (help).

Under this are three collapsible panes: Connection, Oscilloscope, and Sound Controls. At the very bottom is a status bar that says “Disconnected” and “Offline” with matching icons (a disconnected plug and a red light).

  • Connection has two radio buttons. The first, “Using Personal Information” lets one enter a Surname, Name, and Email into text boxes or pick a bookmark from a Bookmarks pop-up menu. From what I could understand from its help file, this was a way Zeta could connect a user over a server without needing to type in the IP. The second, “Using IP address” lets someone connect directly using an IP address in the text box. And under both options to the right is a “Connect” button.
  • Further down is “Oscilloscope”, which I would imagine would allow seeing either the connection rate or sound waves where the flat line is presently showing.
  • Last is “Sound Controls” where there’s a sound slider with red to the left 85% of it or so, and blue to the right of it. And there’s a Mute check box.

And finally, here’s the “About Whisper” box, which mentions (with slashes added for line breaks):

Application for ZETA, [yellowTAB website] / © 2006 yellowTAB GmbH / Whisper / Version 1.2 / Development by yellowTAB GmbH and Oliver Ruiz Dorantes”. And of course, the box also has the Whisper logo (a phone receiver connected to Earth with binary coming out the bottom) and a yellowTAB logo on it.

I think the one thing about this is I can see where Whisper would be useful (in having a conferencing app built in to Zeta), but honestly, could it really compete against better solutions on competing systems at the time? A part of me thinks and hopes so, while another part of me in retrospective feels like this was almost a forlorn attempt at Zeta trying to fit into the modern world at the time with its own solutions against a much larger world.

App pick 16 of 25: WindowsNetworks

As far as I can tell, this appears to be a box for setting up a SMB or Samba connection with Windows clients. The first half of it (“Configuration”) has text boxes for “Server Name”, “Share Name”, “User Name”, “Password”, “Workgroup”, and “Server IP Address” above a Save button.

The bottom half has a “Previous Connections” list view with a “Delete Entry” button (if one is selected to remove), and at the very bottom are “Help” and “Mount Network Drive” buttons.

This I definitely can see as being useful, like a “Connect To” box for Zeta, and since most casual home networks used Windows 9x/NT, it’d definitely be a plus to have a way to share files to and from those computers on that network in the same fashion as Gnu/Linux and the Mac also offered (and I believe still do). So this was a definite necessity that I am truly thankful was included.

App pick 17 of 25: ArtPaint

ArtPaint is an application that I felt was worth visiting, as its a simple paint program that (like Vision) still exists today. Here, there’s three windows. Two are floating toolboxes — so there’s Tools with a painting set in it (fill bucket, lines, ovals and rectangles, and text), Tool Setup with a slider for setting widths, and the “Empty Paint Window”, where we can “Create Canvas” by setting Width and Height in the text boxes and from there, can click the button at the bottom. The window itself is simple (File, Edit, Layer, Canvas, Window, Add-ons, Help menus on the top) and a canvas area as the main body.

App pick 18 of 25: ffmpeg GUI

This is a useful frontend to ffmpeg, an open source encoding tool that allows converting between different media formats. Similar to what one might find in HandBrake, there’s buttons and text boxes at the top to choose the source file and output file, and below this, there’s a trio of drop-downs: “Output File Format”, “Output Video Format”, and “Output Audio Format”, set to avi, mpeg4, and mp3 respectively.

Below that is a pane that hosts a series of 4 tabs (and I’ll only go over the contents of the first one): “Main options”, “Advanced options”, “Output”, and “About”. In “Main options”, there’s three sections.

  • The first is for Video, with an “Enable video encoding” check box and “Bitrate (kbit/s)” and “Framerate (hz)” cycle boxes with editable values (set to 800 and 25) on top. The bottom has a check box to “Use custom resolution”, also with editable cycle boxes for “X resolution” and “Y resolution” (set to 640 by 480).
  • The second is for Cropping with a “Enable video cropping” check box and editable cycle boxes for “Top crop size”, “Bottom crop size”, “Left crop size”, and “Right crop size”, all set to 0.
  • The third is for Audio with a check box to “Enable audio encoding” with a check box to “Enable audio encoding” and editable cycle boxes for “Bitrate (kbit/s)”, “Sampling rate (hz)”, and “Audio channels” — set to 128, 44100, and 2 respectively.

And finally, at the bottom, there’s an Encode button and the equivalent ffmpeg string one would use in Terminal that’s below all the above. It’s also worth me mentioning that Zeta also includes a MediaConverter app as well, (which I’m pretty sure would make it into Haiku later on, as it has a utility of the same name.)

App pick 19 of 25: BeUAE

Like mentioned before back when I was looking at the different menus in the Deskbar, this is an Atari emulator that I’m not sure what it’s initials stand for, but I’m guessing it’s ‘universal Atari emulator’. I’m pretty sure it’s open source. The Settings box for it has a lone File menu, and a sidebar for changing CPU, ROM/RAM, Video, Audio, Input, Floppy Disk, and Hard Disk settings, and under CPU, we can choose a Model and Speed via drop-downs, “Enable FPU” and “24 bit Address Mode” with check boxes, and set “Speed rate” with a slider. When done, we could “Start UAE” with the button at the bottom or Quit (with the other button).

Despite the lack of a hard disk file, I did see disk file names in the floppy bays (df0.adf and so on) and a kick.rom file, so I decided to give starting it a go. And for those enjoying a hearty laugh, I willfully confess ignorance as I’ve never used an Atari before. 🙂 And… I got a black box afterwards, so I’m pretty sure something wasn’t configured right.

App pick 20 of 25: Hatari

The good news, however, is that there is one Atari emulator I did get to work “out of the box” and this was “AtariSTx”, or as the title tab identifies it as “Hatari v0.80”.

The EmuTOS desktop at the end looks like the one shown below, which has a Mac or GEM like feel to it. I’ve used the open source Icaros Desktop before (which is based off AROS if I remember correctly) so I kind of expected something like this, but this definitely has the vintage feel to it!

And it would appear that the Zeta developers (or at least one Zeta developer) happened to like Atari, as there’s multiple emulators for it that are included in the distribution.

App pick 21 of 25: DOSBox

Next up is DOSBox, a useful utility that emulates a DOS session and opens a command prompt window, where one can load programs and games built for that platform.

App pick 22 of 25: QEMU VM Editor

Now, this I found interesting. I opened “QemuVM” for fun, expecting to see nothing (as qemu is a command line application, and needs options to run), but instead was greeted with this: “QEMU VM Editor”.

In Simple Mode (the default) we have a text box to set “Hard image path” (I’m guessing for a hard disk image), an info button (which from what I can tell reports the size of the image) and a folder button to look for an image using an open panel. Below this are check boxes to “Start in full screen” or enable “Audio SB16 emulation” and “Advanced”, “Create Disk Image…” and “Start” buttons.

Now, if we do click Advanced, we get identical fields for Floppy, Hard 2, and Cdrom, like we did for the first hard disk — with the exception of the floppy and CD buttons, which tell the editor to set the physical devices over an image.

We also get additional check boxes for “Local time”, “Start in full screen”, and “Windows 2000 hack” with a “Boot from” and “Keyboard layout” pop-up menu set and a “Ram Size (MB)” slider. And finally, the Advanced Mode also has an area to use and name the current profile, add them, and remove them.

Kind of nifty, I have to admit, although I always did like the “Q” app on Mac OS X better in the way it laid everything out. Personally, I don’t know how much I’d use this tool, but it’s definitely nice to have it included in the Zeta system.

App pick 23 of 25: Minesweeper

And… since this is the last time I’ll be able to see this particular version of Minesweeper (the Be edition written by Robert Polic), I thought I’d give it a mention here. Below the File and Game menus, it’s pretty much a clone of the Windows version, with a black LCD panel for mines, a smiley face in the middle, a black LCD panel for time (with orange digits instead of red), and a ‘minefield’ grid underneath.

While there are minesweeper games like this one that exist on the modern-day BeOS today, I haven’t seen this one, so I do believe this is the last time it appears… and speaking of Haiku, Zeta also includes its own Sudoku game, which is similar to Haiku.

App pick 24 of 25: JABA

And also, written in yab (which is short for the programming language ‘yet another BASIC’) is a little CD burning application called JABA, written by Das Jott —and since I’d taken a look at Helios earlier in this series, I felt this needed at least a little mention as well…

App pick 25 of 25: MakeMe

And finally, I have to at least open one developer tool before I’m through looking at the hand-picked app set on Zeta — and so, I’ll go ahead and pick MakeMe.

Of course, there’s also MeTOS in the Development subfolder as well, but that’d take me a good part of an article (if not more) to really cover. And I can also say that going through everything in MakeMe would also, so I’m basically just going to describe a quick overview of what the main window looks like. It appears to be an IDE, like the Be IDE was.

And at the top, it has an app menu, Project, and File in its menubar. The toolbar includes a set of icons for new, open, save, generate make file, generate Jam file, build project, run project, new, edit, delete, quit, and help.

And the rest of the window has a set of vertical tabs (so in a way, visually appears as a sidebar attached to the current view, but it also works like a horizontal tab group would). These include:

Project Details, Source Files, [Resource] Files, Locale Files, Libraries, Flags, ToDo, Advanced, Packaging.

And under the first tab, Project Details, we have Project1 listed in the Name text field, a Type pop-up menu (set to “APP: Application” here), an Authors text field, and a multi-line Description text box.

Sector 10 of 10: Shutting down (and conclusion)

And so, at last, after a long five part look at Zeta (and if I would have went in detail with the screensavers and apps, I imagine this easily would have spanned 7 different parts, so hopefully everyone can understand why I “held back” in these areas) — but we are finally to where I’m closing everything and am preparing to shut down the system.

I think the first area worth the mention from this reviewer is to look at the work done on the artwork, here in Zeta (and in other distributions, like PhOS as one example). This desire to create better icons and a more modern feel definitely leaves a lasting legacy. There’s a certain beauty to the isometric house and redrawn Trash can that’s here (and in other icons across the system) that not only give Zeta a unique look, but also helped usher in an era where the old icons were refreshed and replaced. And as we saw back in the File Types pane where it mentioned “resizable SVG”, several of these were scalable vector graphics, which can be found in the /boot/zeta/etc/icons/svg folder. And I feel this is worth discussing, because the icon upgrade was a change that I believe helped visually untether the Be desktop from the past.

(Also, here’s a version of the Trash without the reddish app block and yellow papers in it):

Of course, Zeta is so much more than just its visual aspects, such as the decors, themes, and icons it introduced.

Zeta also improved how the BeOS worked with more modern disks with SATA support, added in new patches and drivers (which allowed it to go beyond where Be had left off), added in its own applications (like the About box, PC Info, and Player — all of which were unique to Zeta), and influenced the design of other systems in the future.

And… like all reviews, it’s finally time to end this one and shut down the computer. Common to all BeOS systems is the “Shutdown Status” box, which shows “Asking Tracker to quit” at the moment. (And yes, there are Kill Application and Cancel Shutdown buttons here, but in this screenshot, they’re grayed out).

Once shutdown is done, one notable thing about Zeta is that in the “System is Shut Down” box, there is now a graphic with a Zeta logo and gray gradient that has “It’s now safe to turn off the computer” — but there is no longer a button. This is something that BeOS always had, (and in going further back in time, something that the compact Macintosh also had), so it’s definitely missed here.

… but overall, that’s a look at Zeta! There’s an extra part that looks at installing Zeta, so if you’re interested, please feel free to read this article as well! And thanks for joining me on this saga of Zeta 1.21!

I really, really like this stuff (and hope you do too)!

And hey, it takes time for me to bring all this together. If you like it, (and want to help me get some more stuff out there), please support me on Patreon! Either way: Thanks for reading (especially this part)! 🙂

Want to read more?

Feel welcome to visit my list of articles:

Post-Be series: Zeta Review (Part 4 of 5: Opening some apps)

Before a long-awaited alpha came Zeta.

(Also available on Medium.)

As we’ve gone through the various parts of this retro review of Zeta, we’ve looked at the desktop in general and the whole set of preference panes that Zeta has inside its own “Preferences” application.

But one thing that we haven’t taken a look at together yet is applications. And so, in this part of the review (and probably the next) I’ll be looking at a set of applications included in Zeta. And here’s what the Zeta desktop looks like again, for those who haven’t read Part 1.

Sector 9 of 10: Opening some apps!

So, like most of the reviews that I’ve done so far in this series, I won’t go through the entire set of applications (as there are so many to choose from in Zeta!) but I will pick 25 applications and quickly show what they look like.

Also, one thing that is definitely going to be different today is I won’t cover the details of what’s in the applications for all of the choices below. Again, the idea is just to show a sampling of a few applications included in this build. And so, with that said…

App pick 1 of 25: Gobe Productive (Word Processing) 

My first app pick is Gobe Productive, the office suite for the BeOS by Gobe Productive. Before AbiWord and LibreOffice (by Haiku Beta 1) came to ‘be’ on the Be platform, this was the de facto office suite for the BeOS. When first opened, a splash does show, but I couldn’t capture it fast enough (which is okay, because I will open the About box).

So, the second thing that appears is the “New Document” box with Gobe Productive in a drop shadowed, serif font on the left, and a list on the right with Word Processing, Graphics, Spreadsheet, Image Processing, and Presentation on the right. At the bottom, we also have three buttons: Open, Cancel, and OK. Since I can’t think of a document to open, I’ll go ahead and click OK to choose the first choice on the list (Word Processing).

And here, we have the Gobe word processing application. At the top are File, Edit, Document, Frame, Window, and Format (and again, I won’t open these up and look at everything today), and below the menubar are editing toolbars.

The first has drop-downs for choosing the font and size, the text style (such as bold, italics, etc.), graphics options (with a text color palette, patterns, gradients, and opacity options), bucket and pen fill or ink colors, opacity, text styles (set to Body here), and set page bookmarks. In the second toolbar, there’s options for aligning text (left, center, right, justified), line spacing (set to 1), single or double column, spelling, and a toggle button for ‘invisibles’ like line breaks, for example. And there’s a ruler that runs beneath these.

And finally, there’s a nice, blank page to write a report, letter, or whatever document we’d want it to do (at the time) inside of. And I say at the time because this office suite is definitely aged by now, and is about around where Claris Works 4 was back when I used it.

And at the bottom are zoom controls and page info. But before I completely quit this application, here’s the “gobe productive” About box with a stylized logo, a scrolling list of credits (which shows Bruce Q. Hammond, Tom Hoke, Carl Grice, and Joel Spaltenstein with their respective country’s flags under Engineering in the screenshot), the office suite version (2.0.1), the copyright (1998–2000 Gobe Software) and an OK button.

App pick 2 of 25: Zeta Portal (NetPositive)

The next thing I wanted to look at is the “Zeta Portal”, which opens inside the classic BeOS browser, NetPositive. I’ve looked at Net+ before, back during the BeOS reviews, and I can see it’s basically the same here. It has File, Edit, Go, Bookmarks, View as its menus, the location bar, back, forward, stop, reload, the home rocket, and Downloads (the blue diskette) in its toolbar.

But — I won’t be looking at the browser today. Instead, I’ll be looking at the ZETA Portal, which has a nice blue header with the yellowTAB logo in the top right corner, and the Zeta logo and ZETA PORTAL at the bottom left.

Below the banner on the top is a yellow page that has a rounded rectangle with Welcome in blue and “On this site you will find links to useful resources about Zeta, which may ease your access to our operating system” in English and German.

Below this, the main body of the document (a white page) begins. First in it is a Be-style person, but with a yellow shirt and blue pants for “News & Infos” with links to yellowTAB, ZetaNews, IsComputerOn, and DeBUG (in German, since each has a flag to the right of it).

Further down is “Software” with a hard disk and green arrow. Under it are “Upgrades” (with a link to yellowTAB in English), “ZETA” (with a link to yellowTAB Partners in English), and “Downloads” (with a link to BeBits in English and BeZip in German). “Hardware” with a Devices icon comes next (with links to yellowTAB and BeDrivers in English).

And finally, a bee in a red shirt reading a black book with the Zeta logo on its cover is sitting next to “Documentation”. Here, there’s links in English to the ZETA manual, SHELL Tools, BeOS Manual, and finally, BeBook (which is both in English and German in Zeta).

App pick 3 of 25: ZetaPC-Info 1.1

Next is ZetaPC-Info (version 1.1), and I might add, is clearly the inspiration for the Magi tools in Zeven OS.

There are several buttons in the toolbar that include CPU, Devices, Resources, Update, Export, Settings, and About. Since I’m just taking a quick look at these apps today, I won’t go into detail of what’s inside them.

But in the window that’s open in the screenshot, there’s CPU with a processor icon, and under it there’s info on the left side for the CPU Number, System Type, CPU Brand, CPU Vendor ID, CPU Name, CPU Type, CPU operating mode, x86 Family, Cpu Model, Cpu Series, Cpu Code, and Cpu Revisison with a Standard and Extended table below this for Family, Model, and Stepping.

On the right is “UP System” and “Cpu speed in Mhz: 2173” in red. “Capabilities”, also in red” lists out MMX, MMX+, SSE, SSE2, SSE3, 3DNow!, 3DNow!+, 3DNow!PRO, and x86–64/EMT64 with either an X or green check mark next to each, depending on if it detected a ‘capability’ or not.

App pick 4 of 25: Activate

Next (and luckily I have not had to do this in this version, so I do not believe that it requires it) is a software activation box that has text boxes for the CD Serial Number and Activation Key. I believe this box is left over from an earlier time when Zeta did need to be activated back in 1.0. Anyway, text in it reads:

“Please take a moment to activate your copy of magnussoft ZETA. / Enter the serial number located on the magnussoft ZETA CD and the activation key, located on a postcard in the CD box.”

Further down, below the boxes it mentions in bold, “Activation is required to continue using the magnussoft ZETA.” From there, it basically goes on to mention how to get a new key if it was lost, and “An internet connection is recommended…” with an option to click “Alternate Activation” instead as a second method.

Software activation over servers or phones irks me. I’ve had to use it before, but I don’t care for it. What it tries to do is guarantee that ‘legitimate’ users have access to it for buying it and locks out pirates. In reality, however, it doesn’t work this way as eventually most methods are circumvented, and paying customers can get locked out of their own copies if, for whatever reason, the activation server on the other end no longer likes that copy (let’s say a person activates too often or changes their machine’s hardware), a record gets accidentally lost, or if the server disappears because the company disappears — such as how Zeta disappeared.

Now, in contrast to online activation, I personally do not mind having unlock codes or asking to register software, because those don’t require an Internet server to do — just a piece of paper or the like, and the company relies on personal honesty instead — which means the software is yours. You can install it, back it up, etc. without worrying about encountering lock out just because a server goes down or your software isn’t considered “genuine” by the manufacturer anymore. Granted, just having a registration box means anyone can write down the code and pirate it, but this happens with more stringent locks anyway.

App pick 5 of 25: Rename

An add-on to the Tracker in Zeta is “Rename”. Here, there’s an app menu, File, Tools, and a toolbar to “Select your files and directories…” with a “Please select…” button and a Path box. Under this is a columned list view with Name, Size, Modified, and Preview. And under that is a “… and rename them!” bar with a Mode pop-up menu. Finally, there’s a status bar that shows “Status: Please select files!” above it at the moment, because nothing’s in here, and a “Let’s do it!” button.

So basically, this is a tool to batch rename files, so if you need to rename Picture1, Picture2, Picture3, etc. to a new name in a series, this lets you do that.

App pick 6 of 25: VESA Configuration

VESA Configuration allows changing the VESA Resolution with a pop-up menu (640 x 480 shown here), and the depth of color (between “Hundreds of colors (8 Bit)” and “Thousands of colors (16 Bit)”) with a set of radio buttons. Under this is a split set of Cancel and OK buttons.

App pick 7 of 25: Team Monitor

Next on the list is a little utility that’s usually summoned with a press of Ctrl+Alt+Delete on a PC keyboard, common to the family of Be operating systems from the original BeOS to here.

This has a list of running teams that can be forced to exit by clicking “Kill Application” as an equivalent to the Task Manager, or on Mac OS 10.0 and above, the Force Quit box. It’s also possible to Force Reboot or Cancel using the buttons on the bottom of the window.

App pick 8 of 25: ProcessController

I know I pick this little utility in every review, but again, the reason for this is because of the sheer usefulness of it. Here, for example, we can see the memory usage for each team with a simple menu. And that’s just one of the things that this little tool can do. Priority of threads can be changed, applications can be told to quit, a new Terminal can be launched at will to run tools like top (very useful), and it comes nicely packaged in an applet that doesn’t take much space.

The About box for ProcessController, however, gets a complete redesign. Here, we see a new, shiny logo for it with red and blue meters, “Application for ZETA, [the YellowTAB website] © 2006 yellowTAB GmbH” and “ProcessController Version 1.2”.

The credits mention (with slashes added for line breaks): “Development by yellowTAB GmbH / Original by Georges-Edouard Berenger / Graphic design: Walter Seiler”, and at the very bottom, there’s a yellowTAB logo.

App pick 9 of 25: DriveSetup

Next up is DriveSetup; since there’s really no other place I’ll get to show this to everyone, I might as well show it here. As always, this is the default disk utility for the BeOS and here, we have Mount, Unmount, Setup, Options, and Rescan in its menubar.

Below this is a columned list view with Device, Map Style, Partition Type, File System, Volume Name, Mounted At, and Size. And under this sit the hard disk and the CD drive that I have installed in the virtual environment. As shown below, /dev/disk/scsi/0/0/0 has an Intel partition map (MBR), BeOS file system, is named Zeta, is mounted at /boot, and is 2 GB.

App pick 10 of 25: Calculator

Next on my list is actually the calculator. I picked this one because it’s definitely the same, but also different, from the Dano version. Here, there’s the same ‘display’ (a text box), power, sine, cosine, tangent buttons along the first row below it, CE, Pi, divide, and multiply below that, and the usual grid of 0–9, decimal, equals, plus and minus under that. But what’s different here is that the buttons take on a Zeta look instead of the classic control look the other calculator had, and I find this kind of neat, (in the same sort of way the original Mac OS X calculator was an Aqua version of the classic one).

App pick 11 of 25: Beam

Beam is an e-mail client for BeOS (and granted, Be does have it’s own mail application), but this is included in Zeta for anyone that needs an alternative with a more traditional focus to it, rather than relying on the filesystem to organize mail.

So, here, there’s the app, File, Edit, Network, and Message menus, and Check, New, Reply, Forward, Print, and Trash in the top toolbar (with icons to the left side of the labels). In the window’s main body is a Folders sidebar for mail folders, and on the right, a messages list view with Name and Subject, and below that, a preview pane.

App pick 12 of 25: StickIt!

StickIt! is basically a lightweight Be desktop applet that puts little sticky notes on the Desktop, as shown below. These come with a close button and a color widget in their little title bars. The default note reads (with slashes added for new lines):

StickIt! / Copyright 1998–1999 by Lost Marble / StickIt is free — use it how you like.

And there’s also a list of Alt keyboard shortcuts below that for making new notes, closing them, saving them, etc. Overall, this is a lot like using Stickies on the Mac, and is something that faded into a novelty later on, as notepads began to sync across devices.

And that’s it for the first dozen apps! There’s still the last baker’s dozen to go through, so please join me again for the last part, where I’ll finish up with the apps and also the review!

I really, really like this stuff (and hope you do too)!

And hey, it takes time for me to bring all this together. If you like it, (and want to help me get some more stuff out there), please support me on Patreon! Either way: Thanks for reading (especially this part)! 🙂

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