posted by Eugenia Loli on Fri 19th Jul 2002 04:25 UTC
IconLet's face it, the most important, truly alternative, hobby operating systems that are somewhat usable today are three: MenuetOS, SkyOS and AtheOS. All three are hobby, open source OSes, written from people who enjoy coding low level programming. Read more about the differences between these OSes and which one you might want to try out.

MenuetOS
The OS is written 100% in x86 assembly and it fits in a single floppy disk, therefore installation is pretty simple, all you have to do is write the bootable image into a floppy and boot with it. The OS is very fast indeed and it features a full GUI (screenshots). Coders tried to add a C interface to the OS, but the author, the Finish Ville Turjanmaa, is very clear about the point of MenuetOS, being written in asm. Lately, a lot of cool additions have happened to the OS, like the addition of a native assembler, fasm, making Menuet self-hosted, quite a number of applications, good VESA support and of course, a brand new networking stack. Among the problems of the OS is the fact that there is no real filesystem under it to be able to get installed in a hard drive, also, by not being object oriented each application has its own distinct look instead of inheriting widgets from a main object, while it could have been even faster if the OS was using some more advanced assembly, like MMX-only, or 3DNow! or SSE1/2.
Installation: 8/10
Hardware Support: 2/10
Ease of use: 8/10
Features: 5/10
Speed: 9/10
Dev. Activity: 10/10

SkyOS
Austrian Robert Szeleney started SkyOS a few years ago. Today the OS can boot from a CD or from a hard drive using aa FAT12/FAT16 filesystem while it works well with VMWare. The GUI works well (screenshots), and it is pretty powerfull from a programming point of view. The OS is written in C/C++, it has good documentation and even a GNU layer for future compatibility with Linux command line programs, while a lot of the underlying architecture will remind you of Windows. The OS is very actively maintained and developed, and this is possibly the best thing about it. On the down side, the OS is pretty buggy, slow-ish and it tries to look like Windows 9x a bit too much. Techically-speaking it does not bring any new (experimental or not) technologies to the table, but instead re-hashes and re-implements what is already proved to be working.
Installation: 5/10
Hardware Support: 3/10
Ease of use: 8/10
Features: 6/10
Speed: 6/10
Dev. Activity: 10/10

AtheOS
AtheOS was written by Norwegian Kurt Skauen and it has been re-written many times since its first incarnation in 1996. It is fully C++, multi-threaded with a powerful journaling file system. From the three, AtheOS is definately the most modern OS, design-wise and implementation-wise (read our review with many screenshots). AtheOS also has the biggest "userbase" of the three, with over 1,000 (irregural) users and about 240 applications to choose from. Its UI looks like the Amiga one, but underneath you will most probably see a lot of similarities to BeOS, while it has very good POSIX support, making the Unix application porting, easier. The down side of AtheOS is that it has not been updated since last October. Kurt is away from the project and no one knows if he will resume development or not. Since October, two forks have occured, Cosmoe and Syllable.
Installation: 6/10
Hardware Support: 5/10
Ease of use: 8/10
Features: 8/10
Speed: 8/10
Dev. Activity: 2/10

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