posted by Christopher Nelson on Tue 11th Jul 2006 12:11 UTC
IconLike many others, I was a long-time lurker on the atheos mailing list. I was happy to see it get forked, because it seemed to mean that some real progress would get made. In many ways that seems to have happened, and in others... Not so much. Note: This is the 3rd entry to our Alternative OS Contest which runs through 14th July!

The last time I tried out Syllable was somewhere in the 0.5 release. The installation was terrible (but somewhat better than the original atheos install which required manual copying of files). Unfortunately, I never got the system to run on any "real" hardware that I have access to, which most includes Dell Optiplex systems of varying antiquity. I was finally able to use the system under VMware Player, and so that's what I've stayed with.

The project makes it insanely easy to get the VMware image: its one of the standard distribution types for the project. I appreciated the effort that they went through to make it easy to try Syllable.

The pros of using the VMware image include not actually having to install anything. The system just comes right up. In theory you shouldn't have hardware issues either, since the system uses the VMware normalized hardware interface. On the downside, it's somewhat slower than it would be on real hardware.

What I Liked

The boot was pretty fast. I like all the kernel messages and initial programs spilling to the console: it gives me some idea what's actually going on.

The GUI appears fully skinnable, and the default skin for my install was Photon, a QNX Photon-like appearance. I personally find this skin very agreeable. The rounded rectangle highlighting of selected items was also a nice touch. The GUI mostly seems to have a clean look to it, and uses attractive icons that seem to go well together.

Everything you need to use is available right from the desktop - which is good for newbies, even though I wouldn't prefer that layout full-time. You don't have to hunt for stuff.

The preferences menu is nicely laid out, and gives quick access to all the settings you need. The individual configuration applets still need some sprucing up, but they all seem straightforward enough.

The terminal is very friendly, has a good default color scheme, and supports everything I would expect in a modern console (like command history, command editing, backbuffer, etc.).

What I Didn't Like

The interface feels clunky. I wish I could be less vague, but it's just how it feels to me. In addition, the version I tested seems to have serious redraw problems that likely contributed to this feeling. While windows didn't leave bits and pieces of themselves all over, windows that were under another window and were then raised did not refresh themselves. That left the interface in a strange state. Moving the mouse over the affected areas caused it to be redrawn correctly. In other cases, a brand new window (like the shutdown, restart, etc. windows) didn't draw itself correctly in the first place.

The redraw problems may be related to the driver for VMware, since I noticed that sometimes minimizing the window and bringing it back up would cause a correct redraw to occur. I also suspect this to be the case since I experienced mouse issues, where I would click on some button, but nothing would happen. Several clicks later, it would work fine again for a while.

Table of contents
  1. "Syllable 0.6.1, page 1/2"
  2. "Syllable 0.6.1, page 2/2"
e p (3)    21 Comment(s)

Technology White Papers

See More