posted by Christopher Nelson on Tue 11th Jul 2006 12:11 UTC

"Syllable 0.6.1, page 2/2"

Networking didn't work for me on boot. This was fine because I received an error message that I would have to reset networking. I quickly located the network preferences, but changing the settings there made no difference. I finally ended up rebooting the system in order to get networking to come up. If this is the intended functionality, a message informing the user to that effect would be appropriate.

That brings up another point: the quit window didn't work. I tried rebooting using that interface several times, but nothing happened. I finally opened a terminal and typed reboot into that, which worked perfectly.

Bundled Apps

The basic package comes with a few basic apps, mostly what you'd expect: a browser, an editor, an image viewer, a calculator, even an e-mail client, and a chat program.

The editor, AEdit, seems to be a nice program. I was somewhat confused by the lack of Alt+XXX accelerators, but it does respond to the typical Ctrl+S type shortcuts. There doesn’t seem to be any way to get into the menu system without a mouse, but I don't know if this was a conscious design decision, or just something that hasn't been done yet. Other than that, I thought it was a useful program.

The e-mail client, Whisper, never did work for me. In fact, it locked up as soon as I tried to configure it. I didn't investigate this very deeply, since my opinion is that the client should just work. Although, in its defense, it does claim to be alpha software.

The built-in browser, ABrowse, was functional but insanely slow. It also appears to have redraw problems. It's better than nothing, but the project would do well to just port Firefox.

The chat client is a Jabber-based IM. It ran, but since I don't have any Jabber accounts I didn't try to connect and see if it functions. I did try to change some settings to see if it had problems similar to Whisper, but it worked just fine.

The distro also comes with a very nice calculator, called Albert. I appreciate that since, as a programmer, I often am annoyed when I want to do a moderately complex calculation, but can't find any program in some OS to do it. You shouldn't have to hunt for useful tools like that.

Conclusion

The OS has some promise, but it needs to apply some serious spit and polish to its general user interface if it wants to attract more users.

I keep trying to decide why I might use Syllable over, say, OpenBSD or Ubuntu... And I can't think of any compelling reasons. The website lists five things that might be of interest to some people:

  1. Lack of legacy code
  2. Modern, queryable filesystem
  3. POSIX-compliance
  4. Fast boot
  5. Clean API

Of those five, the filesystem was perhaps the most compelling to me, but with projects like Beagle, it has become less so. The vast majority of their work, though, seems to be reinventing the wheel. At the moment, while I wish the Syllable team the best and I think it has real potential, I don't find Syllable as exciting or interesting as I had hoped to.


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