posted by Thom Holwerda on Sat 15th May 2010 19:23 UTC
IconThere's one complaint we here at OSNews get thrown in our faces quite often: what's up with the lack of, you know, operating system news on OSNews? Why so much mobile phone news? Why so much talk of H264, HTML5, and Flash? Where's the juicy news on tomorrow's operating systems? Since it's weekend, I might as well explain why things are the way they are. Hint: it has nothing to do with a lack of willingness.

OSNews was founded in 1997, and depending on if you're Columbus or Wichita, that's either a bad or a good year. That insipid Scotty Lynch notwithstanding, I find 1997 a great year, simply because, well, OSNews was launched then. Sure, it didn't look anything like the site before you today, but the format wasn't much different.

OSNews, however, didn't really take off until Eugenia took over in 2001, after leaving BeNews. This was a very exciting time for the desktop operating system space - the space OSNews has traditionally focussed on. So much stuff was going on right at the start of the new millennium.

Apple was finally ready to take the old MacOS behind the shed and put it out of its misery. After years of hard work, Mac OS X first arose from the dismembered body parts that once made up NEXTSTEP, and while early Mac OS X releases were about as pleasurable to use as a broken toilet, it was still a very exciting time if you were an operating system enthusiast on the Mac side of things.

Something similar was going on in Redmond. The Windows 9x product line had really run its course, and finally, in 2001, Microsoft was ready to merge its server and desktop operating system line with Windows XP. From there on out, both desktop and server used Windows NT, and while Windows XP was off to a rocky start, its second service pack made is somewhat usable (I never liked XP). If you were an operating system enthusiast on the Windows side, these were exciting times.

In the open source space, things were really looking up. After almost a decade of development, Linux was really maturing quite rapidly as a desktop operating system. Both GNOME and KDE were looking pretty good, and offered compelling and usable alternatives to Windows - even though you were still supposed to get your hands dirty. For open source enthusiasts, these were exciting times.

Today, I would quit there. However, back in those days, 2001, 2002, 2003, a lot more was going on that had people excited. Yes, Be, Inc., which produced the best desktop operating system ever conceived, was still in operation. Sure, it was clinging on for dear life, but there was still excitement around the BeOS. There were countless other projects aiming to one day conquer your desktop, and instead of the cynicism we hear today, they were greeted with cheers and applause; AtheOS/Syllable, SkyOS, QNX, eComStation, and god knows what other stuff has occupied my hard drives over the years.

Somewhere along the way, however, we settled. Like a 35 year old woman sick of trying to find the perfect man, we grew tired of trying to find that perfect desktop operating system - and just like that 35 year old settling for that guy, we settled for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. Instead of dreaming of that Ferrari or Aston Martin, we settled for the Peugeot 307, the Renault Megane, the Opel Astra.

You don't see much alternative operating system news on OSNews any more because there is none. Sure, there's the occasional "Blubbilux Gets FAT32 Support", but beyond that whoopdidoo, it's a scary empty wasteland out there. Geeks have settled for Macwinilux, and have more interest in debating the choice of fonts on Apple's web site than they do discussing cold and bare metal operating system technologies. Everyone with a blog is a geek now - while back in my day (yes, I'm only 25, but still), you needed to actually do geeky stuff to be a geek. Like, I don't know, build a Linux system from scratch, or use QNX as your one and only operating system for six months (Hi!).

Let's throw the cards on the table as hard as possible. SkyOS is dead. Barring the occasional accidental hiccup, Syllable is dead. QNX as a desktop operating system is dead. ReactOS can finally run three Windows applications if the planets happen to align correctly. AROS may be genetically engineering horses into a race of sunshine-farting unicorns, but they have the communicative skills of a dead lobotomised possum. MorphOS and RISC OS are still twitching every now and then, but you can't buy anything to run it on unless you're willing to spend hours searching for second hand hardware (MorphOS) or are willing to give up two kidneys to afford outdated second hand-hardware (RISC OS).

In the established worlds, the situation isn't any better. To all those zealots cheering for team Macwinilux: your raison d'ĂȘtre hasn't done anything even remotely revolutionary since 2001. Sure, Windows looks glassier now, but it's still Windows. Mac OS X now actually does something even remotely related to "running", but you can show any die-hard Mac fan a screenshot of Mac OS X 10.2 and it will take him a while to realise it's not Snow Leopard. The KDE guys spent years and years creating this amazing platform called KDE4, but since they lack any form of end-user imagination, couldn't do anything with it other than recreate KDE 3.5, only with less features and higher hardware requirements. GNOME has been this for eight years.

Even those few shimmers of light in this dark empty void that is called the desktop operating system market are old lights, lights that are trying to recapture the glory of yore. As much as I love Haiku, it's recreating a 10-year old operating system. Sure, the new AmigaOne X1000 has WANT written all over it, but it's still powered by a severely ageing operating system.

As the industry has moved on, so have we at OSNews. Okay, I refuse to ever refer to the internet as a cloud (anyone that does has something to sell and can't be trusted), but there's no denying that a lot of interesting stuff is going on here, for instance with HTML5 - so we report on that now. The smartphone space, as small as it really is, is filled with new and interesting operating systems (Android, iPhoneOS, Windows Phone 7, webOS), so we report on those. Innovation in the technology world is being severely hampered by patents, so we report on that.

OSNews has moved on. As much as it saddens me to see the technology world settling on Macwinilux (don't flatter yourself, those three are pretty much the same), it's a fact I have to deal with. It's my job to fill OSNews with lots of interesting news to discuss, and even though I would love to be able to talk about how new and exciting operating systems are going to take over the desktop world, I have to be realistic too. Geeks (meaning you and I) have made a very clear choice, and it doesn't seem like anything's about to bring back those exciting early days of OSNews.

It's time to nut up, or shut up. Want more alternative operating system news on OSNews? Then make sure there is something for me to report on.

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