posted by Eugenia Loli on Wed 8th Oct 2003 22:07 UTC
IconYellowTAB provided us with a copy of Zeta 1.0 RC-1pre+ plus a few additional patches that were not available at the CD's press time. We installed and tried out this new version and here's what we think.

Installation

Installation took about 20 minutes with a 52x CD-rom, for full installation. The Installer program has changed a bit, but it still asks you to select if you want a full installation or to install only select programs. I find absolutely no reason in this day and age to bother your users with selective installation a-la Linux, when the difference in the install size is +1/-1 GB. with today's hard drives, 1 GB is nothing. The somewhat updated UI of the Installer since the Beta 1, also has 2 usability bugs and I have already notified its developer. Overall, it is the same installer as last May: choices and more choices, and badly-resized screenshots. I've said this in the past and I will say it again: "BeOS was all about the best possible defaults, not the most choices" and that was one of the reasons why people loved it. "Less is more" our Gnome friends are preaching these days too, and that's the usability trend both Apple and Microsoft has followed as well.

The Good Stuff

Click for a larger view Booting into Zeta on my AthlonXP worked like a charm and I was up and running 15 seconds later. The desktop feels fast, as all BeOS versions of the past did. Users who have never used BeOS will find a friendly feeling as learning the OS takes almost zero time. The whole point of BeOS/Zeta is simplicity and ease of use and this is what "wins" these new users.

The font rendering engine is not great in today's standards, but it is much-much better than Beta-1 last May. Tracker has SVG vector support, localization works well for a number of languages, USB-2 support is seemingly good as well. Zeta also found my PCI Firewire card and recognized it. Sound worked fine too, it found my Yamaha YMF-754 PCI card, while the mounting ext2/ext3 Slackware partition and my Windows 2003 Server NTFS mounting also worked well. Zeta found successfully my GeForce2MX AGP card too, its network card and used the drivers immediately on boot.

Zeta is fast, as any BeOS you might have used in the past. Loading apps is instant. BeOS users know very well that the occasional UI lock that applications get on all other OSes don't happen in BeOS and its derivatives. Zeta is no different. It boots and operates fast. Zeta also includes the BONE networking stack, inspired by FreeBSD's, and while this networking stack still has problems, it is worlds better than BeOS 5's plain net_server. Additionally, you get the smooth window dragging, as explained here, and lots of new driver support for your PC not found on other BeOS-based releases. I usually use PS/2 mice and keyboards in order to have support from many obscure OSes that I run for OSNews' business, but I tried my husband's Logitech USB mouse on my VIA-based hardware (previously not well supported by BeOS's USB stack) and it worked perfectly. Please note that most of the new drivers (USB 2, better SCSI support, basic wireless etc) can NOT be found on BeBits or elsewhere, they are only available on Zeta.

Zeta comes with a lot of software, software that is mostly found freely on BeBits, but also software that is unique to Zeta: like the fax preferences and app, the address book, ZEdit etc. Some of the software bundled is buggy though, such as Abiword (context menu/3rd mouse button switch, crash on exit). Bochs with FreeDOS is included as well and some other game emulators too. Other software involves CD burning, some system utilities, lots and lots of games. Gobe Productive Office suite 2.x is also included, and I think it is the full version, not just a demo.

Developers will find gcc 2.9-pre installed and ready, however the documentation of the updated Be API to take advantage of the new features (e.g. new printing kit, non-rectangle windows) is not included (Be never wrote that documentation).

The latest releases of Mozilla and Phoenix are included and while they seem a tiny bit faster than my earlier attempts with BeOS on the same machine, the overall feeling is not so positive about their performance under BeOS. Zeta still needs either a better/faster port of Firebird or to finish up their Safari/WebCore port.

If you don't count my buggy network driver I mention below, YellowTAB Zeta is rock solid. I run it for a few days now with no problems at all. The system just works fast and reliably.

Table of contents
  1. "Installation, features"
  2. "Problems, Conclusion"
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