You could say that I am a fan of SkyOS. Not only the OS itself, but also the whole community around it, the relaxed no-pressure development model and the way the developers listen to the community. I have been active in the SkyOS community since the days of version 3; I can remember the discussions I and some others had with Kelly Rush (now SkyOS 'Business Manager', so you could guess who won the discussion) about the GUI. For some reason after the GUI-contest had begun, I dropped out of it all. I still followed SkyOS’ progress, but from the sideline; it wasn’t until January 2004 that I re-joined the SkyOS.org forums. And after that, it again took me months before I joined the beta-team.
Now, I am moderator on SkyOS.org, beta-tester, moderator on an independent SkyOS forum (the eXpert Zone) and rusted stuck in the community, together with other long-time community members. Why am I telling you all this not-so-very-interesting information? Well, because I want to make something clear.
You might think that because of all this, my judgment about SkyOS has lost its objectivity. Well, I can assure you for 100%: it hasn’t. I am no milder towards SkyOS than towards any other operating system. Simply because of one thing: I have the strong conviction that all operating systems suck. So whether it be Windows, Linux, BeOS or SkyOS, they all work on my nerves. That is why I can still be objective about SkyOS itself. My judgment about the community, on the other hand, is completely biased. I think we have the best community there is on the internet. We in the SkyOS community are all friendly, open-minded, quite lovable, and fluffy.
Anyway, some of you might think: why are you telling about how you are part of the community and all, while you could’ve also just ignored that and give us the overview/interview? Well, I wanted you all to know this, because else someone else would’ve said it in the comments section, drastically reducing my credibility, and therefore also reducing the credibility of this overview. This would (or could) hurt SkyOS. This may sound overdone to you, but remember that OSNews gets about 200.000 page views per day. By the way, did I mention we have a very friendly community?
Viewing It All Over
Much has changed since beta 6 was released. Multi-user support has been added, BASH has been ported (at the community’s request), a new widget design was implemented, and more.
Installing SkyOS is actually pretty easy. The install routine is not more complicated than any other, and if you have no problems installing Windows, or any desktop-oriented Linux distribution, you will have no problem installing SkyOS. During install it’s all basic stuff; language selection, keyboard layout, license, partitioning, and so on.
But the install isn’t all bliss. What’s mostly troublesome, at least for me, is the fact that USB is partially de-activated. Kind of annoying for someone who uses both a USB trackball ánd keyboard. But by actually disabling USB support (by booting into safemode), I could get my trackball to work. Not my keyboard though, that’s off limits, still. How is this possible? Well, the USB system is working perfectly, but the USB drivers are disabled. Therefore, SkyOS does recognize my equipment; it just doesn’t have the drivers to operate them. So by disabling USB support, SkyOS turns to my BIOS’ USB to ps/2 conversion in order to operate my trackball (thank you Robert, for the explanation).
This may seem annoying, and trust me, it is; but it’s not really a problem. As you will read in the interview after this preview, beta 9 will be the USB beta. Then, my trackball and keyboard are supposed to work out-of-the-box. We’ll see.
SkyOS, as of yet, does not install a bootloader. So in order to boot into my SkyOS install, I will have to use the CD. And that’s a problem. Not because I will have to boot off of CD (that’s actually great, I hate bootloaders, see here for details), but because there is no way to boot an already installled system in safe mode, from CD. So, every time I will have to start up the install program, enter my beta team name and serial, before I can choose the option 'boot an already installed system' from within the setup program. Now that’s annoying. There are guides as how to install the GRUB form the SkyOS CD onto your MBR, but I haven’t tried it yet. But, seeing other people already succeeded at doing so, I presume it works.
During boot-up I encountered another small improvement: the new boot screen. Not something that’ll get your panties in a twist, but still noticable. After that, the first encounter with multiuser: ‘Choose you username and login!’ Wow, that looks pretty sexy, since it was also my first encounter with the new widget set in high res (it was also featured in the install routine, but that was low-res). Of course some of you may say: ‘Who cares about the GUI!’. Well, I do, for instance (and this is my article, after all), and many others with me. We cannot all be as good and clean and pretty as PhotonUI, but still, SkyOS does a nice job. Hats off to the people who designed it. Marvellous, really. After the ‘Login succesful’ message, the desktop of course appears. Not much new to see, except for that icon that says ‘BASH’. With BASH being ported now, together with the improvements which made the system more POSIX-compatible, porting and using *nix applications should be easier. Seeing the huge amounts of software for *nix, this is great news.
After messing around with the OS for a while, it dawned on me that beta 7 was considerably faster and more responsive than the previous betas. After asking Robert about this on the forum, he replied that he was happy that everyone noticed the speed improvements; he had been working on system optimization. A lot more can be done, he added. To my knowledge, speed improvements are always good. And knowing that more is to come really pleases me. A UI cannot be responsive enough.