posted by Thom Holwerda on Thu 18th Nov 2004 10:19 UTC

"QNX, Page 3/3"

Emailclick for a larger view

QNX does not come with an email application pre-installed. Luckily, Thunderbird 0.8 is available for QNX, as well as several text-based clients. You can download Thunderbird here. I do not think Thunderbird requires an introduction.

Instant Messaging

QNX has various protocol-specific IM clients. Gaim is also available in the form of of a GTK+ port, but the versions available are pretty old (0.59 and 0.76), and therefore I recommend using the protocol-specific clients. However, there is no MSN client for QNX, so MSN users (like me) are left in the dark.

Word Processing

There is a native AbiWord port available for QNX from AbiSource (version 2.0.1). This port performs extremely well, and it would definitely satisfy word-processing needs for most people.

Easy Software Installation

This is one of QNX' strong points: its package management system. It is repository-based, using xml. click for a larger view With the QNX Software Installer you can easily connect to any QNX Repository, in much the same way as you would surf to a website; you enter the location of the repository (i.e. '') and the Installer automatically downloads all the necessary info. When selecting and installing a package, dependencies are automatically found and installed. Repositories do not have to be on the net; they can also be located on your harddisk or a CD-ROM. In fact, every package (i.e. AbiWord.qpr) is in itself a tiny repository. After installation, links to the programs are installed into the Launch menu, in the appropriate category. The obligatory screenshot:

Easy to configure

click for a larger view

I find QNX and PhotonUI extremely easy to configure-- but of course I realize that not everyone will agree with me on that one. I included a screenshot showing a few configuration windows. Judge for yourself:


QNX is fully equipped when it comes to multimedia; various formats are supported, and support for more formats can be downloaded.


A desktop operating system needs more applications than the ones mentioned above. And that is, not surprisingly, one of QNX' weaknesses. For instance, cdrecord has been ported to QNX, but there is no GUI front end for it. Another problem is that there is no graphical mounting available; CD's will automount, but floppies will not. Furthermore, there are no means of accessing a digital camera.

On the other hand, there are also a lot of things that QNX does have. Full featured FTP client, IRC clients (both graphical and console), lots of audio players, ect. All sorts of software is available to QNX users. The '3rd Party Software Repository' is pretty vast, and it is not the only repository around.

Hardware Support

Hardware support has always been a tricky thing for smaller desktop operating systems. We all know that for smaller projects it is extremely difficult to support all the hardware that is available to x86 users. For bigger operating systems like Windows and Linux it is less difficult; the companies behind the hardware will develop drivers for those operating systems themselves.

Still, QNX does quite well. All the hardware in my system was properly detected and configured, with no extra editing required. Of course it would be impossible for me to list all the hardware available. Luckily, QNX Software Systems provides an up-to-date, easy to use hardware compatibility list. Check for your hardware here.


It is very difficult to draw a conclusion on whether QNX is an operating system one can use on the desktop; mainly because of the fact that QSS does not even pretend to be making a desktop operating system. Vital functionality of a desktop OS are missing, like easy support for consumer USB devices, a CD recording application, native Email client, and more.

However, what makes QNX so interesting is the amazing potential it has. QNX is one of the most POSIX-complient operating systems; porting any *nix application should not take more than a recompile. Secondly, the availability of GTK+ 1 and 2 should also be noted. But most interesting of all is the comprehensive graphical development environment known as QNX Momentics. I really suggest reading up on Momentics, and the possibilities it provides, here.

Can QNX be an operating system for your grandmother? Well, if she is like my grandmother, who only browses the web and reads her email; then, yes. But if she requires anything just a bit more advanced, like CD-Writing, or digital camera access, QNX will not do.

Still, this does not mean QNX is useless as a desktop operating system. Especially if you want to try something completely different, with a different design, different internals and different goals than the more mainstream operating systems, then QNX will definitely be your game. I especially recommend QNX for 'second' systems-- since it lacks features a main operating systems must have (in my opinion).

I happily used QNX 6.2.0 on my PII 366 laptop, which only featured 64 megabytes of RAM. It provided me with a full featured operating system, running at a very acceptable speed. I can surely recommend anyone with an interest in alternative operating systems to try out QNX-- you will be pleasantly surprised.

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  1. "QNX, Page 1/3"
  2. "QNX, Page 2/3"
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