SkyOS Beta8 was released to testers about week ago to the beta testers, this release focusing on the new networking abilities, the new ISS, and of course the latest patches and programs. I decided to write a quick overview of it, to better expose SkyOS from just an average users point of view.
Before I begin my overview of beta8, I want to brush on some of the new features and goals of this beta, and the new components that came with it.Beta8, in the SkyOS community, is known as the “Networking Beta.” With this release, networking has been re-enabled once again and is ready for testing along with the Links Browser (While SkyKruzer is being worked on). Some notable additions for this release are the new developer tools (GCC 3.4, Binutils, Python), Integrated Streaming System (with added video support and some new features), and the numerous bug fixes and other small features.
I began my adventure by downloading the newly released 212mb Beta8 CD from the SkyOS website and burning it onto a CD.I decided I was going to install it not only onto VirtualPC (for the convenience and ability to capture screenshots), but also attempt to install it on my IBM Laptop, HP Desktop and ancient Sony Desktop. Here are the basic specs for
The IBM Laptop
- 800 MHz Celeron
- 128 MB Ram
- 11g HD
The HP Desktop
- 1.1 GHz Celeron
- 246 MB Ram
- 20g HD
The Sony Desktop
- 238 MHz PIII
- 64Mb Ram
- 3.8g HD
On the two desktop machines I was not able to complete the installation successfully.With the HP, the installer froze before it even started, right after I selected SkyOS from the GRUB menu.After some tinkering with it I gave up and moved onto the Sony machine. With the Sony, the installation would work perfectly until the copying of the files to the HD.Right as it began to copy it would bring up an error telling me that base.pkg couldn’t be copied because the Installation Information was not there. I found this weird because my install on my laptop went fine, and I was using the same CD for both. I submitted the bug to the bug tracker, and am awaiting the response. When installing on the laptop though, I was able to get everything to run smoothly.
I inserted my freshly burned CD and successfully booted into the SkyOS installer via GRUB.After moving easily through the first few setup screens I was prompted to partition the HD.The graphical partition program included is simple and effective, and within seconds I had deleted my windows NTFS partition and created a new SkyFS one. My only complaint was that I couldn’t get it to expand to the full 11 GB, it insisted that I could use only 3.3 maximum. This may have just been my error, and if not I’m sure Robert will be swift in creating a patch for this. I was forced to reboot after this, and continued with my installation. At the next step I was allowed to choose which applications to include. I left it with all the apps selected, and it began to install the packages.All the files were copied successfully, albeit a bit slowly, and I was ready to begin.
The SkyOS boot is smooth and easy, and the only “ugly” underlying code you have to look at is the GRUB boot loader. I was greeted by a simple and professional login screen with two automatically created accounts, Test and Admin. The install hadn’t given me an option to create my own username and password, so I just clicked Admin and then login (no password was required).From there, the default desktop loaded instantly, and I was ready to go.
On the first boot, a notification window slid up and told me my USB port was recognized, but the USB functionality has been disabled until beta9 so Robert can focus on the networking issues.
My sound card is not supported, so I was not allowed to use the MP3 player or Media player in this version. Just for kicks I inserted a Dashboard Confessionals CD I owned and attempted to mount it, but was given a message about an “IO error.” Lesson: no matter how nice the new ISS is, a good portion of users aren’t going to be able to use it if there aren’t more sound card drivers included by the final.
I was glad to see that my ATI Rage graphic card was supported in SkyOS, so soon after booting into it I opened the Display
configuration center and tried to switch from the VESA 2.0 driver to the ATI one.Unfortunately, when I tried this I would either have the screen flicker for a few seconds and return to the VESA driver, or have the whole OS freeze as I clicked apply settings. So to my dismay I was forced to use the VESA driver, and wait until my submitted bug was fixed.
My pointing stick on my IBM laptop worked nicely, along with the two basic PS2 mice that I plugged in (no configuration needed either). Later, I plugged in my wireless Logitech mouse, which to my great surprise, also worked nicely after a quick reboot.
SkyOS comes with a decent amount of default programs included, depending on where you come from. It has nothing near the usually fully loaded Linux Distros, but it has quite a few more when compared to the sparse Windows default install. The problem is, some important ones are missing, and some odd choices are included. Links is the only available browser, while SkyKruzer is being finished.The personal organizer/email client being worked on by Nemo (from the SkyOS forums) is still in progress and not yet available (so no email).The GIMP, Blender3d, and Bochs were included by default, when instead making them available from the Software Store would probably make more sense. I noticed that most of the GTK programs ran really slowly, though due to the beta stage these issues will most likely be smoothed out before the release.
Unfortunately, I do not have high speed access, and I forgot the password to my dialup, so I was unable to test the networking. Though this may seem fairly ironic considering I’m writing about the “networking” release, the only programs you can really test online at this time are Links and GAIM. From reading posts in the forum, both are a bit buggy (GAIM is miserably slow) at this point, if you can manage to get your internet up and running.The SkyOS software store runs well, and from what I hear gets the job done just fine.I also read about a complaint or two with slow speeds, but I can’t confirm that.
Look n’ Feel
For some screenshots of the latest WindUI, visit SkyOS.org
The SkyOS GUI, named WindUI, has come a long way and I think looks very good these days.The only problem is that not all the widgets and elements of it totally fit together yet. The scrollbars are flat, square and blank while the rest is rounded and smooth. The min, max and close buttons look washed out and are also square too. Along with those many other smaller widgets have a different “feel” when compared to the overall look (mouse over effect differences, sizing issues, jagged edges). While it might sound like I’m a being bit harsh, you also must realize that this is a beta, and that most of these problems should be fixed by the final.
SkyOS is in the same position in the “feel” department as it is in the looks.Everything is fairly snappy (excluding the GTK apps) and minus the occasional crash, everything feels stable.Some things that bothered me:
- Must click the mouse to open some submenus (ex: when you right click)
- Can’t right click on the start menu’s applications to do anything with them
- Many useful options missing from right-click menu
- Tearing and trailing
- Icon spacing in certain parts
- Start menu looks buggy in “flat” mode
- Other included themes unfinished/buggy
SkyOS is definitely maturing into a beautiful OS. The boot screen is simple and informative, as is the login screen.The design of SkyOS could be describes as a mix between windows (GUI and API), Linux (Filesystem Structure and Applications), and Mac (Simplicity).The speed overall is great, and the focus and community are perfect. SkyOS beta8 shows many improvements and lots of hope for the future, but also feels like it’s quite a ways away from being called “commercial.”The OS is mature in certain areas, but still lacks enough supported drives and also a lot of polish.The current beta is usable but unstable, and the GUI still needs work until it reaches a level of consistency that’s high enough to be called sellable. With some more months of hard work from the SkyOS “team” we can expect a solid OS that lives up to all the controversy and excitement that circles around it.I enjoyed my trip through beta8, and without a doubt will buying the final release when it comes out.
About the Author:
Nate Wienert is a 15 year old student that has been a participant in the SkyOS community for a couple years now, and runs the SkyOS community website SkyOSnet. Currently he slaves over multiple webdevelopment projects, with a dash of tennis and school on top.
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