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BeOS is an operating system for personal computers which began development by Be Inc. in 1991.


The Be Operating System, or BeOS, was first written in 1991 to run on BeBox hardware. Unlike some other operating systems of the time, BeOS was written to take advantage of modern hardware. Optimized for digital media work, BeOS makes full use of multiprocessor systems by utilizing modular I/O bandwidth, pervasive multithreading, preemptive multitasking and a custom 64-bit journaled file system known as BFS. The BeOS GUI was developed on the principles of clarity and a clean, uncluttered design. The API was written in C++ for ease-of-programming. It has POSIX compatibility and access to a command line interface through the Bash shell, although internally it is not a Unix-derived operating system.

Initially designed to run on AT&T Hobbit-based hardware, BeOS was later modified to run on PowerPC-based processors: first Be's own systems, later Apple's PReP and CHRP platforms, with the hope that Apple Computer would purchase or license BeOS as a replacement for its then aging Mac OS. However, Apple's board of directors decided NeXTSTEP was a better choice and purchased NeXT in 1996, bringing back Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. To further complicate matters for Be, Apple refused to disclose architectural information about its G3 line of computers—information critical to making BeOS work on the latest hardware from Apple.

In 1997, Power Computing began bundling BeOS (on a CD for optional installation) with its line of PowerPC-based Macintosh clones. These systems could dual boot either Mac OS or BeOS, with a startup screen offering the choice.

Due to Apple's moves and the mounting debt of Be Inc., BeOS was soon ported to the x86 platform with its R3 release in March 1998. Through the late 1990s, BeOS managed to create a niche of followers, but the company failed to become solvent. As a last-ditch effort to increase interest in the failing operating system, Be Inc. released a stripped-down, but free, copy of BeOS R5 known as BeOS Personal Edition (BeOS PE). BeOS PE could be started from within Microsoft Windows or Linux, and was intended to nurture consumer interest in its product and give developers something with which they could tinker.

Be Inc. also released a stripped-down version of BeOS for Internet Appliances (BeIA), which soon became the company's business focus in place of BeOS. Unfortunately, BeOS PE and BeIA proved to be too little too late, and in 2001 Be's intellectual property was sold to Palm, Inc. BeOS R5 is considered the last official version, but BeOS R5.1 "Dano", which was under development before Be's sale to Palm and included the BONE networking stack, was leaked to the public shortly after the company's demise.

Despite the end of Be Inc. BeOS remains popular among devoted followers. The BeOS community still develops free software and has even released patches, drivers and various updates to BeOS. The main source of BeOS-related software can be found at BeBits.

The BeOS user interface was notable at the time for being almost completely unthemeable, even with third party hacks. The BeOS theme of yellow, changing length tabs on the top of windows, and relatively plain grey interface widgets was enforced. This UI remained relatively unchanged from 1995, but had been completely overhauled by the time of the leaked Dano release. An Easter egg in the OS allowed changing the title bar look-and-feel to a few others (Mac OS 8, Amiga, and Windows 98 appearances) and in Dano, this had been extended to be a feature allowing changing of the title bar and scroll bars. No other interface widgets could be changed. There is a third party program that allows the colors of the title bar and window frame to be changed, but the appearance remaned the same.

The plain BeOS R5 GUI is commonly cloned, either as the main UI, such as in TriangleOS, or as a theme, such as for GNOME.

Projects to recreate BeOS

BeOS was well respected by a small but loyal community, yet the BeOS user base was disappointed when Be Inc. failed commercially and no further enhancement of the operating system would be possible. As of 2002, a few projects have formed to recreate BeOS independently in varying ways, with the eventual goal of then continuing where Be Inc. left off. To ensure that the OS cannot be "taken away" from the Be community again, and to attract the efforts of volunteer programmers, these projects are all free software / open source software. The success of similar projects to make free software operating systems has been proven by the GNU project and various free software BSD-based projects. The modular nature of the original BeOS facilitates recreating the operating system a piece at a time, inserting the newly coded modules into a working BeOS system to test compatibility. Eventually all of the "servers" (interworking modules of code) are to be replaced with original, freely licensed code.

  • Haiku
  • Blue Eyed OS (development possibly halted)
  • Cosmoe (also dormant)
  • E/OS (FreeBSD/GNU/Linux hybrid kernel, with an embedded GUI and BeOS APIs)

Projects to continue BeOS

  • YellowTAB is believed to have the rights to use the unfinished BeOS R5.1 sourcebase, but not the BeOS trademark, and currently distributes a release (as of June 9 2005) of the OS project called ZETA. YellowTAB has never stated their legal position with regard to the BeOS code-base (perhaps for contractual reasons), and because of this, has created a great amount of controversy and skepticism in the Be community.

Products using BeOS under the hood

Video editors Edirol DV-7 from Roland corporation run their video editing program on top of a modified BeOS. See the product webpage and a review. This interview in Japanese contains interesting info why Roland chose BeOS as their basis.

Signage and broadcast display machines from Magicbox utilize BeOS to power their Aavelin product line. This product is notable because the company has provided substantial funding to port Flash media technologies to BeOS.

The TuneTracker radio automation system is sold complete with a next-generation BeOS operating system called "ZETA" that is employed due to its stability and ease-of-use.

source: wikipedia

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