June 6, 2006

My desktop OS: Zeta

Author: Tim Miller

In a world filled with alternative operating systems, sometimes you have to search for the best. Mac OS X? Nah. "Place name here" distribution of Linux? Nope. Zeta? Definitely. Zeta has all the power it needs to be my primary OS.

Zeta is based on the Be Operating System (BeOS). I have used BeOS since the free BeOS 5 Personal Edition was released in 2000, and its ease of use, quick boots, and minimal hardware requirements allowed BeOS to take full advantage of my computer, which had a 300MHz Celeron CPU, 64MB RAM, and 3dFX Voodoo 3 video adapter. Unfortunately, BeOS developer Be Inc. disbanded by the end of 2001, leaving an operating system that was unable to have more than 1GB of RAM, couldn't support up-to-date AMD and Intel CPUs without special boot disks, and lacked support for hard drives with more than 80GB of space and newer video cards.

Fortunately, a company called yellowTAB bought the rights to use the BeOS source code and began to develop Zeta. Those constraints on newer computers? Gone! For the most part, Zeta has worked on all the computers in my home, including the old 300MHz Celeron box, without fail, with nearly same speed BeOS had.

Zeta's simple GUI install can auto-partition your hard drive to make room for a Zeta partition (using the BFS filesystem). It lets you select the software you want installed, and while there may not be an extremely large library of software available for Zeta as apposed to Windows or Linux, the software that is available gets the job done. I have the GoBeProductive office suite and AbiWord word processor. I have VideoLAN for my movies, and a multitude of music applications. For Web browsing I have Mozilla Firefox and SeaMonkey. If I need to find other applications, I can go to BeBits or yellowTAB's Downloads page and search their repositories for anything I require. Software instillation could not be easier; usually it involves just extracting a folder or running an install program, with rarely the need to venture into the terminal.

I do keep a distribution of Linux on a secondary hard drive for one major program group: games. While Zeta has quite a few games available, they are limited, as there is no 3-D driver for newer ATI and Nvidia graphics cards. There is a Nvidia 3-D Driver for Geforce 4 MX and older cards, but even with a card that supports it, there is not much use for it. Also, Flash support is limited to an old standalone Flash player, and Zeta lacks Java support, though there has been some development toward getting it for the past few years.

While it may not fit the requirements of everyone, Zeta is worth a try. YellowTAB has a live CD to try on its Web site, while BeBits offers BeOS 5 Personal Edition as well as two other CD-ROM-based distributions of BeOS 5.

What desktop OS do you use every day? Write an article of less than 1,000 words telling us what you use and why. If we publish it, we'll pay you $100. (Send us a query first to be sure we haven't already published a story on your favorite OS or have one in hand.) In recent weeks, we've covered SimplyMEPIS, Xandros, Mac OS X, Fedora Core 3, Ubuntu, White Box Enterprise Linux, Mandriva PowerPack 2006, Slackware, SUSE, GRML, Kanotix, Gentoo, VectorLinux, CentOS, Damn Small Linux, Frugalware, Kubuntu, PCLinuxOS, Arch Linux, Fedora Core 5, and Debian Etch.

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