The Be-all and End-all

FRAMINGHAM (04/24/2000) - In the past three weeks, we explored BeOS, an operating system that Gearhead would describe as better than most of the other stuff you use. We examined the operating system from its feature set (though hardly doing it justice), and this week we'll wrap up with a look at the software and services that come with or can be acquired for BeOS.

Before we do, Gearhead would like to note an interesting, insightful and thoroughly inflammatory comment a reader made about another hot operating system: "I don't consider Linux better - just different and cheap." (That was one of those things you just have to share.)He also observed: "The more I hear about BeOS, the more it sounds like the programmers from Commodore/Amiga are trying to bring AmigaDOS into the real world. A pre-emptive multitasking operating system designed for multimedia?

Where are the Agnes, Gary and Denise chips?" (Those are the Amiga chips used to enhance performance). While pithy, Gearhead would suggest these comments misrepresent the issues. Be that as it may . . .

So you fire up BeOS and what do you get? For starters, network services that, as we said last week, are awesome. If you make a change to your IP configuration, tell BeOS to restart networking, and voila! This on-the-fly, rebootless operation is fundamental to BeOS and Gearhead cannot figure out why Windows can't do this. How hard can it be?

Anyway, along with networking you get a Web browser called NetPositive, which is simple and quite fast. If you're looking for more oomph you can install the Opera browser (http://www. opera. com/beos/), which is very good under Windows and even better under BeOS. Opera features an e-mail client, 128-bit encryption, TLS, SSL 2 and SSL 3, CSS1 and CSS2, XML, HTML 4.0, HTTP 1.1, WML, ECMAScript and JavaScript 1.3, as well as a small footprint.

NetPeguin is Be Corp.'s FTP client, and while there's no Web server on the Version 4.5 CD or in Version 5, there are several third-party products available (see http://www.be. com/software/).

The fun stuff that comes with BeOS includes a flying-through-the-stars application, like the Windows screen saver but much more interesting. If you are really interested in the stars grab a copy of 3D Starchart (http://users. deltanet.com/users/axly/starchart/), which lets you view the universe in three dimensions from any point in space (that is, you're not tied to the solar system).

This application shows off BeOS's multithreading and smooth graphics. Another cool graphics feature is the bundled sound editor, 3dmix, which is similar in concept to Gearhead's favorite music toy, Sonic Foundry's Acid. 3dmix has some amazing graphic displays that are synchronized with the music, and you can use it with the output from Drum Circle, a drum sequencer also bundled with BeOS.

As for programming, there's C, Python, Perl and Rebol, along with debuggers and integrated development environment systems. The one missing language is Java, which Be was due to deliver early this year, but it is still in development (check out coffeeBEan at http://www.cyberclip.com/Be/coffee BEan.html as an alternative).

Gearhead could happily go on exploring BeOS, but, alas, we must move on.

Next week, something different from gh@gibbs.com.

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