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Syllabe Desktop -- Small Operating System

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Syllable Logo
Syllable is a volunteer project that is developing a family of easy to use computer operating systems. An operating system is the basic software that makes a computer do things. Every computer, and basically every electronic device that is a computer nowadays, needs one. The application programs that you use to get things done need an operating system, so they don't each have to reinvent the wheel.
Beyond knowing that your computer needs an operating system, like you need air to breathe, why should you care? We think that ideally, you shouldn't. Computers are now part of modern day life. You use them for all sorts of things you want to do. Application programs provide the functionality you need. Operating systems should provide the services that applications need to make the machine do their thing, but should otherwise get out of the way as much as possible. Many computer devices have almost become invisible, in your microwave and coffee machine for example, and so should operating systems.
And here lies the rub. Coffee machines and other special-purpose devices usually succeed in doing what you want, but many people can't escape the feeling that their personal computers are often working against them. Yet they are based on the same technology as the little computers that are helpful all during the day. Personal computers are far more powerful machines, so they should also be far more helpful, shouldn't they? Well, sometimes they are, but often they are not.


Syllable is still being developed, but it is already relatively stable and mature, including the following features:
  • Operating system optimised for desktop computers.
  • Easy to use graphical work environment with consistent, simple but powerful interface. Text console emulation is available as extra within the graphical environment.
  • High response speed to user input, even under load.
  • Fast start-up (under ten seconds on modern computers) and shut-down (around five seconds).
  • Based on the AtheOS operating system. Modular. Multi-user. Memory protection. Pre-emptive. Kernel threading. Excellent support for SMP and multi-core systems. Originally inspired by AmigaOS.
  • Under development. Usability depends on your requirements.
Requirements
  • Runs on Intel-compatible PCs in 32-bits mode.
  • Minimum requirements are a Pentium processor and 32 MB memory. (To use the web browser you need some more memory, and 64 MB is needed for the Live CD).
  • Base installation takes around 250 MB disk space, including a collection of applications.
  • Hardware support is not bad, but not comprehensive, either. Support for a range of common hardware devices, including video, network and sound cards, USB devices, printers and scanners, from manufacturers such as Intel, AMD, 3Com, nVidia, and Creative.
Use
  • Fully automatic hardware detection and redetection when you change hardware.
  • Internet access through an Ethernet network (PPP and PPPoE are not fully supported yet, but are available in a test version).
  • Fast, modern web browser (Webster), based on the Apple WebKit engine, an e-mail application (Whisper) and a number of other native Syllable applications.
  • An integrated multi-media framework based on plug-ins. Plug-ins such as FFMPEG and Ogg Vorbis are included, supporting many audio and video formats.
  • An audio player, a multi-media player and a format conversion tool based on the integrated multi-media framework.
  • Graphical preferences tools for networking, display preferences, user administration, audio stream mixing and volume setting and so forth.
  • A dock and application launcher (like the Windows Start button).
  • A journalled 64-bits file system (AFS), modelled on the BeOS file system. FAT file systems from Windows are also supported, and even the BeOS file system itself. The Windows NTFS and Linux Ext2/3FS formats can be read, but not written yet.
Software management
  • Very easy software installation and management.
  • Drivers and plug-ins are one or two files that can simply be dropped into place.
  • Binary compatibility across Syllable versions: you are not forced to upgrade the system and applications together, but can upgrade them separately when you want to.
  • Binary compatibility for drivers: the kernel has stable ABIs, so you can usually install and upgrade the system and drivers separately if you want to.
  • Easy system updates between Syllable versions, preserving user data and most preference settings.
Software development
  • Self-hosting development environment.
  • An object-oriented, message-passing C++ programming API, modelled on BeOS.
  • Uses the ORCA clone of the REBOL programming language as a high-level semantic layer for communication and scripting.
  • High level of POSIX compliance. We strive to comply 100% where it doesn't compromise the unique features of Syllable's design.
  • Cross-platform development is supported through ORCA, POSIX, the GNU stack and the SDL subsystem.
License
  • The program source code is available, mainly under the GPL and LGPL licenses. The base system is free software, but allows closed-source application programs, without paying royalties. While we prefer open source, Syllable is a platform for both open and closed applications.



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