Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Zeta R1 Review

When people look for alternative operating systems, most would look toward to Linux, or the BSD's, however, Zeta, based on BeOS R5 code, is trying to gain some of the spotlight for itself in the market. Right before Be Inc. was bought out by Palm, Inc. in 2001, a licensing deal was set up with YellowTAB to use the source to BeOS 5.1.0. Since then, YellowTAB has continued development on the operating system, and after a number of “release candidates”, version 1.0 has finally arrived. As it improved and worth the wait? Well.... It depends.

Zeta 1.0 has many improvement's over the release candidates and BeOS R5. First, Zeta 1.0 can now boot if more then 1 gig. Of ram is present in the computer, where before, a hack was needed to limit the amount Zeta would recognize. Second, the installer has been greatly improved. The partitioner, powered by Paragon, allows for non destructive partitioning of NTFS partitions, however other kinds must be reformatted, and partitions cannot be deleted outright. Hopefully future versions improve over this. The rest of the installer works just fine, however some of the default software choices are a bit puzzling. It's very bloated in software, for example, there are over 170 megabytes of game software (most of which are just emulators, or poor SDL games). While they can be turned off from being installed, for those just going with the defaults, there will be a lot of extra software that just does not need to be there.

After the install, the computer restarts, and boots Zeta (unless of course you are running a multi-boot system, then bootman starts and allows one to pick which OS to start). Now, here are where the problems really begin. The major issue right after starting Zeta, hardware support. My video card (ATI x800 pro AGP) is not supported, being so, Zeta only allowed resolutions up to 800x600 at 8-bit's of color. Being based off the “multimedia OS”, this was a major issue. Alternative drivers did not help at all as well. Also, my network card was not detected as well , which is very odd as according to YellowTAB's website my network card is supported right out of the box. Again, alternative drivers did not help, however I was able to get network support from my motherboards Ethernet slot detected, but I could not use it for some reason. My Creative sound blaster live card worked fine, but if I can't watch any of the video's on my computer because of the video driver or go on the Internet to get new videos or games, it just does not work out. The cost of Zeta is also very high, at around $120 to $130

If your hardware is supported (REALLY supported) by Zeta, then there is a good amount to like. The interface is easy to use (however menus can be a bit convoluted), mounting of partitions and drives is painless. Mozilla firefox comes in right out of the box, and works very well (much better then past versions), however, There is no Java support as of right now. The media player plays videos and music well enough (depending on hardware). Boot time for Zeta is very low (because of the BeOS/Zeta micro-kernel), being about 10-15 seconds. Word processing and such is taken care of thanks to Gobe Productive, which is a very easy to use and well made program.

If you have the right combination of hardware, Zeta 1.0 is a easy to use OS worthy of your time, however because the hardware and drivers issues, it's very hard to recommend this operating system. Most of the problems with Zeta stem from issues using BeOS, which also had issues with hardware support. The best bet, is to wait for the next version's of the operating system, which hopefully will iron out these issues. Zeta: Try before you buy.

posted by innerlogic at 12:52 PM


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