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Programming IT Technology

Interview With Cosmoe's Bill Hayden 130

Eugenia writes: "Over a month ago it was reported that a developer had forked the Athe(na) operating system and ported its GUI on top of Linux, without the use of XFree86. This combined OS, called Cosmoe, would support Linux, AtheOS, BeOS and even Macintosh's Carbon APIs (without the use of GNUStep - his port of Carbon is wrapped around the Be API). OSNews today features an interview with the architect of the combined OS, Bill Hayden, where a lot of things are explained about his plans for Cosmoe."
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Interview With Cosmoe's Bill Hayden

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  • by tswinzig ( 210999 ) on Tuesday May 14, 2002 @12:06AM (#3514990) Journal
    When AtheOS was "outed," it was really far along. Especially when you consider it was all written by one person.

    Similarly, OpenBeOS was impressive because it garnered a big crowd working on it rather quickly, and working code soon followed, to the chagrin of many. (There's already much work done on the kernel, via NewOS, BFS, the network stack, the GUI implementation, various preference and utility apps, and much more.)

    AtheOS was a new OS built for fun (seemingly) by a guy that was impressed (but maybe not directly influenced) by BeOS. More power to him.

    OpenBeOS is being built by fans of BeOS who want to see an open source version that can live on in binary compatability (for the first releases), and eventually progress beyond what Be, Inc. did (RIP).

    Where does Cosmoes fit in to things? This guy forked AtheOS against the original author's wishes (welcome to the world of Open Source, Kurt), in order to ... what? Run BeOS apps on Linux? Run AtheOS apps on Linux? Run BeOS apps on AtheOS? Run MacOS X apps on Linux?

    Honestly I'm trying to figure out what the goals are; I don't mean to be negative. If the guy is just doing this like Kurt, to have fun, then great... Otherwise, why promote this thing so much when virtually nothing is done? He admits the most of the hard stuff is waiting to be done. Instead of doing an interview, announcing the code fork, etc, why not start coding and announce it when you've got something to show for it?
  • by duffbeer ( 114852 ) on Tuesday May 14, 2002 @12:22AM (#3515038)
    I wouldn't waste my money on books. The developer tools you can download for free from apple are fantastic, and come with ample tutorials, examples, and documentation to get going. I got ahold of a mac to get back into client-side coding after a few years in web apps and was up and running in only a couple of weeks.

    Have fun, you'll love it. =) Also, you don't have to bother with objc if you don't like. I've been cranking along using the java bindings just fine. I love the java option, as it lets me utilize lots of java code of my own and some harvested from the net.
  • by po8 ( 187055 ) on Tuesday May 14, 2002 @01:16AM (#3515293)

    As many of the responses to your post illustrate, folks just don't get the idea that XFree86 is a highly modular system. They don't get the idea that the fastest path to a high-quality GUI desktop for their favorite OS is to start with the existing XFree86 server, extend it as necessary, and layer atop it with a decent client side. Yes, Xlib's time has come and gone, and Xt has always been pretty hopeless. So use something like XCB [] as a base, and design the GUI API of your dreams atop it.

    Also note that many of the XFree86 features you mention are either brand-new or not-quite-there-yet. For example, decent font support has only been solid for about a year now, and is still evolving a bit. Server-side affine transformations have been specified but not yet implemented. The spec for proper anti-aliasing of polygons was just finalized last week: it was implemented this week. (That's how fast XFree86 is moving these days with Keith Packard [] working on it full time. Keith has repeatedly demonstrated that it's pretty easy to add the "missing" functionality you want as an X extension.) As folks get used to the Render and FontConfig APIs, I expect to see correspondingly less interest in building window systems from scratch.

    IMHO, the "visceral dislike" comes from several factors, including outdated ideas about what X is and how well it works (the performance claims I see around here sometimes crack me up), insufficient appreciation of the difficulty of what X does, and NIH syndrome.

    The good news is that all the carping isn't slowing down the clueful folks any. KDE 3 is nice enough that for the first time since the mid-80s I'm not running twm as my window manager any more. I expect things to only get better from here.

  • by po8 ( 187055 ) on Tuesday May 14, 2002 @03:08AM (#3515705)

    Your points are mostly well-taken.

    1. There is a serious effort underway to remove all Athena dependencies from the sample X apps, and not to replace those dependencies with Gnome or KDE dependencies. But it'll be a while before this happens: the replacement has to be designed and built first.
    2. Font support is being improved as we speak. Distro vendors can certainly help. The KDE and Gnome groups are helping. I'm using anti-aliasing on most every font on my screen now, and although it was decidedly non-trivial I didn't actually have to stand on my head to do it.
    3. IMHO the configuration situation, while bad, is not as bad as you describe. Certainly the only viable way to configure X is to run "XFree86 -configure" on a 4.2 server and edit the output. But the edits aren't that hard any more. As you note, card detection is automatic, and usually works. The VESA bits make modern monitor detection also automatic, eliminating that source of confusion. Mostly it's input devices that are a continuing source of grief. Keith Packard finally rewrote the mouse protocol autodetect fairly recently: XFree86 now successfully autodetects your mouse type the first time you move the mouse around. (This, BTW, was surprisingly hard.)

      The default XF86Config file format may be moving to XML. This would help a lot with newbies being able to use sensible tools to edit their configuration. In particular, XML editors are pretty good at not messing with parts of the file they don't understand...

    The DVD player thing is a special case, since there are folks in the world actively trying to make it hard :-). But if you run Debian, you can very easily install usable XFree86 bits, a usable kernel, and the current Xine bits. It's then just a question of finding a .deb for the Xine CSS plugin, and you should be able to watch movies---I can.

    The DRM/DRI support for 3D has stabilized to the point that it mostly just works. As you suggest, if it doesn't, you are probably out of luck unless you have direct access to a guru. This is true in Windows-land as well. The traditional solution there is to buy new hardware to make your software work. Buying a modern Nvidia card means you automatically get usable Linux drivers and some tech support, so this is always an option.

    I agree that there are some things that still require some expert help, and that this is too bad. But all of this has gotten pretty off topic. If you check out the 3D and video HW support of the competition to XFree86 (e.g. Cosmoe [which is apparently going to call its initial distribution potatoe :-)]) you'll find it to be far inferior, to say the least. X may not be perfect, but it's tremendously good. Help out or just be patient, and it will get even better.

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