BeOS Review

by Anand Lal Shimpi on March 20, 1998 2:55 PM EST
Installing the OS
Your first experience with any Operating System will be the initial installation procedure.  From the days of Microsoft DOS 6.22 to the highly integrated Windows 98 Setup process, times have changed considerably.  Over time it has become evident that our setup software is beginning to ask us more and more about our systems before actually proceeding to install the OS itself. 
Windows 95/98 claim Plug 'n Play compliance, in theory this should mean that you can install just about anything in your system (with reasonable limits) without having to worry about manually configuring the device, having to manually search for the device, or in an ideal PNP case, without having to install any manufacturer provided drivers.  Well, what is the first major step in the Windows 95/98 installation process?  Autodetecting Hardware, a process that takes a considerable amount of time regardless of what type of system you are running.  Now that would be perfectly fine if it detected and configured all of your devices then and there, however life isn't all that simple with OSes of the 90's.  You'll probably have to go through at least 2 more scans of your system, and New Hardware Found dialog boxes before your system is up and running at close to 100%.  The BeOS changes this.

The initial setup of the BeOS consists of you placing the supplied boot disk in your system, with the BeOS CD in your CD-ROM drive, and powering up your system.  From there you can use the built in Drive Setup Manager to partition your hard drive, either manually or by selecting one of the 4 pre-configured options which include 1, 2, 3, or 4 partitions of equal size (1 - 100%, 2 - 50%, 3 - 33%, or 4 partitions each 25% of your total disk space).  It is best to partition your hard drive before hand and simply initialize the partition using the BeOS Filesystem.   Once you do initialize the partition, all existing data will be lost and no other operating system will be able to recognize the initialized partition as a useable drive.   This is a definite plus since it means that your drive letters will remain unchanged if you plan on Dual-Booting between the BeOS and another operating system, something that is possible. 

The BeOS GUI will immediately load after reading from the BeOS CD in your drive, at that point most of your hardware has already been detected and initialized properly.  If you happen to have a piece of hardware that isn't supported by the BeOS then reaching this point will not be in your future.   Unfortunately the current release of the BeOS (RC3) is greatly limited by its poor support for hardware, this should change in future releases however for now you must double and triple check to make sure that all of your hardware is supported in this release.  The tests AnandTech conducted on the BeOS were made using BeOS Release Candidate 3 for Intel Platforms provided courtesy of BeOS Inc.   Your first impressions of the BeOS GUI should be ones of familiarity, if you've ever seen a picture of the MacOS then the BeOS will be common territory to you, otherwise, prepare to explore the unexplored. 

After selecting a complete clean install on the Ultra ATA Western Digital 4.3GB Caviar (BeOS for Intel Platforms doesn't support any SCSI controllers as of yet) AnandTech used for testing the process was underway.   Taking about as much time to install everything as a full install of Windows 95 on the Pentium II - 300 test system did the BeOS soon prompted for all disks to be removed from the drives and for the system to be restarted. 

If you're wondering how you Dual-Boot between the BeOS and another OS, you have quite a few options.  First of all, you can simply stick in the BeOS Boot Disk that is provided by Be whenever you wish to boot into the BeOS.  If you are a more advanced user, you can install Linux Loader (LILO) into the Master Boot Record of your Hard Drive, but be sure you're familiar with LILO before doing this as it may lead to data loss if you don't know what you're doing.  Most Windows NT users will opt to add the BeOS to their Windows NT Boot Manager Menu, this can be done by booting into Windows NT and launching the 'addbeos' program found on your BeOS CD-ROM.  The final option is to launch the BeOS from Windows or DOS by copying the BeOS Launcher (located on your BeOS CD-ROM) to your Hard Drive and running that program.   Regardless of which method you choose, after a few patient minutes of waiting for the software to install the BeOS will be completely ready for use.  So without further ado, let's take a look at that GUI.

Index Entering the GUI
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