back to article Fed up with Windows? Linux too easy? Get weird, go ALTERNATIVE

It's hard to believe, looking at the modern computing world, but there is still more to life than Windows or Unix… and today, most of the alternatives run on vanilla x86 hardware and are free. Most of them need considerably lower resources than the market-leaders, too, so an old PC is ideal for trying them out. VMs are fine, …


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  1. saif

    No mention of the most remarkable mini OS in the world. Kolibrios gives you a graphical envirnoment and boots from a Floppy disk. You can't get faster than pure assembly.

    1. James Hughes 1

      Depends on your definition of faster. Faster to run, slower to develop, slower to fix, slower to port to a new architecture.

      1. Oh Homer Silver badge

        Screw portabilty

        Gimme speed!

        1. JamesTQuirk

          Re: Screw portabilty

          I agree but a plug in USB key is great way to move around, with linux(xubuntu), make a system or "live CD" of my whole system , (64 gb Key) I just plug & boot from USB, and I am Home, need bigger keys, I also use 1tb Buffalo but the end is, I just copy of files downloaded to "Home Network" when checked & clean. If a bug eats a OS on KEY, ext USB HD, Laptop, a fairly quick reinstall solves all .....

          Floppys have just evolved again, the interface has changed AGAIN, they are USB key now, I got over 8", 5 1/4, 3", 3.5", so a change in shape in media & storage capacity should be easy I reckon and trust me, these USB 3.0 devices are FASTER...

        2. Danny van der Weide

          Re: Screw portabilty, gimmi speed!

          Dope sucks, my friend!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      now if only i had a floppy disk around here ...

      1. Owain 1

        I've got one here...

        Oh. But no floppy drive. Hmm.

        No mention of RiscOS either. Obviously not x86 but an alternative to look at for those with a Pi lying around unused (or just running squeezeplug stuck on the top of a kitchen cupboard with £18 of mains powered speakers attached as mine is - cheepest multi room music system around. My brother in law spent £1000 a room on his system. Ouch.).

        1. TheOtherHobbes

          Re: I've got one here...

          Plan 9 also runs on the Pi.

          Which is kind of weird, if you think about it. For all kinds of reasons.

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      I recall the days when QNX came with an installer and a graphical browser... on a 1.44M floppy.

      1. FuzzyTheBear

        I did give QNX a call and they do not know where to find a copy. The support personnel i talked to had no idea what i was talking about. Had indeed the OS browser , file management plus installer on that floppy.

        If you got a copy around anywhere let me know .


        1. DropBear Silver badge

          For what it's worth, these guys still seem to have it...

        2. Liam Proven

          The QNX demo disk is still around:

      2. Davidkevin

        If We're Going to Play I'm So Old That....

        I remember when the Macintosh OS plus MacPaint, MacWrite, and room to save a few files came on a 400 K 3-1/2" floppy.

    4. Captain TickTock


      keep looking, it's there (at least it is now)

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      But do any of them have full touch screen monitor integration like Windows 8?

      1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

        Nah, I bet they don't even have Aero, like Vista...

      2. JamesTQuirk

        @AC Friday 12.11

        Adults use keyboards & Mice, it's more precise ...

    6. N2 Silver badge

      Floppy disk

      Any one got one?

      1. gizmo23

        Re: Floppy disk -- I've got one in the car

        I use it to scrape ice off the windscreen

        1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

          Re: Floppy disk -- I've got one in the car

          That must be a 3.5" in a hard plastic case.

          Real men had 8" floppies that were still flexible.

          1. itzman

            Re: Floppy disk -- I've got one in the car

            actually the disc itself makes a fabulously strong hinge for ultra lightweight model aircraft. One disc goes a long way...

            1. JamesTQuirk

              Re: Floppy disk -- I've got one in the car

              I have a Amstard PCW thingy with a 3" floppy, the competitor to 3.5", it also has a semi- enormous Dot matrix printer, it stills runs, even got blank discs for it, Manuals etc, it was a pig to use 25 years ago, it still is, next stop ebay for that piece of "history".....

          2. cordwainer 1

            Re: Floppy disk -- I've got one in the car

            Reel men had two big round ones and a long, stiff leader.

            1. Dramoth

              Re: Floppy disk -- I've got one in the car

              well played sir... well played :)

          3. Al Black

            Re: Floppy disk -- I've got one in the car

            I had those on my IBM System 34: 8" floppies and harddrives the size of attache cases made of Plywood, with motors like a landrover starter motor, that only stored 16Mb but cost $30,000 each! Those were the days!

            No mention of Borland's Geoworks either, a GUI OS that ran on a IBM PC XT, killed off by Windows 95...

      2. Luther Blissett

        Re: Floppy disk

        Yes. And it lives too, off a ASRock Z77 Extreme6.

      3. Montreal Sean

        Re: Floppy disk

        I've got a USB one in my tool kit.

        Certain server manufacturers still require them for firmware upgrades.

    7. Oh Homer Silver badge

      Also, no mention of Amiga OS?

      Yes, incredibly, it's still alive and being actively developed.

      1. Liam Proven

        Re: Also, no mention of Amiga OS?

        Amiga OS is indeed mentioned in the article, with links to Amiga OS 4, MorphOS and both AROS and Icaros.

        However I think that the coward to whom you're replying has deleted their comment, the wuss. :¬)

    8. JamesTQuirk

      I know IT people do care, but does anyone believe most USERs really care ?, with now giant USB Drives that plug&play with Big screen TV, XBOX*/PS*/Audio Etc ?, the ones I meet don't give a fig, just want it to work, HERE, NOW .... So a PC OS is NOT what they want, its a embedded OS that Plays files via a remote ...

      Debian since Amiga2000 (060/130mg ram), but Xubuntu is my lastest favourite, last couple of years anyway ...

      Amiga OS is still a GREAT OS, one of best I ever used, but Xubuntu is free, and all my mod files etc still play ...

      1. Spanners Silver badge


        I believe most users do not care what is "in the box". I think there are some people who do. They have read this article, or ones similar to it.

        What good does it do? I suspect that I am not the only reader here who has fired up a VM and started installing something interesting. I compare it to people who like to play with old motor bikes. The big difference is that this make less mess and probably cost less money as well.

        It's been a long time since I last played. I gave my OS2 CDs away . I think the BEOS I tried is on an old HDD in a box somewhere. This article has given me a few reminders of other things. All I have done in the last while have been fairly common versions of Linux. Nostalgia...

        1. JamesTQuirk

          Re: @JamesTQuirk

          I agree, I still play, My Parrot drone is a flying linux box, now interfaced to a laptop, I drive it with a logitech joystick, I am converting Long Range Ham Radio Control, allowing it's wifi to roam free and send data via HAM, I have had different OS's on it, TINYCORE, DSL both ultra small Linux distros, a Flying Onion/Tor Server seems a possibility.....

          Why ? I dont know .... I am Playing, ordered a Pi last week, gunna see where that takes me ...

          However I am surrounded here by multible systems, there are 3 MAIN computers areas in my flat, with different systems, Different OS's, VM's, set up to do different jobs/tasks/Play ....

          I mean emulators are fine but when you have a Vic20,C64,Amiga's,Tandys,Ataris,segas,Nitendos laying around in boxes ...........

          I see all these things (OS, Hardware) as lego ....

          In answer to your post, I think Play is answer, PC industry has become too serious with itself, trying to make people believe there is only one way to do things......

    9. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      also ahead of it's time

  2. Slartybardfast

    Well Done

    I'm not a "softy" more hardware/comms and found the article very informative. Keep up the good work and have a Friday pint on me.

  3. Davidoff

    The only weird thing is this article.

    The headline is misleading. When talking about alternatives to Windows and Linux I would have expected to find something a bit more contemporary, for example Solaris 11.1 or the various Illumos derivates. Or even the various *BSD variants. Not a trip down memory lane to operating systems from yesteryear and more or less dead clones of them.

    QNX is great if you develop for embedded systems (i.e. in-flight entertainment systems) but its not and never has been an alternative to (non-embedded) Windows and Linux.

    And ZevenOS, really? 'Get weird' with just another Ubuntu remix (as if there weren't enough already)?

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: The only weird thing is this article.

      >And ZevenOS, really? 'Get weird' with just another Ubuntu remix (as if there weren't enough already)?

      Read the article again; the reference to ZevenOS was contained within brackets, i.e it was only mentioned as a passing remark, a footnote to the article.

    2. Mark Pawelek

      Re: The only weird thing is this article. How so?

      Solaris and BSD, are still based on that ancient Unix design, back in the day when consoles were dumb and one typed in line by line - hence the term 'line editor'. Solaris, BSD and Linux variants aren't alternatives; just more of the same.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The only weird thing is this article. How so?

        Don't think I've ever read such a ridiculous comment.

      2. Roo

        Re: The only weird thing is this article. How so?

        "Solaris and BSD, are still based on that ancient Unix design"

        The commonality with the "ancient Unix design" extends as far as the environment presented to the user - even then there are a lot of differences in the details (POSIX has helped here).

        That said the Solaris, BSD and V7 (one of the more widespread "ancient" Unixen) kernels share very little in terms of design, you can look at the source and see for yourself if you don't believe me. ;)

        "consoles were dumb and one typed in line by line - hence the term 'line editor'"

        While people were stuck with MS-DOS on 386s the UNIX bods were playing around with X-Windows, NeWS, and NeXTStep, go figure.

        "BSD and Linux variants aren't alternatives; just more of the same."

        Folks tend to copy successful stuff. The also rans do stuff differently. ;)

        That said there are plenty of OSes that don't work to the MULTICS/UNIX model, of the Open Source ones the most interesting I came across was EROS, which in turn became Coyotos ( - looks a bit quiet now :/). If you are curious as to what the inspiration for UNIX looked like (it was *very different*) the source for MULTICS is available online now too (MIT host it).

  4. Christopher O'Neill


    Surely Emacs counts as an alternative operating system? ;)

    1. monkeyfish

      Re: Emacs

      Or win8 RT, hardly anyone uses it!

      1. Dramoth

        Re: Emacs

        Or the good old Windows CE OS... or as the IT professionals recognise it... WinCE...

    2. firefly

      Re: Emacs

      It would if it came with a decent text editor.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Emacs

        You could always bring up vi in a command shell within emacs

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Emacs


          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Emacs

            But can it do Blue Screens of Death?

            HAH! I bet not.

            1. itzman

              Re: Emacs

              IME it can do far far worse than that...

            2. RegGuy1

              Blue screen of death

              Ha! I love the blue screen of death -- I see it in airports every week...

        2. asdf Silver badge

          Re: Emacs

          Something to be said about being the last generation (probably) to use vi. Ridiculous to learn (unless you came from ed and the line editor world) but once you do you never have to worry about file editing in virtually any Unix ever again. Worse you find everything else to be less efficient.


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