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BeOS 5 Pro

The Software


  • Better included apps than 4.5
  • Better USB and some new drivers


  • No big OS improvements over 4.5
  • More instability problems
  • Good technology unopened


$69.95 Full / $34.95 Upgrade

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Recently, Be released BeOS for free download over the Internet. The release was a basic release that installed onto a Windows partition, and the actual file system resided inside of a file there. I gave it a try, and since I run Windows 2000, it would not let me boot without using the slow process of initializing off of a floppy disk. I remember thinking, "This is not the way an OS is supposed to be run." All past versions have been stand-alone, and so is this BeOS 5 Pro.

I have been a BeOS user since Release 4, and that seems like a long time ago. It must be going on two years ago that the product was introduced, and it was the first version that ran fully tuned for Intel-compatible processors. I was mightily impressed with the product, as it was very fast and stabile. It seems to be the superman of the OSes. However, I did not use the OS very much because of the dearth of apps and I had no reason to go out and buy a new modem to work with BeOS.

Release 4.5 was a great improvement over 4. Many parts of the OS and included utilities were upgraded so the overall package was much more useful as an everyday OS. Also, there were some good new apps being released making things even better. All that was just a few months ago, and things looked very promising for BeOS on the desktop.

Soon before the release of 5, Be announced that it was shifting strategy away from BeOS to BeIA, an OS for internet appliances. At that point, it became obvious to me that BeOS 5 would probably not be anything special, and there would be a dramatic decrease in development of the BeOS at Be.

Sure enough, BeOS 5 has turned out to be a small upgrade over 4.5. The only significant thing about BeOS 5 is that there was a freely downloadable version, and also the release of Real Player for BeOS. I was disappointed to see that neither Java nor Flash was included. Also, I was disappointed to see that there were no surprise features added.

Another significant announcement with 5 was that a “professional” release would not be distributed by Be, but by other partners, such as Gobe here in North America. Personally, I thought this was rather odd, unless Gobe was really going to pack in some extra features.

Anyway, I received my BeOS 5 copy from Gobe, and there were only a couple of additions over the free release that really mattered. Also, there was nothing significant about the Gobe Documentation, as it was obviously mostly Be’s 4.5 manual.

I then proceeded with the install, and the first thing I noticed was the lack of an install diskette to go with the CD. I knew right away this was an error, since the two previous BeOS releases had one. I looked at the Gobe book, and it mentioned installing using a disk. So, I was forced to go make my own from a utility from the CD. Not very handy, and it would be confusing to a new user. I was confused at first too, as I wondered if the CD itself was bootable, which it is not [Update: The CD is in fact bootable, if the option is turned on in the BIOS].

Since I am an existing BeOS user, I just ran the installer over my previous partition, essentially doing an upgrade. A new user would have to make a partition, which the installer makes easy to do.

After the install, I rebooted. On the first boot, BeOS crashed, and I got a debug screen. This worried me, as I thought I would have to somehow do a reinstall to fix it. Anyway, I just rebooted again, and everything was fine. It was hardly a warm welcome to BeOS 5 for a long-time BeOS user.

Now I am going to rundown the new features in BeOS 5. Bear in mind, there is not much new in this release, so I really don’t have a great deal to talk about.

The first item is the addition of Real Player. Now, this is not actually part of BeOS, it was just bundled with the Gobe version. I was glad to see that this BeOS version was free of all the ads and confusion of the Windows version. However, this app was only version 6, therefore it will not work with files that require Player 7. Really though, it is not that big of a deal.

I ran some video loaded off a few sites, and I have to say I was very disappointed with the performance. Everything was jerky and not near as smooth as the Windows version. Considering that the BeOS is the “media OS”, this was not acceptable at all.


The GUI of the BeOS was spruced up some with new logos, icons and menus. There is also a Be menu manager that is a welcome addition.

Also included into the OS is the ability to mount NTFS and Linux ext2 partitions as read-only. This is handy for me since I have both Windows 2000 and Linux on my computer.

Also included in the Gobe distribution is the CLAmp MP3 player. I was able to get the pretty Auriga skin to work on it after some frustrations in choosing the skin directory. Also, I was able to play two MP3s at the same time no problems.

Included into all BeOS distributions is the Burner app for using a CD-Writer. Since I do not have one, I could not test it, but it looks like a decent application.

Now, my favorite addition to BeOS 5, Gobe distribution is BinkJet 2.0. Now, I already had Binkjet, but this version included USB support for my HP 812C. I added the 812C into the printer panel as using the USB port, and it worked no problem. Finally I could rid the parallel cable! Binkjet is very much like the HP software under Windows, but it does not have all the options of the HP software, such as paper types, etc. However, printout quality seems decent.

There is a version of Quake II for BeOS, but it ran terrible on my computer because it has a Rage Pro 8 meg video card in it. I have always assumed it was the driver for the card that has caused the performance problem. I decided to try Quake II on BeOS 5 and performance seemed a little better. It will be interesting to see how all this changes with a Matrox G400 I will get soon.

Overall, the stability of the BeOS has gone downhill somewhat. Release 4 was amazingly stable, and then people noticed 4.5 was not as good at 4. I have noticed that 5 is even less stable than 4.5. For example, I was copying about 10 meg worth of files from the BeOS partition to a FAT partition when the whole OS froze up except for the copy process. After a few minutes, when the copying was finished, the OS sprang back to life. Seeing that happen really disappointed me. I have never seen Windows 2000 do that, nor Linux. Seeing that made me think of Windows 98.

I have to admit I am very disappointed with BeOS 5. It is hardly an improvement for users over 4.5. However, as existing users, we will have to upgrade in order to run new BeOS applications. The only thing that really impressed me about BeOS 5 was not even the OS itself; it was a printer driver! Thinking about that, I find it a very sad thing.

Please read my related opinion column on Be’s current direction with their BeIA strategy.

Eric Murphy


Web Target PC


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