When we talk about alternative operating systems to the enormous leadership that Microsoft’s Windows has in computer desktops (market share of 85%), we point out Apple’s macOS and Linux as the maximum exponents. In recent years we have added Google’s Chrome OS, although it is still another Linux.
They all have advantages … and some drawbacks . The macOS requires the purchase of an Apple machine because it does not license the system to third parties and its higher price compared to its Windows counterparts and a blocked and limited ecosystem pulls back a good part of users. Linux (incomprehensibly) does not finish booting on consumer desktops and Chrome OS, despite its great advances, is still limited in some fields of uses.
Alternative operating systems
That which. There is life beyond Windows, Linux, and Mac . They are little known to the general public and cannot really compete with them on a commercial level. They are not even a complete replacement to the use of the big three. They are not updated as frequently, nor are they useful for everything and for all users, but like the ‘meigas’, they exist, they exist.
Taking advantage of the recent release of the new major version of FreeBSD we are going to remember these “alternatives” that although they will not replace the main system of an ordinary user, they can give play in some fields of use or be tested simply for the pleasure of knowing others. things. They are all free to use and most are free software, and can be installed on standalone machines or virtual machines without affecting your everyday equipment.
Last week the final stable version of FreeBSD 13 was released . This system is one of the highest representatives of the group of alternatives and although it cannot be called as such for licensing reasons, it is a full-fledged UNIX . Even if you have not heard of it, it is certain that you have used some of its components, since due to its permissive license a part of the code is used in the same Apple macOS, devices such as the PlayStation 4 and routers of different brands.
The latest FreeBSD 13 release comes with significant performance improvements for 64-bit Intel, PowerPC, and ARM CPUs. It also increases hardware support and improves the entire EFI boot and networking section, while AES-NI encryption is included by default for generic kernel builds. Of this type, “UNIX clones”, you can find other systems such as NetBSD, OpenBSD and PC-BSD.
Another free system under the GPL license that like the previous one can be audited, modified and redistributed, which has the great objective of being fully compatible with MS-DOS applications and drivers . Like this one, it works on the command line with the FreeCOM interpreter and works great for playing retro DOS games that are still great fun. It can also be used to run legacy applications that do not run on modern systems or to develop code in the embedded device segment.
FreeDOS usually comes pre-installed on new computers from some manufacturers (MSI, HP, Dell …) when they do not include the Windows license, something that is not usual since Microsoft has great control of the OEM channel and makes licenses almost free in volume. More than a clone of MS-DOS, it includes features that were not present in the original such as FAT32, use of long names, multilanguage support, and better support for current hardware.
Looking for a ” Windows without Microsoft “? It is the objective of this open source x86 / x64 PC operating system that has the particularity of being binary compatible with applications and drivers programmed for Windows.
Those responsible for ReactOS have had some “hookups” with Microsoft executives who accuse it of being a “scam” of the Windows Research Kernel that Microsoft licensed to universities under an agreement that some violated since the code was leaked on several sites. Obviously, it cannot include Windows code, but it has partially applied many Windows APIs and is collaborating with the Wine project to improve the functioning of the applications.
The latest update to this UNIX-like operating system came in October 2020, marking the 25th anniversary of the OpenBSD project . It is developed entirely by volunteers and is financed through contributions collected by the Foundation of the same name. Built on NetBSD to “maintain the spirit of the original Berkeley Unix copyright , ” it specializes in cybersecurity and cryptography .
Self-rated as “safe by default” for its extreme review and supervision of the code of its versions, while activating the least amount of services possible on production machines. It is widely used in the IT security segment as an operating system for firewalls or intrusion detection systems. Multiplatform and highly portable (it can run on almost twenty different hardware platforms), it includes binary emulation for FreeBSD, Linux, BSD / OS and others. The system is free and free and is distributed under licenses even less restrictive than the GPL – GNU of Linux.
A free system under MIT license inspired by BeOS (Be Operating System), maintained by the non-profit organization of the same name. Haiku has its own modular micronucleus called NewOS, optimized for multimedia work, with audio, video, graphics and animations in three dimensions.
Like ReactOS does with Windows, Haiku’s goal is to work with BeOS applications and their drivers , although this last section is less well supported. Based on this system, you can find two distributions called “TiltOs” and “Senryu”, which are published as virtual hard disk for VirtualBox.
Free software under MIT and BSD licenses based on OpenSolaris , created in turn from the proprietary version of the original Solaris from Sun Microsystems, a company acquired as you know by Oracle. In fact, the initiative came from some senior Solaris engineers and they intend to continue developing and maintaining Oracle’s OS / Net (ON) code independently and in the community.
illumos is not a distro in itself, because it aims to provide the codebase from which anyone can create their own software distribution based on the OpenSolaris operating system. The main distribution is done by the Indiana Project with OpenIndiana. Nexenta, BeleniX and SchilliX as well as other OpenSolaris-based distributions that support the project.
Another free software project based on AtheOS, the system originally intended to be an AmigaOS clone and which Syllable has ended up replacing . Compatible with x86 architectures, client and server versions and proprietary applications such as a Webkit-based web browser or an email application are offered.
Its greatest virtue lies in its efficiency on machines with very low resources, from 32 Mbytes of RAM. The full installation only takes 250 MB.
It is an open source system created by independent developers, which stands out for offering a desktop solution based on Android . It’s the most popular mobile operating system, but it doesn’t have a significant presence on the desktop once the alluring Remix OS (created by former Google employees) was discontinued for the consumer market.
Projects like Android-x86 is perhaps the best known of its kind. Bliss OS has the same or perhaps more ambitious goal. It incorporates many customizations and greater support for Android for mobile phones, additional security features and greater options for synchronization on all platforms.
AROS Research Operating System
Another system that implements the AmigaOS APIs in open source , with whose executables it is binary-level compatible with 68k processors, as well as code-level compatible with other architectures such as x86 for which it is offered natively. It is portable and can be hosted on Windows, Linux, and FreeBSD.
Also known as MeOS, its most outstanding feature is that it is fully programmed in assembly language . It is designed to work in very basic equipment although it supports up to 32 Gbytes of RAM. By telling you that the system fits on a 1.44 Mbyte floppy, it is all said.
Still, it manages to include a graphical desktop and drivers for keyboards, video, audio, USB, or printers. Supports preventative and real-time multitasking with multiprocessor support. An alternative where they exist that was updated last January.
A 32-bit operating system written for the x86 architecture in assembly language. It is designed for programmers who want direct access to hardware (including CPU and graphics) with well-commented and documented code.
The entire operating system fits in less than 64 KB of memory and can boot from a floppy disk, CD, USB flash drive, or directly from the hard drive. It boasts of being the fastest x86 operating system on the market.
Another free and free GPL system that has been in development since 1997, as a single programmer’s hobby . It supports x86 architectures, is written in C and assembler and is not based on any pre-existing system, although it uses Linux kernel code, offers common GNU tools and part of the graphical user interface such as icons, they will be familiar to users. KDE Plasma users.
We end with a true rarity, the most curious system on the entire list not only because of its code but because of its approach. And it is destined to never be used … unless our manifest inhumanity leads us to the end of the world where the age of electronics and technology that we know is part of the past and we have nothing better to use to survive.
The developer of Collapse OS envisions a sinister future where the global supply chain collapses from a nuclear war, a climate disaster, or the unbridled thirst of big tech for control of our lives. It is written in assembler for Z80 8-bit microprocessors and should work on minimal, makeshift machines built with the electronic carrion that a post-apocalyptic world would offer. It is available on GitHub and supports contributions and improvements from other developers. Hopefully we never have to use it.
As you have seen, there is ‘life’ beyond Windows, Mac and Linux and there is no shortage of alternative operating systems, which without being a total replacement for the big three or a commercial threat, can cover specific market niches and specific tasks . They are all free to use and most are free software, and can be installed on standalone machines or virtual machines without affecting your everyday equipment.
They are not used for everything and for all users, but there they are for whoever needs them. Or simply for the pleasure of discovering other ways to implement the core software of any computer equipment. Have you tried them? Do you use any of them regularly? For what tasks? Do you know other alternatives of this type?