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BeOS and Zeta

What is this BeOS/Zeta thing we keep mentioning?

BeOS and Zeta are an alternative operating system platform. An operating system is a complex framework of software that serves as an environment for applications (like a Web Browser) to run on. It handles access to the computers hardware and manages its resources like available memory and processing power.

Although Microsoft Windows is the dominant platform of our time, there are many alternative operating systems available. Linux and MacOS X are two of the more familiar names. Operating systems basically all do the same things. It's how they do them that makes a difference. Some of these under-the-hood differences directly influence how you can use your computer and how that feels.

The BeOS was developed since 1990 by a small company called Be. In 1998, Be published the first version of BeOS for IBM compatible Pentium class computers. In 2001, Be went out of business, the last version they had officially released was BeOS R5.

Why BeOS/Zeta?

On BeOS, it is simple to do things that are very complicated or impossible on other systems, like putting your hard drive into another computer with completely different hardware and still being able to boot the operating system as if nothing happened. Or running a live query on the entire file system for MP3 or Email files that match certain criteria like Genre, Rating or From and Subject attributes. The system feels exceptionally fast and responsive, because of the brilliant multi tasking and pervasive multi threading in the entire system. You can actually surf the Web and read your emails without the danger of getting the system infected by a virus or other malicious software.

Of course there are downsides. The most important draw backs are missing support for certain hardware and missing application support from large software companies. We are trying hard to fill at least the second gap. The hardware support in BeOS or especially Zeta is not that bad, with drivers for modern hardware, like ATI Radeon, NVidia Geforce and AC97 sound chipsets. However, there is a chance that a certain piece of hardware is not supported. You should check the BeDrivers hardware matrix or yellowTAB hardware compatibility list for support of your hardware before you try BeOS or Zeta.


A small German company called yellowTAB has picked up development of the BeOS after Be went out of business and published the operating system under the new name Zeta. On the way to a smooth and polished product, they have released quite a few versions of Zeta by now, the current release is called Zeta R1.1.

yellowTAB is working hard to polish Zeta. Though Zeta has its quirks, it is sometimes the only way to run the BeOS system on modern hardware. It also offers features that had long been missing from the original BeOS, like support for localization to other languages than English.

BeOS Personal Edition

In 2000, Be published a version of BeOS R5 for personal use that is still available as a free download today. It is supposed to boot from within Windows or Linux, but it sometimes does not run on modern hardware. However, it is a good possibility to try out BeOS for free and get a feel for the system, without the hassle to configure a harddrive partition. BeOS PE is installed in Windows like any other Windows software. When started, it will shut down Windows and boot from within a large file on the Windows harddrive.


After the demise of Be, Inc. a project was founded to reimplement the BeOS in open source form. Though the software is under development for quite some time, with many significant milestones having been reached, it is still far from being finished. The goal of Haiku is to offer a complete replacement of BeOS R5 in open source form, so that the system can be maintained and improved upon by independent developers throughout the world.

Copyright © 1999-2005 Ingo Weinhold und Stephan Aßmus GbR "YellowBites"