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October 1999


Be Four Five or Be Gone…

By Gill Boyd

images/bullet2.gifUpdate Notes (11/24/2003)

A New GUI for an Old PC?

Billed as the “High-intensity platform for digital media,” Be Operating System (BeOS) a.k.a. “Be Media OS” goes Rev. 4.5. Do we think we’re ready for each other? Does Be support my current hardware platform? Can we get drivers? How difficult will Internet configuration become? (We did not get that far.) The “Hassle Factor”, to Be or Not…

Thoughts & Comments

Update 1/3/2002: We wrote and published this article in October 1999, "Be Four Five or Be Gone…" and now, exiting stage left: Founder Gassee leaves Be (1/2/2002).

We saw the inevitable first-hand at PC Expo ’99. Everything is going Digital. For those of you who have attended the “How To Build Or Buy A PC” Special Interest Group, we work with the current predominant operating system. We emphasize maximum compatibility along with stability, driver support, application support, hardware support and on and on. We’re very specific in emphasizing knowledge of our hardware specs. For Be, you’ll have to know the hard facts on hardware or else it may come back to haunt you later.

A Developer’s O/S?

First why choose an O/S? Still holding your breath waiting for Wintoon 2000? What’s the task at hand? So what are we going to develop, content? And where are we going to use this content, the ‘Net maybe? Let’s look at today’s hardware configurations and see if this is a logical choice yet.

Test System considered for configuration:

Intel PIII-450, GigaByte M/B with Intel BX chipset; Maxtor 8.4 Gig HD (an easy EIDE install option); 2-4 USB Ports; SCSI devices: Adaptec 2440UW controller for Zip, Yamaha CD-RW and OnStream Drives (for starters); IDE 52x Kenwood CD-ROM Drive and 3.5 inch Teac floppy.

Oh, did we mention the Audio Card?, more on that subject later. So what’s our hardware choices for best driver support? What about Video Capture devices?

Ready for the ‘what ifs’? Remember the Be Box? Has History spoken to us ‘BE’fore? Hindsight is always 20/20. “If I’d only known such-n-such, we’d have done so-n-so.” Sound familiar to those who’ve had NT problems?

BeOS looks good on paper but…

Some Windows users have had a hard time just getting the thing installed and configured correctly. Yes, we’ve all seen the demos. I’d like to see the BeOS Hardware Compatibility List spelled out, like Microsoft does their (HCL) for NT (Wintoon). We suggest getting a separate HD, just in case, to prevent troubles. Otherwise, you might lose your data if it’s of any importance. A two-year-old PC should do nicely with BeOS.

Hardware Installation Issues:

Processor, M/B Chipset, AGP Video, SCSI, Zip Drive (other removable storage), NIC, Modem, USB, IEEE 1394 FireWire, DVD, PnP, Laptop…

Yes, good idea to know your PC! Be currently discourages using the BeOS on portables. They face a daunting task of testing an ever-growing list of hardware components. For our purposes, we have four main hardware requirements: Video, SCSI, NIC (Network Interface Card), Modem and Audio in that order.

Maximize Hardware Compatibility for BeOS

Let’s assemble a PC according to BeOS Specs for maximum compatibility. The following choices are based on what we have available to us.

Processor: Intel or AMD, ok; Motherboard Chipset: Intel 430 & 440 series, OK; otherwise, Via MVP3, SiS 5597 and 5598 or ALi Aladdin 5 Chipsets. Chipsets are a vital factor in BeOS motherboard compatibility. Video Card: ATI All-In-Wonder [Pro] or Diamond Viper V330 and 550, Stealth II G460, Monster Fusion. What about Matrox cards –Matrox G200 (MGA-G200), maybe if they’re one in the same.

Forget about the G400 for now! Video Capture Card support: Looks like our ATI All-In-Wonder [Pro] only gets video support. Remember the STB PCI/TV Tuner Card? That was a good card in its day. Too bad we no longer have it to use.

NIC (Network Card): Intel EtherExpress 10/100 Mbps or 3Com Fast Etherlink XL (3c905B) 10/100 Mbps. Modems: As quoted from Be, “BeOS supports everything but software and PCI internal modem cards.” That means NO software Winmodems! Sound/Audio Cards: Not sure if that new SB Live will work.

According to audio chipsets (EMU 10K1), yes. The old AWE64 Gold should work too. SCSI Cards: Adaptec, we’re in business. No mention of LVD SCSI, too bad. USB support: (Intel PIIX4 and Via chipsets).

Be claims to support all USB keyboards, mice, and hubs. One way to find out, but I’m not that brave yet.

Scanner support: None mentioned.

Printers: If you’re using HP or Epson you’re probably in business, anything else, too bad.


From our research everything looks ok except CD-RW support! Oh well, just means another Wintel PC running Wintoon!

We researched the current list for the BeOS Release 4.5.1 for Intel Architecture, as of July 30, 1999. Our BeOS CD was Ver, 4.5. Think twice before changing O/S’s just for the sake of change unless you’re ready to deal with the implications. Be ready to do some research and spend time getting to know your PC before you leap into BeOS.

I think I’ll pass on Be for now. Looks like we’re not ready for each other yet. Due to the “Hassle Factor,” time is money and I do not have time to piddle these days. Let us hope Be will continue to develop. Competition is healthy for the market place. This way, everyone wins, Wintel/Wintoon, Lintel or not.

Undesirables: Cutting Edge O/S for Trailing Edge PC’s. Product Classification: ‘O/S For Digital Media Developer’. O/S Support & Requirements: BeOS Ready processor and motherboard chipset; 16/32 megabytes of RAM; IDE or SCSI hard disk or hard disk partition with 160 Megs HD space; IDE/ATAPI or SCSI CD-ROM Drive; graphics card capable of VESA graphics; USB, PS/2 or serial mouse and keyboard. Further Details, see “BeOS for Intel FAQ” & “BeOS Ready Intel Systems: One-stop shopping for BeOS: Direct Price: $69.95 (Bible Bundle $79.95) or upgrade for $25.00.

Gill Boyd, “How To Build Or Buy A PC” Special Interest Group (SIG) Leader & Consultant.


Update Notes (11/24/2003)

Be Lives! Going Open Source -

  1. Project Filelist: BeOS Max Edition (11/24/2003).
  2. OpenBeOS project - On-Line! (1/14/2003)
  3. BeBits - The Best Source of BeOS Software!
  4. As a Mirror of better Be Days... - Off-Line?

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Web Development, Gill Boyd & Team - Originally Published October 1999; Updated For BuildOrBuy 1/2/2002; Revised 06/14/2004