Syllable OS developer interview: Building a better operating system

Techworld Australia interviews lead Syllable developer Kaj de Vos

Image credit: http://web.syllable.org/

Image credit: http://web.syllable.org/

"In other words, when we started the project, the reasons for it were clear. Everyone and their dog were complaining they wanted better operating systems. Based on that, we had hoped for more support than we ended up getting."

The 'applications gap' is still an issue for the project, but it's a problem developers are looking at creative solutions to. For example, using the cross-platform REBOL — Relative Expression Based Object Language — class of programming languages. "REBOL was invented by Carl Sassenrath, who was previously the chief designer of the influential Amiga Operating System. The language was designed to match and improve operating system development."

Syllable's developers are helping with the development of Red: An open source, REBOL-inspired language that lends itself to portable development and cross-compilation.

Syllable OS screenshot

Image: http://web.syllable.org

Red will enable developers to "cross-develop without any of the setup required by other, complex cross-compilation systems". Although it's early days for the language, "it already allows Syllable Server to compile command-line programs for Windows and other supported platforms by merely setting a compilation switch".

One of the strengths of Syllable cited by de Vos is the leanness of the OS. He notes that many people around the world still do not have internet access. Although consumer-level hardware continues to become more powerful, not everyone has access to cutting-edge PCs.

In promoting the benefits of an operating system like Syllable, with its minimal hardware requirements, he cites the One Laptop Per Child project. "The [OLPC] project was delayed and had to double its projected price point and its hardware specifications because the Linux operating system they developed could not support them. This would not be necessary when using Syllable."

Syllable OS screenshot

Image: http://web.syllable.org

"In the Western world, it is often assumed that software efficiency does not matter, because improving hardware will compensate for it," he says

"Yet during the lifetime of the project we have seen the introduction of small mobile systems such as netbooks and smartphones, which have effectively turned back the clock for hardware performance that software needs to support half a decade.

"This has wreaked havoc on the development plans of many platform vendors, forcing them to develop entirely new systems. Syllable, however, is already efficient enough to support such systems with one platform."

The complementary nature of the desktop and server editions is also cited as a plus by the developer. Finally, he adds, "Another goal of Syllable is to be easier to use. Improved integration and reduced complexity help with that.

"A system that is easier to use is more pleasant to use. It increases motivation, removes hurdles, and leads to saving time and money."

Read the full Q&A with Kaj de Vos.

Follow Rohan Pearce on Twitter: @rohan_p

Follow Techworld Australia on Twitter: @techworld_au

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