Introducing KOSH
by John Chandler

Community spirit thrives on many platforms, notably the so-called 'alternative platforms' (Amiga, Linux, Mac, Palm, Acorn, BeOS, etc.), and every community expresses their own frustrations with the corporate machinery controlling their platform (yep, even Linux!). No matter what your background, the Kommunity Operating System and Hardware project (KOSH for short) may well be a dream come true.

KOSH aims to wipe the slate clean, so to speak. Put the community firmly in charge - no one person or corporation controls the system. No bankruptcy worries, no monopolistic attitudes, no marketing hype, no politics or squabbling, no abandonment - the way it should be. Linux has been a shining example of the benefits of community driven OS development, and KOSH aims to take this concept to the next logical step - introducing the strong possibility of community-oriented hardware development for good measure. With the slate clean, the community can build without the baggage of the past, without conformance to external politics - putting the emphasis back on revolution and vision in computing.

Okay, so these are hefty words with more than a little optimism and idealism. Not a line of code has been written, this is the beginning, we just have promises and words (however, if you subscribe to the open KOSH discussion lists, you'll find a LOT of wise words!) but nothing tangible as yet. Community is one thing, but what will KOSH actually offer over contemporary operating systems? Why should you install KOSH on your precious computer?

KOSH aims to deliver a highly flexible system based upon a dynamic, 'organic' environment called an 'Object Sea'. Objects in this digital sea communicate between themselves, react, create, develop and maintain according to the requirements placed upon them. From this stems the ability to customise, reconfigure and expand your hardware and software investment with ease - computers should never place artificial limits on the user without some very good reasons. The 'vanilla' KOSH OS will provide a basic set of objects which the user can expand upon to taste from a selection of developer created objects. Users can purchase the objects they need, building their own OS to taste, rather than dealing with a bloated system bundle containing things they'll probably never use, but have to install anyway.

If you work with graphics, you can add JPEG, PNG, GIF and other objects to the sea for transparent handling of these image formats - or maybe sprinkle some objects for pens, paint, palette, some image processing objects and so on. If you're on a network, a few extra objects provide seamless distributed processing with other KOSH machines (Beowulf on an office LAN anyone?), or maybe allow you to 'drag' your current desktop to another desktop, taking the still-running applications and settings with you. Don't like the GUI? Don't want a GUI? Need KOSH for embedded systems work? Drop in the appropriate interface objects and use them instead. With this type of fully expandable object-oriented environment, the boundaries become temporary ones - each user can set their own limits, and work the way they want to work.

Sound exciting?

Best of all, KOSH's community is growing and evolving rapidly, and the growth relies upon people of all talents - KOSH values your ideas, not your money. How many other OS developers are more interested in you than your wallet? Programmers, artists, musicians, managers, writers, web developers - whatever your talents, KOSH needs you and will offer something in return for anything you contribute. Unlike Linux, KOSH isn't a platform for the advanced user, but something for all - which is why your participation will always be warmly received... whether you cut your teeth on a PDP-11, or bought your first computer yesterday.

As a programmer, there are few things more rewarding than stepping back from something you've just coded and saying "I built that!" - now its the turn of the non-programmer to join shoulder to shoulder with the programmers and say "We built that!" as the first versions of KOSH are installed on computers across the world. No longer will the average user or platform community have to put up with software designed by a corporation who think they know best, but built by the same people who actually use it every day.

So if you've ever been frustrated by a computer that works the way someone else decided; if you're a developer unhappy with the support from the powers that be; or you're an artist, writer or musician who feels their creativity constrained by computer software; if you've had to reinstall an entire OS for the third time this week because the manufacturer was more interested in adding new features than getting their existing code to work properly - then it's likely you feel no one's listening. Well, KOSH is listening - so maybe it's time you wiped the slate clean and made your computer work for you, not the other way around?

[The original version of this article was published on Suite101.com's Amiga editorial]