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