OpenOS. Cool name for what we hope will be a successful and great new operating system for your Macintosh computer. Kevin Avila, creator of the OpenOS, took some time to answer some questions for My Mac.

My Mac- With all the talk of a new operating system from Apple and/or Be, and with
the new crop of PPCP machines able to run multi-OS’s, where do you see your OS fitting in?

Kevin: I see the OpenOS on a floppy disk. 🙂 While all the other OS’s are starting to get bigger and bigger, we’re doing our best not to ship OpenOS in a CD pack. We’re trying to keep the base install around 5MB. I came to this decision after hearing that Harmony (Mac OS 7.6) will have a base install of around 90MB. My System Folder is already 200MB+, I don’t need more crap. 🙂

My Mac- 5MB would seem a tall order to stay under for a modern operating system. Do you think this can really be done?

Kevin: I think, for a minimal install that this goal is possible, the users will then have a choice to install more “packages.”

My Mac- Macintosh computers refer to the Operating System, rather than the computer itself. (Which is why Power Computing cannot claim they sell Macintosh
Computers) If someone is running your system software, what, then, is that computer called?

Kevin: Really? I did not know that. Well, the only thing I can think to call it is a PowerPC. 🙂 (To me, a Mac is a Mac.)

My Mac- Will Mac applications run under your OS?

Kevin: Yes, in time. We’re not sure how much time, but I doubt it will be available in the first release.

My Mac- If no Mac applications will run under OpenOS, do you plan on creating any yourself, or are you hoping that other programers will pick up the slack and create some for OpenOS?

Kevin: Along with the PowerOS project, we are trying to develop an ELF linker
for Metrowerks Codewarrior so that the ports of application is easy.

My Mac- Who is the target user for your OS?

Kevin: At this time, anyone really. The OpenOS is just a “Hobby OS,” we are not trying to compete with Apple, Be, or anyone else. It’s just always nice to know you have an alternative.

My Mac- What are the key benefits your OS will have over the System 7.5x?

Kevin: Well, we’re shooting for the main things like protected memory, multitasking, and speed. “If my calculations are correct,” OpenOS should be anywhere from 500 to 2000 times faster then MacOS 7.5.5

My Mac- How many people are involved in this now? And how has the response been?

Kevin: Right now we have about 15 daring men and women helping out with various
things. The funny thing is that the last few days, people have been really wanting to help, I’m hoping that by the end of next week there should be about 50 developers.

My Mac- Being a “free” OS, how do you feel about users getting into the code and changing things?

Kevin: They can do whatever they want to the code for their own use. All the copyrights will remain mine, so they can’t change stuff and release a new OS claiming to be their own. I must warn people, due to the fact that some features of the OpenOS require to run in a special CPU mode, you can easily lose files, etc. if you don’t know what you’re doing…. but the compiled version is perfectly safe to the normal user.

My Mac- OpenOS will feature a “plug in” type architecture. What does that mean?

Kevin: Like PowerOS, we also plan to use the plug-in approach. This means that
developers can add services, and we can even do upgrades to the OS via a small plug-in, much like those use with WWW browsers like Netscape and Internet Explorer.

My Mac- How long do you feel it will be until users will be able to boot and use your new OS on their computer?

Kevin: We’re trying to get a beta out by Macworld SF in January, if not shortly after, so something in the first quarter of 1997.

My Mac- Will your OS only work with Apple systems, or all PowerPC based systems, such as the BeBox or IBM machines?

Kevin: At first, only Apple systems. We are, however, planning a version that will
run on any PowerPC machine.

My Mac- What was it that prompted you to start this?

Kevin: Well, one night on IRC, we and a few buddies were just talking about how bad Apple has let their OS get so outdated, and were talking about how Be would not be able to handle the Mac platform, so I just yelled out “That’s it! I’m going to write my own damn OS. ” That’s how this whole mess started. 😉

My Mac- So from one IRC, you got the idea to create your own OS? Pretty daunting for one person. Are you a self-taught programmer, or have you had any schooling?

Kevin: Yes, I am self taught in both BASIC and assembly (68K/PPC) and learning C/C++

My Mac- Putting on the “Let’s pretend” hat for a moment, what would you do if, say, in five years OpenOS becomes so popular that Apple tries to buy it from you. Would you sell?

Kevin: That’s kind of hard to say. I think that if we sell out, then that will destroy the whole purpose of this project. S0 no, I don’t think I would sell out.

My Mac- Same question, but rather than Apple, it’s Microsoft. Now would you?

Kevin: Same answer as above.

My Mac- Anytime you add an extension or control panel to the Mac OS , you have to restart. If someone simply adds a new plug in to OpenOS, does a restart need to take place? And how long, do you think, boot time for OpenOS will be?

Kevin: We’re trying to make it so that you’re not required to restart, however, if
you do need to restart, boot should not be more then around 30 seconds.

My Mac- Last question. If you could have five people of your choosing, each with a different skill, working on the OS, what would you want most?

Kevin: Does this mean who would I want developing for the OpenOS?

My Mac- Yes

Kevin: I don’t know names, but I would take 4 people from the Mac OS crew, because the Mac OS is a great OS, just a little slow catching up 🙂 As my 5th person, I would take Gil (Apple’s CEO) so he can catch up when we fall flat on our face. 🙂

For more on OpenOS, check out their home page at:

Tim Robertson (

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