The retro vision of Commodore’s new OS.

Yes, this is a serious Linux distro review but come on, that’s pretty cool…

It’s the type of desktop effect you’d expect to see Marcel Gagné showing off to Leo Laporte on Call For Help circa 2003 — along with other Linux eye candy that might well be forgotten in these days of GNOME 3, Plasmoids and Unity.

Commodore’s new operating system has all the Compiz geegaws you can think of, cranked up to eleven and with canned 8-bit sound effects to match. Its proper title is Commodore OS Vision, but since it’s based on Linux Mint I’ve a feeling “Vision” equals version name. Or maybe Commodore just wanted to cram another retro typeface onto their default wallpaper.

Whatever the case, let’s go beneath the surface first and return to matters of appearance a bit later…

Substance

If you’ve ever wondered how people wasted time on computers before there was a usable Internet the answer, at least for me, was games. Lots and lots of games.

Commodore doesn’t disappoint here; the number of game titles included with OS Vision is impressive, downright staggering if you include the extras from the second ISO. It’s as if Commodore set out to make a living history of freeware gaming — I say “freeware” as opposed to “Linux” because Wine is installed by default, and needed to launch at least some of the entries.

OS Vision can be further extended with the commercial Amiga & C64 Forever collections. As for emulators, Commodore’s got you covered:

  1. Amiga UAE/E-UAE
  2. Commodore 64
  3. Commodore C128
  4. CBM-II
  5. Commodore PET
  6. Commodore VIC-20
  7. Commodore Plus/4
  8. DOSBox
  9. PC Operating System (VirtualBox)

Those last two are fully functional. As for the rest, keep in mind that (1) this is still a beta OS and (2) It’s been a while since I last used a Commodore PET.

And while we’re making lists, let’s also note the editors and IDE’s available for budding coders:

  1. Gambas2 Basic
  2. Anjuta IDE
  3. Bluefish Editor
  4. Eclipse
  5. Glade Interface Designer
  6. Google Gadget Designer
  7. gPHPEdit
  8. Meld Diff Viewer
  9. MonoDevelop
  10. Various Qt 4 tools

Suddenly that 3.8GB bootable ISO doesn’t seem so unreasonable, does it?

Style

When the spinning menus and wobbly windows inevitably get on your nerves you can disable them easily enough via CompizConfig. Much of the remaining interface depends on the Emerald Theme Manager, and administering that is a less trivial affair.

Out of the box the biggest usability issue for me is semi-transparent windows that perhaps shouldn’t be, like the web browser I’m currently typing this blog post into — it’s a bit disconcerting that I can make out my open file folders in the windows behind it.

But if this is the biggest failing of OS Vision then kudos to Commodore; they’ve taken a modern Linux distribution that everybody loves and adorned it with unabashed geeky fun. I’m not sure how well their retro-inspired hardware will do, but the software has already found an audience. I may even keep it on my ThinkPad for a bit longer.

Now if you’ll kindly excuse me I have to explode some windows and get my Freedoom on…

UPDATE: A user on reddit asked for a complete list of all installed games. Here it is.

3 Responses to “The retro vision of Commodore’s new OS.”


  • ZDnet or some site had a ‘5 gifts for the Linux geek/enthusiast article the other day. It was a pretty bad compilation of 5 generic computer ideas. The new commodore should have been on there!

    You should make your own ‘top 5′ gift ideas, Andrew!

  • You know, that’s not a bad idea…

    For this year the top of that list would almost have to be Becky Hogge’s Barefoot into Cyberspace — also available as a free download from her site.

  • I just downloaded and tried this Commodore branded Linux distro and it is plain old geeky fun. I love it! I never had a Commodore computer. Back in the day I had an Apple IIe and I have a Mac today, but I put this on a Dell Laptop after trying it out on a beefy desktop. Again, just plain fun. I love all the geeky effects and sounds from the ‘old days.’ :-)

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