Best DeTune Alternative for Windows Archives

Best DeTune Alternative for Windows Archives

Best DeTune Alternative for Windows Archives

Best DeTune Alternative for Windows Archives

Folks often ask me how do you make microtonal music on your computer? This article explains all the essential software and hardware I used to write my most recent album. My current setup is based on Linux, Bitwig Studio and various synth plugins. This article also discusses alternative software choices just in case your preferences differ to mine.

Oh and if you want to know my old workflow for making microtonal music with Ableton Live on Windows then the old article is still available.

Overview

Hardware

You could probably get away with using a 5 year old laptop for sure. My PC is an Entroware Ares with an Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB DDR4 RAM, one SSD and one spinning rust.

Isomorphic keyboards such as my C-Thru AXiS-49 work well for microtonal music because scale and chord fingerings remain the same in each key, whereas a standard MIDI keyboard requires you to learn a different fingering for each key. The keys are all nerdy lil hexagons, it’s cute. It just plugs in via USB and my system recognises it instantly as a MIDI input device.

I bought a second hand M-Audio Keystation 88es from Gumtree for 50 quid. Good deals can be had if you buy used. It’s my preferred MIDI controller; I even prefer it over the axis! There’s something about the traditional 1-D style keyboard that feels natural to play.

The acoustics in my office space are awful so I have my near-field monitors kept in storage until I eventually get a new space for music production. I actually used headphones to produce and master my last 3 albums. It’s not really recommended, but you can still get a good enough sound on headphones if you use references. My current headphones are Audio-Technica ATH-M50x.

If you want to record live audio using microphones then you’ll also want to get an audio interface. I skipped that part as I mostly just produce with softsynths and samples. I have a Zoom H4N that I sometimes use to record audio to SD card.

Which Linux distro?

The Linux distribution you choose comes down to personal preference. If you want to replicate my setup it would be easier to go with a Debian-based distro so you can use the KXStudio repository (more about KXStudio down below). The screenshot below is from my own machine.

The distro I’m using is KDE Neon which is based on Ubuntu LTS. I’m into KDE because I find it to be lightweight, fast, stable and customisable to my liking. Of course it makes sense to run a lightweight desktop environment so you have more resources available for your audio software. XFCE and MATE are two other lightweight desktop environments that you could try.

Another option is to use a distro that is designed for audio and multimedia work, such as Ubuntu Studio. This way you get the low latency kernel and other audio tweaks set up by default. I really have no judgement here – just use what you like.

Before the comments section gets filled up people who use Arch btw, I’ll add that the AUR has a great selection of audio software too.

General setup and audio tools

I rely on KXStudio applications to turn my Linux machine in to a music production powerhouse. There are quite a few parts to KXStudio so here’s a breakdown of what I found useful:

Cadence

Cadence is a set of tools for audio production all in one application. It performs system checks, manages JACK, calls other tools and make system tweaks. It launches automatically when I boot, so I can then launch my DAW and get straight to having fun.

Carla

Carla is a plugin host that can load up various Linux synths and effects. There’s even a way to load Windows VSTs with it but I haven’t taken the time to figure that out – I’m happy with Linux-native software currently. The reason Carla is so crucial for me is that it can be loaded not just as a standalone app but also as a Linux VST. This is extremely useful if your DAW only supports VST plugins but you want to use LV2 plugins too – Carla acts as a VST-LV2 bridge in this case.

KXStudio repository

You can install the KXStudio apps by first setting up the KXStudio repo in your package manager. The repo also contains a large number of music plugins so you can install them via your package manager rather than compiling manually. This is so useful! It even contains all the u-he Linux synths (you still need to pay for a license as they are proprietary) and Zyn-Fusion (the new interface for ZynAddSubFX)!

General setup

When doing any kind of real-time audio processing or recording, you’ll want to use the low latency kernel rather than the generic kernel. This may help prevent crackling and reduce your system’s audio I/O latency. If you’re using a distro that is designed for audio work such as Ubuntu Studio then you already have this kernel. Otherwise if you’re using a generic distro you should search online for how to install and use the low latency Linux kernel.

You should also add your user to the audio group. This gives your Linux user permission to use desktop audio devices.

Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs)

These days I’m using Bitwig Studio as my DAW. I will explain why below and also mention a few alternatives.

Bitwig Studio

As a former Ableton user I found it easy to switch over to Bitwig Studio. Bitwig has a native Linux version which works well with the apps I installed from KXStudio. It is not free software – you buy a license and then get 1 year of upgrades. My first year expired recently but I’m happy to continue using my current version as it’s very stable.

Bitwig Studio supports Linux VST plugins, but note that it does not support Linux LV2 plugins. This is disappointing because most free/libre audio plugins seem to use the LV2 standard and not VST. And this is why the Carla plugin host is so essential – it allows me to bridge LV2 plugins into Bitwig!

Bitwig’s built-in synths support MPE polyphonic pitch-bend. Its piano roll allows you to detune each note individually using an intuitive interface. That does entail a lot of manual work but gives you unprecedented pitch control in a polyphonic setting. MPE is also quite future proof being that it’s part of the MIDI 2.0 spec. I’m waiting to see if future synths will work seamlessly with Bitwig’s implementation of polyphonic pitch-bend.

Some people will prefer using Bitwig’s polyphonic pitch-bend over my usual approach (which is to use plugins that can import tuning files – more on that further below)!

There are various alternatives to Bitwig Studio and I’ll mention a few below.

Ardour

Ardour is one of the most widely used free-and-open-source DAWs for Linux. Supports MIDI and synth plugins, so you can use plugins to get microtones.

Reaper

Reaper – one of the best DAWs on any platform, full stop. They have been working on a native Linux version that I hear is quite stable. The license is far cheaper than most other proprietary DAWs and the demo version gives full access to all features, including saving and loading projects, with no time limit (though you should really buy their thing if you use it a lot).

Reaper also lets you customise the key colours and layout of the piano roll. This is one of those issues that only microtonalists seem to understand is useful!

Renoise

Renoise is a tracker style DAW that runs natively on Linux and can be microtuned using the SCL to XRNI tool. It also supports plugins so you can get at those microtones that way.

LMMS

LMMS comes bundled with a modified version of ZynAddSubFX, so if you’re an LMMS user you already have a powerful microtonal synth to play around with.

Plugins and softsynths

Bear in mind that many synths don’t support microtonal tunings; they are locked in to 12-tone equal temperament. The synths that are bundled with your DAW will most likely lock you in (there are exceptions).

It’s for this reason that I use synth plugins that have built-in microtonal support. That way, it doesn’t matter which DAW you use as long as your DAW supports plugins. Below is a showcase of Linux-native plugins with support for microtonal tunings.

Surge

Surge is a powerful open-source synth with an excellent implementation of microtonal tuning via .scl and .kbm files. It’s cross-platform and can run as an LV2 or VST plugin. You can also use it with VCV rack.

Zyn-Fusion (ZynAddSubFX)

Zyn-Fusion is a powerful synth capable of additive, subtractive, FM and PM synthesis. It can be microtuned by importing Scala (.scl) files. Alternatively you can enter tuning data directly via the UI. It loads Scala keymap files (.kbm) which is very helpful.

Pianoteq

Modartt’s Pianoteq is well known in the music world for its rather good piano sound. It’s a physically-modelled piano – this has some benefits over sample-based pianos. First, it has a tiny footprint of just a few megabytes storage, as opposed to the gigs and gigs often required by sample-based pianos. Second, you can tweak the parameters of the physical model to get interesting variants on the typical piano sound. Here’s an example that will interest microtonalists: you could design a piano with quietened even harmonics (e.g. harmonics 2, 4, 6, etc.) so that the timbre will blend better with the Bohlen-Pierce scale (this scale features primarily odd harmonics). This kind of sound design possibility is pure excitement for nerds like me.

I regard Pianoteq as a model example of how developers should implement microtuning features. It supports .scl files but also the .kbm format that allows the user to create any specific full-keyboard microtuning. Additionally they provide a tone circle graphic that allows you to visualise how the overtones of the piano timbre align with your tuning. That’s not necessary to have, but is a really nice feature.

Pianoteq supports Linux, macOS and Windows natively so it’s a good plugin for almost anybody who wants to write microtonal piano music. Just note that the Stage version has no microtonal support; you’ll need to get the Standard or Pro version if you want to retune the piano. A Standard license costs €249.

v1 Suite

The v1 plugins (except for drumkv1) all support microtuning via .scl file.

synthv1 – a subtractive synth
samplv1 – a polyphonic sampler
padthv1 – an additive synth based on Paul Nasca’s PADsynth algorithm

As far as I’m aware samplv1 is the only microtonal-capable sampler plugin for Linux, so you will want to grab this!

kbm files are supported which means these synths can do full-keyboard microtuning. Your tuning can be saved per-instance or optionally saved as a system setting (in case you want to always use the same microtonal tuning in every instance).

This same developer also created the Qtractor DAW for Linux.

u-he plugins

ACE – virtual semi-modular synthesizer
Bazille – virtual modular synthesizer
Diva – virtual analog synthesizer
Hive2 – wavetable synthesizer
Repro – virtual analog synthesizer
Zebra2 – various synthesizer

Many of the u-he synths have Linux versions available and can be microtuned using .tun file import.

Please be aware the Linux versions of our plug-ins are still considered beta. While the plug-ins are stable, we are not able to provide the same level of support for these products as we do for the macOS and Windows versions. Support is provided via the Linux and u-he communities on our forum.

I have a license for ACE and was using it on Windows for a few years. It’s nice to know that I can continue using it on my new setup.

EP MK1

EP MK1 is a free, physically-modeled electric piano plugin by Mike Moreno Audio. It has two methods for microtuning – you can dial in any equal temperament you want via the interface or you can load a text file containing a list of frequencies. The text file can be easily generated by Scale Workshop (I’m not sure if any other tuning software supports Pure Data text files).

I think EP MK1’s electric piano simulation is actually pretty usable within a mix. And with the recent addition of support for Pure Data text files it’s possible to tune every MIDI note to an arbitrary frequency. I finally have good reason to use this plugin on my next album.

Amsynth

Amsynth is a subtractive synth and it’s quite easy to use.

Vital

One to watch out for – Vital is a wavetable synth currently in development as of October 2019. It will support microtonal tuning via .tun or .scl file and will also be free and open source. The same developer created the Helm synth so I’m expecting good things.

Pure Data + Camomile

Pure Data is a visual programming environment for audio similar to Max/MSP. It is free and very powerful.

Camomile is a VST wrapper for Pure Data patches. In other words, it allows you to turn your Pd creations into VSTs that you can load in to your DAW! It is cross-platform, so your creations can run on Linux, macOS and Windows.

The combination of Pure Data and Camomile is comparable to Max 4 Live.

Calf Audio Vinyl

Vinyl by Calf Audio is a vinyl emulation audio effect. So what, you ask. Well, it has one useful feature called ‘drone’ which applies an oscillating pitch-drifting to whatever audio you feed into it. If you dial in a lot of ‘drone’ you can recreate that warbly lo-fi tape-wow sound, or if you use just a little you can add a subtle intonation drift that will add interest to an otherwise perfectly accurate digital synth sound. Those of you who have composed just intonation music using digital synths will know the buzzing periodicity/phase-locking kinda sound. Just a little ‘drone’ adds enough error to the intonation to prevent that buzzing from happening.

Tuning software

Most synths don’t provide any interface for customising your own microtonal scales – instead they load a tuning file that you have to create yourself. For that, you’ll need some special software.

Scale Workshop

If you’re just getting started, try Scale Workshop – it can generate microtonal scales and export to a variety of tuning file formats. It’s free and open-source (MIT license). Because it runs in your web browser it doesn’t require installation. It works well on Linux, Windows, macOS, iOS and Android.

Scala

For serious experimenters, you might want to graduate from Scale Workshop and use Scala. It’s also free, and can be installed by following the instructions on their official website. It’s not as user friendly as the alternatives but it has about ten thousand cool features hidden away.

If you want to re-tune hardware synths or use MIDI Tuning Standard then you will want to get Scala and not Scale Workshop!

Load the tuning file into your chosen synth

This is the important bit!! Once you have created a tuning file using Scala or Scale Workshop, simply load it up in your synth of choice. Read your synth’s user manual for how to do this. Now you can jam away in your chosen microtuning.

Proof this all works

This year I released ‘Horixens‘, an album of microtonal electronic music. Tracks 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 9 are produced, mixed and mastered on Linux with Bitwig Studio. Tracks 5 and 6 were produced on my old Windows/Ableton rig but mixed and mastered on Linux.

Are you making music on Linux, or making any kind of microtonal music? Let me know in the comments what works for you and how you got it running! Everybody has a different workflow and we can all learn something from one another.

My thoughts on desktop Linux

My first experience with Linux was Fedora Core 3 in the early 2000s. It was neat but I wanted to play Stepmania and Rollercoaster Tycoon so I stuck with Windows. Later I got into music production. Again, Windows stuck. The spell was broken by Windows 10 which is literally so bad. I got back into Linux and saw how much it had matured. That’s when I committed to it.

(I do use a MacBook Pro at work which is pretty good but has various issues of its own).

The transition to Linux was a gradual process and not free of frustration. But once you go through that pain, you end up with a rock-solid system. Recently I booted up the old Windows machine so I could go back to a couple of old projects and was quickly reminded of how often I used to deal with crashes on Ableton+Windows.

The main issue I’m finding (and others’ experiences will of course vary) is that most audio software developers target Windows and macOS but leave Linux out entirely. I think this trend is slowly reversing – and I have so much appreciation and respect for developers who add support for native Linux.

More articles by Sevish about making microtonal computer music


What you’re referring to as Linux, is in fact, GNU/Linux, or as I’ve recently taken to calling it, GNU plus Linux plus KDE plus JACK plus Bitwig Studio plus Carla plus Scale Workshop plus ZynAddSubFX.

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, Best DeTune Alternative for Windows Archives

Forget Windows, Linux or MacOS: Our choice of the best alternative operating systems

If you're fed up with Windows, Linux, or macOS, you'll want to know if there's a great alternative desktop operating system that's worth using. 

While there are no absolute definitive answers here – everyone's use case is different, after all – we've discovered ten distinct examples that fall outside the usual bounds.

Our list even includes a few true outsiders, independent operating systems built from the ground up which serve mainly to prove just how difficult it is to create an entire functioning OS without a large number of brains working on it.

Everything here can be tested reasonably within a virtual machine, so if something grabs your interest don't hesitate to download and give it a try.

1. ArcaOS

The last of the OS/2 projects

Multilingual support coming

ArcaOS is an operating system based on the last IBM release for OS/2. While OS/2 barely survives as a legacy system, even after being extended for a while as eComStation, ArcaOS is still being actively developed with Spanish and German language editions currently under beta testing and scheduled to be released in the next update.

ArcaOS includes a robust Unix compatibility subsystem, featuring a variety of ported Linux apps and some drivers, but still features the OS/2 Workplace Shell. 

ArcaOS is a 32-bit OS that runs on the x86 processor architecture, so should be compatible with some particularly old PCs. Though its native file system is JFS, it ships with drivers for the FAT32 file system.

There are two editions available: Personal, which retails for $129 per license, and Commercial, which retails at $229 per license, though volume discounts are available. The personal edition includes 6-months support and maintenance, while the commercial edition includes one-year of priority support and maintenance.

2. Haiku

The modular successor to BeOS

We're a bit sad that BeOS didn't take off. A stylish multitasking OS that introduced a whole host of features that Windows, Linux and macOS would later adopt for their own, BeOS was a true multimedia innovator that left the market with a whimper when its rights were sold to Palm in 2001.

The spirit of the closed source BeOS lives on in the form of Haiku, an open source re-implementation which began development immediately after Be's demise, and it has been in development since.

Built from the ground up but designed to be backward-compatible with its classic quarry, Haiku follows BeOS' lead in its entirely modular design, allowing different components of the OS to be developed concurrently. It’s been a while since the OS had a stable release. In fact, even the second beta release of its under-development branch was released almost two years after the previous one. 

It's worth playing with just for the cleanness of its desktop, and there are working web browsers and media players, although it's still rather experimental and many of the features of BeOS haven't quite been fully realized as yet.

3. ReactOS

An alternative to Windows Server 2003

Designed to work with Windows server
Runs open source software

Linux, as you may know, is a ground-up reinterpretation of UNIX. ReactOS does the same for the Windows NT architecture upon which all modern Windows versions are based. It's completely open source, uses no proprietary Windows code, yet ReactOS is designed to be (and in some cases actually is) compatible with Windows drivers and applications.

Your mileage may vary – it's certainly not going to play nice with high-end games or software, and ReactOS isn't quite up to the Windows 10 level yet. It's currently aiming at full compatibility with Windows Server 2003. 

So it's clearly a bit behind the times, but ReactOS does have its uses. Incorporating parts of noted Windows emulator Wine, it runs LibreOffice, Firefox, Opera and more quite happily, and can even manage some earlier versions of popular commercial applications like Adobe Photoshop. Furthermore, ReactOS now natively supports more file systems than all Windows versions combined.

Given that it's free, it's certainly worth a test to see if any of your older business-critical applications are compatible – setting up workstations without Windows licensing is a tempting prospect, although we can't vouch for its resistance to attacks.

4. FreeDOS

An open-source alternative to DOS

A ridiculous amount of business software relies on MS-DOS, even to this day. We're still seeing bespoke, newly-developed text-mode apps that run directly from the shell, probably because the complexity and potential for disaster that graphical interfaces add to the mix is not worth the risk in situations that demand 100% uptime.

That business-critical software may rely on MS-DOS, but it’ll run just as happily on a FreeDOS shell. As its name suggests, FreeDOS is a fully-compatible but completely free and open source remake of DOS that can handle just about everything its proprietary counterpart can. That does, of course, mean no multitasking, no protected mode, no GUI, but it'll run your games and can even manage Windows 3.1 as long as you're running it in standard mode.

As you might expect, it's not a static recreation of the final commercial DOS release in 1995, and indeed hasn't been static since it first emerged in 1998. In fact, FreeDOS remains in active development, and features a number of integrated improvements compared to its rather archaic ancestor.

5. Wayne OS

ChromeOS for the desktop

Wayne OS comes from a Korean startup that forked the open source Chromium OS (from which Google derives its Chrome OS) to create an OS for regular 64-bit machines instead of Chromebooks. 

Originally called Chromic OS, the project changed its name to Wayne OS in 2019. Instead of a traditional installation, the distro is designed to be installed in bootable USB flash drives. 

Wayne OS is available in two versions -- Free and Paid. The Free version is meant for all kinds of end-users. To install it, simply download its compressed installer and then extract the executable installer from the archive and fire it up. This will bring up the Wayne OS installer. 

Select the version you want to install and then point the installer to the USB disk you want to install it on. Wait for the installer to download and copy the necessary files to the USB disk. When it’s done you can unplug the now bootable USB disk and use it to run Wayne OS on any 64-bit computer. 

6. FuryBSD

The desktop BSD

Familiar desktop and apps
No graphical package manager

While Linux is a recreation of UNIX, FreeBSD is more of a continuation. It was initially developed by students working with a Research Unix source license obtained by the University of California Berkeley – the 'BSD' bit stands for Berkeley Software Distribution. The only reason it's not called BSD Unix is because of the pesky trademark and licensing gremlin.

The OS runs on its own kernel, and all of its key components have been developed as part of a single whole. Linux, on the other hand, is just the kernel; the rest of it is supplied by third parties so it lacks BSD's overall coherency.

While FreeBSD is a highly complete and very reliable operating system, it doesn't come with a graphical user interface by default. This is where FuryBSD steps in. It delivers a much more usable FreeBSD using a combination of a familiar graphical desktop environment with some additional tools and functionalities. 

The latest release is based on FreeBSD 12.1 and packs in the latest quarterly packages from the FreeBSD repository. The OS is available with two desktop environments in separate ISO images. There’s one based on Xfce 4.14 that’ll perform well on under-equipped machines, while the other with KDE Plasma 5.17 is meant for well-stocked computers.

7. OpenIndiana

The successor to SunOS

No graphical package manager

Sun Microsystems' SunOS – which evolved into the rechristened Solaris – began as a proprietary UNIX distribution designed to support Sun's SPARC processors. Its list of supported hardware widened as it grew, and in 2005 Sun released the source code in the form of OpenSolaris, leading to advanced community development. And then Oracle purchased Sun, renamed the OS once more to Oracle Solaris, and decided to cease source releases, effectively closing the source once again.

Sometime after this move, the community took it upon themselves to maintain OpenSolaris. They decided to ditch its development tools and processes and created the OpenIndiana Hipster branch to modernize the OS. Hipster is compiled with GCC instead of Sun Studio and follows a rolling release model and the release team puts out installable snapshots every six-months. 

What makes OpenIndiana (OI) approachable to new users is that it runs familiar apps on its desktop. It uses the Mate desktop along with its cache of tools as well as a handful of mainstream productivity apps such as Firefox, Thunderbird and Pidgin. While there is not much to write home about OI’s default cache of apps, one that caught our eye was the TimeSlider app for taking incremental ZFS file system snapshots. It isn’t enabled by default, but is fairly intuitive to setup and use.

8. KolibriOS

The OS for retro gaming

KolibriOS is written in the FASM assembly language and based on the source code of the MenuetOS operating system. It boots in a flash and gives you access to a number of useful apps. There’s no installation involved, though you’ll have to make sure you select the option to save the changes you made during the session when you shut it down.

The OS supports FAT and NTFS file systems and ships with drivers for popular audio, video and Ethernet hardware. The desktop is fairly intuitive to operate, and new users aren’t reprimanded for casually exploring the desktop and its various apps. 

The only shortcoming of the OS is that its productivity apps aren’t really mature enough for everyday use, and the lack of a package manager doesn’t help its case either. On the other hand, if you like retro gaming there’s no better OS.

9. Visopsys

The ultimate CS project

The goal of the OS is to create a fully functional OS for Computer Science students and alternate OS enthusiasts like us. Considering the fact that it’s primarily an educational system, Visopsys surprised us with its usability. 

The OS boots in a snap and gives you the option to either launch the installer or boot into a Live session. The inclusion of a very capable partitioner in the installer is another pleasant surprise.

The desktop is fairly simple to navigate and includes a handful of essential apps, plus handy administration and configuration utilities. But attempts to use it for regular desktop tasks won’t take you very far, as the OS is missing a web browser and there’s no package management to help you pull in additional apps and utilities. 

Visopsys does a nice job of masquerading as a regular desktop, but it really is a very capable CS project and should be treated as such.

10. Icaros Desktop

Nostalgic open source fans can still get their dose of Amiga-esque goodness through Icaros. This is a distribution of Aros, which is an OS based on the AmigaOS API. It’s important to note that this isn’t a clone of AmigaOS, but an implementation of its API in a new operating system. Unless you’re familiar with the AmigaOS of yore, you’ll have a pretty tough time getting to grips with Icaros. 

It’s tricky to install, and it’d be a frustrating experience to even attempt to explore the OS without first reading its user guide. First-time users should appreciate the fact that the OS is distributed as an installable live CD to whet their appetite. Click on the eye icon in the panel to get an Applications menu, or on the filing cabinet to get a selection of manuals.

Icaros has pretty decent hardware support, but still don’t expect it to work with fancy graphics cards and all wireless network hardware. Icaros has all the apps you need to use it as a regular desktop, but its real specialty is retro gaming, and that’s one area in which it really shines.

Gone but not forgotten: other Operating Systems

It's worth noting that there have been a number of other operating systems that were previously popular but have since been discontinued. One of the most famous of which is AmigaOS, used in Amiga personal computers during the 1990's and which had a reputation for solid stability.

However, here are a few more that you may or may not have come across before now.

11. eComStation

OS/2 may not have set the world on fire, but it actually maintained a decent industrial and commercial install base long after its desktop aspirations died. eComStation was a derivative OS that uses classic OS/2 technologies on modern hardware.

Much like its ancestor it's been developed with security and stability in mind for commercial applications. We see the claim 'zero downtime' repeated all over the place, and while it's theoretically possible to lock up your hardware with the wrong application, this is something that could have been a real killer feature.

There's a host of open source software ported to eComStation including Firefox, OpenOffice, VLC and more, and it's capable of running DOS, Java and OS/2 applications. You almost certainly don't need it, but if there's something system-critical and OS/2-only that your business relies on, running this on bare metal is a much more reliable idea than setting up a VM.

As eComStation hasn't been updated for some years, if you're looking for OS/2 support and development it might be best to look at ArcaOS in the above list.

12. Syllable Desktop

Developed between 1994 and 2001, AtheOS – initially planned as a clone of AmigaOS but later following its own path – was the work of a lone Norwegian programmer, Kurt Skauen. After Skauen abandoned the project, its GPL-licensed source code was picked up by the community and Syllable Desktop was born.

The majority of it is composed of unique code, although certain components have been pulled from the vast library of open source Linux programs; there's also a Server version, which is more traditionally Linux.

Syllable's key selling point – ignoring the fact that it's free – is its speed and lightness. The creators recommend a Pentium CPU with 32MB of RAM, which should give you an idea of how lightweight it is. Slap this on a modern PC and you'll likely never have seen an OS so quick.

Syllable does lack the ports that make other indie operating systems attractive, though it contains a number of native apps for web browsing, email, VNC and more. We're not entirely positive that it's still active – the last official update was some time in 2012 – but if there's a very, very old PC you need to resurrect with reasonably modern system architecture, try this.

13. SkyOS

The development of SkyOS has sadly been halted, but it's still worth looking at as an example of an OS constructed from scratch. Developed initially as an open source project by coder Robert Szeleney, SkyOS was based on concepts gleaned from other platforms but didn't originally borrow their code.

That said, a few components are based on other packages – there's no sense, for example, developing an entirely new compiler when GCC already exists, and the SkyFS filesystem is forked from OpenBFS. Later in its life, Szeleney appears to have experimented with a version of SkyOS built on top of a Linux kernel in an attempt to help with driver compatibility.

The source was closed midway through its life, and Szeleney continued development based on feedback from a popular (paid) public beta program. Unfortunately the struggle to keep up with ever-diversifying computing standards became too much for the lone coder, and development was halted in 2009, with the most recent beta made publicly available in 2013.

It's obviously incomplete, and not suitable for any kind of business environment, but as a curio to run within a VM it's very interesting.

14.  TempleOS

Whether the extreme religious doctrine behind it interests you or not, TempleOS is an interesting example of a completely independent, unique OS. It's been made and maintained with extreme dedication by one man, Terry A. Davis, over the course of ten years. 

TempleOS – programmed entirely using Davis' own language, the excellently named HolyC, which you also use to interact with its shell – deliberately includes no networking and absolutely no hardware support beyond that which forms the core PC system. So what's the point?

TempleOS has been built from the ground up with what seems like no hang-ups on existing operating systems. The entire thing is hyperlinked, meaning you can quickly burrow down to the source of a program just as easily as you can find its dependencies, and it's super-quick; there's no paging, so the whole OS gets up and running within a second or two.

It's unlikely you'll be able to use TempleOS for anything solid, and Davis' well-documented mental health struggles haven't helped its standing in the community. But it includes a huge number of interesting ideas, particularly the blurring of the division between document and program, which could impact more traditional operating systems. Which is why, despite TempleOS’s development having ceased with Terry’s passing in 2018, the OS is still available for the curious lot out there.

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Best DeTune Alternative for Windows Archives

Windows 10 alternatives: Best free, open source operating systems

By Computerworld UK staff,Computerworld|

Windows 10 is a very popular operating system, however, it may not be for everyone. Whatever the reason for your change, there are a number of great alternatives to try out.

The Windows 10 update has faced some negative feedback, with consumer magazine, Which? reporting in March 2018 that many users complained about functionality problems, including slow PCs or even outright failure.

So why not opt for a free, open source Windows 10 alternative?

Switching to an open source OS could involve a learning curve, but the community, customisation and lack of cost should be enough to make up for it.

Read on for our favourite free, open source browsers.

Read next: Windows 10 for business: Pros and cons for enterprise users

ChaletOS

ChaletOSis a free and open-source Linux distribution based on Xubuntu. It is built with a similar design to Windows, which shows a simple and intuitive desktop interface.

It is good alternative for Windows users that may want to try a Linux distro, offering Xfce desktop environment with the opportunity to customise the desktop.

ChaletOS includes various pre-installed applications and is a good option for older PCs that may not have enough memory. The latest version, which was released in April 2016, is what provides users with the opportunity to modernise old desktop servers.

Key features: LTS Support, GTK2 and GTK3 engine support, Style change, Start point application, Serbia.

SteamOS

SteamOS is a Debian-based Linux OS operating system built by Valve Corporation. Initially released in December 2013, SteamOS was primarily designed to allow video games to be played away from PCs.

It supports Windows, Mac and Linux computers and enables all games to be streamed to StreamOS computers. Users can also access the GNOME desktop environment to perform other tasks aside from playing games.

SteamOS also supports Nvidia, Intel and AMD graphics processors, with optional ability to access film and music from the Steam store.

Debian

Debianis a free Unix-like open-source operating system, which stems from the Debian Project launched in 1993 by Ian Murdock.

It is one of the first operating systems based on the Linux and FreeBSD kernel. The stable version 1.1, released in June 1996, is known as the most popular edition for PCs and network servers.

Debian provides access to online repositories of over 51,000 packages, all of which include free software. It is completely developed and distributed following the principles of the GNU Project.

Key features: LibreOffice, Firefox, K3b disc burner, VLC media player, GIMP image editor, Evince document viewer and Evolution mail.

Ubuntu

Initially released in 2004, Ubuntu is Debian-based and part of the open source Linux family. It can be run on desktop and mobile, or used to power IoT devices. Like all open source software, its evolution has depended on the voluntary work of a global community of developers.

Last year, Ubuntu switched from running Unity as its default user interface in favour of GNOME, which can be run on smartphones, tablets and PCs. The desktop version of the operating system currently powers millions of laptops and PCs around the world.

Anything not already pre-installed in the operating system, including applications and games, are available on the Ubuntu Software Centre.

In terms of security, this operating system is one of the best around, with a built-in firewall and virus protection software. A lightweight version called 'Lubuntu' is also available.

Key features: Pre-installed with popular software such as LibreOffice and Firefox, Thunderbird, built-in Ubuntu Software Centre, F-spot, an image editor, an instant messaging client called Empathy, and Ubuntu Make (developer tools centre)

Fedora

Red Hat's Linux-based, open source Fedora operating system has an estimated 1.2 million users. It’s primarily aimed at developers of varying levels (from hobbyists up to IT pros) so offers features not always necessary for the average user. For example, its sleek GNOME 3 desktop environment is extremely minimal to reduce the chances for distraction from the task of coding.

After its 2003 release, Fedora has regularly updated its OS, with a new version being released every six months. The latest version of Fedora was released in May 2018, making Fedora 28 the latest version.

The open source toolbox features a range of open source tools that will come in handy on a day-to-day basis.

Key features:GNOME 3.26, LibreOffice, Todo application, (file browser) Nautilus, Linux Vendor Firmware Service and Google Drive integration.

Solus

Solusis an open source, Linux-based desktop operating system aimed at home computing uses. Released in just 2012, Solus is a relatively new OS.

The software comes pre-installed with features such as the Mozilla Firefox web browser, Mozilla Thunderbird email, digital content streaming device, GNOME MPV. As well as a range of open source creativity suites such as animation software Synfig Studio, music production apps Musescore or Mixxx and graphic design with GIMP. A plethora of additional apps are also conveniently located in the Software Centre.

Key features: LibreOffice Suite, Firefox, PlayOnLinux, Budgie desktop environment, Thunderbird, XChat, OpenShot Video Editor, Transmission and VLC.

Linux Mint

Linux Mintis a popular, open source Linux operating system based on Debian and Ubuntu OS used by millions of people. While it is based on Ubuntu, this operating system works much more like Windows or Mac OS, hosting a familiar interface.

The beta release of the most recent Linux Mint 19 “Tara” Xfce operating system took place in June, 2018. This is a long term support release which will be supported until 2023.

Key features:Adobe Flash, Java, Cinnamon desktop environment, LibreOffice, Firefox, Thunderbird, HexChat, Pidgin, Transmission, VLC media player, GIMP.

ReactOS

ReactOSis a free and community-based open source, lightweight (500MB HDD and 96MB RAM) operating system boasting over six million downloads and counting across 100 countries. Initially developed as a Windows 95 clone project in 1996, ReactOS was later released in 1998.

ReactOS has been built from scratch but is designed to look and feel like Windows and be able to run Windows software, so should be one to consider for those wanting a clear Windows OS alternative.

For anyone concerned about the data tracking activity of Windows, privacy is written into the source code of this OS.

However, ReactOS is still in relative infancy so is best suited for someone with open source experience or someone wanting a totally customisable user interface.

Xubuntu

Xubuntuis a Unix-based open source operating system that runs the lightweight and configurable XFCE desktop environment, rather than Ubuntu's Unity environment. While the interface is relatively stripped back, it's still a full-featured OS competing well with others listed.

This OS is ideal for reusing that ageing Windows XP machine.

The most recent version, Xubuntu 18.10, was released in October 2018 with Xfce components. The standard release of Xubuntu 19.04 is scheduled for 18 April 2019.

Key features:The operating system comes preinstalled with applications including a web browser, a mail client, word processor, spreadsheet editor, applications to handle your media like music, videos and photos. For more applications, games or tools, you simply have to search the Ubuntu Software Centre.

TrueOS

TrueOSis a Unix-like operating system built on the latest releases of FreeBSD, the free and open-source Unix-like operating system.

The OS claims to offer increased security over competitors, with advanced security features such as PersonaCrypt and GELI disk level encryption, to keep your most important data safe.

The SysAdm remote management tool provides a way to manage your Server, Desktop or Cloud-based systems. You can remotely control all aspects of your machine, including management of software, updates, boot environments, users and backups.

Key features:Lumina/Cinnamon/GNOME/MATE desktop environment, able to run Linux software, automatically configured hardware, AppCafe, Virus-free, Laptop support, PersonaCrypt, LibreSSL, encrypted backups, Nvidia and Intel drivers

Chrome OS

Google's Chrome OS is based on the Linux kernel and uses the Google Chrome web browser. It’s a cloud-based browser that primarily hosts web applications.

The operating system is partially developed under the open source Chromium OS project. But while developers can modify the code from Chromium OS, Chrome OS code is only supported by Google.

A huge variety of apps are offered through the Chrome Web Store. However, it’s only free on Chrome hardware such as a Chromebook or Nexus device.

Key features:Cloud-based file management, integrated media player, virtual desktop access, Aura window manager, Google cloud print, Chrome Apps, support for selected Android apps and enhanced security

FreeDOS

FreeDOSis a free open source tool that provides an environment like the DOS operating system. It’s primarily geared towards the ability to play classic DOS games, run legacy business software, or develop embedded systems that may run on DOS (rather than more modern alternatives).

Set up should be easy with files being loaded from a USB or disk drive. It allows you to view and edit FreeDOS’ source codes with its programs being distributed under the General Public Licence (GNU).

Like MacOS and Windows, FreeDOS allows you to share files from any Linux device and location.

Key features:7ZIP file archive, FAT32 file support, FDAV (antivirus scanner), HTML viewer, a built in media player and ARACHNE graphic web browser and email client

FreeBSD

Released in 1993, FreeBSD is a functional open source operating system and supports most web browsers, office suites, email readers and network servers. It’s derived from BSD, a particular strain of UNIX developed at the University of California, Berkeley. According to its site, the aim of FreeBSD is to provide a stable operating system that may be used for any purpose.

FreeBSD is free to use and can be installed from a CD-ROM or over a network using FTP or NFS.

The latest version of FreeBSD is 12.0 and was released in December 2018. It still remains under active development but includes support for Microsoft Hyper V as well as enhanced networking on the Amazon EC2 platform.

Haiku

Haiku is an open source operating system targeted towards personal computing that is currently still being developed. It’s based on original BeOS software and is designed to be fast, efficient and easy to use. The operating system’s entirely modular design means that different components of the OS can be developed at the same time. The OS is still in the Alpha stage, but can currently be used for daily tasks including browsing the web, writing and reading e-mails, or listening to music and watching videos.

Elementary OS

Elementary OSpitches itself as a fast replacement for both Mac OS and Windows. Based on Linux, the OS claims to be secure and doesn't collect personal data.

The OS is aesthetically pleasing and boasts an extensive app store, offering plenty of open source apps from indie developers. The OS puts a lot of emphasis on supporting these types of developers, offering the option to users to make donations in return for using these products.

The bare bones OS comes pre-installed with essential apps for everyday use including files, photos and music apps.

openSUSE

openSUSEis a Linux-based project which comprises a server environment and a range of other open source software tools primarily aimed at developers and system administrators.

openSUSE Leap 15.0 is the current version, while Tumbleweed is a rolling release version which is regularly updated with new versions. Other tools associated with openSUSE include YaST, Open Build Service, openQA and Snapper.

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