[Syllable operating system family]

Frequently Asked Questions


1. About Syllable
 1.1 What is Syllable?
 1.2 What is the history of Syllable?
 1.3 Who is behind Syllable?
 1.4 How is the team organised?
 1.5 Is Syllable a BeOS clone?
 1.6 How often are new versions of Syllable released?

2. Installing Syllable
 2.1 What are the basic system requirements?
 2.2 Will Syllable work on my hardware?
 2.3 Why does Syllable have its own version of GRUB?
 2.4 Can I boot Syllable with the boot loader I already installed?
 2.5 Installing the boot loader (GRUB) failed. Why?
 2.6 Where can I find more information and help for GRUB?
 2.7 I tried to install Syllable and it doesn't work. What should I do?

3. Using Syllable
 3.1 The Welcome document
 3.2 Where can I find software for Syllable?
 3.3 What file systems can Syllable use?

4. Problem solving
 4.1 I think I've found a bug. What should I do?
 4.2 How do I add or change the kernel boot options?
 4.3 How can I capture the kernel log?

5. Virtual machines and emulators
 5.1 Can I use Syllable with VMWare?
 5.2 Can I use Syllable with Virtual PC?
 5.3 Can I use Syllable with Parallels?
 5.4 Can I use Syllable with Qemu?
 5.5 Can I use Syllable with VirtualBox?

6. Other
 6.1 I have some suggestions. Who can I talk to?
 6.2 How can I get involved?


1. About Syllable

1.1 What is Syllable?

The goal of the Syllable project is to create a family of easy-to-use open source operating systems, for the home and small office user. Syllable Desktop is an original desktop operating system. Syllable Server is a matching small and efficient Linux server. This FAQ is mostly about Syllable Desktop.

Syllable is currently under development, but it is stable and relatively mature, with a number of useful applications already available. Syllable supports a wide range of common hardware devices, including video, network and sound cards from manufacturers such as Intel, AMD, 3Com, nVidia and Creative.

1.2 What is the history of Syllable?

Syllable was created in June 2002 as a fork of Kurt Skauen's AtheOS operating system. AtheOS was started by Kurt in the early 90's, and was almost entirely written from scratch by him. The first public release of AtheOS, version 0.1.2, was released in 1997 and quickly gained a large number of fans and interested users and developers.

After the release of AtheOS 0.3.7 development slowed to a complete stop as Kurt became interested in learning to fly his plane. Syllable was forked by Kristian Van Der Vliet (Vanders) with a small group of developers who had been involved with the AtheOS community for some time. The first release of Syllable, version 0.4.0, was released in July 2002. Since then, we have made more than twenty releases over three major versions.

1.3 Who is behind Syllable?

There is a small core team of developers, comprised of Kristian Van Der Vliet, Kaj de Vos and Anthony Morphett. There are also other developers who write patches, create applications and port software for Syllable.

1.4 How is the team organised?

There is no strong organisational structure, and people are free to work on whatever interests them the most. Generally however Kristian works on the kernel, device drivers, system libraries and servers. He also maintains some specific systems and applications for Syllable.

Kaj de Vos is the project leader and writes and maintains Builder and also maintains and tests its many package recipes, making him our official build engineer. He is also the driving force behind the integration of the REBOL family of programming languages into Syllable.

Anthony Morphett contributes various patches.

1.5 Is Syllable a BeOS clone?

No. The goals of BeOS and Haiku are similar, and Syllable does resemble BeOS in many respects, including its file system and the basic structure and design of the application programming interfaces (APIs), but it was never and will never be intended as a BeOS clone.

1.6 How often are new versions of Syllable released?

Like in many other open source projects, we provide stable releases of Syllable "When It's Ready". Syllable is a volunteer project, so we are limited by available time and other resources, and by what you contribute to the project. We also produce intermediate development builds of Syllable which can be used to test bug fixes and new features but may be unstable for general use.


2. Installing Syllable

2.1 What are the basic system requirements?

Syllable requires at least a Pentium processor. Installation requires several hundred megabytes on an LBA capable hard disk. About 32 MB of memory is needed to boot. You must have a supported video card or a card with a VESA 2.0 BIOS.

A Pentium 60 with 32 MB of ram and a 540 MB hard disk or a small partition should be the minimum currently able to 'run' Syllable. A Pentium 166MMX with 64 MB of ram and a 1 GB partition can run Syllable quite comfortably.

2.2 Will Syllable work on my hardware?

As long as your computer meets the basic hardware requirements in section 2.1 then it is very likely that Syllable will work. Syllable can also quite happily run on the very latest motherboards with dual-core processors. Syllable currently only runs on 32-bit Intel hardware (sometimes called "x86" or "IA32") and can run on 64-bit (sometimes called "x86-64", "AMD64" or "EMT64") hardware in 32-bit mode.

Syllable has drivers for a wide range of common hardware.

2.3 Why does Syllable have its own version of GRUB?

The problem is that the original author of AtheOS, Kurt, wrote the AFS file system and the AFS module for GRUB. Because he wrote the code, he retains the copyright to it. In order to place the AFS module in the main GRUB source, the GRUB maintainers insist on a copyright assignment to the FSF. Kurt did not want to do this, so never submitted the AFS module to the GRUB maintainers. We cannot submit the module either because we don't own the copyright on the code, so we cannot assign it to the GRUB maintainers.

This issue may be resolved soon because someone has re-written the AFS GRUB module for GRUB 2.

2.4 Can I boot Syllable with the boot loader I already installed?

Not directly. If you are already using GRUB to boot your system, you could simply re-install it using the version of GRUB that comes with Syllable, or copy the Syllable AFS module (afs_stage_1_5) to your existing GRUB installation. GRUB will then be capable of booting Syllable directly.

Another option is to install GRUB for Syllable onto the partition you have installed Syllable onto, and then "chain load" it from your existing boot loader. How you do this will depend on the boot loader you are using, and you should consult its documentation for more information.

2.5 Installing the boot loader (GRUB) failed. Why?

Currently there are two known reasons why this can happen:

  • The version of GRUB currently available for Syllable can not install GRUB correctly on large hard disks. In this case, you must install GRUB manually (see section 3.1 of the installation instructions for more information).
  • The GRUB configuration file that was generated by the Syllable installer is incorrect. This can happen on machines that have Serial ATA (SATA) hard disks, in which case Syllable can incorrectly identify the drive number that GRUB requires to boot. You may have to edit the GRUB configuration file and change the GRUB drive identifiers, then install GRUB manually (see section 3.1 of the installation instructions for more information).

There are sometimes other problems related to GRUB, but these are generally not Syllable specific issues.

2.6 Where can I find more information and help for GRUB?

The official GRUB website can be found at http://www.gnu.org/software/grub/grub-legacy.html. You should refer to the "GRUB Legacy" documentation located at http://www.gnu.org/software/grub/grub-legacy-support.html.

2.7 I tried to install Syllable and it doesn't work. What should I do?

First, read this FAQ to see if your problem is covered already. If it is not, please search our bug database at http://forum.syllable.org/viewforum.php?f=4 to see if anyone else has already reported a similar problem. If you can not find any reports of your problem, please submit a new bug report. You may be asked to download and try the latest development build or try various things to help us to identify and solve your problem, so please bear that in mind.

Please do not ignore the problem and hope it will be fixed in a future release of Syllable. If we do not receive bug reports, we can not fix the problem.


3. Using Syllable

3.1 The Welcome document

Basic information on using Syllable is covered in the Welcome document, available on-line at http://web.syllable.org/Desktop/Welcome.html or in Syllable at /documentation/Welcome.html.

3.2 Where can I find software for Syllable?

Through the main download page: http://web.syllable.org/Syllable/downloads.html.

A corresponding site for Syllable Server is here: http://web.syllable.org/Linux/downloads.html.

3.3 What file systems can Syllable use?

Syllable can read and write AFS (its native file system) and FAT file systems. It can also read from CD-ROM ISO9660 (including RockRidge and Joliet support), Linux ext2/3 and Windows NTFS. A BeFS driver is also included.


4. Problem solving

4.1 I think I've found a bug. What should I do?

We are currently using the forum for bug tracking: http://forum.syllable.org/viewforum.php?f=4 (a new bug tracker will be implemented later). Please search it first to see if the bug has already been reported. If you think you have found a new bug, please create a new bug report. You should include basic information about the bug, and if it is related to hardware or a certain device, information about the hardware configuration.

4.2 How do I add or change the kernel boot options?

You can add a temporary option by editing the GRUB configuration at boot, or you can add a permanent option by editing the GRUB configuration file within Syllable.

To add a temporary boot option:

When the boot loader (GRUB) starts it will display a menu of available systems. At this menu, select the Syllable entry and press the "e" key. This will display the GRUB configuration. Using the arrow keys, select the line that begins with "kernel" and press "e" again to edit this line. At the end of the line, add the options you require. Once you are done, press "ENTER" to accept the changes, then press "b" to boot with the modified GRUB configuration. Changes made this way will not be permanent.

To add a permanent boot option:

The GRUB configuration file can be found in /boot/boot/grub/menu.lst. Open it with your preferred text editor (usually aedit) and add the options you require to the end of the line that begins with "kernel". Once you are done, save the file. The next time you boot Syllable, the new kernel options will be used.

4.3 How can I capture the kernel log?

Normally Syllable logs the kernel debug output to the file /var/log/kernel. If for some reason you can not retrieve this file (for example Syllable fails to boot properly), you can also capture the debug output using a "null-modem" cable connected to a second computer.

Once you have connected both machines together with the cable, you should run a serial terminal application such as Minicom on Linux or HyperTerm on Windows. The software must be configured for a baudrate of 19200 bps, 8 data bits, no parity and 1 stop bit (commonly abbreviated as "8N1").

When you boot Syllable on the first machine, follow section 4.2 to add the following kernel boot parameters:

    debug_port=1 debug_baudrate=19200 debug_plaintext=true

You should use "debug_port=2" if the null-modem cable is connected to the second serial port instead. When Syllable boots the kernel debug output will be sent to the other machine, where you can use the terminal software to capture the data to a file.


5. Virtual machines and emulators

5.1 Can I use Syllable with VMware?

Yes. An official VMware disk image is available from the system downloads for Syllable at ../pages/get-Syllable.html#emulate.

In VMware Fusion and VMware versions newer than version 6, you need to set the hardware compatibility to VMware Workstation 6. If VMware tries to upgrade the VM image, you need to decline this.

Reportedly, Syllable hangs on VMware Workstation when running on dual-core AMD processors. If you run into this, you can fix it by adding the line

    host.TSC.noForceSync = "TRUE"

to the config.ini file in the VMware Workstation application data folder. On Windows Vista, this is in

C:\Users\All Users\VMware\VMware Workstation\config.ini

(Note that the All Users folder is hidden by default.)

5.2 Can I use Syllable with Virtual PC?

Syllable is known to work on Virtual PC from version 5.1 onwards. On Virtual PC 2007 you must add the following kernel parameters (see section 4.2).

    disable_smp=true disable_pci_irq_routing=true

5.3 Can I use Syllable with Parallels?

There have been reports of both success and failure of using Syllable with Parallels, so the situation is unclear. The latest report was that Syllable did work. Your best bet may be to try it, and then let us know how you got on!

5.4 Can I use Syllable with Qemu?

Yes. Syllable is known to work with Qemu as long as you are using a VESA 2.0 VGA BIOS (which is included in the latest Qemu versions). It is best to run Qemu with the -std-vga parameter, because the default Cirrus Logic video emulation is actually slower with Syllable and limits the available screen modes. The colour palette is still limited. Strangely, current Syllable versions run slightly slower with virtualisation instead of faster, so if you are running on Linux and you have the KQemu accelerator kernel module loaded, it should better be turned off with the -no-kqemu parameter.

You can use the Syllable live CD, as an ISO image or mounted physically, or the .vmdk file from the VMware disk image.

5.5 Can I use Syllable with VirtualBox?

Yes. Since version 0.6.4 Syllable runs on VirtualBox. However, the performance is poor and there is no accelerated video support. You may also need to use the following kernel parameters (see section 4.2).

    disable_smp=true disable_acpi=true

6. Other

6.1 I have some suggestions. Who can I talk to?

The Syllable community is friendly and we're always happy to hear any new ideas or suggestions. Our website forums are generally busy, and you can find them at http://forum.syllable.org.

You may also want to register with the AltME groupware system that the core developers use and discuss your ideas there.

6.2 How can I get involved?

Register on the forum and start. If you'd like to talk about what you plan to do first, post on the forums or the mailing list and we'll be happy to point you in the right direction.




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