Operating systems that are not Linux

Linux is amazing – but what else is out there?

The object of my personal interest is Plan 9, a research operating system written by Bell Labs as a follow-up to Unix, applying lessons learned. Most people will never see or use an operating system which isn’t based on Unix or NT – Plan 9 is interesting in showing that there are, in fact, other ways to design an OS. The original research project has been abandoned by Bell Labs but the good folks at 9front have an actively maintained fork.

I also dabble in OS development myself, check out my Helios microkernel if you’re curious!


Redox is pretty cool. I also know of Haiku. I don’t really know any usable OSs that aren’t NT or UNIX based though.

The BSD operating systems are fantastic and if they had more compatibility with games and game development I probably would use one of them instead of Linux.

  • KolibriOS the smallest usable OS out there (it fits on one 1.44 MB floppy disk), written in FASM.
  • FreeDOS MS-DOS-like for IBM PC compatible computers.
  • Mezzano OS written in Common Lisp.

I run FreeBSD as my main machine. Even though I first started with Linux in '96 I have always been on the BSD side of the fence. I’m also a former SGI and Sun/Solaris admin (pre-oracle).

Ouside of UNIX /Linux I havealso run CPM, AmigaOS, BeOS, OS/2 and a few others

Like Drew I am a big fan of Plan 9, There are a lot of design decisions I wish more operating systems took on board.

Amoeba has some interesting ideas as a “network operating system”, you can mount resources from other machines like in plan9, but it is POSIX compliant.

For a lot of years I have wanted to do a lot moreOSDev, but I have not produced anything serious as yet.

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If you like Plan9, I’d recommend checking out Oberon Oberon (operating system) - Wikipedia Operating System, programming language, programming environment all in one. I believe the Acme editor from Plan9 was inspired in part by the Oberon system.

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A small project of mine is trying to get Inferno up and running. So far, it works in a VM, but I’m trying to have it function on bare metal.


I’m using Arch btw.[tm] :grinning:

But jokes aside, I love FreeBSD and try to use it wherever possible. I generally prefer BSD over Linux and FreeBSD in particular. Its whole “complete” environment is so much more pleasant to work with compared to most Linux distributions.

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I was pleasantly surprised when Wayland pretty much “just works” on FreeBSD!

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I have such love for Plan 9. There was a time when I used rc as my default shell, and I am sure there’s an alternate timeline close to ours where it ended up as the default shell for Linux because I was considering it for the Linux root install disk during the time I was responsible for that.

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You might be interested in one of my projects to develop a new Unix shell inspired by rc! Check it out:


I use it as my daily driver.


I second that I really like the BSD family of systems, but just not a lot of compatibility with the stuff I do from time to time. Haiku just looks like so much fun to use as a daily driver.

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Any preferences within the BSD family? I don’t use any of them regularly but I have a certain fondness for NetBSD over the others for its relative simplicity (and because pkgsrc is cool).

Also: shoutout to Minix, which makes use of pkgsrc as well and is a neat little microkernel OS in its own right.

The networking side in me likes FreeBSD since it seems to do well with content delivery and pure networking routing/processing applications, but I do like NetBSD for the reasons you mentioned.

I used OpenBSD (dual-booted Windows for games) before making a jump to Linux. I’m a fan of OpenBSD’s clear and detailed documentation. The whole system is made of many simple parts working together. Simple being a key word here. Alpine and aports often feels closer to BSD than Linux.

I find Plan9’s design fascinating. I hope future researchers will explore a not-so-centralised approach to its ideas. For example, one should be able to detach a laptop from the network and retain some roaming user file which later reconciled when reconnected.

Any preferences within the BSD family? I don’t use any of them regularly but I have a certain fondness for NetBSD over the others for its relative simplicity (and because pkgsrc is cool).

As with every tech, it depends on what you want to do. General-purpose, by far the best one is FreeBSD, purely due to the documentation and bigger community, and also the jail system is really neat. It also has first-class ZFS support, like it doesn’t even compare to ZFS on Linux, so it’s good for NAS and storage and such!

For web-hosting and general networking things, I prefer OpenBSD because I’m a paranoid.

I haven’t really found much uses for NetBSD and DragonflyBSD. I know the latter has a really cool filesystem!

I used to play a lot with the Hurd, it has some very interesting things, like users with no user or group id, and translators.

Sadly, I don’t have the time (nor energy, really) to play with different operating systems. At some point, I’d love to daily drive a microkernel-based, non-Unix operating system. I don’t think it’s something I will be able to do anytime soon, but… I’ll keep it on my bucket list, just in case.

There is a pretty interesting japanese OS called BTron Chokanji V! It has some pretty cool applications going from desktops to house automation, etc. It has this “object orientation” in the sense that you can draw something in a drawing application, select your drawing and drag it to the text editor which displays your drawing in the middle of the text.

There are OS images for it on archive.org and Nina did a thread about it on Mastodon as well showing the basics with lots of screenshots!

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I recently learned about TheseusOS, which is a pretty drastic departure from traditional OS’s in that everything runs in a single address space/single privilege level but still provides stability and security guarantees through the compiler (obviously this only works if you have access to all of the source code to make sure it is being compiled with the correct constraints - another win for free software!). It’s a fairly new research operating system so it’s not ready for production use, but it’s definitely something I’m keeping an eye on!

SerenityOS is a delightful “love letter to '90s user interfaces with a custom Unix-like core”.

It was initially a passion project by one guy - Andreas Kling - who developed it from scratch, including a web browser called LadyBird.

I’ve noodles with it in a VM - because at the time there wasn’t a straightforward way to run it on bare metal. If you’re old and cloudy-brained enough to still like the WIndows 9x/NT style UI, you’ll probably like Serenty. It’s gorgeous (IMO).

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Never got beyond very early codes stages but I find the TUNES project to be quite fascinating.

See these for more on TUNES: