Spotlight on Linux: ZevenOS-Neptune 1.9.1

ZevenOS is a German-born project that offers Debian-based and Ubuntu-based versions of their BeOS-like system. ZevenOS is based on Ubuntu (Xubuntu) and ZevenOS-Neptune is based on Debian Testing. The main purpose is to preserve some of the features of BeOS in a modern, capable operating system. Neptune 1.9.1 was recently released to bring the latest Linux goodies to users.

Being developed in Germany means that the primary language for Neptune is German. However, there is an English option at the Grub boot screen. The installation documentation available on the desktop is in both German and English as well. The hard drive installer has a shortcut on the desktop as well as a persistent image creator for use with USB sticks.

Neptune ships with an attractive boot-up and desktop. The images and decorations used make for an attractive and unobtrusive desktop with a universal appeal. It's easy on the eyes and the ZevenOS customized window decoration harkens back to the BeOS desktops of yore. There is a windec included that looks more like traditional BeOS, but it isn't the default.

Neptune includes a healthy amount of applications and two graphical package managers. Synaptic setup with Debian repositories will be familiar to most users, but Neptune also ships with MAGI 2. MAGI installers are a bit like the installer commonly used for third-party Windows applications in that one can click on the installer and have the requested package installed rather than open and search through a package manager. MAGI 2 can also configure system-level standard application settings and launch applications. In fact, it's conceivable that the MAGI GUI could be used as a netbook or mobile device interface.

ZevenOS-Neptune 1.9.1 is based on Squeeze and features KDE 4.5.3, Linux, Xorg X Server 1.7.7, and GCC 4.4.5. Chromium is the alternative browser with Flash, HTML 5, and Java support. 3.2.1 as packaged by Debian is provided. Some other software available is VLC multimedia player, Eclipse software developer kit, The GIMP, Icedove for email, Wireshark network analyser, MPlayer multimedia player, recordMyDesktop, YAVTD video downloader, and lots of tools and utilities.

ZevenOS is frequently described as Linux with a BeOS touch. Some might wonder what is this BeOS Touch? ZevenOS characterizes it as speed, suitability for older computers, easy handling for users, and especially designed for multimedia. BeOS was touted as the multimedia operating system of its time.

ZevenOS isn't just another Debian or Ubuntu clone. Its developers attempt to provide a different, easy, and high performing alternative to more well known distributions. ZevenOS is the main offering and Neptune is technically a community driven branch. Another branch with GNOME 2.3.0 and Epiphany is also available. The ZevenOS project is an interesting participant in the Linux landscape and Neptune is definitely one to test. If you commonly travel off the beaten path, put this one on your list.

Some Magi Kit Installers and the MAGI 2 GUI


Susan Linton is a Linux writer and the owner of


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So why should I try it?

TheWall's picture

I was drawn to the article because it mentioned ZevenOS is "a Linux distro with a BeOS touch." My younger brother was a huge BeOS fan back in the day due to its multimedia support (he composed some amazing music on his BeOS box), and so I was always interested in giving it a try. By the time I had time and money enough to spare to try BeOS, however, it was defunct so the blurb for this article piqued my interest. Unfortunately, this article was far too light on details of the OS to convince me to give ZevenOS a try.

What, exactly, about this Linux distro gives it a "BeOS touch"? What multimedia options does it offer (other than VLC -- also available for Ubuntu, The Gimp -- ditto, MPlayer -- ditto)? You state that "ZevenOS isn't just another Debian or Ubuntu clone" but nothing in the article really differentiates ZevenOS from the Debian, Gentoo, Slackware and Ubuntu systems I am already familiar with. Just *saying* it is different isn't enough to convince me to give it a try.

zevenOS again

cowardly Larry's picture

First off, the server for Neptune-1.9.1 is horribly slow (estimated download time over 6 hrs, and my university network is pretty fast - at least 100-1000 GBits ... ) Second and unforgivable, there is no md5sum- so after 6 hours of wait, you have no means to see if your download succeeded or bombed (more likely outcome).

Oh, and to top the cake: the secondary, supposedly fast download server link sends you to an authentication page in german (which I assume somehow says "login guest ..." if I am correctly translating the german "gast" ...

All this for the latest KDE and kernel ... hmmm ... I'd rather wait for the next Ubuntu LTS release, thank you very much!


cowardly Larry's picture

Sorely dissapointed with the author..

lots of irrelevant info and fluff and very light on real info. For ex., BeOS was one of the few at the time systems that had SMP enabled and working off the bat- just auto detecting the hardware (as opposed to NT4 and Linux of that era). Also and because of that, it was best choice for video editing, audio editing, other multimedia work. How is this still relevant today, when Ubuntu/Debian is pretty much on par with everything else there is? If by "BeOS touch" you mean just some wallpaper and codecs that come ready to use in Linux Mint, then I am not convinced. As somebody else said, there is not much info either about the claim on running on older hardware, These days, people may have very different understanding of these words- for me, it is a 700 MHz Celeron, for others may be a 2 GHz P4/478, yet for somebody else it may even be a 533 MHz K6 based system (just limiting myself to CPU choices here)

Testing hardware specifications

Branko Majic's picture

What were the specifications of the hardware you tested this on, and how did the hardware cope with KDE, btw? (since you've mentioned in the article that the distro is meant for older computers)

The Author seems to have make

Ranterburg's picture

The Author seems to have make a mistake. Neptune is not intended to run on old pcs with beos look. the official kde neptune even contains a low memory mode with fluxbox instead of kde.
I think its main purpose is to be a full featured debian testing kde working on a usb stick with the software they originally created for the main zeven os based on xubuntu.


Agricolae Maximus's picture

This should prove to be an interesting endeavour. Debian Testing with the Ubuntu twist along with BeOS influence? Using KDE 4.5 efficiently on an older platform would prove to be a challenge, but if it can be done, then ZevenOS is worth a shot.

I have an old 1.0 Ghz, PIII, 768 Mb SDRAM, that I use as a sometimes fileserver running Xbuntu that I would be willing to experiment with. I'm interested as to how the kernel would interact with this antique. Right now I believe that the Xbuntu is running some flavour of 2.4 kernel.

We shall see, I guess.

Why we must choose zevenOS

Afrizal Gaous's picture

Why we must choose zevenOS since it's same with other linux? If zevenOS could give speed n good performance on old computer with that specification (kde environtment, and other apps) , i think we must give it try.