Jul 13, 2010

QNX 6.5: “New” Version Same as Last Version

Every few years, QSS releases a major new QNX update and I, like dozens of other people around the planet, install the latest release of the infamous microkernel operating system, hungry for significant updates. And, since QSS just released QNX 6.5, I immediately got started with it.

I set a guideline for myself in evaluating QNX 6.5: use it like I would Windows 7 or Mac OS X for one typical evening of relaxation, communication, and work. I shot over to http://www.qnx.com/download/ and got to work.

First of all, the installer is the same as in previous versions. After booting from disc, you're presented with several options via a text menu that I have detailed in some of my past QNX reviews. On my Early 2009 Mac Pro, QNX 6.5 installed in about 20 minutes.

Upon first boot I noticed something new to this release: QNX Boot Loader, which lets the user choose kernels at boot time. Finally! Where has this been for the last ten years? Unfortunately, when I tried to boot using the SMP kernel with two processors enabled it crashed hard, so I can't say that we're really working with an improvement here.

I then tried to boot with the regular kernel several times, which crashed in both mono- and multi-processor configurations. The DMA kernel crashed likewise and so, in a final, desperate attempt to boot QNX 6.5, I decided to try the SMP kernel with one processor and I was good to go. Wtf? This is unsettling considering how much QSS touts QNX's multicore support.

QNX 6.5 booted for the first time in just under a minute and a half, which I thought was off. Aren't microkernels, being tinier and more efficient than regular kernels, supposed to boot faster? Snow Leopard regularly boots in under 20 seconds, and Win7 in just under 30.

Once I had set up a user account for myself, I logged in and attempted to get down to work. First, I needed to check email. At first I thought that the ailing Firefox had finally been ditched in this release, but QSS includes Bon Echo, a Mozilla 2.x-derived browser.

I was surprised at how slowly the it loaded Gmail, and I kept finding it unresponsive. Relaunching the browser would fix this temporarily. If only Apple would port its Safari to QNX so it would finally have a decent browser. What is QSS thinking?

My hopes of a 64-bit QNX 6.x release have been dashed once again. QNX 6.5 is more or less a spackling over QNX 6.4.1 and some new hardware support, but nothing significant. And I had held out for at least 64-bit support, if not a full rewrite, in QNX8 or whatever QSS might have called their next new platform.

64-bit seem seems quite unlikely now that RIM owns QNX. Who needs 64-bit mobile phones?

In another glaring omission, Apple's iTunes is still not ported to QNX, though I think I understand why. Apple is currently working on iTunes X, which will be 64-bit clean, and QNX is still 32-bit.

Apple would not waste their resources porting the old, 32-bit Carbon iTunes 9 to another decrepit platform. So maybe when QNX goes 64-bit Apple will bless it with a version of iTunes. Until then, there's always QSS's own barebones Media Player.

And speaking of apps, another thing I noticed was the dearth of games available for QNX. Sure, QSS includes some with the operating system—Columns, Othello, Peg, Solitaire, and Video Poker—but googling for QNX games is even more depressing: the top hit is from 2006, and subsequent entries have nothing to do with games at all.

With hard realtime support, game responsiveness on QNX would be phenomenal. Imagine how efficiently you could run World of Warcraft or CounterStrike. In the meantime, there's always NetHack.

This platform is dead. There can be no other opinion derived from the preceding glimpse into this latest version of QNX. The lack of modern software, anemic hardware support, and a “realtime” that just does whatever it wants whenever it wants, your time is better spent trying to tweak Mac OS X or Windows 7, which are already doing laps around QNX's latest and greatest.

Maybe next time, if I'm extremely bored, I'll check out QNX 6.6.

No comments:

Post a Comment