Updated: September 25, 2013
Every now and then I get the urge to test non-Linux operating systems, because they have that special primordial flavor of yore, the UNIX like approach to BDSM that has all the appeal of mating with an intergalatic species. Anyhow.
Several years back, I tried Haiku, the open-source recreation of BeOS. It was strictly dancing alpha, and it would not run well unless you added kardamon to your computer and prayed a bit. So now that a fresh new version 4, still alpha, is out there, I thought it could be interested to give it another spin, and see what the world of non-Linux has in store for us. Follow me.
You would not dare test a product this raw on real physical hardware, so I tried VMware Player instead. The last time, it did not like the Workstation and would kernel panic each time, so I had to resort to using VirtualBox, but now, all is dandy. Anyhow too many links in one paragraph. But we have achieved progress!
Like its predecessor, it begins with a language & keyboard selection. Nothing fancy, a plain blue desktop, some icons stolen straight from 1993, and the overall feel of a workstation running on nostalgia, from before the CDE was hip, and even the world itself was two-dimensional. However, you can try the live edition or installation.
If you remember, the last time, I was not even able to use the browser. This time, everything was just peachy. The network adapter was properly configured out of the box, and I was able to hop about the Web, although don't expect anything fancy like Flash or HTML5.
You get a bunch of other programs, like BePDF and WonderBrush, so it does have semblance of a real, functional system. However, the developers will have to do some really hard work to decide whether they want their creation to remain a sweet hobby or anything worth considering for more than five minutes.
In general, launching application is easy, if slightly non-intuitive. But the system area, so to speak, serves a fair share of the desktop functionality, allowing you to fire up terminal windows, configure network and such. Still ugly as sin, but it's a start.
Like the last time, you can also try to install the system. It's fairly simple, but you will have to manually initialize the partition table, create one and format it with the correct filesystem, before the installation wizard will let you go forward. The procedure is ease for those well versed in this craft, but it is not very pleasant or engaging. Once this is done, you click on the Begin button and wait. After the installation, the distro is identical in every sense to its live edition.
Let's go back to my opening question. What's next? Really. Haiku is an interesting concept, but at this moment, I cannot even begin to imagine how it might provide any kind of added value to the average desktop user, compared to the vast array of free Linux distros out there, or other solutions. It feels antiquated, a bite of good ole times when everything was simpler, a recreation of the past that has no place in the modern except as a way to prove something, and/or develop a nice little hobby. By this, I have no intention of dissing the developers.
BeOS did not become the prevalent operating system for a reason. Moreover, at the current pace of development, plus the speed the overall industry is moving forward, my previous statement that small endeavors can become big and popular is probably even less likely that it was back then. Still, I would be pleased to see Haiku flourish, if only because someone chose to do so. Sometimes, you need those kind of efforts. Quixotic. But they make the world a happier place, simply by the grace of their quirky existence. The end.