Haiku - Open-source recreation of BeOS


Updated: November 16, 2011

The above title is so full of puns. Firstly, there's Haiku, which is a wicked form of Japanese poetry, consisting of 5-7-5 morae, somewhat similar to the traditional European eight or ten syllable limericks. Then, recreation could be either recreation, as in we're going to Ibiza, or recreation as we're reforging anew the Sword of Whatever. Got it?

On a slightly more serious note, Haiku is a brand new alpha-quality operating system, so don't try at home if you're not willing to lose any valuable data, designed to revive the concept of BeOS. Whether this means anything in the global scheme of things, with Linux having virtually completed eclipsed all of the UNIX-like clones and forks, is irrelevant. We're here to have a stab at Haiku and see how it behaves. I'm going to give you a very basic, very rough review of what Haiku can do. Don't expect any miracles. It won't replace your Windows or Ubuntu tomorrow. But it might shed some light on a little-known yet useful project that could lead one day to something nice and fruitful. Follow me.

Teaser

Testing Haiku

Currently, Haiku is available as a live image that can later be installed, much like most typical Linux distros, except that Haiku is not a typical Linux distro. I tried booting Haiku on my test box, without success. Then in VMware Workstation, with a lovely kernel panic right from the start. Finally, it worked in VirtualBox.

Kernel panic

Desktop

The desktop is extremely weird. The system menu is located in the right-top corner. Desktop items hardly do anything. In fact, you will spend a few minutes trying to figure out how to get things working.

All of the applications are bundled into a single category, so you will need to guess what they do based on their names. Names like CodyCam, DeskCalc or BePDF are rather self-explanatory, but you will be hard pressed to know what Icon-O-Matic or Expander do without reading a bit. Then, there's the Show replicants thing, and please note that this does not refer to Stargate replicants. Then, of course, you can set desktop resolution and other things under Preferences, add a few desktop applets, and more.

Apps

You're supposed to get a web browser, too, but I haven't quite figured how to get one running and connecting to websites. This could a network connectivity issue, though, which is to be expected in such an early release.

Installation

After having run Haiku for a bit, I decided to try the install option. You can choose from several languages and keyboard options. The procedure went well, although it felt somewhat non-linear and spartan. One of the things you must pay attention is the creation of at least one BeOS partition, plus formatting in the relevant filesystem. After that, the installation went well, although it also took a while to copy almost 20,000 packages.

Choose setup

Install

And I guess that concludes the testing itself. Some look & feel, an overview of several basic features, the installation. Most of the available applications will not appeal to common users, so you must be asking yourselves whether Haiku supports the modern and cool stuff. Well, according to various wikis, Haiku has successfully run Opera, Firefox, VLC, several Quake-based games. It's not much, but it's a start.

Some poetry

And since we're into Haiku, it would be rude not to have some art included:

Linux distros
Testing every day
Today Haiku

How's that? Bad? Yes, I figured as much. That's all.

Conclusion

Haiku is far, far, far from being a usable product. It's only an alpha release, still crude, still with lots of missing and/or badly configured stuff. Comparing it to contemporary Linux distros would be most unfair and quite likely useless. But five years from now, can it become something you might one to run on your computer? Now, that's a tricky question.

With unorthodox looks, terminology and application base, Haiku stands no chance on the modern market. To be even remotely competitive against the leading operating system, if we assume that is the stated goal, Haiku will have to make a dramatic shift toward the existing alternatives, both aesthetically and functionally. This means probably losing some of its legacy identity and becoming more alike Solaris or BSD, but then, it begs the question, why have this system created in the first place? In a way, Haiku feels like a nostalgic revival of something that belongs in the past. Next on the menu, OS/2 clone.

Back to being serious, I hope the Haiku development team succeeds in their project. It will probably take a long while, and Haiku will always be shadowed by bigger, more flexible systems that rule the market, but who knows, sometimes small private hobbies turn into large, international endeavors. Take Linux, for example. So good luck fellows, keep in touch.

Cheers.

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