Does the world need another operating system?  That seemed to be the question that was asked when BeOS was first unleashed on the world in 1995.  When BeOS was ported to the x86 platform in 1998, I got a copy and gave it a try.  It was awesome!  I remember it having forward-looking features that the Mac platform only recently has added and stability that none of the current operating systems(at the time) could claim.  The problem was software however…  I had all but forgotten about BeOS as soon as I had discovered it since it didn’t have nearly enough applications for me to practically consider switching to it as a primary desktop platform.  From my understanding it did gain a small following in the pro audio world.  There were a few commercial audio applications that were released for it including one that I used to own, T-racks.

Fast forwarding to present day, what have the former BeOS developers been up to?  In a word, Haiku.  This new system continues in the spirit of BeOS in the sense that it has been designed from the ground up to be an efficient, integrated & complete “single vendor” open source system.  It’s not based on a Linux Kernel but instead has a Kernel written from scratch to integrate with the rest of the OS specifically.  This is a stark contrast to Linux where thousands of developers have written code in the Kernel and many more thousands have ported countless core applications over to the Linux platform which results in a mish mash of incompatibilities and less than ideal subtleties.  A better explanation of Haiku is available on their FAQ.

Haiku is distributed in several different formats.  There is a live CD version, a regular install CD and a VMWare image.  First I’m going to try out the VMWare image on my MacBook Pro…  I have VMWare Fusion 3.1.0 currently and I’m trying out the R1/alpha2 version of Haiku.  When I first try to open the VMWare image, it asks me if I want to upgrade the VM for better 3D performance, etc.  At this point, I’m going to decline and continue.  Upon boot up I’m presented with some eye candy icons and in less than 45 seconds, the machine is booted and ready to operate.  It is no surprise that VMWare tools is NOT installed and presumably does not exist so I’m keeping my fingers near the control-command keys for now.

After the machine is booted, the desktop comes up with the tracker and a few desktop icons as seen in the screen shot above.  Clicking on the “Haiku” icon, I’m greeted with a pop up window showing the eight items present at the bottom level of the hard drive.  Honestly it reminds me a bit of the older Macintosh System operating system.  On a side note, I recently read a very interesting article by Tom Pittman that describes a blueprint for a 21st century operating system and for some reason, Haiku made me think of that.  Anyhow, back to the 2nd icon now which is “Welcome”.  After clicking that icon, the dream fades back into reality and I end up waiting 15-20 seconds for a web browser to finally pop up with the welcome document in it.  I am drawn back in however when I type into the web browser and find that not only does the network link work but Google pops up pretty darned fast.  I should mention that upon launching the web browser, the tracker application added a button, icon or whatnot to it with the name of the browser “WebPositve” in it.  I closed and relaunched the web browser and this time it popped up on the screen nearly instantaneously so I will excuse the slow initial start up.

Next I tried to pop up a terminal.  It loaded very quickly.  I wanted to add the terminal as an icon on my desktop but right clicking or dragging it from the tracker menu are not doing the trick.  Those are two of the most intuitive ways I could think of to accomplish the task but I’m probably missing something.  Whatever the case, ls works, top works and uname -a reveals:

Haiku shredder 1 r36769 May 8 2010 20:58:31 BePC Haiku

With that, I’m going to sign off for now and move on with some other tasks but so far my first taste of the Haiku OS is just as pleasant as I remember BeOS being.  It’s very easy to use, quite responsive and seems to have a lot of potential.  I sincerely wish the development team luck with this project.  The copyright shows that Haiku has been in development since 2001.  Wow!

What is the use of this new operating system?  What niche does it fill that hasn’t already been filled by Windows, Linux, Mac OSX, Android, etc?  First off, older hardware.  The system requirements of Haiku are incredibly low for a modern OS.  Apparently you can run it on something as poky as a Pentium II.  Second, it may be even easier to use than Mac OSX and to reiterate, it certainly has lighter hardware than Mac OSX.  Beyond that, I’m really not sure.  Reading the Haiku website, I cannot find any indication of where this operating system fits into the pecking order with the others.  It might be a good server platform since it appears to have some level of POSIX compliance and the kernel could be extremely secure since the development team is relatively small and because there are simply no exploits or vulnerabilities available for it.  It could also make a good platform for 2nd hand computers since it’s WAY easier than Linux and has light system requirements.  Only time will tell if Haiku is just another solution without a problem.

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