Haiku is getting close

by Jon Davis 19. August 2007 18:57

So I only recently (as in, last night) just stumbled upon Haiku, the complete open source operating system built from scratch to mirror, and have binary compatibility with, good old BeOS. It's not done yet, not even in a public beta yet. But after six years (the project just had a 6th birthday) I've played with its base VMWare image and I can say that it's looking really solid. Definitely simple and lightweight right now, sure, but it's coming along and seems very fast and stable, and looks to be, by far, good enough to start enticing a lot more geeks to participate. When it can recompile itself within itself (and I believe they mention that that milestone is really close) so that you don't need Linux to compile the OS, I think that will be the beginning of a new OS era.

One quick observation of the Haiku community, IMO it mirrors the BeOS community (which are not entirely one and the same, but only mostly), and I think that it suffers from a little bit too much of antagonism with commercial OS's (namely Windows), which itself I really abhor. I think Windows Vista and Mac OS X are both very fine operating systems, despite their many flaws, and a decade ago I always thought it was ever so annoying and crippling of progression for the BeOS (and now Haiku) to constantly berate proven ideas in use in Windows and in Mac OS and dismiss them as horrible and stupid, just because the ideas were introduced in those operating systems. For example, the Registry. I was around in the Windows 3.1 days and I thought the registry was a really good idea. I still think so; I just think Microsoft abuses it, and I think MS should have published and followed some better best practices for where to put installation audits so that if an app gets manually removed there is only one branch that needs to be deleted. But the idea of a consistent central repository of configuration information for installed apps that integrate with the OS as well as for the system itself is a very good one. Anyway, Be folks (Haiku folks) just whine and complain about that stuff, waa, I hate Windows, waa. The problem is that their hatred of all things exclusive to Windows has traditionally blinded them. Microsoft spends hundreds of millions of dollars on reasearching operating system best practices and usability. They've made a lot of mistakes but their results, especially their exclusive "features" like the registry, should not go completely unnoticed.

I got so annoyed by it that circa 1999 or so I tried to start a web site called BeCritical, criticizing the Be design for things like neglecting to inform the user of being in a busy state when double-clicking an application icon, just for the sake of trying not to be like Windows. I even conducted and posted a real e-mail-based interview with their role model, Alan Cooper, author of the book About Face, to gain his insight. But I was hosting the web site locally in my home office (as I do now with this blog) and the whole site was lost due to a bad hard drive (or something) shortly thereafter, and I hadn't learned to backup my stuff and so obviously I didn't rebuild.

Last night I wasn't sure how to get Be OS software installed on my copy of the VMWare image, since a web browser hasn't been added yet. I saw the FTP command line client is present, but using that assumes that what I might try out is FTP-accessible (UPDATE: wget is in there as well).

But today I found a better way to sample BeOS software on this thing. Someone in the community has started to compile a big huge VMWare image of a bunch of BeOS software apps running within Haiku. I'm downloading now ...


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About the author

Jon Davis (aka "stimpy77") has been a programmer, developer, and consultant for web and Windows software solutions professionally since 1997, with experience ranging from OS and hardware support to DHTML programming to IIS/ASP web apps to Java network programming to Visual Basic applications to C# desktop apps.
Software in all forms is also his sole hobby, whether playing PC games or tinkering with programming them. "I was playing Defender on the Commodore 64," he reminisces, "when I decided at the age of 12 or so that I want to be a computer programmer when I grow up."

Jon was previously employed as a senior .NET developer at a very well-known Internet services company whom you're more likely than not to have directly done business with. However, this blog and all of jondavis.net have no affiliation with, and are not representative of, his former employer in any way.

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