Haiku, where are we at
0033 - March 31st, 2007

With Haiku getting closer and closer to an R1 release I think it is time for little review on the achievements of the development team in the last months. Haiku is being covered on various websites and blogs lately especially after attending SCaLE and the already famous tech talk at Google. But although it might seem that Haiku is only weeks away from the so important first release there is still a lot of work that has to be done, networking being the biggest. But more on that later.

Testing Haiku

To test Haiku I went through the following steps (presuming you use a BeOS flavor):

  • Create a spare partition with any partitioning tool
  • Initialize your new partition with the DriveSetup application (available on all BeOS systems) as BFS (called Zeta Filesytem in Zeta-os)
  • Download the latest Haiku HD image from HaikuHost or Sikosis
  • Unpack the image with Beezer, or Expander.
  • Mount the image with the ‘mountimage haiku.image’ command in a terminal window in the directory your freshly downloaded and unpacked image is located
  • Now mount your newly initialized partition like you mount any other hard disk partition in BeOS
  • Simply copy all files from the mounted Haiku image onto your new hard disk partition
  • Make your partition is bootable using the ‘bootman’ application (available on all BeOS systems) and you’re ready to reboot!

To test Haiku using windows (or mac), or if you are uncertain how to create a new hard disk partition the easiest way to test Haiku is to run in a vmware virtual machine, to do this follow these steps:

  • Get and install the free vmware player from here
  • Download the latest vmware Haiku image, again from HaikuHost or Sikosis
  • Get the vwmare .vmx file from here and save it to the same directory whare the Haiku vmware image is located
  • Run the .vmx file to start Haiku in a vmware virtual machine, and boot into Haiku

There are also images and configuration files available for other virtualization software like Bochs, QEMU, Virtual PC and Parallels. For more information see the Haiku community forums.

The build I tested is rev. 20478, from March 31, 2007. These are my test machine specs:


After the first boot into Haiku the first thing I noticed were the shiny new icons, good looking! The one thing everyone does after the first boot is changing the screen resolution. The screen preflet works like it is supposed to, but widescreen resolution are hidden by default. This means that a lot of users will have to edit the configuration file of their video driver by hand, which is not a good thing. With the config file in place and a reboot I could select my desired screen resolution and carry on.

Haiku Screenshot

Haiku desktop

Since some time Haiku can mount other bfs (Be File Systems) drives and now the right-click menu entry also works. Mount support for FAT and NTFS drives is only available from the commandline and not considered safe. The fact that you can easily mount any other bfs partition makes testing Haiku a lot easier, but mount support for both FAT and NTFS (and probably ext2 and ext3) belong to basic functionality and should be implemented before the first official release.

The first real surprise came when I tried to select a new wallpaper, unlike before the file dialog now shows nice previews of the image files. Something else that I liked a lot was that Haiku now has .mp3 playback out of the box, without changing any settings. Unlike with Zeta, I think that most of Haiku’s preferences are set the right way by default. Something that I would like to be default is single window browse mode for Tracker but maybe that’s a matter of taste. After playing with the preferences a little I started making some screenshots just to be sure I checked the created files. Image files are opened with Haiku’s version of showimage by default, again very impressing. Showimage gained a lot of features since the previous build I tried, and became a really nice and simple app without needless buttons or menus, but just what you need.

Besides showimage all the other basic applications like Expander, ProcessController, StyledEdit and Workspaces are included and working. Something that is also included is Haiku’s version of BeMail (simpy and elegantly called Mail), although the application itself works, the preflet to set up accounts doesn’t. New is the Icon-O-Matic application to create icons for files and applications, which works like a charm.

Every now and then Tracker seems to have a hard time with resizing itself and especially it’s columns. Overall without running bigger applications Haiku never crashed on me and seems very very responsive.

Haiku Screenshot

Haiku with some preflets running


BeOS was known as ‘The Media OS’ and always prized for it’s capability with audio and video. What about Haiku? Opposed to only months ago a lot got improved, to begin with audio playback. Like I mentioned, for me .mp3 playback works out of the box but that will depend on your soundcard. Audio and video files are opened with MediaPlayer by default. MediaPlayer does a good job on playing audio files, even 10+ at the same time!, but that’s basically it. The interface is a bit to simple and does not look finished. For instance scrolling through files doesn’t work properly and MediaPlayer doesn’t show the elapsed time or file length. Also I noticed that the preference menuitem is not working, probably there is no preference panel yet.

With video I had less luck then with the .mp3’s. The only format I could get to play was an .avi movie. Then again the video mode of MediaPlayer does look nice and zooming and resizing all worked. Apart from MediaPlayer both CL-Amp and VLC run but only play audio files. Personally I would prefer Soundplay for Audio and VLC for Video, but the Haiku team is probably not going to include any third party applications and they will want to have at least the basic playback functionality covered with MediaPlayer.

Something that is lacking at the moment is simply graphics editor. I did get ArtPaint to run but it is not functional under Haiku yet. Both Wonderbrush and Refraction rely on Zeta code but I hope that they will be be re-released for Haiku when the time is there.

Haiku Screenshot

Haiku showing a .avi file, a .gif file, a .jpg file, a .bmp file and playing an .mp3 file

What isn’t working

A lot of work has gone into the networking part of Haiku lately, but it is a big task and networking is basically not there yet, at least not for the average joe. There is no network preflet app to begin with, and although it should be possible to connect and get some downloads going I couldn’t get it to work.The network kit will be the last major milestone on the way to R1.

Apart from networking there are some other thing that need work. Haiku has no way to manage the software you have installed. There are plans to support the .pkg format. In the future there will also need to be an application to install, update and uninstall software, like Software valet for R5. Both of these are projects on itself and are planned for the Google summer of Code.

In the future Haiku will also have to address some other problem that BeOS users currently run into. The first being the fact that there aren’t any decent office applications for the platform. Gobe is over eigth years old by the time Haiku R1 is released, and there is not going to be a newer version. Although Haiku will concentrate on the operating system itself and not the bigger applications, you will want to have support for .doc and .xls files at some point.

Secondly, Haiku will need a full featured web experience, mostly up to date flash and shockwave support but also for instance a more complete (and native) mailclient that can handle TLS security. Other things include a good syndicated news reader and better xml support.

Haiku Screenshot

Haiku running Mail, Sound Recorder and Workspaces

Odd and ends

When using Haiku for a couple of hours there are lot’s of small and some bigger issues you run into. At first it seems that Haiku is really almost there and a R1 release is very near but soon enough you start noticing the huge amount work there still is to do. To name a small issue, all over the ui there are still things like labels running out of there boxes, buttons that do not align, menu items that do nothing, listviews that do not redraw etc, etc. To name some bigger ones, sourcecode can not yet be compiled under Haiku and there is no printing so far.

With this being said, it is still amazing to see to what a small team of dedicated developers can do in a relative small amount of time. BeOS R5 was made by people working on it full time where Haiku has to depend on the spare time of a handful of enthusiasts. It will take a lot of more hard work for Haiku to become a real alternative for day to day use and I hope that the recent pr activities will attract more developers. Another problem is that when the first release of Haiku is ready it is also going to need killer applications that make Haiku a really interesting platform. Think of some office software, things like flash support but also a flaming native webbrowser.

This year Haiku is participating in the Google summer of code, a great opportunity to get new developers and future users into the project, and a chance to get some things done and over with. One thing is for sure, when Haiku is there it will need a solid base of motivated users and devs to move from being a great project to great operating system.

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