OSnews on Haiku
Manette.be - February 11th, 2009

Yesterday did OSnews’ writer Thom Holwerda published an interresting article where he takes a look at where Haiku currently stands.

“We’re in 2009 now, and the Haiku project has come a long way. Many were sceptical about the project’s chances at success, but they developed onwards anyway. Now that the alpha release is getting ever closer, it also becomes more apparent that the Haiku team has some very big shoes to fill. BeOS fans are a picky, whiny bunch.”

Read the whole thing here.

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Michael Lotz wrote a nice post yesterday.

After succeeding in building a native GCC 4.3.3 compiler for Haiku he now posted a kind of a FAQ article aimed at answering a recurring question about making device bootable for being used with Haiku images.

The article explains also mechanics of the Haiku boot logic and is very interresting.

A little summary:

Haiku stage one boot loader is splited accross two 512 bytes sectors (too big to fit into only one).

When you boot the computer, the BIOS loads only the first sector by itself so the code in that sector should be able to load the second 512 bytes sector by itself.

Problem is the loader cannot know by itself where the second sector is (for sure) and it is where makebootable come into play. It (makebootable) writes in some bytes of the first sector of stage one boot loader where exactly on the disk it (that first sector) is located.  With that information, the code is informed that the second sector can be found at the “+1” position, just after the stored location.

More (thrilling :-) information is to be found in Michael Lotz’s article.

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Back in January I had posted about a neat demo created by a group from the University of Auckland (New Zealand) – along with a brief note about another project by the same people, called “Stack & Tile.” Then I finally got around to watching the video demo and my jaw literally dropped – it’s even more impressive than the previous demo.

In a nutshell, the video shows the Haiku GUI with the added ability to group windows together, either by their title tabs or by their vertical borders. Windows in a group operate in much the same was as grouped objects in Adobe Illustrator (or linked layers in Photoshop) – moving or resizing a one window in group will do the same to all windows in the group.

According to a post on the Haiku mailing list, Stack & Tile can already be tested by downloading and applying two diff patches.

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From the “posts that I wrote weeks ago but forgot to publish” department comes a story that has been reported just about everywhere else: BeBits.com is now under new management, as of the New Year. To quote from the announcement made by Sean and Greg back in December:

If you’ve been paying attention, though, it shouldn’t be a surprise that we haven’t had a lot of time to devote to BeBits lately. As many of you have mentioned, it shows: we’ve had technical problems, email that has gone unanswered, dead links that take too long to get fixed, and other, similar issues. […]

So with that in mind, […] we’re very pleased (and a little sad) to announce that as of today, we are turning BeBits over to a new owner and operator. We won’t say at this point who the new owner is yet; he will make that announcement himself when the time is right. But we will say that he’s a dedicated and active member of the community, and that he’s got some great plans for the site. After almost 10 years, it’s hard for us to walk away, but we’re thrilled that BeBits will be in such capable hands.

The identity of the new BeBits admin has not yet been publicly-announced, although they are already hard at work, having moved BeBits to a new web host back in January. OSNews and IsComputerOn also featured the story (and thanks to Oscar Lesta for reminding me that it hadn’t been posted here yet).

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Bits of news
0033 - February 3rd, 2009

Besides yesterdays good news show there’s more going on lately.
Guiseppe from The Italian Haiku User Group has done a very nice write-up about the latest Haiku build, rev 29065. Although in Italian, this is a extensive review covering the better and worse parts of Haiku and the latest (pre-)alpha release. The accompanying screenshots show a lot of applications running on Haiku. I’m not sure about the Haiku-Love density in Italy but HUG-It is one the most active and up-to-date user group websites around, keep up the good work!

Also (always) active is Karl form Haikuware, one of the most popular Haiku news/community websites at this moment. Overshadowed by the news from the official Haiku website about the GCC4 builds, this months ‘Thank You Award’ goes to the University of Auckland (New Zealand) for their work on the experimental Stack & Tile and User Editable Interfaces patches, which were covered by Stephen earlier.

Haikuware.com also features an (ini)-mini-interview with previous Thank You Award winner, Artur Wyszynski. Artur won his award for his work on the Haiku interface, these mockups show you why. To me the plain looks of Haiku are good but a little outdated, Artur’s design’s stay close to the ‘original’ Be interface but then much more modern with nice gradients but clean and not at all overdone.

Last but not least, Fredrik Modeen has been crunching numbers to make it possible to put a running version of Haiku on any USB device, using WinXP. Check out how this is done here. As always you can read and write about these news items in our talkback section.

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After some quiet weeks on the Haiku project website, there’s good news today! Thanks to Michael Lotz and all the other devs involved in this, Haiku can now be build using GCC 4.3.3. If you are more technically inclined than I am, you will find Micheal’s blog post an interesting read. The lengthy article explains the steps that were necessary to free Haiku from the obsolete and ancient GCC 2.95.3 and all the hurdles and problems that were encountered.

Quote: This opens the door for easier porting of modern software, and more easily moves Haiku out of the “dark” GCC2 cloud that BeOS had lived under.

Why is this such great news?

Lately Haiku has become much more stable and ‘usable’, now it needs applications. Having a native GCC4 toolchain means that it will be easier to port existing software, and especially easier to port parts and packages needed by newer versions of existing applications. This will for instance benefit the work on the Mozilla ports (Firefox/Thunderbird/Seamonkey/Sunbird) & the webkit browser, but also brings a port of Gnash much closer.

‘Dogfooding’

If you believe in the project that you are developing the best way to test it would be use it yourself right? Michael uses Haiku as only operating system while doing his development work, proving that Haiku can be used daily as a development platform and that it might also be getting close to it’s initial purpose, a full replacement for BeOS release 5. The latter is shown by these screenshots, created by Giuseppe from the Italian Haiku User Group.

For the full story on Haiku-os.org you can point you mouse here, or you can stick around and discuss this news here.

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Some idle searching on youTube for “Haiku OS” turned up a very interesting video demonstration of a prototype for user-editable GUIs. It’s apparently based on something called the “Auckland Layout Model (ALM),” which allows WYSIWIG editing of a GUI without the need for recompiling – or any access to the applications source code, for that matter.

Based on the video, it looks like an incredibly powerful way to customize a GUI – as well as being a clever extension of the heavily-modular approach taken by BeOS and Haiku. The video can be viewed below, but sadly not in BeOS (although there are numerous sites like keepvid.com that will allow you to download the video as an FLV file, which the BeOS version of VLC can handle).

UPDATE: Thanks to “Humdinger” for posting a comment with a link to an AVI version of the video, along with links to another Haiku-related project that’s being worked on by the same group of people:

Here’s the video as XVID:
http://aucklandlayout.sourceforge.net/videos/alm-editor.avi

For the other project of Auckland University, Stack&Tile of windows, there’s also a video:
http://www.cs.auckland.ac.nz/~lutteroth/videos/stack-and-tile.avi
There are already patches for it available which have been been updated several times since:
http://www.freelists.org/post/haiku-development/Stack-Tile-for-Haiku

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