Archive for the ‘editorial’ Category

Bounty-poll results
0033 - January 15th, 2009

The bounty-poll mentioned below closed today with 175 votes. The final results can be viewed here.

Byfar the most popular potential bounty is the wireless network stack implementation, winning the poll with almost 34%. This is a huge task though and the bounty needs some more funds. Currently there is around $ 750,- available, and in case the failed macbook bounty is stopped those funds will be transferred to the new bounty, that is if no one wants a refund.

Regarding a wireless bounty, Ithamar and Fredrik Holmqvist were looking into wireless, and Urias McCollough reported on Haiku’s website that Ithamar “would like to work on porting FreeBSD’s wireless stack where Fredrik Holmqvist left off”.

The Haiku alpha bugs came in second, as mentioned by Karl this might not be valid option for a bounty. The bugs are being worked on but cannot be resolved by a single person, especially not by someone who’s not in the Haiku core development team.

The Flash support bounty ended third, this bounty is already open with a funds pool of around $ 425,- as with the wireless network bounty, this bounty needs some donations. If in these times of crisis you happen to have some pocketchange, this is the moment to donate!

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The big story in recent BeOS-related news was the addition of swap file support to Haiku (spotted on ICO, also picked up by OSNews).

This is especially good news for developers, as development-related tasks often gobble up large amounts of memory (compiling for one) – and without a swap file/partition, most (all?) OSes will hard-crash if they completely run out of memory. So while Haiku has been self-hosting for a while now, this should make the process of actually compiling Haiku from inside Haiku less dependent on physical memory (especially handy with virtual machines, which tend to be memory-constrained).

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Back in June, Manette posted a news item mentioning François “mmu_man” Revol’s efforts to port the NetSurf browser to the BeOSes (yes, I’ve become too lazy to type “Haiku / BeOS / ZETA” anymore). Those efforts have borne fruit already: IsComputerOn recently reported that François has made a binary copy available for download.

I had a chance to give it a try on R5 and it seems to work quite nicely – the screenshot above shows NetSurf displaying (and doing a pretty decent job). In the comments over on ICO, François mentioned that must be installed – it isn’t included in R5 by default, but it is included in the LibPak available on BeBits. If you take NetSurf for a spin, keep in mind that the “netsurf” folder must be located in /boot/apps/ (otherwise you’ll see an error when trying to run the binary).

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In yesterday’s post, I mentioned recently having upgraded my trusty R5 box to an AthlonXP – after running BeOS on a P3 450 and a dual P3 1Ghz system, this is downright modern hardware for me. Thanks to a bootable CD of the BeOS Max distribution, it only took a few minutes to edit my existing kernel with diskprobe and get it booting. What took longer, surprisingly, was obtaining an audio driver for the new motherboard – which contains the AC97 audio chipset.

There is a driver listed on BeBits, courtesy of Marcus Overhagen, but the download section only contains the following text:

I can no longer afford to maintain this driver for Zeta.

As yellowTab has got the source, and is distributing a modified version with their Zeta operating system, please contact them.

All downloads have been removed, please do not send me email.

Fortunately, a helpful user mentioned in the BeBits comments for the driver that the file itself is still available under the original download URL ( ) – it’s just the links that have been removed from the BeBits entry (as well as the ability to add a third-party download link).

Finding the file was a minor inconvenience for me in this instance – but it’s a bit disturbing that R5 users have to jump through hoops now to obtain a driver for one of the most common audio chipsets in existence. Especially when the reasons for unavailability aren’t really clear. To paraphrase the immortal words of Jerry Seinfeld: what is the deal with these disappearing drivers? Or, to paraphrase the slightly less-immortal (but significantly more vulgar) words of Sarah Silverman: what the (rooster) is up with that (excrement)?

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After 6 months of being exiled to single processor slot1 land (stupid accident with a screwdriver while installing a heatsink), the VP6 I picked up on eBay arrived today and I’m back in BeOS heaven. The repution of BeOS’ SMP capabilities has become almost mythical online, but the difference on multiprocessor machines really is noticeable. It’s not so much that the system runs “faster” per se, it just becomes more or less impossible to make it run slowly. And it brings a warm glow of BeOS user pride to my heart to see a BeOS machine with two 1Ghz P3s give my Windows machine (an AthlonXP 2800) a run for its money in many tasks, like video encoding.

I apologize for the digression into vanity-blogging, it’s just damn nice to once again be using a machine worthy of running BeOS.

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As this site and most of our readers inhabit – to paraphrase BeDope’s Mike Popovic – a niche within several further sub-niches, (computer users who also have an interest in OSes and also happen to use one of the most obscure, least-installed OSes of all time), I feel compelled – nay, obligated to use dorky references to obscure song lyrics as post headlines from time-to-time. The runner-up was “Welcome… to the worrrrld of Tomorrow!” Now that I have that out of my system…

Since there has been a small lull in news lately, being the Annual Gift Day season and all, I decided to post a few details on what’s coming down the pipe here at BeOSNews for anyone who’s interested. So read on for a quick preview of some of the stuff that’s planned for BeOSNews in the next few months and over the coming year.

  • Reviews, reviews, and some more reviews
    One thing that I think the BeOS/Zeta community can use more of are reviews – both to inform users, and provide feedback and encouragement to developers. To that end, I’m going to post reviews of some of the more popular/better-rated pieces of software on BeBits, some of the applications I use regularly, and some of the more obscure programs I’ve stumbled across. I particularly plan to focus on programs that I think stack up very well against their competition on other platforms, or have implemented particularly clever features. Two of the first reviews in the pipeline are:
  • WonderBrush review
    Part of my academic background is in media/graphic design and so far WonderBrush is the closest equivalent we have on BeOS to a program I use heavily, Adobe Illustrator. In my review of it, I plan to evaluate how well it handles some of the basic vector tasks that I commonly perform in Illustrator, look at some of WonderBrush’s unique features, and hopefully provide a few useful tips on using the program.
  • BeOS EMail client Showdown: MDR vs. Beam
    Back when I first began using BeOS in the fall of ’99, the relative wealth of high-quality GUI mail clients was one of the reasons I gradually became a full-time user – in contrast, the Linux options at the time were limited to Netscape Communicator and text-mode applications like PINE and Mutt. Today, we’re lucky enough to have two featureful, modern, easy-to-use EMail clients: Beam and the (Haiku) Mail Daemon Replacement. I plan to compare and contrast (just like a ninth grade English assignment!) the different approaches they take to various features, some of the unique features that each program has, and also include tips on neat things they can do. E.g. the way MDR can give you a poor-man’s approximation of IMAP functionality with a POP3 server by combining “Partially download messages larger than…” with “Delete from server when deleted locally.”
  • Ask BeOSNews
    The tech news site Ars Technica used to have a feature called, I believe, “Ask Ars” where readers sent their computer problems/questions to the site’s editors, who would post them on the site with an open request for suggestions. In the following issue, they would collect the best answers and post a follow-up, typically with solutions and/or suggestions. I’d like to do something similar, focused on BeOS/Zeta and the type of questions that don’t really fit at BeTips – such as: “What WiFi card should I get for use with BeOS(es)?”, “How can I install BeOS on a sub-notebook with no removable media devices?”, “What are some good sources for BeOS-compatible hardware?”, “How can I use tools available on BeOS to speed up time-consuming tasks like complex text processing?”, etc. I’m not certain when this feature will first appear, but in the meantime I’d love to see any questions that readers would like – so send me your EMails or post in the comments area.
  • True Tales of Surviving BeOS users
    Another feature that will hopefully involve reader input is called “True Tales of Surviving BeOS users.” One nice thing about the BeOS community is that, compared with other Alt. OS enthusiast communities, there seems to be a lower number of single-minded zealots relative to people who simply use BeOS for tasks they find it performs well and go about it with little fanfare. As a result, we are a little bit more of an introspective community and don’t tend to brag as much about some of the cool things that our members have done. So, I plan to solicit stories from community members about how they’ve managed to continue using BeOS in a computing environment where there an increasing number of obstacles, or just cool uses that people have found for BeOS – such as running it on an old Pentium to relay a shoutcast stream to a stereo from PC in a different room. Hopefully readers will gain some interesting ideas for BeOS-related projects, and inspiration from reading about neat things that their fellow community-members have accomplished.
  • Interviews
    I’ve found that interviews are a nice, easy (read: lazy) way to get content that’s great-tasting, AND is more filling (that’s how we Canucks like our beer, eh). So Jason and I plan to be doing many more of them, including a really special one which I am eternally grateful to Monsieur um… Sandwich-Garcon (yes, my French is atrocious) for arranging. I can’t give any details, or he’ll likely hack my fingers off at the first knuckle, but I CAN say that it will be (to steal the words of Douglas Adams) the bee’s knees. The wasp’s nipples. In fact, it will be the entire set of errogenous zones of every major flying insect in the western hemisphere. In all seriousness, I think it’s the most entertaining BeOS-related interview I’ve read in recent memory, and that’s saying a great deal because I usually despise anything I had any part in writing. It’s going to be just that good.
  • P.S.
    For some unknown reason, French-speakers reallllly don’t like it when you literally translate English expressions into French. If you want to see some serious cringing, if you’re ever asked in French to do something, reply “Piece (pee-ess) du gateau!” And before anyone accuses me of being a “Freedom Fries” nutter, I kid because I love and also happen to be a Canuck (albeit of largely Scottish ancestry) who grew up in an area originally named “New France.”

    For a more genuinely unknown reason, the list code I’m using has a paragraph break between the items/paragraphs in Firefox, but not in IE – whether I put the LI tags inside UL tags or not. I love browser standards. According to the traffic/browser stats though, the overwhelming majority of you are using some brand of Gecko-based browser anyway, with IE being a measly 18% (you guys rock), so I’m not losing too much sleep until I find a workaround.

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