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From BeOS To Haiku

Who remembers <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BeOS" target="_blank">BeOS</a>?&nbsp; The "media OS", produced by a company with former Apple alum Jean-Louis Gass&#233;e at the helm, and which was briefly considered as a possible replacement for the Mac OS?&nbsp; Well, after an all-too-brief moment of possibility, it died.&nbsp; Ended up in the hands of Palm, and a few people (me included) shook their heads at what could have been.&nbsp; And now, after a fashion, it's been reborn.&nbsp; Me

Serdar Yegulalp

January 3, 2008

2 Min Read

Who remembers BeOS?  The "media OS", produced by a company with former Apple alum Jean-Louis Gassée at the helm, and which was briefly considered as a possible replacement for the Mac OS?  Well, after an all-too-brief moment of possibility, it died.  Ended up in the hands of Palm, and a few people (me included) shook their heads at what could have been.  And now, after a fashion, it's been reborn.  Meet Haiku.

If you were or are one of the many people who groused about bloat, BeOS was so streamlined that about the only thing that would measure up (or would that be down?) to its standards of light-and-simple would be miniature Linux distributions like DSL.  The system itself didn't contain anything that absolutely did not have to be there, and it ran on a journaled 64-bit file system that already sported relational-querying features when Microsoft was still just talking about the Object File System.  It booted and ran fast and stable, and had an unpretentious air about that I instantly liked.  It was here to help you get things done, not bombard you with "helpful" pop-up windows.

Well, the light hasn't died out completely.  There's been more than one attempt to resurrect BeOS as an open-source project, but Haiku appears to be the most successful and best-sustained so far.  Haiku is a ground-up, open source (MIT-licensed) reimplementation of BeOS -- or, as the official Web site puts it, "inspired by" BeOS, and in fact forked from a project developed by a former Be Inc. software engineer called NewOS.  Many of the most significant features from BeOS, like BFS and the original API, are all being re-implemented from the ground up.

Note that Haiku doesn't use the Linux kernel, but does employ the GNU toolchain, and in fact in their FAQ the Haiku engineers make it clear that they decided not to opt for a Linux base because of a "lack of overall vision" in the way Linux-based distributions are put together.

Don't expect to be able to start running Haiku as a production OS anytime soon; right now, Haiku is in as primitive a state as you could imagine.  There are no .ISO images that you can download and boot, but there are VMWare-compatible virtual disk images -- essentially, VMWare appliances -- that are built nightly, and which you can snap up and try out.  I definitely plan on doing so.

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Serdar Yegulalp

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