posted by Mark Patterson on Mon 18th Aug 2003 16:00 UTC
IconThis interview was originally conducted by Matthias Breiter for Technoids, a German-language publication. It has been translated by Mark Patterson and this English version is being published exclusively by OSNews. Learn a little more about the OpenBeOS project from one of its primary contributors.

This interview was conducted via by e-mail by Matthias Breiter. Despite (or even because of) its range it provides a very interesting insight into the open source BeOS project. We thank Axel Dörfler, one of the main programmers and spokesmen for this highly promising project.

1. Can you introduce yourself briefly to our readers?

My name is Axel Dörfler, I was born in1976, and I'm currently (still) studying Computational Linguistics and Artificial Intelligence at the University of Osnabrück.

2. How and when did you get into BeOS?

I guess it was mainly through my aversion to the Windows operating system. I had been an Amiga user for a long time (and still am) and so I couldn't take the pre-NT versions of Windows seriously.
Until the year 2000 I didn't even have my own "IBM-Compatible" PC. I had briefly seen a demo of BeOS R3 on my father's computer when it was on the CD of some magazine. Unfortunately it was only black and white and 640x480, and the bundled apps actually crashed during my cursory testing. So I didn't follow its development at the time, even though I had registered myself earlier as a developer with Be. But that must have been before the BeBox, and through inactivity at some point I was no longer getting the Be Newsletter. Things changed when, about 3 months after I got my PC, BeOS R5 PE was published, and I just tried it out. Until then my PC had been living very much in the shadow of the Amiga. It felt slower with Windows 98 than my old Amiga, despite an Athlon 600. But it wasn't just the outstanding speed of BeOS that changed things. BeOS simply worked well with everything (and my hardware was in fact, by chance, completely supported).

3. What induced you to start OpenBeOS?

Well, it wasn't me that started it. Back then, it was Michael Phipps with a small band of fellow enthusiasts. I held off for a while and didn't expect the little project to create a BeOS replacement within the next couple of years.
My reluctance finally changed when Be was officially sold and it was clear that BeOS itself was not going to be developed any further and Yellowtab's Zeta didn't look as promising as it does now (and it's still not out). Since all the other operating systems (by that time I had tried a few) didn't meet my high standards, OpenBeOS was for me the logical way to take the future of BeOS in hand. I joined the team along with Bruno G. Albuquerque (also known as BGA), and have never regretted it; I am working with the smartest and nicest programmers that I have known for a long time.

4. Are you still happy with the ways that BeOS can be programmed (APIs, interfaces), from you present point of view?

For the most part I am, except for the many bugs and inadequacies in the implementation (e.g. in the Media Kit). What I miss as a programmer is a sensible way to put GUIs together (like Marco Nelissen's excellent liblayout.so), a locale kit (under construction) and a sensible network stack.
I'm not too demanding, but still one could of course improve a lot of the details, and integrate some of the designs from the current class libraries. But those things are not holding me back.

OpenBeOS is just starting out. The first step is to try to get the implementation right, and then we'll get to the "niceties" in the API. Why should I care how easy the Media Kit is to use if the stupid thing can't play my movies in sync?

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