Five Questions: Axel Dorfler, Haiku

Today, we bring you the first installment in a series of short interviews with lead/prominent developers of many “smaller” operating systems. In this new series, dubbed “Five Questions”, every interviewee will answer the same five questions about the project they are part of. The series will be kicked off by Axel Dorfler, the prominent Haiku developer.1. What are Haiku’s strong points?

Axel: Since we didn’t release anything yet, I can only talk about what its planned strong points are; and those would be: ease of use, transparency (you should be able to understand the system without too much effort), good and useful defaults, everything “just works” (or doesn’t, depending on the level of hardware support 😉 ). Of course, it will also inherit all the BeOS strong points like advanced media handling (this time with lots of codecs, too), and its database-like file system, low latency, and a responsive and appealing user interface.

2. What are Haiku’s weak points?

Axel: That depends on what you’re expecting from it; if you are comparing it to Windows or Mac OS X, you’ll no doubt see lots of weak points – if you’re just comparing it to BeOS, it might be the perfect OS for you.

Compared with the mainstream operating systems, you’ll always have a weak point in supporting the latest hardware, especially hardware accelerated OpenGL. Also, the BeOS API is not complete measured by today’s standards; you would expect to see built-in XML support, database access, etc. And while it’s simple to get most of this via 3rd party libraries, there will be no official API for this in the first Haiku release.

From a user’s point of view, the most apparent lacking things will be proper multi-screen support, multi-user capabilities, and localized versions. Of course, we intend to work on these problems in subsequent releases. Some things like the coordinate-less layouting of user interface widgets and the localization are already being worked on, but will only be provided as a private (and experimental) API in our first release.

3. What applications are sorely lacking from Haiku?

Axel: From what the occasional user would expect, I think we’re mostly lacking Flash support. But depending on your needs, you will find missing or outdated and no longer maintained applications in all categories. Needless to say we have a lot of good software available, mostly thanks to the many open source projects out there, and also because we are binary compatible to BeOS. Personally, besides a better browser, I only missed a more powerful office software when I wrote my master thesis.

4. If there were two features you could magically get from other operating systems, what would they be and why?

Axel: I guess something that covers our weak points :-).

5. What project, feature, or application currently in development for Haiku excites you the most, and why?

Axel: What currently excites me the most is that we’re, after all those years, actually almost self-hosting – which will give Haiku a huge development boost once we’re there. That means a stable enough environment for you to actually develop Haiku on Haiku, including network access. At that point we’re also planning to have our first alpha release. We’re working hard to reach that point sometime this year.

Thanks to Axel Dorfler for taking the time to answer the five questions.

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