BeGeistert 019: Alphaville

It’s amazing how fast things can move in a few years. Last time I went I turned up with a brand new, very expensive camera (a Canon 10D). Since then Canon has replaced it with a new model 4 times and you can now pick them up for next to nothing from eBay. I’ve taken a rather large number of pictures since then and my camera is still going strong, I soon managed to get back into my habit of annoying everyone with it 😉

The event was again held in the Youth hostel in Dusseldorf. I had heard it was going to be closed for renovations, maybe their definition of renovations is different from mine but usually it doesn’t involve bulldozing the old building and building a completely new one! It’s a good thing though, the new building is much nicer and it now has a bar and serves pizzas in the evenings. The rooms are much better now and they now have en-suite showers and toilets, unfortunately I think they were still using the same old mattresses though.

I flew in from England the day before it began as the flight was about 5 times more expensive on the Friday. On Friday I met up with “Humdinger” I had already planned to meet him but wondered if it might be a bit difficult as I had no idea who he was or what he looked like! Actually it turned out he’d been to BeGeistert before and I recognised him immediately. We wondered off for a walk around Dusseldorf altstadt (old town). I discovered that cameras are a lot cheaper in Germany and after I drooled over the 5D MkII, we ended up in a German bar and enjoyed a few of the local Alt beers.

The beginning

Later in the day we returned to the hostel where a few of the BeGeistertiens had turned up, by the end of the evening we had a room full of people.

The event was attended by people from far and wide. Plenty were from Germany of course, but there were also people from Sweden, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, The UK, The Netherlands and several from France. I think the prize for the cheapest, greenest and healthiest (not to mention the most adventurous) journey must go to Bas de Lange, he cycled all the way from the Netherlands, and afterwards cycled all the way back.

Many OSs were in use, The open source BeOS clone Haiku is of course much in evidence in both the real form and the Senryu “distro” which is really just a weekly build of Haiku for virtual machines. There were quite a few machines running the now defunct Zeta and there was even a 12 year old machine running the real BeOS. Windows and Linux were also around as you would expect but only a couple of Macs, there were quite few Macs last time I was present. Another alternate OS called Syllable was also present and we had a presentation on the new server version (more on that later).

I remember the very early BeGeisterts where most people turned up with desktop machines complete with monitors, keyboards and all the rest of it. This changed over time with more and more people bringing laptops. This time was apparently the first time it was laptops only, most were full size laptops but mini laptops are starting to appear in the form of my Aspire One and there was also an EEEPC.

I recognised many of the attendees although there were a few faces missing from last time, there were a few new people as well. The whole gathering had a bit of a family feel as these days everyone knows each other and gets on well. I imagine this is at least in part to the fact many of us have met over the years at BeGeistert events. This is in complete contrast to some on-line communities where the lack of direct communication means people can be, or appear to be rather different.

There were not exactly a huge number of people present (probably under 30) but BeGeistert has never been a big event and it’s going quite well considering BeOS hasn’t been on sale for quite a few years now without any direct replacement. Zeta sold for a while but it was quite divisive, popular with some but very unpopular with others.

Haiku is still pre-Alpha so it’s not used much. I get the feeling that this could all be about to change though, The Haiku Alpha release is nearing and this could see an influx of previous BeOS users having a look and perhaps bring in some new people as well.

The last time I was at BeGeistert, Haiku was in its early stages, I remember way back in BeGeistert 010 when they first showed a working shell. Other parts were also under development but back then they needed BeOS to operate.

Now it’s a very different story, Haiku is not even Alpha yet but it is for the most part a functioning OS. You can view pictures, watch movies and listen to music. Not quite everything works but this isn’t even pre-Alpha so that shouldn’t exactly be surprising.

The BeGeistert crowd are a very helpful bunch, people I’d never met spent a lot of time helping me get up and running with Haiku. Despite following Haiku for quite some time I’ve never actually used it. I now have it installed on a mini-laptop I’d bought earlier in the week.


The room was full on Saturday with just enough space to go around. Any time I had been before I hadn’t brought a BeOS machine with me but this time I now had Haiku and started playing around with it.

It was mostly pretty quiet with people coding away on various things. Even I was busy, I thought I’d be early and started writing this report there (hmm, that really worked).

In the afternoon there ware a number of presentations:

Haiku Update

Stephan Assmus did a quick Haiku update and showed us the smooth scaling he’s put into the movie player.
He is now using Haiku as a desktop OS and does his builds on it, that it can be used in such a way shows it is clearly well on its way to becoming a usable desktop OS, at least stability wise.


Stephan went on to give us a demonstration of the new Icon-O-Matic, a vector graphics based icon editor. Icon-O-Matic is probably the most powerful icon editor ever made, capable of all sorts of complex images. It can save these icons in a number of formats including Haiku’s own minute icon format that typically measures files in hundreds of Bytes (yes, that’s Bytes).

Net Surf

Next up Francois Revol gave us a demonstration of the Net Surf browser port he is working on. Net Surf was originally written for RiscOS machines with just 16MB RAM so it’s a very small, fast web browser. The port is not complete yet but there’s clearly been good progress. Net Surf can’t do everything the likes of Firefox can do but that doesn’t appear to be the intent (at least in the context of Haiku). Haiku already has Firefox so it doesn’t need to do everything. Being small and fast is very useful, it could be very useful for looking at things like help files where you don’t want to launch a big app like Firefox.

The port isn’t complete but it can download and render pages. It also supports drag n drop – you can drag a folder onto it and it’ll display the content. You can also select the page contents then copy and paste them into a editor, the contents and style fonts of the page are retained when you do this.


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