Today marks an entire week of using Haiku as my primary operating system. This
is my first PC to get the most out of any BeOS related operating system to date.
My old 200MHz Toshiba ran R5 PE just fine but without any networking. My
eMachine ran Zeta just fine, but once again, there were networking issues (and
Zeta was pronounced dead around this time). In the age of the Internet, this
pretty much forced me away from BeOS and its decendants until now.
Tugs at the Heartstrings
I don’t know why BeOS has always caught my eye, but its had a deathgrip on me.
Maybe it’s the Deskbar, maybe it’s the windowing — I’m not terribly sure. It was already dead when I discovered it, and I still fell in love. I discovered OpenBeOS (now Haiku) almost immediately after. It is a version of BeOS built from the ground up in an open source manner. It was inspiring to know that there were dedicated fans trying to replicate their beloved operating system. This only added to the mystique of BeOS for me. It’s definitely been a long and tough road for them, but the fruits of their labors are definitely shining brightly now.
I’ve been blessed with an Acer Aspire One (AOA150). I say this because it is almost fully compatible with Haiku. The only things that I really would like to see in working order are my webcam and mic. These are definitely things I can personally bear without for the sake of enjoying a direct descendant of BeOS.
On the official website, they’ve made the first alpha release available. You can download a CD, USB, or even a virtual machine image. Since I am using a netbook with no CD/DVD drive, I had to opt for the raw USB image. There are multiple guides/methods scattered around the Internet on how to make a USB drive bootable (including on the Haiku website). After I created mine, I immediately rebooted and dove into my first run of Haiku.
The loading screen is very similar to the old BeOS one. It was refreshing to see those little icons light up instead of a Windows status bar. There’s something more friendly about little isometric icons than a green bar. Anyway, it was a little bit of a wait to get to the desktop. This is understandable, though, as I’m loading everything from the USB drive and not a hard drive. I get to the desktop, and the Deskbar and icons load without a hitch. I try browsing around with BeZillaBrowser, and I’m connected to the Internet just fine (through my wiredconnection). Here’s where my next test comes in before I can decide if I would consider allowing Haiku to be my primary OS.
I’d been reading about the experimental WiFi support and, from what I understood, the Atheros in my AOA150 should work. At the time of writing this article, we’re limited to only unsecured networks, though. That’s fine with me. So I went to the WiFi website and downloaded the drivers and installed them. It was as simple as running a script and then rebooting. When I got back to the desktop without my wired connection plugged in, I started up BeZillaBrowser. Magic, it worked perfectly. This was the defining moment when I knew it was time to install Haiku.
I fired up the installer application and followed the guide on the Haiku website. Afterwards, I rebooted without my USB drive plugged in. Everything loaded up just like I was bootingoff the USB drive, but lightyears faster. It seemed like only 10 seconds after I hit the power button that I was already staring at the Haiku desktop.
I loaded up Vision, probably my favorite IRC client aside from Colloquoy (even though I’m a Windows guy). I joined #haiku on freenode and began researching Flash support. I knew, previous to installing Haiku, that there wasn’t going to be any Flash while browsing with BeZillaBrowser. It turns out that there’s an in-the-works port of Gnash. It’s capable of playing YouTube videos and thelike. However, there are bugs and a lot of work to be done. So, I decided to just suffer without watching videos all over the Internet for now. Maybe after writing this article I’ll get around to checking out Gnash. For now, I just usethe Download Helper extension for Firefox/BeZillaBrowser to watch YouTube in tandem with VLC media player.
This brings me to my next topic. I had to copy all of my files to the Haiku drive via USB because my router loves to drop connections. During this process, the experimental WiFi would drop its connection during long transfers through USB. I submitted this in a bug report to the appropriate place and it will be looked into. Once I got all my stuff copied over I had to find alternative applications to Windows’ to enjoy them.
For videos, I settled with VLC media player. It’s an older version, but it definitely works. It played 90% of my videos that the newer version on Windows played. For music, I settled with CL-Amp. I’ve been a foobar2000 fan for quite a few years on Windows, but that’s not an option on Haiku. I used Winamp before foobar2000, and CL-Amp is pretty much an exact replica of Winamp. So it wasn’t painful at all to use it instead of foobar2000. I even got to use my old favorite skin for Winamp with it: Major Tom Remix. Upon plugging in my earphones to listen to music, though, I realized it didn’t mute my speakers. I had to do this manually, which is no big deal.
Quash Those Bugs
Now, let’s get into the bugs. Some are small, some are big. The WiFi dropping was okay — it’s experimental. When I reboot, I have to keep it off for a few seconds or the WiFi won’t reconnect properly. Not a big deal, and I’ve submitted a bug report on that. It’s kind of irrelevant, too, as they’re not in the maincode for Haiku. However, the other bugs are.
I’ve found that copying files into folders, if you hover over them too long, can and will crash the Tracker application. I also wanted to play some Sega Master System games with the BeSmsPlus emulator, which failed to load. Both of these issues are being looked into or already fixed upon writing this article. There are other minor crashes/glitches that don’t really impede on my usage of the OS that I’m going to submit bug report tickets for as well. All of the tickets that I’ve sent in have gotten almost immediate attention from thedevelopers. That’s a great thing to know, especially when I’m keeping this thing as my primary OS.
Generally, the day-to-day usage has been pretty uneventful aside from the bugs that I stated above– as in not much has gone wrong with daily usage. It’s been completely stable for me and the only time I’ve needed to reboot was when my WiFi dropped after 23 hours of uptime. As I said earlier, I have to reboot and keep it off for a few moments in order for Haiku to re-establish the connection properly.
Bugs and quirks aside, I’m satisfied with running Haiku as my primary OS. I was running Windows 7 Ultimate before this, and while it isn’t as advanced, it definitely earned its place in my heart. With more bug reports, development, and a steadfast fan base, Haiku can become a proper desktop-oriented OS, too. Hopefully, in the near future, I can enjoy Flash and my webcam (the only things I yearn for). I can live happily without them for now because I can finally use the OS I’ve always wanted to.