I usually listen to podcasts on the excellent Twit.tv network and it goes without saying Floss Weekly is one of my favourites. A recent episode covered Haiku - an open source operating system based on the design of the old BeOS. What’s very interesting about BeOS is the design, an integrated all in one operating system - and the fact Apple almost purchased it. That’s amazing to me, literally in one fell swoop, if Apple had of offered the 200 million Be Systems wanted, there would be no NextStep into Apple and by extension - Steve Jobs. It’s especially poignant since Apple just surpassed Microsoft to become the second most valuable American company.
The most spiritually similar of todays operating systems would be Mac OS X, as it brings the integration BeOS was after. I’ve only played with Haiku in a virtual machine, but already I am impressed. It’s a well designed system, not as buggy as I expected - it’s only on alpha2 after years of development. There’s already a lot of applications, all native and therein lies the fault. The Web browser (not surprisingly) is the buggiest of all the applications I tried. Most apps are small one purpose apps, not hard to see a unixy philosophy. One of the developer’s mentioned a port of QT, which could bring QT based apps such as Skype, KDE apps.
Apps or Web?
I think the biggest use of Haiku could be on net-books, it performed extremely well in limited virtual machine - so it’s a pity there’s no commercial sponsor to push it out. The developers mentioned a port of Java or GTK is not on the radar, so you can kiss good-bye to any Gnome or Java apps (Firefox, Chrome, OpenOffice.org), but they mentioned they will target web apps. This seems very curious without a major web browser, as anyone knows the web should be standards based but how often have we seen “Supports Chrome 3+ Firefox 3+ Safari 4+ IE7+” so if this is the agreed upon approach - they really need a major browser. As a computer science person, the design of the system interests me the most, vs others, but I haven’t dug too deep yet, when I do, I’ll be sure to post.
I haven’t dug in to this either, but anecdotally a good guess would be hardware support would be poor. The main hurdle and the majority of code in Linux is purely based on the millions of hardware combinations PC-based (X86) have to use. This is why for any traction for Haiku, I think hardware support needs to be OEM based, possibly like the white-label EEE PC netbooks.
If you like trying different operating systems, have a copy of VirtualBox or VMWare (and by extension a decently fast computer) give Haiku a try!