Haiku Beta: The release heard around the world
One big step for this little OS. One leap for free software.
Well, happy holidays, everyone, and what a wonderful season it is with a beta of Haiku for the first year ever!
Haiku Beta is finally here after several long years of waiting! And after being months overdue, my review is also here (and I do apologize to my readers it’s taken this long to get it out!)
And so, with that said, I look forward at taking a look at Haiku again… and here is my personal take on Haiku’s beta release! Beta! Yeah! Woot woot! Woooo-hoo! :-)
Part 1: A quick look at Beta changes
However… before we actually get into Haiku and have some fun with it, let’s look at a few of the changes that have happened since Alpha 4.1.
If you don’t want to read this part, hey, totally cool. Scroll down to the review. :-)
Now, we don’t have time to look at everything new in Beta 1 from Alpha 4.1 and won’t, (as years of improvements are in the beta), and so I’ve picked just three highlights I’d like to take a quick look at before we actually get to have fun:
New highlight 1/3: Invisible changes first!
One thing that can’t be stated enough is thanks to the Haiku team for all the work done to the system the user won’t see, but will certainly feel. One thing the Beta did is it added EFI to an official release for the first time.
In addition to adding EFI (much needed in this era), improvements to the debugger, serial tools, and other deep system-level changes, like updated drivers, a new thread scheduler, and several security features (covered in Haiku’s release notes) also very worthy of pointing out, and all of these are definitely a notable addition to the system.
Screenshot of something visible, the old Debugger from Alpha 4 next to the updated Debugger taken from the pre-beta screenshot set…
And beyond all the above, the number of tweaks, bug fixes, patches added, and new hardware support (even with the Nightly releases, some of my hardware that did not work now does) — and improvements to every area — really shine in the Beta! Again, be sure to thank the Haiku devs if you get the opportunity.
The work is impressive. Especially when it’s not near the same size as more popular platforms out there — like Gnu/Linux or the BSDs. It may have taken a long time to get here (and believe me, I wish a stopgap like Alpha 5 would’ve come in between), but the wait was worth it.
Anyways, on with the next highlight!
New highlight 2/3: Packages
What this means for Haiku is big.
This is sorta a part 2 of last section of invisible highlights — but is also definitely a visible highlight as well. This feature is cool. Really cool. One thing about the Beta is that Haiku makes history with this release by introducing packages, joining several other free operating systems with an application center of its own, called the Depot, (which we’ll have fun with in the review). Shown below is the SoftwareValet in BeOS ‘Dano’, a relic of a different time.
Convenient as a cool front end with registration management may be, in the old days, to find new software like a port of the Arora browser, qemu, VLC, or an unofficial Firefox to BeOS, users usually would frequent websites across the Web providing popular Be software.
Two notable Be/Haiku software sites included BeBits and Haikuware. But today, that’s all changed… (and as of when this article was written, both bebits.com and haikuware.com re-direct to Remix OS.)
An awesome feature… with a mixed reception at first…
But before going on, it’s worth noting for history that reception for the new package wielding Haiku wasn’t always as wonderful as it’s become today. When the packaging features in Haiku began to roll out into the Nightly releases, there was a big change that happened to the system itself. In order to make packaging work as intended, certain areas of the system became read-only. Back then, this led to some debate with users in the community, who had become frustrated at first with the changes. This sparked both the ultimate closure of BeBits and Haikuware, and a short-lived distro of Haiku, (which eventually went nowhere).
And with that said, yes, if you’re upgrading from Alpha 4.1 to Beta, you will notice the changes to the system folder layout. Of course, while certain parts of it are read-only, not all of it is. For instance, if we go to edit /system/settings/cdrecord, we still get the shift confirmation dialog from earlier releases (as I also played with in the pre-beta).
But the overall point is that packaging eliminates having to get applications (and find and resolve dependencies) the old way and replaces it with a better way.
In with the new! Enter the Age of Packages…
So, today, the good news is that with the Beta release, Haiku has officially moved to packages, after a long time in Nightly mode, and providing software through the repos is now accepted as a way of distributing Haiku software. Packaging is a huge step forward for Haiku, as it provides a new set of useful features, and hopefully, it should be helpful for both developers and end users.
To see more about what packaging offers, and other areas that are worth highlighting about the BeOS and Haiku, please read the accompanying article to this review, What makes BeOS and Haiku unique.
To quickly recap that, so you don’t have to leave the review to read it, packaging gives us a unified set of packages that work like modules, activating on system startup, complete with a suite of command line tools, and the HaikuDepot. We also get an updater, package and/or system states, and the PackageFS itself.
New highlight 3/3: Visible changes
There are a ton of changes from Alpha to Beta, as I mentioned before. For now, let’s just look at a few things below I’ve picked out… as again, we can’t cover everything. (Like, improvements to Web+ (the browser), Mail, Icon-o-Matic, printing, media, and so much more.)
Below is a few Alpha 4/Beta tidbits, where I’ll point out just a few differences, (prefs mainly)…
Tracker and Deskbar preferences
We’ll play with Tracker and Deskbar prefs a bit in the actual review… but as you can see, the Alpha 4 versions began to visibly age. The Deskbar preferences pane was more crowded, the disk mounting was separate, and small improvements were to made to the Tracker preferences (which we’ll get to in Part 2). For now, here’s the old versions from Alpha 4:
Here, we can also see other changes, like the ugly buttons on the old Tracker, when the single window navigator is on:
Compare the old appearance from Alpha 4 to the newer Tracker below…
Old color picker: Alpha 4’s Appearance preferences
Here, you can see the old color switcher in Alpha 4, before it was updated along the Nightly path to Beta.
… and here’s a salvo of other Alpha 4 preferences.
Below, to save time, I’ve grouped several prefs in one shot (and will do that about three more times, again for the sake of time).
Yes, most of these are largely the same. That’s not the point. The point is that in the beta each looks much cleaner in the new version, as I’ll point out in just a bit.
That said, here is Alpha 4, shot 1 of 4:
Here’s group shot 2 of 4 (with Mouse, Notifications, Screen, and Network preferences, again, all from Alpha 4).
Here’s grouped shot 3 of 4, showing the old A4 Time and Virtual Memory preferences:
Here’s grouped shot 4 of 4, showing the old A4 ScreenSaver and Shortcuts.
Comparing all that to Beta…
Now, remember, the new preflets are largely the same. There are some preferences, like Network that were nicely revamped, (and I’ll point this out), but the point of beta is the attention to polish and detail. That’s what I hope to show here. Beware: this may get a little long. But hang on — it’s the last part before we get to the beta! :-)
Okay, so let’s get into the first shot. Starting with the most trivial changes first, in Keymap Switcher, aside from the word ‘hotkey’ being replaced, the arrow by System uses the new arrow design, and spacing in between the boxes is slightly improved. Keymap is also pretty much the same, but the key caps (or layout) does look cleaner in the beta, which is why I’ve included it here.
The more notable change here is in Appearance to the Mac-like scroll bar feature. In the look and feel pane, we now have a visual Arrow style section, showing what will happen. This is a definite improvement over the drop-down. There’s also another change here, (which we’ll save for Part 2.)
Mouse also gets a nice visual cleanup. In Apple-esque fashion, the three sliders lose their Slow and Fast labels, making the layout easier on the eyes. The spacing between the first half of the preflet and the second half is refreshing as well. And in saving the best for last, the mouse now looks much better, and resembles a standard desktop mouse, with curves and shine.
Network has been completely redesigned — and for the better. Status and toggles are much easier than in the old way, and services now join the Network pane for human friendly configuration, with nice ‘off’ and ‘on’ status for each. And gone is the drab drop-down and Mac OS 8-like design of the late 90s. Different network devices now have their own collapsible headings with clean, bold fonts, indicator lights, status, and well-crafted icons. It makes it so much easier to see what is wifi or Ethernet, just by looking at it. Kudos, Haiku.
Next on the list is Notifications, which has been gently revisited. The ugly button and caption has been replaced with a checkbox, the Display tab has been nicely folded into a position drop-down and two sliders — which also replace the ugly ‘hide for # seconds’ text box. And Notifications has been renamed to Applications, with a much nicer UI.
Last (but not least), Screen looks identical. Look harder, and you’ll see Workspaces centered now, and an ever so slightly neater ‘Set background…’ button, both of which make it more presentable. And it’s worth noting that behind the scenes (back to not visible stuff), internal improvements to resolution and colors have been made since Alpha 4 as well.
This vein of refinements continues to ScreenSaver and VirtualMemory — identical, but with a few changes. ScreenSaver gets less crammed, which makes it look nicer. In the virual memory preflet, “Automatic swap management” is clearer than the old label, serving as both a ‘section heading’ of sorts and itself. But personally, if this was the intention of the devs, grant auto swap it’s own section in beta 2, maybe?
Also, notice the ugly, rounded labels are gone in Shortcuts. (And while maybe typing a path in might seem harder to a new user at first, I think the new way is better than browsing for an app in an open box. And for the path wary, yes, you can paste them in.)
Last on my list of prefs, we have good ole Time. Yay for time! The calendar is much nicer. Wow. Use Alpha 4 for a bit, then Beta — and the difference is strikingly relieving. Extra room given to the clock makes it so nice I so wish it was a new replicant. I find the larger clock face that nice. But hey, the good old Clock replicant and WordClock in the HaikuDepot make up for the loss. :-)
You had to be… patient… while Alpha 4 indexed file types…
And I have noticed one little thing here. Each time I’ve run the beta so far; it definitely seems this pesky box from Alpha 4 is thankfully gone as well…
I was going to cover this in the next part, but realize it’d just be easier to just have fun without sucking Alpha 4 in with us.
So as a last thing to look at, you also get to see that the Installer copied items individually, making it much slower than today, and this isn’t seen as clearly as when you really stop to compare the 414 items beta 1 will copy than the load of files from the alpha.
Overall, after visually comparing alpha 4.1, there are several tiny tweaks and improvements throughout the default application and preflet set that you’ll instantly notice from Alpha 4.1 — but as we’ve got a lot to show today, we’re just going to look at just a handful of changes for now… but all the same, for the changes big and small, kudos to the Haiku team and congrats on the first Beta release!
Let’s have some fun and get started!
Wait — you’re quitting the highlights here?! What about applications? And, and — all the other new stuff? :_(
Sorry, but that would make this article way too long! There’s so much to cover it’d make it into a book — but I will try to look at some more cool stuff as we do the review. So, seriously, let’s leave the highlights alone and get to that! :-)
Part 2: The Beta heard around the world!
Made it this far, past the opening list of highlights? Awesome, because now we get to actually get to have some fun with it! :-)
Okay, so the first thing that’ll greet you is the good old Haiku boot splash. Beautifully simple, this is one of my favorite boot splashes. The only ones, imho, that beat it in terms of coolness are the ones for the web/Palm OS and the Mac OS.
Similar to the classic Mac OS, in versions 7.6–9.2.2 (where the little puzzle pieces appeared), these appear in a nice row. Or, much more accurately, like the purplish orbs in the original BeOS, the startup blocks light up as little Haiku starts for us…
So, here we are! I originally wanted to compare the original alpha 4 welcome box (FirstBootPrompt) to this one to show how much nicer the extra width makes this one feels in comparison — but anyways, let’s get to installing!
We get some installer notes, which are worth mentioning as well. Notice these are nicely cleaned up from Alpha 4, making the amount new users need to read shorter. Nice. Let’s move on and click Continue.
Okay, so this is the Haiku Installer. Under Tools, we can write a new boot menu (and sector), and Set up partitions… opens DriveSetup, which we won’t need today, as I’ve pre-formatted a volume to save time (originally, I was going to cover that, but this review is commemorating a special release, so it’s going to be a long one!)
So let’s select our destination…
But before we go on — I’d like to add as an upfront reviewer… some of the text is clipped. Normally, this isn’t a biggie, but in the above pic, the lost word might confuse a newbie. (“Then click” what? Personally, imho, since the next line of text tells us to click Begin, maybe delete the ‘then click begin’ bit?)
Anyways, let’s install!
Installation is really fast. I wanted to catch the Installer just getting started, and as you can see, before we even see any blue, 121 of 414 have already made it! Sweet!
And for the doubters, yes, Haiku 64-bit does indeed use gcc7, as I’ve managed to capture below:
Beta 1! Woohoo! It’s official.
As this is a release, unlike with the more nimble Nightly branch, we do get guides here. Cool.
And oh yes, we get that sweet Noto font over the aging DejaVu Sans. Thanks for the new font, Haiku (and Google).
And lastly, here we are finishing up! I just had to capture one of my favorite parts, that good old trash can. :-)
And we’re done! Another… what, I don’t know — but let’s restart!
The first reboot
Here we are restarting into the startup blocks again. And as you can see, my system boots up in two bites. Halfway, a pause, then… done. Certain systems take longer to wake from hibernation than this. Again, like Dory says in Finding Nemo, it’s ‘built for speed’!
The lovely blue screen. Personally, I think of the BeOS or the classic OS X when I see it; for others, they might also see ReactOS/win2k/Server. But whatever. I do like it. :-)
And it’s up!
And here we are — at a fresh, clean desktop. Yeah, it may look old. It may look blank. But don’t let your eyes deceive you. There’s a lot we can do here.
We’ll first need a desktop background to make this home. So let’s open the Leaf menu and mount a second volume; in this case, Storage.
Now, I gotta say — I like the added security of being given the choice of whether or not to mount read only, and hope it stays. To me, though, the ‘errors’ part made sense in A4, but hopefully this’ll change in Beta 2, as I haven’t had any issues.
Setting a desktop background
Okay, so I have a folder called My_Haiku_Backdrops, which are exactly that… a few concept images with Haiku’s leaf I’ve made for fun.
And here, the picture opens in ShowImage, the default image viewer for Haiku…
… which we can scale to fit and then set like so:
It adds a little bit of a centered gradient to the desktop, but hopefully it should still look true to the original.
Tweaking the deskbar
Now, in the past, I usually popped the Deskbar to the top of the screen (using the handle by the clock, btw). But there’s a lot of usability you can only get from the Deskbar being on it’s side. Let’s take a look…
So, one thing Haiku has is a dedicated Deskbar preferences pane. Let’s go ahead and change a few things to feel at home…
I’ll go ahead and check the sort option (with Tracker first), and I’ll also resize it a notch. Now, the ‘icon size’ caption isn’t entirely accurate. It also resizes the app blocks, which I find very useful, and is why I scale it up a bit.
The area I wanted to mention (which is what one misses out on when used as a ‘menubar’ or ‘taskbar’) is the app expander. When new applications open, they’ll expand out as a list, allowing me to see what windows I have open nicely.
Tweaking the colors
Much as I like Haiku, the default palette is a bit gray for my taste, and after four alphas and one beta, I think the colors are officially here to stay. Let’s first head to the Preferences menu (left open so you can see the default set):
And open Appearance.
Similar to Mac OS 9, Appearance is a central location for changing fonts, colors (but here, it’s in a more 90s, freelance style), font smoothing, and the scroll arrows. Let’s first make the title tab text a bit bigger…
And as you can see, this takes after BeOS directly, where all UI colors are free for the changing. It’s also similar to older Windows iterations or other old systems, in contrast to the predefined color palettes in the earlier mentioned classic Mac OS. Notice we have new color controls in the Beta that dynamically change as the sliders move, unlike Alpha 4.
Okay, so after several minutes of tweaking everything, including making the title text a blue ink color, I’ve got the colors set close to how I like them.
In the next tab, while we’re here, you can see that new to the Beta, we have a nice split from one decorator trying to do it all, like in Alpha 4 and earlier. Appearing first in the Nightlies, the first is the default or Haiku style, and the second is a more R5 style. And hopefully, having the two decorators will allow Haiku to quietly add more of its own character as time passes, as it already has in getting to beta. (And as already shown back in Part 1, the scroll bar widget gets added as well).
Okay, so with nothing notable to see in the font smoothing (i.e. antialiasing) pane, let’s move on to my first stop — the demos!
Demos: the Clock
Okay, so for anyone that has read a Haiku review from me before knows, I love finding clocks. And personally, I always have fun with the Be/Haiku one, which includes a nice, pocket watch looking version that’s always a joy to open and keep out on the Desktop. :-)
Clock has several faces that can be alternated through by clicking, so for the fun of it, let’s set the Be face. And since Clock is a replicant (what the Mac would either call a desk accessory in olden times (or a widget in 10.4+), and what Windows Vista/7 would call a gadget), we can pull a new clock out by the replicant handle in the bottom corner…
And from there, I usually let go, then drag it again to where I want it.
And before moving on, just to re-cap (for anyone new), deleting a replicant is done like this…
So, now that I’ve recapped Replicant Basics 101, here in the bottom right corner is our cute little clock:
Chart is definitely a personal favorite. A replicant it is not, but once an animation setting and a display type are set, the magic begins! Chart is a star chart demo that plays a cool starfield simulation, which is one of the first go-to applications I open whenever I see Haiku. :-)
For the newbies, there’s several space types: spiral, amas, and choas; with slow and fast rotations, slow and fast forward motion, and a synergy of both in free motion.
Just to show the two other modes beyond the galaxy or spiral mode (shown above), here’s a shot of it doing chaos mode (free star placement)…
… and in amas mode (clustered star placement):
Next up is FontDemo, something that shows off the capabilities of font rendering on the BeOS and Haiku platform. Simply drag a slider, or group of sliders, and Haiku will instantly transform our font into whatever we want, live. In the Be releases dating back to where this demo had debuted, freely messing with and stretching out fonts freely like taffy would have been stunning.
And other demos.
Next up, we have Haiku3D, which spins each leaved letter of the logo as 3D objects. Depending on the card and/or graphics mode, this will either show up in monochrome (like here) or they’ll be in color.
Behind that is Cortex, which we’ll cover in another review. On the bottom, we have the spinning GLTeapot demo showing off the FPS it can do under load (remember Be is fully multi-threaded) and OverlayImage, which explains in the box what it usually does.
Next up, as one of the cool demos, we also have Mandlebrot, which does exactly what the app name says it does: draws out a mandlebrot set on the screen.
The Beta, (again through years of incubation in Nightlies) adds a salvo of features, including a series of named palettes shown below (where A4 just had Palettes 1–4), and a series of sets, (the original, plus burning ship, tricorn, Julia, orbit trap, and multibrot).
Below, you can see one can choose the set to draw out (such as the orbit trap) or change the palette colors:
And before we quit, just one more: here’s what that looks like in Lightning mode.
And before we quit the demo, for those hoping I’d get the open menu out of the way, here you go. :-)
Demos: Built-in games
Two built-in games sit inside the Demos folder in Haiku. The first is Sudoku, which I’m not the biggest fan of, to be honest… and Pairs, a fun, simple memory game featuring the Haiku icons as cards. :-)
There’s also the Playground, an app that allows drawing shapes on a canvas. For now, let’s just do a simple rounded rectangle…
As it’s just a demo, you can’t save your shapes (although you can take a screenshot and clip it with ShowImage).
The good news and/or bright side, though, is that there are plenty of choices to paint with, like the included WonderBrush, plus apps in the Depot like ArtPaint, and Krita, so to the artists out there, if you want to draw, there’s fun places to do it. :-)
Desktop applets (replicants)
Most of these are under “Desktop applets”; others aren’t, but we’ll get to that in a bit. Let me guide you through a few of these, in case you’re unfamiliar. The full set is:
- Workspaces: A workspaces applet and tool
- PowerStatus: A battery monitor
- LaunchBox: An app launcher
- ProcessController: A process (and thread) utility (in the Deskbar)
- NetworkStatus: A networking applet and tool (in the Deskbar)
As the last two are already in the Deskbar doing their job by default, let’s look at the first three.
Workspaces is incredibly powerful. For one thing, it is a replicant, so we can move a copy out just like Clock. And if you right-click on a replicant, it’s just going to reveal it’s options (as shown below)… however…
If you right click on the Workspaces applet itself, and a wealth of hidden options appears!
You can change the number of workspaces, tell it to change spaces on scrolling, show it in the Deskbar, and more. Keep in mind Backgrounds prefs allows you to change the backdrop per workspace, and Be historically allowed depth changes as well. Workspaces on Haiku are quite impressive, and definitely deserve the mention.
Next up is the PowerStatus applet, a nice little applet that shows the battery info, or can live in the Deskbar. But if you need a bigger and better battery monitor, it becomes a replicant, complete with text on top.
Last, not certainly not least, we have the LaunchBox. By default, its top chrome is shown, which I’ve turned off. It is basically a fully configurable app board that can sit anywhere on the Desktop, vertically (default) or on its side, complete with an icon size preference, so it can scale as big or small as it needs to.
What this looks like together…
So, after pulling out the Workspaces replicant, the Clock replicant, and putting LaunchBox at the bottom on its side, our desktop can look something like this…
So, after browsing through all the demos and applets — let’s open a few applications!
We’ll start with MediaPlayer, the calculator (DeskCalc), and the default text editor (TextEdit).
MediaPlayer: Have sound card, will travel. :-)
So, my experience with MediaPlayer is that if your sound card works, for the most part, it’ll work. :-) And in this case, thanks to retrieving an Ogg Vorbis clip of “The Girl with the Flaxen Hair” performed by Mike Ambrose in 1990 from Wikipedia (source here), here’s what MediaPlayer playing a song looks like:
Oh, and did I mention it doubles as a VLC like player of sorts that does video, too? We’ll get to that later in the review, but for now, let’s keep exploring…
DeskCalc (… and it’s replicant?)
Okay, remember when I mentioned that not all replicants were applets? Well, it’s true. DeskCalc, the included simple calculator, can also become a replicant, which means that we can drag it out like the others. What makes it interesting is that the chrome becomes transparent. Interesting…
StyledEdit: the editor that could
So, next in our batch of applications, we have one of my personal favorites, StyledEdit. You can see what it looks like below. It’s very simple… but also is rather useful as well, and per its name, can style and color text nicely. It’s name is somewhat similar to TextEdit, which is kind of interesting as both candidates for “OS X” had an “edit” editor. But anyway…
So, the first real thing to really look at here as that the Beta has a beautiful palette of colors now in the Font menu. Back in Alpha 4, this was just a list… and it didn’t look as nice as this does. So, to whoever added this, thanks.
And similar to SimpleText on the classic Mac, we can change the font names, styles, and sizes right from the menus as well.
Just like in earlier versions, we can also change alignment…
And do find and replace.
I wanted to point this out, because in Alpha 4, that nice little title tab wasn’t there. And now it is. Very nice little refinement. :-)
In going back to the Document menu, we can fetch document statistics, just like earlier versions (but it’s worth pointing out to show the features this little editor has!)
Okay, let’s quit and move on…
Feeling like it was taken right out of Be or the Mac, we are still asked to “don’t save” or “save”.
And again, here’s the save box. Nothing has truly changed since Be; it’s still reminiscent of something out of 2001. And that might be downright awesome… or sorely ancient. Depends on the way you look at it, I guess.
But personally, it’s a classic. Let’s go ahead and save our document to the Desktop. Since BeOS code names were Maui and Dano, how about naming it after Hawaii? :-)
So, after saving the file, I felt compelled to cover this, as most people look for Properties or Identify when they click on a file.
So, similar to the Mac OS (which the original BeOS was partly inspired by), doing Alt+I or clicking Get Info pulls up the same info.
The info box works like I’m used to from BeOS and the Mac, with basic attributes (who, when, where, what), a file association menu, and permissions. So, really quickly, that’s where the properties are for a file. :-)
Hello, add-ons! Still here, still welcome.
You know how on Mac (inherited from NeXt), there’s services available to the application you’re in? BeOS has add-ons, which allow you to choose specific actions for a file, like zipping it, finding out more about it, searching files for text, or even setting folder backdrops and opening a terminal on the spot. In the Haiku Beta, that’s still here.
Of Disks and Trash…
Sure, you can open a context menu in Tracker, click Unmount or do Alt+U, and remove a disk from Haiku that way…
But, just as I like to do, you can also drag volumes into the Trash, and at least most of the time, it seems to work. I love ‘trashing’ disks, which is why I’m giving it a mention here. :-)
And yeah, we can demo the Trash by putting our test pages in it and emptying it. One thing about Haiku is that like BeOS, again it’s built for simple power and speed at the whim of the person behind it. And thus, the trash can empties without complaint, trusting the user understands its meaning.
And that does bring us to Tracker preferences in-depth. Just like in earlier versions, we get the usual desktop prefs: show disks in a stack (that opens to a Tracker window, like the Computer view in Windows and Mac OS 10.0+).
Here, we get some useful options that I alternate between having on or off, depending on the mode. And nothing’s really changed in this pane, either.
You can show the path in the title, switch between spatial and browser-like file browsing (and I personally think both are awesome given the right scenario), hide “dotfiles” (like .hidden or .DS_Store, stuff used on Unix(-like) systems), and enable type-ahead filtering (cooler than it sounds; what this means is start typing, and Tracker will narrow everything down to what you’re typing instantly). I think the other two boxes (list folders, outlines) are self-explanatory.
Third pane is the volume indicator prefs, which is what those little green bars (or red if you’re out of space) are next to the drives, kind of like in Microsoft’s “Longhorn” or Vista did. But personally, (I know, I know, I’m siding with my Mac again), I like the OS X way of just toggling text under volumes. Still, this is pretty nifty! And I’ll definitely note: look at the new color controls in the Beta again… inherited from the Nightly builds after Alpha 4, these are pretty cool!
And finally, there’s the disk prefs pane, which unlike in Alpha 4, now lives in Tracker prefs. I think the options explain themselves; basically, this just asks what to automount on demand and when starting up — now that is something I wish could be this easy on other systems I could name. :-)
Okay, so before we leave Tracker alone and find something fun to do, let’s look at the system folders really quick. There’s so much here we could cover, really, but I wanted to point out just two for today, grouped into one shot:
- Packages and non-packaged folders. New to Beta (if you’re upgrading from Alpha 4) is the packaging system, and along with it, new areas for holding packages and non-packaged items, which are not part of the packaged filesystem. Inside packages, you’ll notice all the packages that comprise this copy of Haiku, which we can see, drop packages in, or take them out. There’s also the administrative folder, which is where Haiku stores package info and states for the system.
- The launch_daemon. Secondly, look underneath Haiku’s various system services called servers. You’ll notice launch_daemon inside. Similar to Mac OS, this allows for a faster and smoother boot process in Haiku’s new beta, and is definitely worth the mention.
Okay, so let’s go back to doing something halfway fun! Let’s head to ScreenSaver prefs…
And again, as you can see, the preflet has been refined a bit.
Inside, we have a set of screensavers, and I think instead of choosing Flurry this time, let’s do something different. One of my favorite screensavers in Mac OS until it got removed was Aqua Icons. Haiku does something very similar with it’s own Icons screen saver, so let’s open that!
And here it is! Look at all the icons! :D
Next stop is a preflet brand new to Haiku (from Alpha 4; it’s been in the Nightly branch before Beta). The preflet is called Repositories. The Depot will open this when summoned, and this little control basically allows the user to set what repos they want to use.
As you can see, the preflet is quite simple to look over and use. There’s a list with status, names, and addresses, and nice + and — controls to add and remove repositories, along with a simple Enable and Disable button to toggle them on and off, without deleting them.
While Alpha 4 also had notifications, as we saw in Part 1 (the highlights), it’s been changed. Just for the fun of it, I’ll go ahead and open it again…
And as you can see up close, this is what the first tab of the Notifications preflet looks like (again)…
And what the second one looks like.
To add an app to the list, simply navigate to the folder you want to go to (in this case, /boot/system/apps), and pick an app to assign a rule to.
It’ll appear here, where we can remove it, allow or mute notifications from it, or add more to the list.
For the curious, here’s what it looks like when muted.
So I had mentioned the new Network preferences back in Part 1, but I feel it’s worth an encore mention. This is one of the best preflets in the new Haiku Beta, again taken from the Nightlies. It has new bold headers, device icons, status lights, and again is just so much easier to read and use.
And we can show the status in the Deskbar with a toggle as well, as well as turn services on and off graphically, all wrapped in a beautiful interface.
While on topic… here’s PoorMan
And while on the topic of network services, Haiku also has PoorMan, which you may recognize from back in BeOS. There’s no crazy configuration, no assistants or wizards… just two dialogs that look like this:
Create public_html or try elsewhere?
Okay! All done!
From there, the PoorMan status window shows a log and controls.
And from the Controls menu, there are really simple controls we can access. Cool, huh?
One last preference pane I wanted to visit was Locale, as I think this is new to the Beta, as I didn’t see it in Locale prefs under Alpha 4.1, and wanted to mention it. There’s a new tab called Options that mentions “Translate application and folder names in Deskbar and Tracker”. That’s pretty cool!
Mail (and People)
Both of these apps espouse the Be ideal in a way that is really cool, which is why I’m showing them together. Both are integrated into the system,
Mail opens right up…
This is actually something nice that I like, but I admit it has two sides. The positive side is that I can look at Mail instantly, as fast as I can launch People. The negative side is also that Mail also doesn’t nudge me about getting an account ready, so I won’t know that until I hit send. Truthfully, maybe it should pop a notification saying “No accounts are set up.” But hey, that’s only me. :-)
Anyway, for the curious, similar to Gnome 2.x applications or Mac OS 9, the settings are under the Edit menu… and under that is Accounts.
The accounts box…
So in hoping to demo a Mail account, I went ahead and clicked Add.
Insert sad sigh here. Oh… well, I tried. Beautiful and simple as Mail is, the accounts assistant only gives me a choice between POP3 and IMAP, and since most web apps use secure authentication now, this more than likely means my cloud accounts can’t be synced with it. For people who have traditional mail accounts with their ISP or a local mail account at their school or workplace, however, this would be quite nifty! And I still mean it — I am impressed with how clean, simple, and like the early days of Apple Mail this mail client is!
And I’ll also end by saying that this is one of the best apps on Haiku, as it shows the power of indexing on the BeOS. Something that it would take Mac OS X several iterations to really get. And even then, the still-standing strength of Haiku and the BeOS is speed.
Second handful of apps
So in continuing our little exploration, let’s launch a few more random apps to see what Haiku looks like with apps on its Desktop! :-)
So here, we have the CharacterMap, ActivityMonitor, and the Magnifier open.
But the one I wanted to show out of these three is the ActivityMonitor, as we can quickly and easily drag out the monitors onto the Desktop as replicants. Resize the window before pulling them out to get the right width, stack enough of them… and presto, you’ve got a really useful set of meters right in front of you. ;-)
A positive look at WebPositive!
So, back in the BeOS days, there was a browser, whose name was NetPositive (Net+ for short). Web+ aims to be the successor to it, and Haiku itself gets its name from the error haiku messages that Net+ would present. And just like in the pre-beta build, we’re going to open Web+ again!
And here we are on the default “Welcome to Haiku!” page.
First stop on our short tour, the wonderful Wikipedia! And on typing in en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haiku_OS, we are redirected and get a nice little overview of Haiku. :-)
Let’s see if we can search for something. How about seeing how DuckDuckGo handles, since it did fine in the pre-beta? And…
Cool. Still works great!
Results come right up; they look sharp too.
And so do pics!
After looking for a result to click on — oh, look, it’s one of Haiku’s baby pics! I’m so clicking that one for the beta review!
Hello, there.. glad to see you come so far. :)
Okay, so that’s all the positive stuff. Can we get any further on YouTube this time than the last? Let’s look for a fun little cartoon that has a holiday feel to it.
To do this, we’ll need to fire up my real Haiku machine, as my experiences with video on VirtualBox are less than optimal.
So, here we are trying out a video on my HP EliteBook (yes, I’m definitely a Mac fan, but Hewlett Packard makes affordable hardware for running free software on). :-)
Results look nice!
And as you can see, the little video plays!
And we can put the video into a nice expanded view as well quite nicely.
Some last notes here…
Now, fellow OS voyagers, while this is all really cool, but I will be honest. Haiku doesn’t do it all — yet. And I do want to take a moment to say that here. Web+ and the Beta are both incredible, virtual light years ahead of the Alpha series, but there’s still a ways to go to Release 1.
So, in short, while it’s exciting to see Haiku handle YouTube really well, definitely don’t let me trick you into saying all is dandy, either. YouTube videos with ads or longer videos do bring the browser down, and on low end hardware, can slow the system to a crawl and stutter out the video. Try it out yourself, and there’s moments of “Awesome!” and “Aw, man! Why?” that you’ll experience. But again, it’s getting less. And I really was serious about a positive look at this browser. Again, it’s really improved since the last time I saw it. Again, kudos to the Haiku team.
One more look at Media Player…
Also, I’ll also add the only way to watch video on Haiku isn’t just in a web browser. If your graphics and audio are working okay, there’s also the good old media player that comes bundled with Haiku.
And so, as promised, below is a screenshot of the MediaPlayer on Haiku doing video — and it is really amazing how crisp it really is. (Handling both audio and video, and playlists, it is really like a minimalistic VLC, or for the Mac peoples out there, it’s kind of reminiscent of something like the QuickTime Player on the Mac.)
And anyways, here is the same, cute holiday-ish clip as the one shown above. It’s the third cartoon short of the Caminandes saga, Caminandes 3, by Pablo Vasquez and his team, and the Blender Foundation.
Okay, so we’re not really going to play in Terminal today, as we still have the Depot to cover, and that’ll take a while. For now, let’s just look at pkgman and a few themes.
To Terminal we go…
Let’s greet everyone with a nice Hello and run pkgman update for fun.
As you can see, it works like you’d expect from other modern packaging systems. We can either respond yes or no to the changes, and for now, as I don’t want to upgrade yet, we’ll answer it no.
Let’s open Settings and see what themes the Beta has to offer!
Inherited from the Nightly branch, the Terminal in Beta has a wider swath of presets with Blue, Midnight, Professional, Retro, Slate, Solarized Dark (and Solarized Light), and if that’s not enough presets, we can mix up our own! Whoa!
And seriously, this is great — I think the default set covers most of the time I’ve ever opened up a terminal on my desktop, on Mac, Gnu/Linux, or Haiku. Compare it to Alpha 4, and you can see we definitely get nicer and more options here.
I know I said we need to cover the Depot, but the Retro theme looks awesome! :-) It’s inspired me to at least open the little, but awesome nano. I am a definite fan of this editor and pico before it. Can’t say it enough. I really love nano.
On a side note, little stuff like nano is the definition of simple to me, even though the vi fans will instantly heckle in their hearts, “Heh, he’s not a real geek.” But I don’t care; I just like having fun. In a childish way, hey… what else are computers for? :-D
Cool! Clicked close… and yes, Terminal does indeed detect an active session going on.
We could run stuff like uname, gcc, or what not, but we really do need to move on… so we’re gonna Close here. Moving on, here’s AboutSystem.
About this system: Yes, it’s beta.
For the newbies, this is what comes up when you click About this system or About Haiku… and it simply displays a basic set of system info.
Now, here we are. The section with a lot of screenshots to caption. Inhale. Sigh. Prepares fingers for a lot of typing.
We first open HaikuDepot, the new software center or free application store that officially arrives to Haiku with the Haiku. To find and open it, simply open the Leaf menu -> Applications -> HaikuDepot, in the same way I opened Terminal earlier.
When it first opens, it’ll appear blank, which is normal. Look closely, and you’ll see it refreshing, along with a little, animated (wait, animated?! Coolness!) progress bar. To the newbies, you might not get it… but indicating progress on Haiku used to mean having the silvery blue barber pole progress indicators — and thank the developers, we get a gorgeous, Murrina-esque bar now!
Once it’s ready (which only takes a few seconds on my connection), we are shown Haiku’s featured packages.
(But in adding a few thoughts for my readers… I think featured packages is really nice, fits in with the feel of the system, and I truly see it’s purpose as a curated storefront for Haiku. However, I also really think people new to Haiku might skim over the checkbox, and miss out on the full list of software Haiku is continuing to gain. Humbly… I think maybe a radio button with a bold heading in its own little section would be nice in the next release. But, again, that’s just my personal opinion…)
So in moving on, just like we did in the pre-beta build, let’s uncheck ‘show only featured packages’ and go searching! :-)
And here, we get to see a full list of what Haiku has to offer, with a good amount of packages. Maybe Haiku doesn’t have Firefox or Chrome — but it does have popular titles like AbiWord, Krita, LibreOffice 6, Otter, Qupzilla, and games like the original SuperTux and FreeCiv. And there’s yet other cool stuff in there like DOSbox and qemu.
The alternating, gray list of software is reminiscent in design to the Synaptic package manager on Gnu/Linux, and has a nice search box we can use to look for what we want — in this case, LibreOffice! Yes, you read that right. You need to see it to believe it! :-)
Results filter dynamically, allowing you to see what you’re looking for nicely.
We’ll go ahead and click Install, which will get things started.
And just like that, HaikuDepot begins to think of what it needs to do in the background, crunching the necessary dependencies auto-magically.
Again, like you may be used to from Synaptic, we are presented with a list of dependencies that we will need if we decide to “Apply changes” and install the package we want — in this case, LibreOffice!
And just like that, the store begins to fetch packages from the repositories. I am thankful that unlike Synaptic, we do not have an annoying box in the way — and unlike the bloated app centers of recent times, it’s still fast. Depot just works, doing what it is designed to do, like well-crafted software should do.
(A peek at Team Monitor, the Deskbar, find & some guides)
While waiting for LibreOffice to download, we might as well take a look around the system, and use the time wisely. :-)
So here is a look at the Team Monitor on Haiku, which can be summoned with what PC users familiarly know as ‘ctrl-alt-del’, although the key positions may vary, depending on how you have your keymap set up. Basically, for the users new to the system, this is both a utility for graphically taking a peek at teams, and depending on whether you’re more familiar with Mac or Windows, its also either/or the force quit box or task manager for Haiku.
Also, see how HaikuDepot is not in blue, but is in black? That’s because I opened it, not the system, which is a pretty cool feature to note.
Stopping an application is simple. Click or select it, then choose how to stop it. Quitting just tells it to gently quit; killing it is force quitting it when the need for it arises. I might also add for the newbies that just like I can force quit on the Mac by pressing return, the monitor keyboard accessible; k = kill and q = quit.
As we don’t want to quit HaikuDepot (which is fetching LO6 for us), let’s cancel out of here.
I have to admit, I really like the media/volume slider. Simple, easy to use… and it’s a replicant in disguise. :-) Which is quite nice.
Window management is pretty straightforward. I think I’ve said it in places before, but the Deskbar is app-centric, in that windows are put below the app blocks (what those collapsible arrows are for). If nothing is there, you get this:
And otherwise, we get this. Similar to the Mac, you can ‘hide’ apps or close all (which basically means we quit).
Okay, I just checked, and LO6 is still quietly downloading. So, let’s try something else. How about we find something?
For fun, let’s look for our document from earlier, hawaii, although we already know where it is. :-D
And this is what the find box on Haiku looks like. It’s pretty much the same user interface you’d get in BeOS — complete with the modifiable search query that’s just been instantly added to our search results, pretty much as soon as we executed it, thanks to the watchful BeFS.
I might also add here that we can search for metadata as well, (but that’s a subject best left for the What makes BeOS and Haiku unique article.) :-D
LibreOffice 6 is still downloading, (which I’ll add isn’t Haiku’s fault… I think it’s just my connection lagging a bit today.) But that gives us more time to look at another thing.
Here, we have the “Welcome to Haiku” page, updated to mention the beta. :-)
And here, we have the opening or Contents page for the Haiku User Guide.
Inside, we can read any number of topics… which is quite nicely documented. It’s a great way to learn about the little caveats of a whole new land. :-) The Be Book is a great read as well.
Although, as one of the guys who helped in making the QuickTour for Haiku, that might be a softer place to start. So, uh, maybe… you know, download it from the Depot and check it out. :-)
Still downloading. One more topic, and then I’ll go back to watching the Depot. Those little yellow tabs on the tops of windows, (like I had mentioned in the accompanying article to this one) are not just for looks.
Hold down option and drag them on top of each other.
The end result is that you get this, just like you would in Safari, Firefox, etc. — except this works across the Haiku Desktop, and allows you to switch between views quite easily. Like here. We have Tracker (the file manager) open on one side, and Web+ (the browser) in the other. I think you might be able to see where this would be quite useful. :-)
Back to the Depot we go…
Okay, so we are almost done. We’re through with the dependencies and down to the actual LibreOffice package.
Almost. With all the dependencies done, we’re one step away. After this it’s going to say “Open LibreOffice” any second now. In the meantime, you can see this has a nice rating system, given 5 stars so far (and I hope it keeps this rating!)
And yep. It’s installed! Just like that we can either turn around and Uninstall it or we can open our new present. :-)
But before we exit, I thought that since the Depot is brand new to this release, we could tour the menus real quick. Here’s the Tools menu, where you can open SoftwareUpdater, the Repositories preflet, or do a manual refresh.
Repositories allows switching repos.
And the Show menu allows sorting packages by filters.
It’s real. It’s here.
So, when an application is installed through the Depot (in case you skipped that part, Haiku’s app store), where does it go? The answer is Applications.
As a power tip, if “type-ahead filtering” is on (from Tracker prefs), you can click Applications to open the apps folder and simply type for it. There’s also QuickLaunch. :)
Now, LibreOffice doesn’t live there like an application bundle would, (in case you’re thinking Haiku is too Mac-like.) Instead, thanks to the dynamic filesystem that comes with packages, what’s listed in the virtual, blue Applications folder are links.
The real program can be found at home in its directory, which was inserted by the packaging system to the visible filesystem. So, here we are looking at crisp, gorgeous, vector icons inside: /boot/system/apps/LibreOffice/program.
If we scroll down, we find the LibreOffice launcher sitting nicely inside, surrounded by shared objects. I might add: the LibreOffice icon for Haiku is gorgeous.
So, with all the folders cleaned up, here’s what LibreOffice 6 looks like when it starts up (it seems the first time is a bit slower; I think LO is getting itself ready).
And here we are at the launcher! Wow! Real LibreOffice 6 on Haiku. Again, for the newbies, this excitement might not make sense, but after years of hoping for something powerful like this, and the immense amount of work the people who ported it put into getting LO6 to run, this is stunning.
So, here we are writing a fresh document (although that’s not Noto Sans; I think that’s just the sans-serif default). The app chrome and the icons look crisp and clean, and everything looks great.
Of course, we can get a much cleaner and more modern look by choosing a different layout in View. Sigh… ah, much better.
But I wasn’t ready to just settle for that! Let’s really challenge Haiku and go deeper! At the risk of making LibreOffice crash, let’s turn on experimental features.
LibreOffice prompts me to restart it…
And no, we don’t want to save the document.
And, wow! It made it. It’s not crashed — it’s running, and quite nicely, too! And that allowed me to achieve my true goal: with experimental features on, LibreOffice allows you to turn on the notebook bar, a clone of Microsoft Office 2007’s Ribbon.
Outside of the bars having a 90s feel, for the Microsoft Word fans out there (I personally like either Writer itself, AbiWord, or Apple’s Pages), this feature is meant for you.
Well, with a long tour of a very special, long-awaited OS release done, it is time for me to quit for now and say goodbye for now.
Saying goodbye for now…
… until tomorrow, Haiku…
Before you go… see more of BeOS + Haiku!
In this review, we’ve looked at the features new to Haiku Beta after years of Nightlies and alpha releases.
But as you may recall from the pre-beta screenshot tour, I had hoped to take a closer look at Haiku, and look at several features — and I was originally going to do that in this article. But I realized that these are universal to all Be and Haiku releases, so instead of writing about them in depth every time, I’ve dedicated a separate article to discussing this for both Haiku and for the BeOS.
This article takes a look everything the pre-beta screenshot tour promised we would, like attributes, file indexing and search, iconography, scripting features, threading, workspaces, and windowing, just like you have been waiting for.
Hey, thanks for reading :)
That’s the end of the screenshot tour and official Haiku Beta review. Thanks for reading and please follow my blog for more explorations of my favorite operating systems, and the ones I go and explore boldly beyond my favorites! Until next time, have an awesome day!
And have an awesome holiday season!