Haiku: Reason to believe

Richard Hillesley looks at whether Haiku will get the opportunity to move from a hobby to a viable open source alternative.

So be it

Unlike at least one other project that set out to rewrite BeOS, Haiku does not use a Linux kernel and has been written from scratch, remaining as faithful as possible to the concepts of the original OS.

Indeed, the Haiku developers are fairly scathing about Linux systems. "Linux-based distributions," they say, "stack up software - the Linux kernel, the X Window System, and various DEs with disparate toolkits such as GTK+ and Qt - that do not necessarily share the same guidelines and/or goals. This lack of consistency and overall vision manifests itself in increased complexity, insufficient integration, and inefficient solutions, making the use of your computer more complicated than it should actually be."

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Haiku, in contrast, claims to provide "a leaner, cleaner and more efficient system capable of providing a better user experience that is simple and uniform throughout."

BeOS was known for its elegance and simplicity - the two qualities that are said to be the inspiration for the choice of Haiku as the name for the project that seeks to resurrect BeOS. Haiku was also an obvious choice because NetPositive, the BeOS web browser, reported errors in the form of Haiku, such as:

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"Sites you are seeking

404 not with us now

Lost to paradise."

or

"Sites you are seeking

From your path they are fleeing

Their winter has come."

Be that as it may

The developers have decided that releasing the Haiku code under an MIT-style licence will eventually make it more attractive to manufacturers of devices. It's a matter of opinion whether this is an accurate approach, or whether a copyleft licence might have drawn more developers towards the project.

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Haiku is approaching usability as a full operating system. This may have been a goal in itself, but Haiku now has the chance to go further, to become what BeOS might have been if things had turned out differently.

The interesting part of Haiku may be the steps the developers take after Haiku achieves its initial goal of becoming a full release of BeOS, which may take BeOS closer to its might-have-beens of 10 years ago. It could be the opportunity for a new beginning, a chance to leave its roots behind, and become a platform in its own right.

Haiku inhabits a different world where there is a growing of the market for internet-enabled devices, smartphones and specialist digital devices. Being open source and sustained by a small but dedicated user and developer community gives Haiku an entirely different set of possibilities to those faced by BeOS 10 years ago. It has the chance to survive and grow, uninhibited by the pressure to be anything but itself.

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Much like the Linux kernel project, which began as "just a hobby, won't be big and professional like GNU", Haiku may have the opportunity to grow from being a hobby to becoming a viable alternative. It could well blossom from being a BeOS-like operating system to developing its own identity as an evolving platform for desktop computing.

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