Chris J Powell

OS Sunday – Going Old School with BeOS

For those who are not familiar, BeOS was one of the first Graphical User Interfaces that came out of the PC Revolution in the early 1990s.  I remember dabbling with it when I was not overly impressed with Windows95 and wanted something more than the plain blue background and a Start Button.  This week I chose to dive into a derivative of BeOS called Haiku!

I chose to use my standard setup (just for consistency sake) with 4GB of RAM and a 20GB HDD but Haiku claims that it will run on on systems with as little as 128MB of RAM, a 400Mhz Processor and just 700MB of Disk Space.  In my standard Virtual Machine I was up to the installer screen in less than 15 seconds and the entire installation of the core system was complete with 3 clicks in less than 5 minutes!

That is the good news, the bad news is, Haiku is very light on included software.  It comes with a dated and non-modern Browser called WebPositive.  While it does connect to the internet, I found it had a tendency to display colors and HTML 5 Content a little wonky.  As for other apps that come with the 244MB download:

  • BePDF – which is a PDF Reader
  • Vision – a IRC Chat Client
  • Pe – a fairly robust Text Editor
  • Wonderbrush – a simple image editor and Paint Program (on par with MS Paint)

There is extensive documentation available right on the Desktop and even though this is an Alpha 4 Release, everything that has been done is incredibly polished and ready to go.

The installation does come as a Archived folder and even with the full install, many of the additional apps are hidden away in the Boot Directory of the Installation Disk and once it was remounted in the Virtual Machine I was ready to Rock and Roll and begin Adding the few other programs available by default.  But I like to have options and with the Browser being far less than satisfactory I went out looking for some BeOS apps and found a site that offered me a few thousand other options including 50 browser options that included Firefox, Opera and Seamonkey as alternatives.  The interesting thing is that Haiku does not have typical “installer” files and everything becomes an Add On but the site actually gives a great walk through to how to create the add on folder to allow for these nuggets to extend your computing experience.

The learning curve for BeOS is not too heavy but it is also not very intuitive.  It is very “Geeky” which I think may have been what attracted me to it 2 decades ago and what had me return to it today.  Would it be able to take over as a Daily Desktop…maybe but with it really shining as a way to bring aging systems back to life…I would not be able to commit to the task of making myself do it full time.  But it was a lot of fun, well thought out and if there is plans to make the GUI a little more intuitive in future versions…I may just return.

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Chris J Powell

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