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Haiku Alpha 1: Rebirth of legend (Part 1 of 5: Startup and first look)

Autumn has come and with it a successor springs

As a quick recap or the ‘too long, didn’t read’ (tdlr) version of the intro to the Haiku Alpha series, Be had started life making its own software (BeOS) and hardware (BeBox) — but in the end, three things had hurt Be: struggling to compete in a Windows dominion, the lost candidacy at becoming the next generation Mac OS (and the end of Mac clones), and finally, their push into the Internet Appliance market (which failed as the technologies needed to make it attractive to consumers were ahead of Be’s time). By 2002, Be was gone (1).

Thus, in the ashes of Be’s collapse, there were aficionados of the BeOS who tried to keep the legacy going through various distributions and forks (such as Max and Zeta) — but there really wasn’t one successor to lead the way. That is… until the appearance of the OpenBeOS (renamed Haiku later in its development), which finally reached Alpha status in the autumn of 2009 on September 14 (2).

And so — without further prologue, that brings us to today’s topic: Haiku Alpha 1.

Contents

Like the BeOS reviews, this one for Haiku Alpha 1 will be split into several parts:

Part 1 of 5: This article — Startup and desktop exploration

Part 2 of 5: Applications

Part 3 of 5: Demos

Part 4 of 5: Applets and Preferences

Part 5 of 5: Tracker, Odds and Ends, and Shutting Down

Bonus: Installing Haiku R1/Alpha 1

Sector 1 of 9: Startup

As a quick visual review, the last time that we saw the BeOS back in Exp/Dano, the startup screen looked like this (and I’ll also add this same design dates back to R4.5 “Genki”):

Compare the old purple and white theme to the fresh new look Haiku presents the user with. Like we’d seen back in Zeta 1.21, Haiku decided to dispense with the top left alignment and instead opts for a centered boot splash.

Like the Be logo at the bottom of the classic boot splash, Haiku’s logo is also in color with green, orange, and yellow leaves on it. Notice that the progress bar is now made up of gray rounded rectangles or ‘blocks’ rather than orbs. Oh, and, when the icons light up from a dimmed out gray, they’re in color as shown below:

When all the blocks load, it appears like this:

This one theme would be the standard for all subsequent Haiku releases, from Alpha 2 to the current Nightly builds (as of when this article was written).

Now, the next screen that we’ll see (if we’re booting from the CD) is this one. Any time we boot into a live session, we’re prompted with a simple: “Do you wish to run the Installer or continue booting to the Desktop?” with buttons for the Desktop and Installer.

Alpha 1 not only supports booting directly from the CD (as modern media in late 2009 did), but it also allowed booting directly to the Desktop from the CD. While this is something that popular distributions (like Ubuntu in the Linux world and Max in the Be world) had already done and offered out of the box, keep in mind the classic BeOS CDs usually would boot to the Installer. So when I see this little box, I think of how Haiku meshed together the live CD era with a continuation of the past. And even though this box is simple, Haiku set a precedent for all the subsequent releases and Nightly builds.

Like in BeOS, when the Desktop loads, we get a nice shade of blue that comes up (and is still there to this day):

Now again, for comparison, this was the last time that the Be world had seen an official BeOS desktop (Release 5/“Maui”):

And as a bonus, this is what “Dano” (a leaked beta of BeOS after R5) looked like — which is really cool in more ways than one! If you are new to BeOS, definitely check out Dano! It really has so much to explore unique to itself — an experimental decor set in Screen preferences, net features in Boneyard preferences and Spy-o-Matic, and so much more.

Sector 2 of 9: Desktop exploration

Anyway… at last, we get back to the true focus of our review. This is Alpha 1. Other than a few subtle differences, you can see how Haiku truly is the BeOS reborn:

The Deskbar

Now, just like in the classic BeOS, we have the Deskbar anchored to the top right of the Desktop (and as usual, if one chooses to drag it by the handle on the right side of the clock, the Deskbar can then align to any edge or corner).

In this version, we have the tray with desk applets (the ever useful ProcessController) and the clock, tiles for running applications (currently Tracker), and its Leaf menu. This new icon is a pleasantly blue leaf, maybe because it makes me recall the gorgeous blue Apple menu logos in Mac OS X 10.0–4. And though I’ve never used it, the blue here also is reminiscent of the MorphOS butterfly…

For comparison, here’s the Deskbar from Dano — the final BeOS. There are a few subtle differences (Haiku features gradients and a flat applet tray), but as you can see in the above screenshot with Haiku… it’s definitely the Deskbar.

i. Inside the Leaf menu

And since it is the main piece of the Deskbar, let’s switch back to Haiku and look inside the Leaf menu itself. Here, we have About This System, Find, a Show Replicants check toggle, and submenus for Mount, Deskbar Settings, Shutdown, Recent Documents, Recent Applications, Applications, Demos, Desktop Applets, and Preferences. (And if enabled, Recent Folders can appear as well; also, you’ll notice ‘Mount’ which doesn’t appear in the Be menus).

ii. Comparison to the Be menu

And once again, since Haiku (Alpha 1) is the direct successor to the BeOS, let’s compare the contents of the two menus. As you can see between the top screenshot (Haiku Alpha 1) and bottom screenshot (BeOS “Dano”), it’s very similar to BeOS… (oh, and as for the open Deskbar Settings, I’ll get to those momentarily):

iii. Configure Deskbar Menu box

Inside the Deskbar Settings submenu (which again, I’ll open soon), we have the Configure Deskbar menu box, which is pretty much the same as “Configure Be Menu” from the old BeOS. On its left, we can add a new group, and there’s check boxes to toggle Recent Documents, Recent Applications, and Recent Folders. Each has a text box which defaults to showing 10 items. On the right, there’s a pop-up menu and a menu-like pane with ‘groups’ or folders. And finally, there’s buttons to Edit, Open, Add, and Remove the listed groups.

Now… what’s always intrigued me about the Configure box is why it was made when the Be menu can more readily be edited in Tracker. This thinking is something the next Haiku release thankfully saw also— as it did away with the Configure box.

iv. Deskbar Settings

And… at last — I’m getting to the Deskbar Settings menu in Alpha 1. In here, we can opt to Configure Deskbar Menu, and set Always On Top, Auto Raise, Sort Running Applications, Tracker Always First, 24 Hour Clock, Show Seconds, European Date, Full Date, Show Application Expander, and Expand New Applications.

Now, if you scroll back up to Dano, you’ll notice Haiku adds in Auto Raise, and Show Application Expander and Expand New Applications. What this does is fold open the app tiles to show open window lists under them — which is super useful. And this is something that Zeta 1.21 featured as well if you remember it’s Deskbar pane.

And also, before we leave them, it’s worth noting this list of options would be unique to Alpha 1, as Alpha 2 and later releases would add a preferences box. It’s special to me, as it’s a final ode to the options in the menu from Dano.

Shut down in style!

Also, for the first time (that I’m aware of) in the Be timeline, Haiku Alpha 1 added a shutdown box just like the Mac OS did in System 7 onward. Awesomeness!

This Mac nerd finds this to be pretty cool 🙂

Cue a happy dance for the shutdown box! 🙂 Getting to this either takes pressing Shutdown from the menu (instead of directly shutting down or restarting the classic way with links Haiku has moved into a submenu) or running shutdown -a from Terminal (which allows this to be mapped to a keyboard shortcut to really get it closer to the Mac feeling of pressing the restart key or control+eject).

Context menus and Add-ons

Context menus in the Tracker (the file manager in BeOS and Haiku) work the same across both eras. Just like you’d expect from the BeOS, Haiku includes drill down menus, which allow navigating the system in place (and when available, this also allows instant moving and copying of files). There’s also New, Icon View, Mini Icon View, Clean Up, Select, Select All, and finally, Mount and Add-ons submenus.

And like R5, we get a clean menu rather than being fed templates, which is a nice touch. One can click Edit Templates as well for those that like their New menu to work more like Windows 95:

And… just in case anyone is new to the BeOS or Haiku, picture add-ons as being somewhat similar to services in the application menus in Mac OS 10.0+. Here, in Alpha 1, these allow you to check disk usage with DiskUsage, search for a ‘string’ of text within files, set the (desktop) Background, modify the FileType, open a Terminal window on the spot, or zip up files (via Zip-o-Matic).

And just in case anyone was wondering what’s in the Mount menu, it’s a list of disks, Mount All, and Settings.

As for Disk Mount Settings itself, it’s roughly the same two sections inside one pane as in the classic BeOS. The first (Automatic Disk Mounting) has “Don’t Automount”, “All BeOS Disks”, and “All Disks” radio options, and the second (Disk Mounting During Boot) has “Only The Boot Disk”, “Previously Mounted Disks”, “All BeOS Disks”, and “All Disks” radio options. At the very bottom are “Mount all disks now” and “Done” options.

So that’s a look at the menus on the Haiku Desktop.

Sector 3 of 9: About and Find boxes

About box

The next thing I’d like to look at here is the About box in Haiku Alpha 1. Like BeOS R5 and Dano, it has a dichotomy of quick system stats on the left side and copyright info on the right.

On the left, Version has “R1/alpha1 (Revision 33109)”, Processor shows an “Intel Core 2 Extreme [at] 2.25 GHz”, Memory shows I’ve allocated “256 MB total”, with “80 MB used (31%)”, the Kernel was built on “[September] 12, 2009 [at] 17:45:45” and Time Running is “16 minutes, 9 seconds”.

On the right, “Haiku” is shown in dark green with a copyright spanning from 2001 to 2020 (this expands to the current date). There’s also a hyperlink to the Haiku website, and a list of current maintainers. Under this are lists of Past Maintainers, Website, Marketing and Documentation maintainers, Contributors, and a Special Thanks To section. And… under this is a list of copyrights and licenses for the various open source pieces used in making the Haiku operating system, such as elements from the GNU Project and FreeBSD Project, NetBSD Project, and so on.

Only thing is I wish Haiku didn’t go with the cool black About box from R4.5 though… but that’s just me. 😉

Definitely take a moment to notice the revision here is 33109 — with the current Haiku Nightly revision or hrev at 53867 (as of this article), it’s amazing to see just how far Haiku has come in the years since its breakout release.

Find box

Okay, so as the final area of focus in this article before we head into the Applications and Demos folders in the next part — let’s take a look at Find.

In BeOS Dano, the Find box had looked like this… with the experimental Origin decor and Dano widgets:

Okay… so, maybe, the more fair thing would be to show the R5/“Maui” box:

There we go. And as you can see from both BeOS perspectives above, when we compare them to Haiku Alpha 1 (in the below screenshot), it’s pretty much the same box:

And I definitely want to take this opportunity to say look how much crisper the remastered query icon and control look is between R5 and Alpha 1. And as an extension, this also really shows that between the two UI designs, Haiku aims to model itself (both then and now) after R5 rather than Dano.

So, that said, let’s look at the rest of what’s in here. The little button in the top left of the Find box that looks like a classic Mac’s restart key in reverse in the top row is a ‘query’ menu showing the ‘default’ query and an option to “Save Query as Template”.

Next to it is the “All files and folders” menu, which allows choosing the file type to search for. And here, there’s a noticeable (and welcome) difference.

In Dano, the ‘all files and folders’ menu was a long list of MIME types, and this definitely makes searching a bit more pleasant. Huge kudos to the Haiku developer who decided to get this organized into categories (application, audio, image, text, video).

Like in BeOS, we can search “by Name”, “by Attribute”, or “by Formula”, so it’s the same as one would see back in Dano.

And as a fourth menu (or the third if you’re just counting the menus with text), the “All disks” pop-up allows changing the search scope to a particular disk, like “Haiku”.

But enough looking around the text box — let’s search for something already! I’ve made a text file called ‘maui’ for fun (since that was the name for R5), and by searching for it, as shown below, Haiku both finds the document almost instantly and makes a query for it that I can refer to later.

Search on the BeOS and what would start as Alpha 1 here with Haiku is really versatile and powerful, and I’ll definitely look at this in more detail when we get to Alpha 2.

The File menu is the standard Tracker menu (which I’ll go over in the Tracker part of this review), and in the queries or results window we get an “Edit Query” option. So again, it’s identical to what one would have in BeOS.

If we open the Window menu, we get Resize to Fit, Select, Select All, Invert Selection, and Close. This is the same as Dano, (with an added ‘Invert Selection’ option for the results window).

And Attributes include check options for Name, Size, Modified, Created, Kind, Location, and Permissions. But what I believe is new to Haiku Alpha 1 (as I don’t remember this from Dano), is that there’s an option to Copy Layout and Paste Layout.

Finally, like in the classic BeOS, queries are stored inside their own folder in the home folder (so, this would be /boot/home/queries). And as shown below, there’s both the ‘maui’ query and the ‘default’ query. As one last note, I definitely want to say: notice the detail in those icons! For a first release, you can really see the love that went into every detail here.

And that is the opening look at Haiku Alpha 1! Please join me again for the next part of this review where I will be taking a look at the Haiku Alpha 1 application set and demos.

Hope you enjoyed this article! 🙂

And if you like my work, (and want to help me get some more stuff out there), please link to or follow my page, or support me on Patreon!

Want to read more?

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Referenced Materials

1. Be Incorporated. “Welcome to Be Incorporated!”. 24 January 2002. http://web.archive.org/web/20020124162157/http://www.be.com/

2. Haiku Project, “Project History”. https://www.haiku-os.org/about/history

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