Sunday, 18 November 2012

Overview of Haiku OS Release 1 Alpha 4

 HAIKU is an opensource OS that is targeted at the  personal computing market. It is developed by the Haiku Project and takes its inspiration from BeOS. It's kernel is based on NewOS. Haiku recently announced release of Haiku Release 1 Alpha 4. Haiku OS is named after classical Japanese poetry form which is known elegance and simplicity. I am pretty excited about Haiku because
  • Haiku looks cool and has a mature and sleek user interface. 
  • It offers a non Linux based opensource OS which is hard to come by.
  • It supports Bash scripting.
Getting Haiku
 I downloaded the Anyboot image torrent file  from this page and used my trusted transmission torrent client on GNOME 3.X desktop to download the image. Anyboot images are the preferred distribution format. I prefer torrents for ISO downloads as it provides download resumption and hash checking of downloaded files. Many of the times torrent based downloads are faster than regular downloads as the download speed is not dependant on Server Bandwidth.
Verifying Haiku image
 After completion of the download i extracted the archive contents into a folder in Nautilus and then navigated to the folder where the image is present . Then i right clicked inside the folder and chose "Open in Terminal" menu and opened a terminal window. Then  i ran the command "md5sum haiku-r1alpha4-anyboot.image". The output of this command is a hash code and this should be same as the one mentioned in this page. I copied the hash from terminal and then compared it to the one at Haiku's website. Now that the integrity of the image has been confirmed it is time to produce a bootable USb out of Haiku Image.
Booting from USB Image
 I  plugged the USB device onto my machine and then  ran the command "umount sdb1" in the terminal that was opened earlier where sdb1 is the device name of my flash drive. This step will ensure that i have unmounted the device. Then i ran the command "sudo dd if=haiku-r1alpha4-anyboot.image of=/dev/sdb bs=1M". For more info you may refer to this page. If you are wondering as to why i used sdb instead of sdb1 then the explanation is here. Then i tweaked my BIOS to make the USB my first boot device and hit F10 to save the setting and exit BIOS.
Haiku Overview
 The first thing i noticed after booting into Haiku was that the OS did not look like a alpha version. The following screenshot shows the default Haiku desktop with
  • Desktop icons at the top left and the default wallpaper with the Haiku banner. The position of the banner is customisable.
  • Workspaces desktop applet occupies the bottom left . It allows one to switch between workspaces.
  • Deskbar sits on the top right hand side. It behaves in a fashion similar to a Windows 7 / XP taskbar or a GNOME panel.
  • The Launch Box on the right hand side of the screenshot is similar to a dock in Mac OS. It can be used as a application launcher for regularly used applications.
 The following "About" screen shows various system related information like version of OS, Processor information, Memory information, Kernel version and system Up time.
Fix sound issue
 Everything worked fine except the sound. It seems that for many users the sound works out of box but my system was an exception. When mp3 files were played I could see waveforms appearing on the player but couldn't find sound output on the speaker. I found the solution to the problem in Haiku forums . With little help from the irc channel i could install "opensound" driver and remove the hda driver. Here are the steps i followed:-
  • Open terminal by right clicking on desktop and then choosing "Addons" and then the "open terminal" option.
  • Then install opensound driver by running the command "installoptionalpackage -a opensound" without quotes in the terminal.
  • Run the command "query hda" without quotes to find the locations where "hda" is present. Then I navigated to all those folders and then typed the command "open <folderName>" to open the folder in a file viewer application called tracker. Then I right clicked and used "MoveTo" option to move the driver to the desktop. One can also use the mv command "mv /system/add-ons/kernel/drivers/bin/hda /system/add-ons/kernel/drivers/bin/hda.disabled" to accomplish this task.
  • Restart OS by right clicking on Deskbar and choosing "Shutdown" ==> "Restart System".
  • On restarting the OS sound worked.
Change Alt and Ctrl keymaps
 By default the functions of Alt and Ctrl keys on the keyboard are reversed. For example the application switcher would be invoked using "Ctrl+Tab" instead of "Alt+Tab". If you need the use the regular Alt format then you need to right click on Deskbar and then chose the option "Preferences" and then the sub option "Keymap". In Keymap you need to click the button labelled "Switch shortcut keys to windows/Linux format" to change the relevant setting.
Multimedia Challenge
 I had earlier written a post about the various media players on Linux and I wanted to test the multimedia support offered by Haiku. Haiku offers amazing level of support for various audio and video formats out of box. The media players in Haiku could play almost all forms of media that were thrown at them. The  video file extension Haiku could play were flv, webem, 3gp, mkv, 3g2, avi, m4v, ogg, mov, m2v, mp4, avi. It couldn't play asf, rm and rmkv formats. I got the sample video files for from here(skydrive) and here(apple) for testing the players. The audio file samples wav, mp3, midi from this site also worked.
Folder Structure
 The folder structure is a lot similar to that found in  Unix or Linux with a home folder which has the user related files and system folder which had OS relate files. The application which is used for file and folder management is called Tracker
 By changing the settings the tracker looks much better and provides more navigation aids like arrows for moving forward and backward between folder locations and also provides an arrow icon for moving up in folder hierarchy. We can also see a location bar in Tracker now. 
Maximize, Tile, Restore & Close Windows
  • With reference to the above screenshot in order to  maximize a window one must click on the double rectangle icon at the top bar of any window.
  • To restore the window one use the same double rectangle icon.
  • When double clicked on the title of any window the windows will get tiled and appear below the Deskbar at the top right hand side of the desktop.
  • To close any window one must click on the square icon on the left hand side of yellow bar.
Desktop Preferences Menu
 The various desktop preferences like Window appearance ( Appearance ), Sound card settings ( Media ), Mouse Settings, Keyboard Settings, Network Settings, Monitor resolution(Screen) can be changed by right clickling on the Deskbar and then choosing the "Preferences" menu. Then the the relevant tool or applet has to be chosen. The following screenshot shows the preferences menu on the right hand side of the screen.
Applications Menu
 The various applications installed on Haiku can be accessed through the Applications menu which can be availed by right clicking on the Deskbar as shown below. Various applications come pre--installed on Haiku and some are described below.
 The default web browser on Haiku is called WebPositive. It is based on Webkit engine. It is a minimalistic, light weight browser. It supports bookmarks, tabbed browsing, search from url bar and proxy. The following screenshot shows skydrive website opened inside WebPositive. The screenshot also shows the browsers' inbuilt download manager window with a file download in progress. It is not html5 ready as of now according to
PDf Viewer
 The PDF viewer in Haiku is called BePF and it supports bookmarks and sports a sidebar through which one can navigate between pages. It  supports basic annotation.
IRC Client
 Haiku comes with a IRC (Internet Relay Chat) client called Vision which can be used to connect to various IRC channels located on various servers. On clicking the connect button Vision directly connects to the official "#haiku" channel on server "". I really loved this setting.
 Pe is a powerful editor which comes bundled with Haiku. It can can be used to edit bash scripts and can even run basic bash scripts so that you can test the scripts on the go. The following screenshot shows Pe executing the command "alert hi" where "alert" is the command which opens a alert box in Haiku and "hi" is the message or string that should get displayed in the body of the alert box.
 Pe also packs advanced features like a compare tool which can show differences between contents of two files. This is very useful feature and will be particularly helpful if on needs to compare two versions of the same source code file.
 With its power packed features and nice interface Haiku will definitely gain more popularity as time goes. One more plus is that there is rich documentation, guides and tutorials available on Haiku website. I would definitely recommend one and all to try out Haiku and contribute to this novel project. It remains to be seen how Haiku is going to incorporate a good office suit and come out with a fully functional OS.
Few Links


  1. It's Mac, not MAC.


  2. You may want to check out Qt port for Haiku with some software

  3.  Check your Mac privileges, Mr Jerkoff

  4.  Thanks Vadim. Will check it out

  5.  Changed MAC to Mac.



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