If Alpha 1 was baby Haiku, Alpha 2 was it learning to walk.
Alpha 1 was an impressive feat in computing history. The original BeOS was dead, but the very first release by the Haiku Project had proven that the Be desktop was alive. Haiku Alpha 1 was born to the world with a healthy digital heartbeat… and as a newborn in the world of software, the little OS still had a heap of growing up to do.
And so… we reach the next milestone in Haiku’s life: Alpha 2.
Table of Contents
Part 1 (This article): Startup and the Desktop
Part 2: Applets and Demos
Part 3: Applications
Part 4: Preferences
Part 5: Tracker Exploration and Conclusion
Sector 1 of 8: Startup
The first time we see Haiku Alpha 2, we’re greeted by the same splash screen introduced in Alpha 1, which is a black screen with the Haiku logo in color and a row of 7 icons underneath.
As it loads, the faded gray blocks light up with color icons from left to right.
It’s really reminiscent of a cross between the purple orbs in the classic BeOS and Zeta (and I probably reiterate it but there’s a hint of classic Mac in this as well)… and here is what this looks like when complete:
Once the startup splash disappears from view, we are presented with a lovely shade of blue and a white gloved right hand pointer:
And if we do boot from the Live CD (and yes, as mentioned back in the Alpha 1 review, these are live meaning we get a bootable, working system right from the disc), we get the FirstBootPrompt.
This “Welcome to Haiku!” box is a marked improvement over the simple dialog box that first appeared in Alpha 1, and now allows quickly setting the language and keyboard map, which makes the user experience feel much more complete. And this box will be a standard feature of all the releases ahead. The top portion reads:
“Do you wish to run the Installer or continue booting to the Desktop? You can also select your preferred language and keyboard layout from the list below. / Note: Localization of Haiku applications and other components is an on-going effort. You will frequently encounter untranslated strings, but if you like, you can join in the work at http://www.haiku-os.org.”
Below this top pane of text are the new Language and Keymap scrolling lists side by side, which are set to English and US-International from the available choices. The two buttons available are “Run Installer” and “Desktop (Live CD)”.
But either way, whether we install Haiku directly or run it from the disc, we are presented to the Haiku desktop, whose origins can be found in the classic Be desktop.
Sector 2 of 8: Around the Alpha 2 Desktop
In Alpha 2, we have the same Deskbar in the top right corner by default, and the default desktop icons in the top left corner: the startup disk (Haiku), BeBook, Home, User Guide, Welcome, and Trash.
Like all Haiku releases so far, there’s a Haiku logo on the bottom center of the blue background (set by default in Background preferences).
Focus 1 of 4: About box
Before taking a look at the Deskbar and replicants, let’s learn a bit about this release from the ‘About this system’ link in the Leaf menu. The box takes after its predecessor Alpha 1 (and the R5/Dano era box from BeOS).
So, on the left we have the Haiku logo, then Version (R1/alpha2 Revision 36769, GCC 2 Hybrid), Processor (Intel, 2.29 GHz), Memory (511 MB total, 71 MB used, 13%), Kernel (May 8 2010 20:58:31) and Time running (2 minutes, 40 seconds). What’s impressive about this is with less than a year of turn around time, Haiku put out a much improved second public release (remember the kernel for Alpha 1 [Revision 33109] was built on September 12, 2009).
So, now that we’ve seen the About box, let’s resume our tour of the Desktop and examine the Deskbar here.
As mentioned before, the Deskbar sits in the top right corner of the screen (here and in all Be style desktops). At its top is the Leaf menu with the blue Haiku leaf (which does resemble a blue feather somewhat as well). Below the edge to edge Leaf menu button is the applet tray (shown here with ProcessController, the little media speaker, and the time). Next to this is a little handle that allows repositioning it to different corners or along an edge, and the application blocks or tiles for what’s running. So, here we have Tracker (which always will show, as this design dates back to BeOS).
But perhaps the most important element up here is the Leaf menu. Here, we have “About this system, Find, Show replicants, Mount, Deskbar preferences, Shutdown, Recent documents, Recent folders, Recent applications, Applications, Demos, Desktop applets, [and] Preferences”.
And if you noticed the ‘Deskbar preferences’ link had changed from Alpha 1 or from BeOS Dano here — you’d be right. Haiku Alpha 2 is the first official release (although this idea does borrow from Zeta) to have the Deskbar preferences in a box… and honestly, this just makes sense as the options began to get larger than what a submenu could accommodate.
For instance, consider the new preferences box brings in the recent settings in from their previous ‘Configure Be menu’ location, and puts them in a ‘Menu’ area as a tighter trio of check boxes for documents, folders, and applications. Quite frankly, the purpose of the old box didn’t make much sense (at least to this writer), and in Alpha 2 it is thankfully gone. In its place, there is an “Edit menu” button that opens the menu folder right in Tracker (which feels so much easier). Next to ‘Menu’ is ‘Window’ with check boxes for “Always on top” and “Auto-raise”.
In the bottom half, there’s Applications with “Sort running applications, Tracker always first, Show application expander, Expand new applications” on the left side and “24 hour clock, Show seconds, European date, [and] Full date” on the right. And this new feature in Alpha 2 just feels so much cleaner than the menu that was previously in both Dano and Alpha 1.
Now, as for the application expander, this was also available in Alpha 1 (which is another feature I noticed in Zeta as well). In short, for those who haven’t yet tried this feature, blocks expand out when the little arrow is clicked (or if we opt to have them do it automatically) and we can switch between not only apps but also individual windows.
Also, in Alpha 1, I hadn’t paid much attention to mini mode, but I’d like to do so starting here (mainly because of Beta 2, which may change the classic design of this feature). Mini mode is enabled by crunching the bar down into a smaller corner by dragging the handle. It’s a third way of working with the Deskbar that I really like as it gives an application menu next to the Leaf menu on top, similar to how the classic Mac OS had a menu in the same spot. Under this is the usual app tray… and as you can see it takes up much less space this way:
Like in Alpha 1, recent applications, folders, and documents still open as submenus from the main menu in Alpha 2 as shown below:
Focus 3 of 4: Replicants
Like its predecessor and the BeOS before it, Alpha 2 supports replicants, which basically allow making copies of the running application and like in the classic Be desktop and Alpha 1, these little copies can be dragged around by their handle on the bottom right and remain running after their parent window is closed. Shown below are replicants of Clock and DeskCalc (the default calculator):
And for those new to the Be and Haiku universe, to remove a replicant, we can contextually click on one of their handles and click ‘Remove replicant’ as shown here:
Focus 4 of 4: Find box
Lastly, before moving on to exploring applets and demos in the next part of this look at Alpha 2, here is a look at the find feature in Haiku.
One interesting thing is that ‘On’ and ‘All disks’ seem to overlap here… but otherwise this is the same Find box that we would see in the classic BeOS desktop.
We have a query menu (represented by a triangle), a trio of pop-up menus for “All files and folders, by name, All disks”, a text field, query proxy, and Search button.
When the query drawer is opened, the Find box expands with a new “Query name” text field and check boxes for “Include trash” and “Temporary”.
So, if we do a search for ‘duet’ (since this is the second Haiku alpha release), you can see the system will near instantly return not only the file I have searched for, but it will also generate and store a query for this search as well — thanks to the query support that is built right into the Be File System in Haiku Alpha 2.
And that is it as far as a basic look around the Haiku desktop. In the next sections of exploring Alpha 2, I’ll be looking at its demos and desktop applets, applications, preferences, around a few folders in the Tracker, and the slightly tweaked shutdown box in Alpha 2, so please stay for the next 4 parts ahead!
I really, really like this stuff — and hope you do too! 🙂
And hey, it takes time for me to bring all this together. If you like it, (and want to help me get some more stuff out there), please support me on Patreon! Either way, again, thanks for reading (especially this part)!
Haiku pushes ahead another month with another activity report that opens with “Are we released yet?” — and the wait is definitely leaving every fan of the autumn themed system excited!
Perhaps one of the biggest highlights not only in the activity report but in the Haiku community itself during this month is the work on porting GTK by “3dEyes” — imagine a whole new world of ported programs open to Haiku! And there’s also been improvements to NVMe and Clang, processor microcode and ACPI updates, GPUs, wireless Internet card support (thanks to Haiku’s FreeBSD compatibility layer), and little adjustments to help, locales, and the Interface kit. 🙂
Of course, there’s a few other improvements during this month that haven’t been listed here (such as to Time, StyledEdit, translations, and filesystems), and to read the official post on the Haiku forum, click this link.
As mentioned in the last post, big kudos to the Haiku developer team! And here’s to a month closer to getting to the second Beta release! 🙂
The Haiku team has added another activity report that spans what’s happened in the Haiku operating system between February and March 2020!
In quoting the different headings of the report, there’s been work done in terms of: “unit tests, media and audio, bootloader, kernel and drivers, user interface, runtime_loader and application roster, applications, PVS and Coverity scans, documentation, app_server, filesystems, and cleanup”, so things have definitely not been quiet for Haiku since the last report had been posted!
Of historical significance here is that Haiku finally uses the optional packages section in the Installer starting with these Nightlies in preparation for the next release. This is something that the classic BeOS discs did (and something that the distributions do), so definitely check this out in the latest iterations of the Installer in the Nightly branch!
In the 5 parts of the Haiku Alpha 1 review, I took a look at the Desktop, the applications, demos, and preferences set, and a few ‘odds and ends’ around the system as well. And… at last, as an added extra to the review, here’s an extra or bonus article showing the installation process.
As usual, when starting Haiku, we see the logo and the 7 blocks centered on a black screen. As the system loads, the blocks ‘light up’ with color from left to right like a progress bar.
And… as covered in the main review, since we’re booting up from Live CD media, Haiku presents a dialog that reads: “Do you wish to run the Installer or continue booting to the Desktop?” with buttons for Desktop and Installer.
Of course, we want to install with Installer, so I’ve went ahead and selected that. Doing so presents me with a “Welcome to the Haiku Installer!” window with a ‘read me’ of helpful tips and advice for installation which replaces the software license agreement window from the BeOS. At the bottom, we have Quit and Continue.
When we do continue, we’re brought to the main Installer window, which is very much faithful to the BeOS, albeit with differences in some parts of the design, thanks to an evolution of what R5 would most likely look like in 2009. The Haiku logo is larger than the Be logo of the past, and the status text (“Choose the disk you want to install onto from the pop-up menu. Then click ‘Begin’ ”) appears in the same top section instead of being in its own box.
Below that, the Installer window gives us an “Install from” pop-up menu (shown here as “Haiku — 379.9 MB”) and an “Onto” pop-up menu below that, where we can choose the disk we’d like to install to. There’s also a “Show Optional Packages” collapsible pane (expandable with a right-facing triangle widget), and “Setup partitions…”, “Write Boot Sector”, and “Begin” buttons.
Compare this to the Installer window in R5 and one can definitely see both the family resemblance and also the differences between these two installation boxes. For instance, in addition to the visual changes, “Setup partitions…” only appears if “More Options” (the Optional Packages switch in Haiku) is clicked, and Haiku Alpha 1 has a “Write Boot Sector” button where this doesn’t.
That said, let’s move on with the installation and get to setting up partitions. As mentioned in the main review, the DriveSetup application in Haiku has received a visual makeover from the classic version in R5 and Dano. Here, we have a graphical preview pane running along the top to show what the volumes or partitions look like for the selected disk, and a columned list of disks at the bottom (with Device, Filesystem, Volume Name, Mounted At, and Size columns).
Like the classic version, disks are collapsible, but thank goodness and the developers, this version gets an upgrade in that we don’t have to deal with the quad partition map anymore — we can click the partitions under a drive in the list directly and deal with them that way like one would expect in a modern age.
And lastly, the menu system itself has been cleaned up. There’s now just 2 menus: Disk and Partition. To get started, we’ll need to open Partition. There, we have Create, Initialize, Delete, Mount, Unmount, and Mount All entries, and under Initialize, we have Intel Extended Partition, Intel Partition Map, Be File System, and EFI GUID Partition Map. Since this is a legacy machine with BIOS, we’ll choose the Intel partition map (otherwise known as the MBR or ‘master boot record’ table).
We’re then warned in the form of a dialog box: “Are you sure you want to initialize the partition ‘Haiku’? After entering the initialization parameters, you can abort this operation right before writing changes back to the disk” with Continue and Cancel buttons.
And after clicking Continue, Haiku double checks with yet another alert: “Are you sure you want to write the changes back to disk now? / All data on the disk ‘Haiku’ will be irrevertably lost if you do so!” with Write Changes and Cancel. Irrevertably? That’s the first time I’ve heard that word… anywhere. In fact, I’m pretty sure I haven’t seen it elsewhere in the Be universe. I like it!
And now that the MBR (or Intel map) has been written, I’ll open Partition again and click Create for the next step. I will say honestly that it’s pretty clear this was built for people already familiar with DriveSetup or the Be universe, as to someone coming to Haiku for the first time, I could see where Create and Initialize could look pretty similar to each other — but perhaps this is just me.
But anyway… the Partition Size appears when we click Create. Here, we have a slider where I can choose to use all 8191 MB of disk space here, or otherwise use a piece of it. There’s also a grayed out Partition Name text field, Partition Type pop-up menu (set to “Be File System”), Active Partition check box (which we need to ensure is enabled), and in the bottom right, Cancel and Create buttons.
And once again, after clicking Create, Haiku warns “Are you sure you want to write the changes back to disk now? / All data on the partition will be irrevertably lost if you do so!” with Write Changes and Cancel buttons again.
Yet another dialog mentions: “Are you sure you want to initialize the partition [blank]? After entering the initialization parameters, you can abort this operation right before writing changes back to the disk” with Continue and Cancel.
And since we do want to ‘Continue’, the next window is a box with a Name text field (‘Haiku’ by default) and Blocksize (“2048 (Recommended)”) by default with Cancel and Initialize buttons.
The “Are you sure you want to write the changes back to disk now? / All data on the partition will be irrevertably lost if you do so!” with Write Changes and Cancel.
At long last, we finally get an info box after writing changes that “The partition ‘Haiku’ has been successfully initialized.” So let’s click ‘Ok’ (and from there, go back and close DriveSetup).
And thankfully, the Installer window now indicates we are ready to go with a fresh “Haiku — 8.0 GB” disk showing in the Onto menu and “Press the Begin button to install from ‘Haiku’ onto ‘Haiku’ ” in the status area.
When we click Begin, “Starting Installation” appears in the status area, all the controls go inactive and gray out, and Begin switches to a Stop button.
Installation itself looks like in the screen capture below. The status area reads “Performing installation” and above the status bar (with a soft light blue gradient progress fill and white background), “Install Progress:” with the current file name and file x of y appears. So in this case, it’d be “Install Progress: TGATranslator” and [file] “6499 of 16835”.
Refreshingly, unlike with the classic BeOS, there’s no Be boot manager (bootman) utility to run afterwards. Haiku handles this nicely, and we’re informed in the top right: “Installation completed. Boot sector has been written to ‘Haiku’. Press Quit to restart the computer or choose a new target volume to perform another installation.”
But to be on the safe side (as I have learned from personal experience messing with the alpha releases on both virtual and real hardware) I’ll go ahead and click the “Write Boot Sector to Haiku” button just in case, which returns “Boot sector successfully written” in the top area, and with that… now I’ll go ahead and quit.
And that is a look on how to install Haiku Alpha 1!
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!
At last, we’re closing in on the fifth part of this review of Haiku Alpha 1, after looking at the Desktop, applications, demos, and preferences in previous articles.
While my main focus here will be opening folders in Tracker, I’ll also take a quick look at the Team Monitor, Terminal, ProcessController, TextSearch, and the shut down box as well. And with that said, let’s get started!
Sector 7 of 9: Tracker folders
I’d taken a look at Tracker, the default file manager on both the BeOS and Haiku, back in the first part of this review. Here, more accurately, this really is OpenTracker rather than the original, but nevertheless, it is Tracker.
Holding down a click on a disk (or doing a control-click or ‘right click’) brings up a contextual menu. Here, we can use the very nice drill-down feature, where we can browse the file system with a series of menus right on the spot. It’s also possible to click “Open, Get Info, Edit Name, Mount (via a submenu), Unmount”, and of course, use the available Add-Ons.
The home folder has config, mail, people, public_html, and queries folders inside. There’s also a sample text file I made, a tile for the background, a Bash history file, and some media samples (i.e. the ‘Girl with the Flaxen Hair’ file) for testing MediaPlayer.
Here, I’ve gone into the config folder, where there’s add-ons, be, bin, boot, etc, fonts, lib, and settings.
And I won’t cover everything in the settings folder, as that’d take too long, but starting with folders first, visible in this screenful of files, we can see:
Beyond the folder of configuration or settings files, there’s other folders in here as well such as a place to put add-ons for the input_server, kernel, Screen Saver, Tracker, and (file) Translators.
Here, for instance, are add-ons to ZipOMatic and FileTypes.
So, since I’d like to cover some of the main folders, I’ll make things a bit easier and start with a montage of folders here to save article space and reading time. Shown below, we have…
The startup disk, which has apps, common, develop, home, optional, preferences, and system folders on it.
apps, which doesn’t contain the main application set, but does contain folders (and binaries, etc. inside them) for BePDF, BeZillaBrowser, Pe, Vision-0.9.7-ff-090826, and WonderBrush… basically the extras bundled with the Haiku system.
common, which contains add-ons, bin, boot, build-1, data, etc, fonts, include, info, lib, libexec, man, settings, share, and ssl.
And finally, optional which has system and preferences inside (empty), and develop, with abi, etc, headers, lib, and tools.
The system folder itself (which replaces the ‘beos’ folder from the classic BeOS) contains add-ons, apps (the main application set), bin, boot, data, demos, documentation, etc, fonts, lib, preferences, and servers folders inside. This is also where the Tracker, Deskbar, NewOS/Haiku kernel (kernel_x86), haiku_loader, and runtime_loader all reside.
Inside the servers folder (as I’m sure every Be/Haiku enthusiast wants a quick glance in there), we have app_server, cddb_daemon (for querying CD info), debug_server, input_server, mail_daemon, media_addon_server, media_server, midi_server, net_server, print_server, registrar, and syslog_daemon. If you are coming from R5 or Dano, you’ll definitely notice that like with some of the preferences and applications, there’s also icons here that have changed.
The contents of add-ons inside the system folder is a bit different than the simpler one inside the personal or home configuration folder. Here, there’s: accelerants, disk_systems, input_server, kernel, mail_daemon, media, opengl, Print, Screen Savers, Tracker, and Translators.
The bin folder contains a folder full of useful binaries, and I’ll just go ahead and list the first part of what appears on screen:
The boot folder contains Bootscript, Bootscript.cd (the Live CD version of the boot script), InstallerFinishScript, InstallerInitScript, Netscript, and SetupEnvironment.
Under data is the artwork folder (this is where the default backgrounds go), plus Canna, KeyboardLayouts, Keymaps, licenses, sounds, synth, and timezones folders.
And… under etc, there’s bash_completion.d, fortunes, vim, word_dictionary, word_index, bash_completion, group, inputrc, passwd, profile, sysless, sysless.in, teapot.data, and termcap.
Finally, here is a list of Tracker add-ons (Backgrounds, DiskUsage, FileType, Mark as New, Mark as Read, Open Target Folder, OpenTerminal, TextSearch, ZipOMatic) and some of the screen saver modules (which include DebugNow, Flurry, Haiku, IFS, Message, Spider).
Sector 8 of 9: Odds and ends
And… I think that’s enough folder surfing for now. Let’s move on and explore some other parts of Haiku Alpha 1!
Like the classic BeOS, Haiku has the Team Monitor, where it is possible to see a list of and force quit running applications and servers.
The layout is pretty simple and takes after the layout from BeOS Dano. At the top, there is the list of processes (with little icons next to each that I’m guessing are 8×8), a “Kill Application” button, info and directions that read, “Select an application from the list above and click the ‘Kill Application’ button in order to close it. / Hold CONTROL + ALT + DELETE for 4 seconds to reboot”, with “Force Reboot” and Cancel buttons at the bottom.
And since I can expand out the monitor, the full list reveals registrar, debug_server, net_server, app_server, syslog_daemon, input_server, Deskbar, media_server, midi_server, print_server, cddb_daemon, and media_addon_server. System processes are listed in blue.
Lastly, the “Restart the Desktop” button will appear next to the ‘Force Reboot’ button if Tracker or Deskbar are quit.
Here, I’m just doing a little bit with the Terminal. By passing various flags to uname, we can see our machine is BePC, its name is ‘shredder’, the hardware platform is ‘unknown’, and the operating system is Haiku. pwd shows our starting point at our home folder is /boot/home, and whoami reveals that we are running as user (albeit with full system access).
Some of the thread names get funny — for example, there’s “big brother is watching you” in media_server and “Yeah, baby very shagadelic” in media_addon_server.
But if we are talking about threads…
… then we really need to head to the very useful and versatile ProcessController utility, which lives in the Deskbar in Haiku Alpha 1. From earlier articles, you may remember or recognize this… and now it is officially part of the system.
ProcessController consists of a series of menus; the main one gives three submenus (“Quit an Application, Memory Usage, Threads and CPU Usage”), a link to open a “New Terminal”, a “Live in the Deskbar” check option, and “About ProcessController…” If we get into the ‘Threads and CPU Usage’ menu, we get a list of running teams (which are the same ones seen in Terminal and Team Monitor), with nice utilization meters to the right of each. And if we go down a level into kernel_team as an example, we get a list of threads that branch out of it. If we were to go further down, we could, but for now I’ll stop at this first list of threads.
Memory Usage shows “System Resources [and] Caches”, again with utilization meters like in the ‘Threads and CPU Usage’ view. Here, however, the focus is different as the focus is on the memory use for each app and server, as shown below:
The third menu option, “Quit an Application”, works like an instant click of the ‘Kill application’ button in the Team Monitor. All the applications and servers are displayed just as they would be there, and by clicking a running application name, this will tell it to force quit.
TextSearch is a very useful utility in Haiku; I won’t go through the menus (File, Actions, Preferences, History, Encoding) here to save time… but I will really quickly demo it.
While TextSearch can run standalone, it’s really useful when summoned as an add-on from the Tracker. Here, I have two files: dano and maui… and I’d like to see if a particular word or phrase appears in both — and this tool makes that really easy.
I simply type ‘r5’ into the box and press return (or Search) and TextSearch does the rest just like a graphical version of grep. As shown below, it finds the line where I’ve used R5 in both documents, and from there, I can easily open and edit them.
This comes in super handy when working on a project, either when writing documents or writing code, as the computer can visually find every occurrence within the folder someone summons this from.
The about box reads “TextSearch / Created by Matthjis Hollemans / Contributed to by Peter Hinely, Serge Fantino, Hideki Naito, Oscar Lesta, Oliver Tappe, Jonas Sundström, Luc Schrijvers and momoziro”.
Sector 9 of 9: Shutting down (and Conclusion)
As mentioned in a previous part of this review, I really love this shut down box! Again, this is probably because it reminds me so much of the Mac; somehow the single question of “Do you really want to shut down the system?” makes me feel at home, and maybe that’s because I am running this on a Mac. But I also believe that my like for this box is because of how compact and straightforward this is regardless.
Upon clicking Shut Down, like the BeOS, shut down starts instantly and we get a Shutdown Status box where it’s now “Asking ‘Tracker’ to quit”.
This message changes as the system shuts down more services (again, like in BeOS), so here, it shows “Asking ‘Deskbar’ to quit.”
Here’s yet a third screenshot where it reads, “Asking other processes to quit.” Keep in mind on a fast enough machine the shutdown process happens within a few seconds.
Once the system has shut down, in true Be tradition (and shall I say, retro fashion as other systems circa the classic BeOS like Apple’s System 7 and Microsoft Windows 95/NT did this as well), Haiku presents us with: “It’s now safe to turn off the computer.” And… we get a nice ‘Restart System’ button.
I really wanted to focus on this, because this release is the only Haiku where this feature will be; Alpha 2 and later drop this. A part of me wishes there was a “Enable safe to turn off message” check box somewhere for fun… but all things must grow and change…
Alpha 1 remains one of my favorites in the series to look at — mainly because of little details like the “System is Shut Down” box that were quietly phased out later on, and also because Haiku’s Alpha 1 really was the debut release. From the window decor to the details in the icons, it’s clear a lot of love went into shipping this first release. Keep in mind that minus pieces like the Open Tracker, and parts integrated in from other free software projects (like the GNU coretools and Bison), this was a complete re-implementation and really did take a lot of work to successfully put together into a running, public release.
So, in summarizing the opening article of this look at Alpha 1, I do believe that Haiku succeeded in doing what they set out to do with this release: keeping the BeOS alive by giving it a solid, open platform. Overall, Alpha 1 really was Haiku trying to establish and find itself in the world of operating systems, and as we will see as we continue through the Alpha release timeline, a lot still needed done in order to bring it into the modern era.
And I think as my closing comment for this look at the first Haiku, I can say that even as I look at this fledgling release a decade after its debut, it still is unique… and beautiful.
Until next time, classic Haiku — see you in Alpha 2!
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!
So far, we’ve looked at the basics of the Haiku desktop, the application set, and also the demos, and this finally brings us to the fourth part of this look at Haiku Alpha 1: the Preferences set.
Sector 6 of 9: Preferences
Just like with the applications, we can either pick preferences from a list in the Leaf menu, or we can click the folder directly, which will open the Preferences window in Tracker. It appears here as a list, but again, I really like the icons, so let’s look at it in more detail…
And after switching to Icon View, everything becomes so much crisper and cleaner. Like the applications, all the preferences have new, beautiful vector icons, which means they have cleaner lines and colors, can scale without pixelation, and icons can be rendered much larger than their BeOS counterparts while also having a smaller footprint.
Listed below are 20 preferences (listed in the order they appear in the window): VirtualMemory, Tracker, Touchpad, Time, Sounds, ScreenSaver, Screen, Printers, Network, Mouse, Media, Keymap, Keyboard, Fonts, FileTypes, E-mail, DataTranslations, CPUFrequency, Backgrounds, and Appearance.
Preference 1 of 20: Appearance
The first preference, Appearance, is not in the classic BeOS and is new to Haiku. It has two panes which one can switch between via tabs: Colors and Antialiasing.
Colors itself is a direct descendant of the version back in Dano. A list of configurable options to colorize is in the top half (rather than being in a pop-up menu), and a color well (square instead of rounded), the grayscale + RGB slider, and Revert and Defaults make up the bottom half. Basically, in terms of functionality, this tab is pretty much the old Colors preferences with a few tweaks.
However, unlike in Alpha 2, and maybe it’s just the VM I’m using — it would appear that even restarting Tracker and Deskbar does not seem to apply all the options in here… so I think the Colors pane still must’ve been a work in progress in Alpha 1.
But, anyway, in moving on to the second pane (Antialiasing), at the top there are “Glyph hinting” and “Anti-aliasing type” pop-up menus. Under these, you’ll notice (with glyph hinting set to On and Grayscale anti-aliasing) that the ‘Reduce colored edges filter strength’ slider is grayed out and inactive. The reason for this? Well… it’s listed right below said slider:
“Subpixel based anti-aliasing in combination with glyph hinting is not available in this build of Haiku to avoid possible patent issues. To enable this feature, you have to build Haiku yourself and enable certain options in the libfreetype configuration header.”
And, as far as I know, this was actually done because of the way the Mac handled its font smoothing in Mac OS X and Haiku wanted to ensure it could smooth fonts without running into a possible patent issue. However, we can tinker with the “Glyph hinting” to switch it Off from On, or apply it to “Monospaced Fonts Only”.
The same is also possible with the “Anti-aliasing type”, where one can pick “Grayscale” or “LCD subpixel”.
And — if we do set the right combo of options, we can enable the filter strength slider. But in any case, one thing that Haiku does have right “out of the box” by default is font smoothing across all applications on the desktop.
Preference 2 of 20: Backgrounds
Per its name, Backgrounds allows changing the desktop background. Like in R5, the Haiku version of Backgrounds (in this enthusiast’s humble opinion) has chosen to stick to a Mac OS 8 way of setting backgrounds. And… much as I do like Haiku’s loyalty to the old designs, I also honestly wish Haiku would’ve made a more modern Backgrounds pane for their first ever release.
Nevertheless, in touring the preference box itself, we have a Preview monitor on the left that shows the current color or picture on the ‘screen’ with X and Y boxes (for when manual positioning is on). On the right side, we start with pop-up menus for “Current Workspace”, “Image”, and “Placement”. Then, below this we have “Icon label outline” (i.e. add a shadow to the text under icons) and the RGB slider inherited from BeOS (with Red, Green, and Blue sliders and text fields) plus Haiku’s added grayscale strip. At the very bottom are Revert and Apply.
The top pop-up allows choosing the scope of the changes, so we can set for All Workspaces, Current Workspace, “Default folder” (yes, you can set folder backdrops here!) or “Other folder…”
As for the Image menu, we can choose None for a plain color (like the default shade of blue), the Haiku logo graphic (which is overlaid on the blue), or “Other…” to search for additional backgrounds.
The default spot is in /boot/system/data/artwork as shown through the pop-up location menu in the open box below, and also as shown, Alpha 1 just offers the Haiku logos by default.
But… that doesn’t mean we can’t add in our own. Thanks to the included graphics tools, I can make my own backdrop, which I’ll just call “blocks”. We can then set the Placement to “Manual” (hence the X and Y boxes mentioned earlier), “Center”, “Scale to fit”, and “Tile”.
Since the blocks are so small (and I intended to make a tiled background anyway), let’s go ahead and set the flat, tiled blue blocks as the new desktop background.
Preference 3 of 20: CPUFrequency
Next is a preference that is new to Haiku (or at least as far as I know) called “CPU Frequency”. Its function apparently is to adjust the stepping features of the processor, which can help either boost performance or conserve power. Up on top, we have a section and a pop-up labelled “Stepping Policy”, and below is “Dynamic Stepping” with a slider to “Step up by CPU usage” ranging from 0 to 100 percent. Under this is “? MHz” (which most likely means Haiku does not know the value here) and a text field for “Integration Time [ms]” (milliseconds) set to 500. Finally, there’s also a “CPU Frequency Status View” section where there’s an “Install Replicant into Deskbar” button and also a replicant (showing the same unknown MHz).
Stepping Policy has modes for Dynamic Performance, High Performance, Low Energy, and a submenu to Set State (which is empty here). In a way, this really makes this an ‘energy saving’ preferences that together with ScreenSaver allows adjusting the power settings of the Haiku workstation (albeit without a ‘sleep’ mode).
Preference 4 of 20: DataTranslations
DataTranslations comes back into the land of classic. It’s pretty simple. On the left is a list of MIME types (which includes BMP Images, EXR Images, GIF Images, JPEG2000 Images, JPEG Images, PCX Images, PNG Images, PPM Images, RAW Images, RTF Text Files, SGI Images, StyledEdit Files, TGA Images, TIFF Images, WonderBrush Images). And on the right, there’s an icon and description for that file type’s translator, and depending on what’s selected, an Info button and settings that appear as well.
Now this preference is something that you may remember from back when I was covering the unofficial distributions; the classic BeOS version of the Mail preferences was different. This is a new mail pane for Haiku’s mail client.
E-mail in Haiku has two tabbed panes (Accounts and Settings), and in Accounts, there’s a list pane on the left with an Add and Remove button at the bottom for managing mail accounts. On the right is a big mailbox icon with a pencil, and “Make a new account with the Add button. / Remove an account with the Remove button on the selected item. / Select an item in the list to change its settings.” On the very bottom are Revert and Apply.
If we do choose to add an account, “Create New Account” opens with a single section: Account Settings. Here, there’s an Account Type and POP3 pop-up menu at the top and E-mail Address, Login Name, Password, Account Name, and Real Name text fields. Back and Ok sit at the bottom for navigation.
Upon opening the Account Type menu, this allows changing between three modes: Receive Mail Only, Send Mail Only, Send and Receive Mail. More than likely, the third will probably be the most popular choice… though I wouldn’t get mail using Alpha 1 anymore due to its age.
It’s also possible to choose between IMAP and POP3:
Finally, in the second tab (Settings) there’s two sections.
Mail Checking starts with a pop-up menu with ‘Never’ selected, with a “Check every” text field next to it that would become active if an option were picked. Under this are two check boxes: “Only When Dial-Up is Connected” and “Schedule Outgoing Mail When Dial-Up is Disconnected”.
Miscellaneous has a pop-up menu for “Show Connection Status Window”, an “Edit Mailbox Menu…” button (inactive here), and a “Start Mail Services on Startup” check box.
Preference 6 of 20: FileTypes
FileTypes is definitely a classic preferences pane that originates from the classic BeOS days. In the left pane is application, audio, image, message, multipart, text, and video as categories in a tree view. Everything here is neatly and nicely collapsed.
On the right side is an Icon section, File Recognition section (with an Extensions list pane and Add and Remove buttons), Description section (with “Internal Type” and Type Name and Description text fields, Preferred Application section (with a pop-up menu (set to ‘None’ here) and Select and Same As buttons), and lastly, an Extra Attributes section with a list pane in two columns and Add and Remove buttons.
FileTypes has two menus. The first, the File menu, has “New Resource File”, an “Open” item and submenu, an “Application Types” item, “About FileTypes” and Quit.
The second menu, Settings, has “Show Icons in List” and “Show Recognition Rule” as check options.
If we open a file type just for fun (in this case, I’ve clicked Be Application out of the ‘application’ category), the main body of the preference populates. The familiar stack of the yellow cube on the blue and red appears as an icon, “Be Application” and “Generic Be Application executable” appears as the Type Name and Description in the Description section, and Tracker (the default file manager) appears as the Preferred Application.
And before leaving this preferences pane, this version of “FileTypes written by Axel Dörfler / Copyright 2006–2007, Haiku” according to the About box.
Preference 7 of 20: Fonts
The next preference pane is also a throwback to the classic BeOS… but it is different. From a Dano perspective, the ‘anti-aliasing’ or font smoothing options in Render is not there because it’s been moved to the new Appearance preferences, (and since Character Map replaces the options in Overlay, this tab also doesn’t make an appearance). From both a R5 perspective (since this is what Haiku appears to want to model) and Dano, the old Cache tab is no longer there either. This is more than likely because with the new font technologies… this really isn’t needed for a general use desktop OS.
And so… because it no longer has a need to display itself in tabs, Fonts now displays everything in a single view in Haiku (Alpha 1), and this would be the contents of the old ‘Fonts’ tab in the classic Fonts preferences.
Thus, we have a set of four pop-up menus for Plain Font, Bold Font, Fixed Font, and Menu Font on the left —and each also has a Size pop-up menu on the right side. Under each duo of menus is a preview pane set to “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”
And I did want to point out the experimental ‘Serif Font’ option from Dano (which I didn’t see in R5) is gone and also that the Menu Font option is new here; it moved from a preference that is no longer in Haiku — I’ll reveal which one when we get to Keymap…
Preference 8 of 20: Keyboard
The next preference, Keyboard, is very simple (as it was also in the classic BeOS days). The window merely consists of two sliders: “Key repeat rate” (with Slow and Fast labels) and “Delay until key repeat” (with Short and Long labels), a “Typing test area” text field, and Defaults and Revert. But… I did happen to miss the little graphics from R5 and Dano (the key and timer), as these were erased from this version.
Preference 9 of 20: Keymap
Keymap definitely has several little differences as well as new features in Haiku’s Alpha 1. There appear to be more key maps and the menus are slightly different here (Haiku has File, Layout, Font; R5 has File, Edit, Font), the Use button next to Revert is gone, and there’s a “Select Dead Keys” pop-up menu under the keyboard in Haiku. You’ll also notice that the text field built into the keyboard on the classic BeOS in a way I’d compare to Key Caps on the Mac has now been moved below the keyboard to its own “Sample and Clipboard” text field under the keyboard as well.
And as promised back in Fonts, the missing pane is: Menu. Yes — for the first time, Menu preferences is gone from the official timeline (meaning it’s no longer possible to pick a separator style or whether to toggle the first letter underlines in menus) in Alpha 1, but thankfully, the other options to change menu fonts and colors have found new spots nicely… which leaves one more feature. Menu allowed choosing between the default Alt and a more PC-like Control key option for system wide keyboard shortcuts, and since this option had to move somewhere… and also since it had to do with keys, it found a new home in Keymap as a “Switch Shortcut Keys to Windows/Linux Mode” button instead of a menu option.
Beyond that, the basic layout is the same. There’s a scrolling list of System and User key maps on the left side, and a graphical keyboard on the right side. As a nice touch, all the keys are labelled in Haiku.
The File menu includes Open, Save As, and Quit.
Edit with its standard options, like copy and paste, is gone, so next to this is the Layout menu. For the selected key map, we get several options here: “Generic 105-key International, Generic 104-key, IBM Laptop International, Kinesis Advantage, [and] Kinesis Ergo Elan International.”
Finally, there’s the Font menu featuring Bitstream Charter, DejaVu Sans, DejaVu Sans Mono, DejaVu Serif, Konatu, KonatuTohaba.
As for what the new “dead keys” pop-up menu does, this allows setting to Acute Trigger, Circumflex Trigger, Diaeresis Trigger, Grave Trigger, and Tilde Trigger.
Preference 10 of 20: Media
Media is the audio and video controls area for the BeOS (and for Haiku), thus its name. On its left is a list view with Audio Settings and Video Settings, with an Audio Mixer and “Auich ICH” for the sound card under the Audio Settings.
On the right is where the main body of the pane appears. Here, we have Audio Settings selected. In the Defaults section, there’s Audio Input, Audio Output, and Channel pop-up menus (set to the current card dubbed ‘Auich ICH’ for the first two and ‘output 0’ for the channel). Under this is the Real-Time section with a single “Enable Real-Time Audio” check box (which is currently checked).
The description for it reads: “Enabling Real-time Audio allows system to record and play audio as fast as possible. It achieves this performance by using more CPU and RAM. / Only enable this feature if you need the lowest latency possible.”
Finally, on the bottom is a “Restart Media Services” button and a check box, and if we choose to “Show Volume Control on Deskbar” we get the familiar little speaker from BeOS, and the Volume slider, complete with replicant option! As shown below, it’s set to 0 dB (decibels) with the warning side in orange red, and the lit side on the left in a nice shade of green. This is a bit different than the pale green shade last seen in Dano, but it’s a very welcome change here.
And in moving on with the Media preferences tour, here is the Audio Mixer pane with two tabs: Gain Controls and Setup. Gain Controls contains only one control: Master Output. Below it’s label, we see it is “48 kHz 16 bit” with a Mute check box, “Gain 18 dB”, two vertical sliders (for left and right channels), and “-60 dB” with “To Ouput” on the bottom.
The Setup tab starts with check boxes, and actually, since there’s two more (seven in all) in here, I’ll just name them all:
“Attenuate mixer ouput by 3dB (like BeOS R5), Use non linear gain sliders (like BeOS R5), Display balance control for stereo connections, Allow output channel remapping, Allow input channel remapping, Refuse output format changes, Refuse input format changes”.
There’s also an “Input gain controls represent” pop-up menu (set to “Physical input channels”) and a “Resampling algorithm” pop-up menu (set to “Drop/repeat samples”).
And finally (under Audio Settings) when I click ‘Auich ICH’ (the name of the card corresponding to the ICH AC97 card in my VM), there’s the AC97 Mixer and Recording tabs. As shown below, a mixer pane will look like the screenshot below. Here, there’s the same Mute boxes and twin slider controls back in the Audio Mixer pane for Master, PCM Out, CD, Aux In, TAD… and so on. (The decibel values are different here, however, with 0 for Master and 12 for the rest mentioned on top, and -46.5 for Master and -34.5 for the rest mentioned at the bottom).
Under Video Settings, the first section is Default Nodes with pop-up menus for Video Input and Video Output set to ‘none’. The Real-Time section includes a sole check box, “Enable Real-Time Video”.
Similar to in Audio Settings, the text under real-time in this pane reads: “Enabling Real-time Video allows system to perform video operations as fast and smoothly as possible. It achieves optimum performance by using more RAM. / Only enable this feature if you need the lowest latency possible.”
And like in Audio Settings, we get a “Restart Media Services” button here as well.
Preference 11 of 20: Mouse
Here, we have the Mouse preferences for Haiku, which is very close to R5. On the left side is a “Mouse type” pop-up menu, a graphical mouse with clickable numbers for the buttons to reassign them, and a “Double-click test area” text field.
On the right are sliders for “Double-click speed”, “Mouse Speed”, and “Mouse Acceleration” with ‘Slow’ and ‘Fast’ labels on each — and the “Focus follows mouse” pop-up menu for setting mouse warping, which is currently set to “Disabled”.
Now, there are a few differences. The Haiku mouse (to be frankly honest) lacks the depth and shading that the R5 mouse had, which removes the top-down 3D look the older mouse had. As a plus, though, Haiku does cut the cable off and makes the new mouse wireless. To compare the two, take a look at the R5 screenshot below and the one above. You’ll also notice (just like with the Keyboard panel) that the little graphics (in this case, static mice illustrating click speed and motion) are gone.
As with BeOS, “Focus follows mouse” can be turned on or off, or can be set to “Warping” or “Instant-Warping” modes.
The mouse type can also be changed to have 1, 2, or 3 buttons by clicking the “Mouse type” pop-up menu above it.
… and clicking a number on the mouse does still reassign buttons as expected, so if I wanted to swap button 1 for button 2, and make the mouse work as 2, 3, 1, I could.
Preference 12 of 20: Network
Next up is Network. In R5, the Network pane had a lot more to offer… and I won’t review it over again, but I can say there’s no tabs nor sharing offered here, or a box to set the host name, or a Configuration box here. It’s really very simple… and at least on my setup, the Adapter pop-up menu just has ‘devices’ in it. Under this is a Mode pop-up, and inactive text fields (because I don’t have a working card selected) for IP Address, Netmask, Gateway, DNS #1, and DNS #2. At the very bottom are Revert and Apply buttons.
The good news is that this little preference pane does improve as we progress through the alphas — including support for wireless networks, something the classic BeOS never had.
Preference 13 of 20: Printers
Printers presents pretty much the same interface as when it was last officially seen in BeOS, and has a list pane with nice icons for Printers on the top left and a Print Jobs list pane under it with “No printer selected”. Buttons on the right include “Add…”, “Remove”, “Make Default”, “Cancel Job”, and “Restart Job”.
And thank the Haiku developers! The ‘printer wizard’ from R5 is gone! Seriously — that’s exciting. We just have a box with a text field for “Printer Name”, and pop-up menus for “Printer Type” and “Connected to”.
I’ll go ahead and name mine “The Printer That Could”… but we’re not really going to set it up so I’ll cancel out of it. Before I do though, the connections offered in Alpha 1 include: “HP JetDirect, IPP, LPR, Parallel Port, Print To File, Serial Port, [and] USB Port.”
And that’s a fast glance at Printers.
Preference 14 of 20: Screen
Next, we have Screen preferences. (Unlike in the classic BeOS, ScrollBar preferences are gone; this will be integrated into Appearance in the future).
So, here, we have a preview monitor in the left section… which is a doppelganger to the one in R5. Workspaces under it, however, is no longer a mere pop-up menu for setting the number of spaces. Here, there’s text fields with minus and plus buttons next to them for Columns and Rows, each set to 2. Below that, we have a new “Set Background…” button not in Dano or R5.
On the right is an “All Workspaces” pop-up menu, with two more for “Resolution” and “Colors”. No refresh rate here, however; this is most likely because of my setup. Finally, in the bottom right is an Apply button, which is further away than the more compact R5 version.
Available resolutions to pick from here include: 640 x 400, 640 x 480, 800 x 600, 1024 x 768, 1152 x 864, 1280 x 1024, and 1600 x 1200.
One thing I’ve always liked about Haiku (and I did notice at least Dano did not do this), is that the world of Mac where ‘thousands of colors’ and ‘millions of colors’ are shown in Monitors, Displays, etc. and where 8-bit, 16-bit, 24-bit color, etc. is (at least historically) shown on PCs, putting the two in one menu brings them together. So the generic ‘thousands’ label is actually 65,536, and there’s “16 Million Colors” at “32 Bits/Pixel” which really helps give a better understanding of both ways of referring to the display, which is a nice touch by the Haiku team. And as shown below, it’s possible to pick a value from 256 Colors and a full 32 Bits/Pixel from the Colors menu:
Also, it’s possible to pick between applying screen settings to “All Workspaces” or to just the “Current Workspace”, as shown below:
And before we go, one thing that made an experimental appearance in Dano was a Decor pop-up menu with the different styles for the system. Like R5 and before, Haiku does not include this.
Preference 15 of 20: ScreenSaver
ScreenSaver, as its name would imply, allows setting up and managing the screen savers that turn on after a certain time. And just in case someone doesn’t know what a screen saver is, an old CRT screen could have the image burn into it after a while of sitting idle, so screen savers (animations that would appear when the computer was left idle) were introduced to solve this problem. Thankfully, today, running screen savers is either for fun or to lock the computer, etc. as screens (mostly) don’t burn in anymore — although there’s odd cases where it still might happen.
That said, there’s two tabs: Fade and Modules. Fade has an “Enable Screen Saver” check box and a “Run module” slider set for 15 minutes. Under it is an inactive “Turn off screen” check box and another horizontal slider. “Password lock” is another check box; if we do enable this, we turn on the password lock slider and the “Password…” button. Finally, there’s two monitors with no signs for “Fade now when the mouse is here” and “Don’t fade when the mouse is here”. Clicking corners lets one assign whether these do (or don’t) start the screen saver.
The Password box has radio buttons to “Use Network password” or “Use custom password” and two text fields, for ‘Password’ and ‘Confirm password’. At the bottom right are Cancel and Done… for now, I’m going to cancel, as we really don’t need to set a password here.
The second tab here is Modules. The layout is fairly simple; the same as in classic BeOS. In the top left corner is a preview monitor, and below it is a scrollable list of screen saver modules, and below those, Test and Add buttons.
On the right is “Module settings”, which is where module info and controls appear. Blackness, which just blanks the display, appears as “Blackness / No options available”.
DebugNow is the next module, which flashes “DEBUG NOW” in white letters on a dark blue background. Its info mentions “DEBUG NOW, by Ryan Leaven[good]”, and the screensaver itself is a play on the ‘Buy Now!’ screensaver from the classic BeOS.
Flurry is roughly the same as the one found on the Mac, and when I’ve launched it in the past, it’s crashed the screen saver preferences… so in moving on to the next screensaver, “Haiku, by Marcus Overhagen” simply shows the word ‘Haiku’ around a black screen.
Next is “Message, by Ryan Leavengood / Inspired by Jon Watte’s Origin”, which shows a variety of text on the screen.
“Spider by stippi for bonefish” (read from its info) has three sliders: “Max Polygon Count”, “Max Points per Polygon”, and “Trail Depth”. Below this is a Color pop-up menu (set to Red). This also prints patterns onto the screen, but in a different way than IFS does.
But this is a different set in Alpha 1 —here, there’s no Flip, Icons (yet; this will appear in time), Lens, Lissart, Spiral, Spots, StringTheme, SuperString, or VoteNow.
Finally… for those really wondering, this is what Haiku’s screen lock looks like. A little gray dialog on a black screen with an Unlock button reads “Unlock screen saver” with an “Enter password” text field… and that’s basically it.
Preference 16 of 20: Sounds
Sounds is a preferences box that’s been in the classic BeOS… but in Dano, it received a helping of new sounds (where R5, for example, just had Startup, Beep, and New E-mail). I can only guess the additions in Dano were to compete with Microsoft’s Windows; the reason I feel mentioning this is relevant is because Haiku Alpha 1 follows the latter.
Here, there’s a columned list of events and sounds (all set to none by default). Below this is a section with a “Sound File” pop-up menu and Play and Stop buttons.
Expanding things out lets us read the whole list of events we could assign sounds to, and these are: “Beep, Key Down, Key Up, Mouse Up, Window Close, Window Open, Vision Nick Notification, Window Zoomed, Window Minimized, Window Activated, Mouse Down, Key Repeat, Startup, [and] Window Restored.”
And that’s basically a look at Sounds… as Haiku did not include a sound set in the release like BeOS used to.
Preference 17 of 20: Time
As shown below, this was one of the screenshots I’d taken in summer 2019. The Time preferences is inherited directly from Be, and shares the same structure. However, there are some differences between it and the classic R5 version.
To really see them, I’ll go through the box as usual. At the top, the tab that would read Settings now reads “Date & Time”, and “Time Zone” is listed as Timezone here. Otherwise, it’s the same two tabs. On the left is the usual date well with the month, day, and year, with a calendar under it — but if you look carefully, you’ll see the month in the date well is now centered, and the calendar of squares is now in a wider format and open with more of a pocket calendar type of appearance. The clock well is also much wider, and there’s now a revamped clock widget. The big bezel around the clock is gone, and in place of the blue dots and red 12, 3, 6, and 9 are new analog watch hour marks and lines in between. Clock hands are much thicker here and the second hand is now red. Finally, the “Clock set to” radio buttons are horizontal here and not vertical like they were in R5.
Timezone includes a set of Regions, which I’ll list in a minute. If set to Other, I get Greenwich time, but usually, there’ll be a list of cities in this left pane. On the right side, there’s the “Current time” and the “Preview pane” with the respective times to compare the two; both in the classic era and here, this makes this box double as a simple world clock, which is quite nifty.
And that’s a quick look at the Time preferences in Alpha 1.
Preference 18 of 20: Touchpad
Touchpad is pretty packed, or at least the top section, Scrolling, is. On the left side is a graphical representation of the touchpad (or in Mac parlance, trackpad), with adjustable red touch zones along the bottom and right sides. Under this are check boxes for “Two Finger Scrolling” and “Multi Finger Scrolling” as well, so Haiku does support different scrolling types. To the right are three sliders: “Scroll Acceleration” (with Slow and Fast labels), then “Horizontal Scroll Stepsize” and “Vertical Scroll Stepsize” (with Wide and Small labels).
On the bottom is the “Tap Gesture” section where it’s possible to set the “Tap Click Sensitivity” from Off to High. And as usual for most Be/Haiku preference panels, there are Defaults and Revert buttons in the bottom left corner.
Trackpad is a significant part of the ‘Be universe’ timeline, as it was the first time that an official system included support not only for trackpads, but for features like two finger scrolling as well.
Preference 19 of 20: Tracker
Like Dano, Haiku Alpha 1 comes with Tracker Preferences! And one addition here is that the Tracker settings in Haiku gets an official link in the preferences set, which makes it easier to find and change the options for Tracker.
There’s five settings panes, which can be selected via a list pane on the left side of the window: Desktop, Windows (as in the boxes on the screen), Date and Time, Trash, and Volume Icons.
And it appears that we start with Desktop. Here, we have radio buttons to either “Show Disks Icon” (which groups all the disks, kind of like a ‘Computer’ view), or “Show Volumes on Desktop” with a check box to “Show Shared Volumes On Desktop” underneath it. Then, right under that, there’s yet another check box to “Eject When Unmounting”.
At the bottom, a “Mount Settings” button is visible, which opens the usual box to set which disks automatically mount when starting the system or plugging them in. In addition to a “Mount all disks now” and Done button, we have:
Automatic Disk Mounting, where there’s “Don’t Automount, All BeOS Disks, All Disks” as radio button options.
Disk Mounting During Boot, where there’s a quartet of radio buttons to set: “Only The Boot Disk, Previously Mounted Disks, All BeOS Disks, All Disks”.
Since the Haiku team cares what happens to your data when its given over to the system (and even more so here as its first ever public release), Haiku will warn users about mounting, say, FAT32 disks. Here, the alert dialog reads: “Mounting volume ‘NO NAME’ / The file system on this volume is not the Haiku file system. It is strongly suggested to mount it in read-only mode. This will prevent unintentional data loss because of errors in Haiku.”
And from here, there are “Mount Read/Write, Cancel, [and] Mount Read-only” buttons to choose from.
And… in coming back to the settings box, we’re now in the Windows tab. In it are five check boxes: “Show Folder Location in Title Bar, Single Window Navigation, Show Navigator, Outline Selection Rectangle Only, List Folders First” and that’s pretty much it for this section. What’s nice about ‘single window navigation’ is that Tracker can be used in both in an old school mode where it’s spatial, or in a browser-like mode.
The third pane out of the five is ‘Date and Time’. The first section, “Clock”, has radio buttons for “24 Hour” and “12 Hour”. The second, “Date Order” has three radio buttons for “Year-Month-Day, Day-Month-Year, Month-Day-Year” and the latter is currently selected.
Under these two is a “Separator” pop-up menu set to a forward slash. An “Examples” section is shown right below this (again, revealing this is a summer 2019 screenshot) of the date as it would appear in the file manager in long format as “Tuesday, June 18, 2019, 08:27:49 PM” and in short format as “06/18/19, 08:27 PM”.
Moving on to the Trash pane, it’s the simplest of the five. There’s simply two check boxes, one of which is for deleting files directly (“Don’t Move Files to Trash”) and a nice delete confirmation setting marked “Ask Before Delete”.
As the last setting in Tracker Preferences, we get to “Volume Icons”, just like back in the unofficial distributions looked at before. To turn it on or off, there’s “Show Space Bars on Volumes” on top as a check box, and the best way I could describe this feature is that its roughly similar to the disk meters feature in Windows Longhorn, except these are vertical.
A pop up menu allows changing the “Used Space Color, Free Space Color, and Warning Space Color” of the meter, and this is done via a standard Haiku RGB slider (with the usual text fields) below it. Personally, (and I don’t just say this as a Mac fan), I like the idea of putting actual text next to disks better (like ‘79.82 GB, 7.14 GB free’ as an example) or of graphically showing the usage with a dynamic icon.
Preference 20 of 20: VirtualMemory
Finally, we reach VirtualMemory. As the name would imply, this is where we can adjust ‘virtual memory’ or the swap file for Haiku. At the very top of the panel is a check box to “Enable Virtual Memory”.
Under this, we can see various info. “Physical Memory: 255.93 MB / Current Swap File Size: 511.87 MB” and above the slider, “Requested Swap File Size: 511 MB” (and the slider ranges from 1 MB to the free space of the disk: 7.35 GB). For the most part, this is pretty much the same as in R5.
The visual differences here are that firstly, there is a check box at the top and a ‘1 MB’ value at the left end of the slider, where in the classic BeOS, there was no check box and R5 didn’t have the left label (Dano did). There’s also a new “Use Volume” pop-up menu in between the memory info and slider, which splits the memory info in two and from reading ‘Haiku’ on the grayed out label, this apparently allows choosing the volume to access the swap file from.
We’ll be looking at virtual memory more as we continue into the Alpha versions after this initial release (as it improves as Haiku matures), but for now, that’s a look at the VirtualMemory preferences box…
… and also a look at the preferences set in Haiku Alpha 1. Please join me again for the last part of this look at Alpha 1, where I’ll be looking inside several system folders and where I’ll also take a look at a few tools.
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So, in the first part of this long review of Haiku Alpha 1, we looked around the Desktop a bit. And we also looked at the Applications set in Part 2.
But what about the little applets that add a touch of fun to the system? Now that we’re in Part 3, here is a look at the included Demos!
Sector 5 of 9: Demos
Like the application set, these can be launched from the Leaf menu or from a window.
Shown in the Demos folder are 13 demos with their icons: BSnow, Chart, Clock, Cortex, FontDemo, GLTeapot, Gradients, Haiku3d, Mandlebrot, Pairs, Playground, Pulse, and Sudoku.
Demo 1 of 13: BSnow
BSnow opens a little window that reads “Drag me on your desktop…” with an arrow pointing to the replicant icon.
When we do drag the snow replicant out, snow falls out of the edges of the desktop (here, the top and left edges), until the snowfall effect covers the ‘air’ over the desktop.
Demo 2 of 13: Chart
The next demo (and one of my all-time favorites) is called “Chart” which really is short for ‘star chart’. But for whatever reason, the Be developers decided that Chart sounded great (more than likely because of the “Stars” demo), and thus, both in BeOS and here, it is simply called Chart.
On the left sidebar of the window, there is an info pane with “Frame/s” and “CPU load” under Status; at the moment, the two values read 0.0. Under this is a check box for Full Screen, an Auto Demo button, and a 2 Threads check box. Check boxes for Colors include Red, Green, Blue, Yellow, Orange, Pink, and White. Radio buttons under Special include None, Comet, Novas, and Battle (which just like in BeOS, isn’t finished). And nostalgic as it is to see the same gray button here, I have to admit I wish Alpha 1 would’ve added a Battle mode!
But (sigh) Battle mode or not, it’s still great to have the classic demo here! On the top, the first things we see are a black usage meter panel (which corresponds to the Status info below it), and an Animation and Display pop-up menu.
Now, if we do make this live, you’ll notice the meter begins to show red and green LED like bars. For Animation, I can set: Off, Slow rotation, Slow motion, Fast motion, and Free motion.
And for the corresponding controls to Animation in the Display menu, I can leave the chart display Off, or run in DrawBitmap or DirectWindow modes.
Beyond this is a button that reads 60.0 (the refresh rate). Clicking it reveals a box with a slider ranging from 0.6 to 600.0 frames per second (f/s) on a “logarythmic scale” as the window notes.
It’s of course also possible to choose the color of space with a color well button, but I think for now I’ll leave it set to black. The next button allows setting the “Star density” from “5% (low)” to “(high) 100%” with the same slider UI in the little box the refresh rate uses.
Last, but not least, we can have our little space simulation use Chaos, Amas, or Spiral modes by using the menu on the right and the demo will change itself dynamically, just like with all the other controls. Here’s one example of the generated stars:
And another — it’s really too bad these are still images, because these are truly fun to watch!
Demo 3 of 13: Clock
Next we have another favorite little demo! The clock. And I do always find this interesting because most of the clocks I’ve seen are round but BeOS decided to do things differently and put in a clock that fills the window as a square instead. The tiny appearance not only gives it a desk accessory appearance,
In true Be fashion, dragging the clock by the little finger and thumb widget in the bottom right corner makes a copy of it or a ‘replicant’, so we now have 2 clocks. Back in the applications folder, you probably remember
Demo 4 of 13: Cortex
Next up, we have Cortex with File, Window, and a gray workspace with floating child windows inside. Shown below are tiles for System Clock and Audio Mixer, the Media Add-Ons box (with “Audio Mixer (Haiku)”, “AudioAdapter”, “Auich ICH”, “Demo Audio Processor”, “Demo Video Processor”, “Flanger”, and “VideoWindow Control”), and finally Transport. On the left side of the Transport box is a dark bluish teal info area reading “(no group) No errors” and “0 nodes”, and under it, there’s a “Roll from 0.0000 to 0.0000” widget. On the right are Start, Stop, and Preroll buttons, and pop-up menus for Run Mode and Time Source.
There’s not really much to show from a text perspective, since this is an audio tool, so I’ll move on to the menus. File has Open, Save Nodes, About Cortex/Route, and Quit.
Window has check options for “Show Transport” and “Show Add-Ons” with a Pull Palettes option.
And in closing my short visit to Cortex, the About box has a lone Ok button and reads: “Cortex/Route 2.1.2 / Copyright 1999–2000 Eric Moon / All rights reserved / The Cortex Team: / Christopher Lenz: UI / Eric Moon: UI, back-end / Thanks to: / John Ashmun / Jon Watte / Doug Wright / (your name here) / Certain icons used herein are the property of Be, Inc. and are used by permission.”
Demo 5 of 13: FontDemo
Like the Clock, FontDemo definitely can be traced back to the classic BeOS. The main window is the actual demo; the second window on the right are all the Controls.
There, we can set to Text (preset to “Haiku, inc.”), the Font via a drop-down menu, and the Size, Shear, Rotation, Spacing, and Outline via horizontal sliders below the first two controls. We can also choose to enable “Anti-aliased text” or not via a check box, we can choose the “Drawing mode” via a pop-up menu (B_OP_COPY), whether to use ‘Bounding boxes’ per another check box, and finally, we can “Cycle Fonts” with a button.
And so, by playing with the sliders some, we can hollow out the text and skew it some, which sort of gives it a semi-3D effect. Now, while this has become not as exciting as when it first came out in the era of the old BeOS, it still is great to see just how smoothly Haiku renders the changes now.
Demo 6 of 13: GLTeapot
GLTeapot is yet another old demo that goes back to the classic BeOS. Per its icon and name, it is indeed a red teapot in OpenGL. Basically, this pot spins and turns itself about freely and a digital frames per second is displayed in the bottom left corner (which is showing 149.1 here).
There’s three menus in here, and under File, we can “Add a teapot” or we can click Quit.
There’s also a list of check options under the Options menu, which include: “Perspective, FPS Display, Filled polygons, Lighting, Backface culling, Z-buffered, Gouraud shading, [and] Fog.”
The Lights menu adjusts the lighting for the teapot, and for “Upper center”, “Lower left”, and “Right” light sources, we can pick Off, White, Yellow, Blue, Red, and Green. And that’s basically a look at the teapot!
Demo 7 of 13: Gradients
Next is a demo new to Haiku (from a classic BeOS or R5 perspective), called “Gradients (Test)”. It’s basically a white box with a pop-up menu for the “Gradient type” set to Linear and two columns of shapes. In order from top to bottom, the left rounded rectangle, square, equilateral triangle, and circle are shown as black silhouettes. On the right side, the same shapes have a red, green, and blue gradient applied to them. Sadly, the gradients aren’t live and appear static as shown below:
It’s possible to change the type of gradient through the menu, so here’s what Radial looks like. Instead of a gradient consisting of straight lines like a horizon or a diagonal, this puts the first color (red) in the center and the color filling the outer ring is green.
Radial Focus is similar, but it fine tunes the gradients a bit:
There’s also Diamond, which is like the Radial modes, only the center color (red) shoots out in an X shape from a central ‘box’ of sorts. The green surrounds the red tones on the outside.
And finally, there’s Conic mode, which in all four has a shining beam of green in the center, and cone shaped rays of color going out on the sides similar to a car’s head lamps or a flashlight, with a blue cone on the left side and a red cone on the right side.
In case anyone was hoping to see the actual pop-up menu, here’s all the gradient modes for the demo:
Demo 8 of 13: Haiku3d
Haiku3d is a demo unique to Haiku, although it really is similar to the old 3D Be logo demos from the classic BeOS. Here, each letter of the Haiku logo is displayed in 3D, white capital letters on a black background, along with a green leaf over the H, an orange leaf over the A, and a yellow leaf over the U per the logo. And basically, each letter takes a turn spinning around from left to right (so to explain better, the H spins first, then A, then I, then K, then U).
Demo 9 of 13: Mandlebrot
Mandlebrot definitely is a demo that has been in the classic BeOS (back in 4.5 “Genki” with all the good demos in it before R5) and is here in Haiku. True to its name and to the old version, this generates a Mandlebrot using a given palette of colors, which can be zoomed in on and rendered as one goes deeper into it.
The three menus this demo includes are fairly simple; File, for example, just has a Quit option.
Palettes allows choosing between Palette1, Palette2, Palette3, and Palette4.
And lastly, Iterations allows picking between 128, 256 (currently selected), 384, 512, 768, 1024, 2048, 4096, and 8192 iterations for the Mandlebrot.
Shown below is the first palette, which is a cool glowing white on black.
The second palette is very similar to the first, except that it shows glowing shades of green.
The third palette is the default, and shows the main rendering with a black center and red and purple around the outside. The background around it is blue, with a darker blue in between, and blue again outside.
Finally, the fourth palette is somewhat similar to the last one in blue. This one also has a black center, but has green and orange around the edges, and a red background instead.
And that is a quick look at the Mandlebrot demo.
Demo 10 of 13: Pairs
Here, we have a new demo introduced with Haiku Alpha 1 called Pairs, and it is truly one of my personal favorites. It’s simply a memory game; click the question mark tiles (or cards) to reveal the icons underneath and see if they match. If they do, then they stay visible for the rest of the game; if not, then they will disappear. At the end of the game, pretty much all the items will appear, as shown below:
And this is what makes this game so fun — the icons. I can’t help but enjoy these every time I play this little game.
The About box appears at the end of the game and reads “Pairs / written by Ralf Schülke / Copyright 2008, Haiku Inc.” It also presents the score with: “You completed the game in 40 clicks.” While the goal is really to finish with as little clicks as you can… it really is all for fun, or at least that’s how I play this. From there, there’s buttons to “Quit game” or start a “New game”.
A new game (like when the demo is first opened) looks like this — a grid of 4×4 question mark tiles or cards:
Demo 11 of 13: Playground
Playground is a demo that is meant to show Haiku’s transparency and blending capabilities with shapes and objects (or at least, this is what I gather from seeing it). Like Pairs, it is new to Haiku (i.e. not in the classic BeOS). Its left side is Controls, with the right side being the canvas for where shapes are drawn. The label “Click and drag to draw an object” in red is permanent; when shapes are drawn, it remains.
Controls include a New Object and Clear button, a list pane (where shapes or ‘objects’ go as a list), radio buttons for choosing a Line, [Rectangle], Round [Rectangle], Ellipse, a Mode drop-down, a standard Haiku RGB slider set, an Alpha text field, Fill check box, and finally, a Width slider from 1 to 100.
As shown below, it is possible to draw objects (like this hollow, blue rounded rectangle). And… it’s actually not half bad. My only qualm with it is that short of taking a screenshot, there’s no user accessible way to save what’s been drawn here. So this really makes Playground very limited… and not exactly fun to use. Especially for anyone drawing in it for the first time and realizing this.
The File menu here is basically just a placeholder. There’s one empty submenu called Submenu, and a working Quit option… nothing else.
And that is basically Playground.
Demo 12 of 13: Pulse
Pulse goes back to the BeOS, and this nifty little utility has two purposes. The first is to be a usage meter for the processor (where dark green blocks are showing what’s being used, and the dark gray is not lit on the black LCD meter). The other is to toggle processors on and off to adjust performance. Since I only have a single processor core in use for this machine, this doesn’t appear and I only see one CPU chip.
Demo 13 of 13: Sudoku
This also is a new demo for Haiku that Alpha 1 ships with. It’s the standard game of sudoku, with nine squares inside nine areas on the grid, with 1–9 to choose from when one hovers over a square (as shown below).
In looking at its menus, File has New, Start Again, Open File, Generate, Copy, About Sudoku, and Quit. And in looking at the first submenu, Generate has Easy, Advanced, and Hard options for the Sudoku board.
The second submenu, Export As, has two export options: Text and HTML.
View really could also be labelled Mark, or Tips, or something similar as it simply includes two check options to “Mark Invalid Values” and “Mark Valid Hints.”
Help includes Undo and Redo (which makes sense in this scenario, since it applies to moves in the game), Snapshot Current, Restore Snapshot, Solve, and Solve Single Field.
Finally, the about box reads: “Sudoku / written by Axel Dörfler / Copyright 2007, Haiku Inc.” with the usual Ok button.
And that’s it for the demos in Haiku Alpha 1! Next up is the preferences set, so please join me again as I take a look at the full list of preferences or ‘preflets’ included in this release!
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!