Haiku Alpha 2: Stands on its own (Part 1 of 5: Startup and the Desktop)

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).

On the right side, we have “Haiku / Copyright © 2001–2020 The Haiku project. The copyright to the Haiku code is property of Haiku, Inc. or of the respective authors where expressly noted in the source. Haiku and the Haiku logo are trademarks of Haiku, Inc”, a hyperlink to the Haiku website, and a list of ‘Current maintainers’ and more beyond the first view.

Focus 2 of 4: The Deskbar

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)!

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Haiku adds activity report for April 2020

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! 🙂

Haiku Alpha 1: Rebirth of legend (Part 2 of 5: Applications)

Autumn has come and with it a successor springs

In the first part of looking at Haiku Alpha 1, the journey began with a look at the startup splash and main areas around the Desktop (Leaf menu, Deskbar, About box, and the Find box). Today, in Part 2, our tour into the fledgling Haiku alpha continues as we get into the application set…

Sector 4 of 9: Applications

So, to open applications, we can either click Applications from the Leaf menu which will open the window shown below (or we can just pick an application from the menu itself).

But I find a lot of the beauty of these icons are lost when viewed in a tiny list. So, let’s change the way we’re looking at the apps to Icon View, where there’s 28 applications (ActivityMonitor, BePDF, BeZillaBrowser, CDPlayer, CharacterMap, CodyCam, DeskCalc, DiskProbe, DiskUsage, DriveSetup, Expander, Icon-O-Matic, Installer, Magnify, Mail, MediaConverter, MediaPlayer, MidiPlayer, Pe, People, PoorMan, Screenshot, SoundRecorder, StyledEdit, TV, Terminal, Vision, (and) WonderBrush.)

And aside from the fact you’ll notice the icons look and feel much crisper and brighter, thanks to Alpha 1’s new vectorized icon format, some extras, (and a few newcomers to the standard app set like CharacterMap and Screenshot), you’ll also notice several cool differences from Be, such as the yellow bot carrying the world like Atlas for PoorMan, a box of movie popcorn for MediaPlayer, and several other differences from R5 that help give Haiku its own identity.

App 1 of 28: ActivityMonitor

The first application on our list is a utility that’s new to Haiku Alpha 1 (from a BeOS perspective). It’s a simple usage meter for memory and CPU use on the system, featuring two menus (File and Settings) and several ‘monitors’ or graphs for measuring different areas of the system. The first measures Used Memory (80.8 MB) in red and Cached Memory (46.9 MB), while the second measures CPU Usage (29.2 percent).

And if you’ve noticed the little hand and box icon and presume that means a replicant is available for this utility, you’d be right! As illustrated below, I can drag a monitor out (in this case CPU Usage) and it will become its own monitor with its own values. A contextual click reveals a short menu with About ActivityMonitor and Remove Replicant.

The Settings menu just includes ‘Settings…’ and the settings box itself is essentially a floating slider for “Update time interval”. The current setting is for 100 msecs (milliseconds), with a minimum of 25 milliseconds and 2 secs (seconds) listed at the edges under the slider.

Now, under File, we can Add View, and that means summon more monitors or graphs in view. The next appears to be a network meter, which shows 0.0 kilobits a second (KB/s) have been received or sent for Receiving and Sending. This meter has its own color, with shades of brown and yellow for the two values. And if we were to do a contextual click on a monitor, we’d have options to choose different values, Hide Legend, or Remove View.

The next item is “About ActivityMonitor” which reveals this utility was “Written by Alex Dorfler” and has a copyright of 2008 for Haiku Inc.

And lastly, as shown below, we can click Quit from the File menu to quit.

App 2 of 28: BePDF

Okay, next up we have BePDF, which calls itself “The PDF Reader for BeOS, Haiku, and Zeta”, as displayed in black text in a creamy yellow box with red and blue border lines on its white start page. Notice that throughout the app (here, its About box, etc.) Be appears with a classic B in blue and e in red.

And… we have File, Edit, Search, Page, Bookmark, View, and Help for menus, and a toolbar below it. Elements on it include icon buttons for open, reload, print, display bookmarks, show page list, show annotation tool bar, show attachments, fullscreen mode, and navigation buttons. These allow going to the beginning of the file, 10 pages back, or 1 back, then 1 forward, 10 forward, and the end of the file. There’s also a page number field and page total here as well. Finally, the last buttons fit to page or page width, rotate clockwise or “anti-clockwise” as the app calls it, zoom in and out, find, and find next.

The About box shows this is BePDF Version 1.1.1 Beta 2, with copyrights to Benoit Triquet in 1997, Hubert Figuiere in 1999–2000, and Michael Pfeiffer from 2000–2009. As we read on, we see the “localization to English” was by Michael Pfeiffer and that “BePDF is based on xpdf 3.02 / Copyright 1996–2007 Glyph [and] Cog LLC”. Finally there’s the standard 3 paragraph GPL2 license text which reveals this is licensed with and meets the requirements of the Gnu General Public License.

To save a lot of time, I won’t go through the preferences, menus and actions in this version of the Alpha 1 review, as there’s 25 applications yet to cover. But I can just give a peek at the Preferences box.

On the left side, there’s a pane with Document, Display (which is collapsible, with FreeType 2 and Asian Fonts under it), and Language. Under Document (the presently selected option on the left), there’s options in the right pane to “Go to that page number when the file was closed”, “Restore window position and size”, an “Open in Workspace” pop-up menu with current as the default, and an Author text field for setting the author.

App 3 of 28: BeZilla Browser (Bon Echo/Firefox 2 port)

Now we get to one of the more interesting parts of Haiku Alpha 1, and that is Firefox! If you read the BeOS Retro Reviews, you may remember there was a port of Mozilla to the BeOS, and this is basically the next step up to that as an unofficial port (hence why there’s no official branding here). This is “Bon Echo” (the codename for the Firefox 2 beta), which shows that once upon a time, a current Firefox browser did run on Haiku… and no (well known) ports have been made since for various reasons in the years since.

Bon Echo features the standard Firefox 2 user interface, as one would expect. Its menu bar includes File, Edit, View, History, Bookmarks, Tools, and Help. The ‘navigation toolbar’ below it includes back, forward, reload, stop, home, an address (URL) bar with an in-line go button, and a search bar (which defaults to Google). Above it is a throbber that shows fading dots in a wheel (similar to the Mac’s gear animation) when the network is in use.

We’re brought to the Haiku User Guide ‘welcome’ page by default with “Welcome to Haiku!”, and “Beware of Bugs” in the first pageful. There’s links to the Haiku Bug Tracker and “Tips for a helpful bug report”, as well as ample warnings to the user that we are indeed running an alpha version, the “first public release” with the “hope to attract new developers to our project and give future users a chance to check out Haiku.” You’ll also notice links to the Haiku WebSite and Nightly Builds are in the bookmarks bar as well.

And as for Bon Echo itself, as you can see, the old school Firefox globe logo has no fox on it — again, this is because this is an unofficial build that doesn’t have the Mozilla branding or ‘Firefox’ brand. It’s “version 2.0.0.22pre” with the copyright to Contributors stopping at 2008.

The Downloads window is simple. There’s a list pane for keeping track of downloaded files that includes the file name, icons, and progress bars for files when it’s at work. At the bottom, there’s “All files will be downloaded to Desktop” and a Clean Up button which cleans up the downloads window.

And of course, this wouldn’t be a classic Firefox build without Add-ons. There’s two categories in the top: Extensions (with a green puzzle piece) and Themes (with an art palette and brush). In Extensions, we have the DOM Inspector 1.8.1.22pre which “Inspects the structure and properties of a window and its contents” with Preferences, Disable, and Uninstall buttons. Below the main pane of the window, there’s a button to Find Updates and a Get Extensions button.

On the other side (or as the other option) there’s themes. The only one included here is “Firefox (default) 2.0” with “The default theme” as the label below it. Buttons allow whether to Use Theme or Uninstall. This (and what would be a list of themes) are on the left side of the window. On the right is a theme preview. Here, we see “Firefox the browser, reloaded” and a preview of the back, forward, stop, reload, and home buttons. On the bottom, we again have a “Find Updates” button and Get Themes link.

There’s a window to clear private data. Here we have check boxes to “clear the following items now” such as browsing history, download history, saved form and search history, cache, cookies, saved passwords, and authenticated sessions. At the bottom of the box are two buttons to Clear Private Data Now or Cancel.

The Bookmarks Manager is definitely different than the one today. It has four menus (File, Edit, View, Help) and a toolbar with New Bookmark, New Folder, New Separator, Move, Properties, Rename, and Delete. Under these is a Search field, and under that is a bookmark folder tree on the left and column list on the right with Name, Location, and Description. Here, we have links to Get Bookmark Add-Ons, the Haiku WebSite, Imported NetPositive bookmarks, and folders that include the Bookmarks Toolbar Folder, Haiku Bookmarks, and Software for Haiku.

Bon Echo also has sidebars here, and in this case what I have open is History. It includes a tree list of ‘folders’ by time, a search bar, and a View drop-down menu where we can sort items by Date and Site, Site, Date, Most Visited, and Last Visited. Oh, and the close button here becomes yellow when hovered over with the mouse, (but it’s on the wrong side of the bar).

In quickly going through the menus, File has New Window, New Tab, Open Location, Open File, Close, Save Page As, Send Link, Page Setup, Print Preview, Print, Import, Work Offline, and Quit.

Edit includes Undo, Redo, Cut, Copy, Paste, Delete, Select All, Find in This Page, and Find Again.

View includes a Toolbars submenu, Status Bar check option, Sidebar submenu, Stop, Reload, Text Size submenu, Page Style submenu, Character Encoding submenu, and lastly, Page Source and Full Screen. Toolbars include a Navigation and Bookmarks toolbar with an option to Customize. And… as for the remaining menus (History, Bookmarks, Tools, Help), these are pretty much the usual Firefox menus as well, so to save both time and article space I’ll skip over covering these today…

The Customize box is similar to the one in the Finder in Mac OS X. Items (which can be dragged into the bar to add them) that are visible here in a grid include Separator, Flexible Space, Space, Print, Downloads, History, Bookmarks, New Tab, New Window, Cut, Copy, and Paste. We can (via a drop-down list) view as icons, text, etc. and have a check box to “Use Small Icons” next to Add New Toolbar and Restore Default Set buttons.

And in case anyone was wondering, the missing button in the first screenshot is Report Site.

And that is a quick look at “Bon Echo”, the Firefox port included in Haiku Alpha 1 as its default browser.

In subsequent builds, with the introduction of WebPositive (the successor to NetPositive) Haiku would finally gain a browser of its own like the BeOS had.

App 4 of 28: CDPlayer

Like the classic BeOS, Haiku Alpha 1 includes a simple CD Player application. At the top, we have a little pane with “CD drive is empty” with track and disc info. Below this top part of it are stop, play/pause, next, previous, rewind, and wind buttons on the first row — and a volume slider, repeat, shuffle, and eject on the bottom row.

It’s very simple, and has a different persona than the one we last saw in R5 and Dano. To start with, the layout and shape is different, and there’s no faux digital panels with green digits on black, no Compact Disc label, and no CD and track ‘trays’.

Shown below is the classic version from BeOS R5 for comparison with Haiku A1:

App 5 of 28: CharacterMap

And as for our next app, again, if you remember BeOS, you’ll definitely recall there was a button called Map in the Overlay tab inside Fonts preferences (which is shown below):

That lives on in Haiku in a different form: a standalone app or tool in the applications folder called CharacterMap. And unlike the character map in Dano that had glitches that could cause the window to become garbled, this one opens just fine.

It’s really simple. There’s a menubar (with File, View, Font) and two panes. The left side has a Filter text box and a Clear button, with a list of sets inside a scrolling list. To name just a few out of the list, these include Basic Latin, Spacing Modifier Letters, Greek and Coptic, Cyrillic, Armenian, Hebrew, and so on. On the right is a larger scrolling grid view, with available letters, symbols, etc. to copy for the selected layout. Here, we’re viewing Basic Latin.

The File menu just has About CharacterMap and Quit. And… if we do open the About box, we can see that like ActivityMonitor, CharacterMap was written by Alex Dorfler as well, and has a copyright of 2009 to Haiku Inc.

View has a check option to Show Private Blocks.

And finally, Font includes a list of submenus for the installed fonts. So here we have Bitstream Charter, DejaVu Sans, DejaVu Sans Mono, DejaVu Serif, Konatu, and KonatuTohaba. Inside a submenu, there’s styles for the font — so for DejaVu Sans, there’s Book, Bold, Condensed Bold, Bold Oblique, Condensed Bold Oblique, Extra Light, Condensed, Oblique, and Condensed Oblique.

App 6 of 28: CodyCam

Now, similar to its BeOS predecessors, we get a dialog on launch stating: “Can’t find a video source. You need a webcam to use CodyCam.”

The good news, however, is that we can still look around CodyCam. There’s a view screen that takes up the top half of the window (where the picture would be if it detected a camera; here, it’s blank), and two panes below it for “Capture controls” and “FTP”.

Capture controls contains a “File Name” text area (which defaults to codycam.jpg), and below it, “Format” and “Rate” pop-up menus. These default to ‘JPEG image’ and ‘every 5 minutes’.

In FTP, there’s a Type pop-up menu, where we can choose between FTP and SFTP, and type in the [FTP] Server address, Login, Password, and Directory into text fields below the Type menu. Below these is a check box for “Passive FTP” and centered below both is ‘Waiting…’

And as shown in the screenshot, we can choose BMP [bitmap], GIF, JPEG2000, JPEG, PNG, PPM, SGI, Targa, and TIFF image types from Format.

CodyCam’s sole menu, File, has Video Preferences (which don’t open for me), Start Video, Stop Video, About CodyCam, and Quit.

And since we do have an About box available to us here, it reads, “CodyCam / The Original BeOS WebCam”.

App 7 of 28: DeskCalc

Next is ‘DeskCalc’, which as it’s name implies is a desk calculator. It takes on a glossy gunmetal gray appearance with a white text field running along the top, and has the usual calculator number pad with . and backspace on the left, with the two rows on the right including parentheses, multiply, divide, add, subtract, equals, and clear. And… as illustrated below, it can replicate into a replicant as well.

The replicant’s context menu has two entries: About DeskCalc and Remove Replicant.

But — there’s also a second menu that comes up if we aim for the buttons instead. We still get About DeskCalc, but we now get two check options to “Enable Num Lock on start up” and “Show Keypad”.

The About box reads “DeskCalc v2.1.0 / written by Timothy Wayper, Stephan Aßmus and Ingo Weinhold / © 1997, 1998 R3 Software Ltd. / © 2006–2009 Haiku, Inc. / All Rights Reserved” and finally, a fun button that reads Cool!

Now, I feel a look at this app wouldn’t be complete without me mentioning DeskCalc definitely breaks with the old design and features a more ‘fat’ layout, with controls laid out on the right side of the ‘keypad’. But the overall thing to remember here is that all Haiku versions from Alpha 1 to the Beta have a calculator built in.

While BeOS did have a calculator (shown below from Dano), not all releases had one, and so DeskCalc definitely does unify the way forward.

App 8 of 28: DiskProbe

Next up, familiar to any Be user, is the DiskProbe utility, which greets us with a box when opened. It has an “Examine Device” pop-up menu that defaults to the startup disk, and “Cancel”, “Probe File”, and “Probe Device” buttons.

In the main window, there’s the menubar (with File, Edit, Block, View), the Device info section listing the disk (/dev/disk/ata/0/master/0), the Block (0x0 of 0xfff800; with an editable text field), Offset (0x0), and Device Offset (0x0). Below this is a slider, and from there, the majority of the utility is occupied by a hex viewer to probe the disk.

File contains New, Open Device, Open File, Save, Close, Page Setup, Print, About DiskProbe, and Quit. As shown below, Open Device fans out to show device paths for the startup disk and CD-ROM (/dev/disk/atapi/1/master/raw).

Edit is pretty standard with Undo, Redo, Copy, Paste, Select All, Find, and Find Again.

Block includes Next, Previous, Back, and submenus for Selection and Bookmarks. Bookmarks (or locations marked for later reference) can be added with ‘Add’ in its submenu.

View is comprised of three submenus: Base, Block Size, and Font Size. Base allows choosing between Decimal and Hex.

Block Size (listed as BlockSize) allows choosing between 512 (native), 1024, and 2048.

And finally, Font Size allows choosing 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 18, 24, 36, and 48 as font sizes. 12 appears to be the default, and there’s also an option to “Fit” to window as well.

Finally, the About box reads “DiskProbe / written by Axel Dörfler / Copyright 2004–2007, Haiku / original Be version by Robert Polic”. And like Robert Polic had worked on several applications, it’s definitely noteworthy to highlight Axel Dörfler with his contributions to Haiku as well!

App 9 of 28: DiskUsage

So here, we have DiskUsage, bundled with the Haiku operating system. There’s a Volume pop-up menu, and Rescan and ‘?’ [or help] buttons. The main part of the utility starts blank with “Select a volume to scan”.

If we select “Haiku” from Volume, it will then show “Scanning Haiku” with a helpful progress bar.

And when finished, we get a nice graphical representation of the “Haiku” disk, with the disk name and 8.00 GB (the size) listed in the center of the main gray circle. The outside flanks out of the center disk (or disc) like a slice of a pie chart would. The difference, however, is that it branches out into segments that can extend further than others, and these segments are made out of shades of teal, blue, red, and purple (which represent the different areas they correspond to). The idea is to show visually what is taking up the most space on the disk… and that is a look at DiskUsage.

App 10 of 28: DriveSetup

Back in the territory of classic BeOS, we have DriveSetup: the default disk utility for the Be desktop. Haiku changes several aspects from the classic version from the top downward and gives it a nice re-design.

First, Disk and Partition replace the five menu system from before, and squeezed in between the menus and columned list pane, there’s now a disk preview zone. When nothing is selected, this shows subtle light and dark gray stripes and “Select a partition from the list below.” The columns are similar to the original, but there’s a few changes, with Device, Filesystem, Volume Name, Mounted At, and Size columns here. Finally (and thankfully), unlike BeOS that just had expandable ‘blocks’ for disks, when disks are expanded out in the Haiku version, there’s proper entries for each volume, so it’s easy to deal with each one.

It’s a definite upgrade and one that I’m truly thankful is in Alpha 1. I’ll be looking at this ‘new’ utility in more detail when we get to the Installer article.

App 11 of 28: Expander

Up next, we have another familiar tool: Expander. When its side by side with R5, it is very close with its two menus (File and Edit), Source and Destination buttons and text areas, Expand button (all in the same vertical row), and the Show Contents check box. As shown below, I’ve filled in the source and destination with a sample ZIP file.

Of course, it’s also possible to open an archive by looking for it by using the usual Open box, where it’s possible to look for archive files within folders.

And just like the BeOS version, File includes About Expander, Set Source, Set Destination, Expand, Show Contents, Stop, and Close.

If we click About, Expander’s About box reads “Expander / written by Jérôme Duval / Copyright 2004–2006, Haiku Inc. / original Be version by / Dominic, Hiroshi, Peter, Pavel, and Robert”.

Below the about box, I’ve expanded the “Show Contents” pane, so readers can see what this looks like. Similar to in BeOS, there’s the Archive name, Length, Date, Time, and Name with a total (1 file) in monospace.

And lastly, the Expander Preferences box (which is opened via the sole Preferences link in the Edit menu) has “Automatically expand files” and “Close window when done expanding” check boxes under Expansion, “Leave destination folder path empty”, “Same directory as source (archive) file” and “Use” radio buttons under Destination Folder (with Select and a text field for the Use option), and finally, “Open destination folder after extraction” and “Automatically show contents listing” check boxes under Other above the Cancel and OK buttons.

App 12 of 28: Icon-O-Matic

Okay, so we’ve seen where Haiku can bring back classic apps and tools, which is an achievement of itself — but it’s always special when there’s something unique, especially when it brings a new approach.

Here we have an all-new utility unique to Haiku! Now, Be enthusiasts and fans will more than likely remind me that there was “IconWorld”, followed by “Icon-o-Matic” for designing bit mapped or raster icons in the classic BeOS. And that’s totally true.

However, the colossal difference here is that while this tool shares the name and goal of its predecessor, its insides are completely different and the Haiku iteration of Icon-O-Matic has been redesigned with the purpose of creating clearer and lighter vector icons in HVIF (Haiku’s Vector Icon Format). While I do wish Haiku used SVG, (as scalable vector graphics are for the most part an open and universal format), there are several really great reasons Haiku went with their own icon of choice — and I hope to cover why in a special feature later on.

For now, shown below is Icon-O-Matic. The left side has File, Edit, and Options menus above a preview pane that shows what the icon looks like on white and the standard Be/Haiku blue background in small and large sizes. The next pane down is Path (where paths are listed), Shape (where shapes are listed), Transformer (where transforms are listed), and Style (where styles are listed).

On the top, there’s Style, which is next to a pane for listing styles with Style Type and Gradient Type submenus. Below these two items is a gradient mixer (or just the active color) depending on the type of fill one chooses. And at last, on the very right is a color palette with 20 colors, a color slider, and a color well. And finally, away from the left and top edges is the main body where one designs the icon.

Now… Icon-O-Matic definitely has an odd interface to it that does have a “learning curve” in order to really understand it. Part of this (at least I believe) is that the menus are dispersed throughout the application in the various panes. For example, there’s Path, with Add, Add Rect (rectangle), Add Circle, Duplicate, Reverse, Clean Up, Rotate Indices Left, Rotate Indices Right, and Remove.

With Shape, there’s Add Empty, Add with Path, Add with Style, Add With Path [and] Style, Duplicate, Reset Transformation, Freeze Transformation, and Remove.

Then on top, next to the three menus of the ‘menu bar’ of Icon-O-Matic is Style. Here, there’s Add, Duplicate, Reset Transformation, and Remove.

File has New, Open, Append, Save, Save As, Export, Export As, and Quit options.

Edit just has undo and redo. I do like the ‘nothing to undo/redo’ remarks as a nice touch here, though.

And finally, Options has a ‘Snap to Grid’ submenu with Off, 64×64, 32×32, and 16×16 modes.

The “Save Image” box is the standard Haiku save box, and there’s two types. The first (Save) saves the icon; Export, however, allows saving it as other formats. This makes Icon-O-Matic a useful, built-in graphics tool, because we can export as SVG, as PNG images, and of course as attributes or native HVIF icons.

And for now, that’s where I’m going to leave this look at Icon-O-Matic. As I’d mentioned before, I do hope to write a special article in the future to both explain more about Haiku’s icons and write on what I believe makes Icon-O-Matic a truly unique approach in the world of iconography.

App 13 of 28: Installer

Next, we are brought to the Haiku Installer. Unlike the classic BeOS, this isn’t a license agreement to read through, but instead is a helpful quick reference shown to users before installing Haiku to disk. Tips include how to integrate Haiku into the GRand Unified Bootloader (Gnu Grub), and a cautionary note to partition Alpha 1 first before installing on real hardware.

The Installer layout itself is very BeOS like, as shown below. The Haiku logo (large black sans-serif letters with three shades of three leaves) appears with “alpha 1” stamped on it like a stencil or ink stamp on the top left corner. Directly across from it (on the right) is what I’d best call an info pane, which reads, “Choose the disk you want to install onto from the pop-up menu. Then click ‘Begin’.” There are some differences from R5, of course, but overall it remains faithful to the classic.

The second part has “Install from” and “Onto” pop-up menus in the same layout as BeOS. Showing ‘Optional Packages’ by clicking the triangle that opens the drawer reveals “No optional packages available” and under it “Additional space required: 0.0 KB”. This is obviously because there’s no extras to select. Finally, buttons on the bottom left include “Setup partitions…”, “Write Boot Sector”, and “Begin” on the right. And for now, this is where I’m going to leave things with the Installer.

Like with DriveSetup (the default disk utility), for a full look at installing Haiku Alpha 1, please see the Installation Extra after this article series is finished.

App 14 of 28: Magnify

Magnify has been around for a long time, and dates back to at least when we first saw it back in R3. In R4, it received a salvo of new features… and from there, pretty much remained itself up to Dano. In Haiku alpha 1, it’s pretty much the same tool and has the same features as before.

The top info section reads: “32 [by] 32 [at] 8 pixels [per] pixel” on the first row. And 51, 102, and 152 are listed as the R (Red), G (Green), and B (Blue) values, with 0xb4 as the color hex value in parentheses on the second row.

Of course, we can increase this a bit, so it’s 40 by 40 over the 32 (by 32) we started with.

Upon opening the tool’s sole menu via the little down arrow widget, entries include About Magnify, Help, Save Image, Copy Image, Hide/Show Info, Add a Crosshair, Remove a Crosshair, Hide/Show Grid, Freeze/Unfreeze image, Stick Coordinates, Make Square, Decrease Window Size, Increase Window Size, Decrease Pixel Size, and Increase Pixel Size.

And finally, when we open the About box, we see it reads “Magnify! / © 2002–2006 Haiku / © 1999 Be Inc. / Now with even more features and recompiled for Haiku.” And I have to say I really am into the ‘even more features’ bit as it’s definitely a fun ode to R4.

App 15 of 28: Mail

As for Mail, it is pretty simple. As the default mail client, it’s pretty much identical in appearance to when we last left BeMail back in BeOS, with a few subtle tweaks.

Mail has a menubar with File, Edit, Message, and Queries (instead of Enclosures in R5/Dano), and a toolbar below it that’s standard of most mail clients. But somehow the flat, 2000 esque style of the icons (New, Send, Signature, Save, Print, Trash, Inbox, and Mail) here and back in R5 seems to follow more of the average mail apps of the era rather than the isometric style. But of course, this is just me.

Below the toolbar is a To pop-up menu and text field, From and Encoding pop-up menus, a Subject text field, and text fields and pop-up menus for CC and BCC (carbon copy and blind carbon copy). And at last, we see the body of the letter.

Typing a subject causes it to appear in the title tab, just like when I’d tested this feature before in Dano, which is definitely a nice touch as always.

And in moving up to the menus, File includes New Mail Message, Open Draft, Save as Draft, Close, Page Setup, Print, About Mail, and Quit.

Edit has Undo, Redo, Cut, Copy, Paste, Select All, Find, Find Again, Quote, Remove Quote, Check Spelling, Preferences, and Accounts.

Underneath Message, there’s an option to Send Message, but there’s also Add Signature, Edit Signatures, Add Enclosure, and Remove Enclosure, so this menu is now the new home for these entries.

Finally, the new Queries menu just includes Edit Queries.

If we do choose “Edit Queries” a light bulb or tip dialog reads: “Put your favorite e-mail queries and query templates in this folder.” Behind it, an empty queries folder is available that we can customize.

And finally, Mail Preferences is divided into two parts in one view.

The first is User Interface with pop-up menus for “Button Bar”, “Font”, “Size”, “Colored Quotes”, “Initial Spell Check Mode”, and “Automatically mark mail as read”. The second is Mailing with more pop-up menus for “Default Account”, “Reply Account”, “Reply Preamble” (with a text box), “Auto Signature”, “Encoding”, “Warm Unencodable”, “Text Wrapping”, and “Attach Attributes”.

And before moving on, I might quickly add I find the Find box here kind of, well, cute…

App 16 of 28: MediaConverter

Of course, Haiku wouldn’t be worth taking the title of being “The Media OS” from Be without focusing on media. And so, in keeping to its mission, Haiku includes MediaConverter.

On its left side is a “Source files” list pane and File menu, and on the right is “File details” and “Output format”. And under the latter pane, there’s pop up menus for “File format”, “Audio encoding”, and “Video encoding”, a button for Output Folder (with a label revealing it defaults to /boot/home, “Start mSec” and “End mSec” text fields, and at last, Low to High horizontal sliders for “Video quality” and “Audio quality”, both set to 75%. Finally, along the bottom, a label reads “Drop media files onto this window” and there’s buttons to Preview and Convert.

The About box reads “MediaConverter / 1.3.0 / © 1999, Be Incorporated / © 2000–2004 Jun Suzuki / © 2007 Stephan Aßmus”

And finally, the lone File menu just has Open, About, and Quit.

App 17 of 28: MediaPlayer

Back in the world of reviving old BeOS applications, we have MediaPlayer! Here, Alpha 1 successfully offers a simple MediaPlayer with the standard set of menus, the drop zone (a subtle zebra path on dark gray with “Drop files to play”), media controls, and a volume meter like we’d see in the classic BeOS (after the early versions with PlaySound).

When we open the About box, it reads: “MediaPlayer / Written by Marcus Overhagen, Stephan Aßmus and Frederik Modéen” and in the same feel as BeOS, there’s a “Thanks” button here.

Let’s test a media file with it from Wikipedia (“The Girl with the Flaxen Hair” in English or in its original form “La fille aux cheveux de lin” written by Debussy and performed by Mike Ambrose)… and well… I guess this test file I converted to MP3 won’t play. Apparently, the MP3 format isn’t supported in Alpha 1.

But since the original is an Ogg Vorbis sound file, we can play it quite easily.

And since we’re now playing a file, let’s compare this to R5. At the very top the Haiku version has MediaPlayer, Audio, Video, and Settings for its menus, where R5 has File, View, Settings. The classic BeOS offered a mini mode (with a little switch) and rounded crop handles on the green ‘radio’ media bar, which aren’t available here. However, the app does remain faithful to its predecessor, and the color palette and media controls (previous, stop, play or pause, next, and the volume meter) remain the same.

Curiously, even though MP3 media isn’t supported, a MP4 film is. Here, I’m playing the first “Caminandes” animated film nicely.

But before I get to the video options, here’s what the Playlist window looks like. It’s basically a blank list where one can add media to play, similar to something like VLC. Edit has standard undo and redo options, “Randomize”, “Remove”, “Remove and Put into Trash”, and “Remove All”.

And as for the Playlist menu itself, it has Open, Save As, and Close entries.

Earlier, I opened the About box; this can be done from the Media Player menu. There’s also entries to open a New Player, Open File, File Info, Playlist, Close, and Quit.

And if we do open file info (for example, for our earlier audio file), we can see a video casette icon and the filename in a larger font at the top, and below this, information for Audio (the decoder type (vorbis), library used (libvorbis), and info like “32 Bit Mono, 11.02 kHz”), Duration (2:26 min), Display Mode (DrawBitmap), Container (Ogg bitstream), the Location (the file path on the system), and the Copyright (shown here as “ogg reader, © by Andrew Bachmann”.) This is split into two columns, where Audio, Duration, etc. is in blue on pale green on the left, and the info itself is in black on white on the right.

The next menu over is Audio with a Track submenu (which shows Track 1).

And really, to cover the Video menu, that brings us back to the video! Like with the audio, we can choose tracks from Track, make the video Full Screen, change to 50, 100, 200, 300, and 400 percent scale in a way that’s reminiscient of QuickTime, and also change the Aspect Ratio. At the top of this submenu are check options for Stream Settings and No Aspect Correction, with 4:3, 16:9, 1.66:1, 1.75:1, 1.85:1 (American), and 2.35:1 (Cinemascope) aspect options below these.

And finally, on the right, we can select “No Interface”, “Always on Top”, and “Settings” from the Settings menu.

If we do opt to enter ‘no interface’ we get a feature that (to me) reminds me of QuickTime X on the Mac, in that this hides all controls and window chrome… and we’re left with a floating card of a playing video. Nice — and what’s nicer is I do believe this is new to Haiku.

Finally, here’s MediaPlayer Settings with three panes in the same view:

  • ‘Play mode’ shows check boxes for “Automatically start playing”, “Close window when done playing movies”, “Close window when done playing sounds”, “Loop movies by default”, and “Loop sounds by default”.
  • ‘View options’ shows check boxes for “Use hardware video overlays if available” and “Scale movies smoothly (non-overlay mode)”
  • And finally, “Play background clips at” has radio buttons for “Full volume”, “Low volume”, and “Muted”. Below this are Revert, Cancel, and OK buttons.

App 18 of 28: MidiPlayer

Per its name and purpose like in the classic BeOS, MidiPlayer allows one to play MIDI files.

The black monitor at the top reads “Drop MIDI file here” in white text. Under this is the rest of the window.

This starts with a “Scope” check box, Reverb pop-up menu (set to Igor’s Lab by default, but we can also pick None, Closet, Garage, Cavern, and Dungeon), and another pop-up menu for Live Input (Off). And finally, toward the bottom, there’s a horizontal slider for Volume with lavendar blue in the bar indicating the amount of volume, and a Play button centered on the bottom.

If we do drop in a MIDI file, the monitor at the top loses the label… and at least in this case, the monitor goes black. I think it’s supposed to have a sound wave here usually.

App 19 of 28: Pe

Like the “BeZillaBrowser” or the Bon Echo/Firefox port, Pe is bundled with Haiku Alpha 1 and it is meant to be a standard text editor for programming on the Haiku operating system.

It’s a big program, so I won’t get to it all, but I can give an overview of what it’s like. At the top, there’s File, Edit, Text, Search, Extensions, Window, and Help menus, and a toolbar with icon buttons for New Document, Open Document, Save Document, Execute Command, Function and Header pop-up menus, Find, Incremental Search, Read Only, File Options, and Soft Wrap. Under this is the main body of the window where the source code or text would appear.

File has New, New Group, Open, Open from Server, Open Selection, Open Recent, Close, Save, Save As, Save on Server, Save a Copy As, Save All, Revert, Page Setup, Print, and Quit.

Edit includes Undo (in this case, typing), Redo, Cut, Copy, Paste, Clear, Select All, Select Line, and Select Paragraph.

The Text menu includes Balance, Twiddle, Change Case (with Upper Case, Lower Case, Capitalize Words, Capitalize Lines, and Capitalize Sentences inside), Shift Left, Shift Right, Comment, Uncomment, Justify, Insert Line breaks, Remove Line breaks, and Show in Browser.

Next over, the Search menu has Find, Find Again, Find Selection, Enter Search String, Replace, Replace [and] Find, Replace All, Find in Next File, Incremental Search, Jump to Next Error, Go To Line, Find Function, Previous Function, Next Function, and Find Differences.

Extensions include BeBookFetch, BeHappy, Copy Lines Containing, Cut Lines Containing, drieuxCaps, Expand Tabs, HeaderGuard, HeaderHeader, HTMLAnchor, HTMLImage, HTMLUpdate, Pipe, PrefixLines, Replace As Tabs, ROT13, and WebPaste.

Window has File Options, Preferences, Working Directory, Glossary, HTML Palette, Stack, Tile, Zoom, Worksheet, and a list of open project windows (in this case, Untitled).

And I think we can skip over the Help menu here, as it’s well… help.

I’m mainly doing this to save article space (in unabridged versions of these reviews I have planned for the future, I plan to show more stuff, but for now, this is where I’m mostly going to quit).

Here’s a few odds and ends of Pe, however. The Find box includes a Find pop-up menu and text boxes for Find and Replace, check boxes for Ignore Case, Backwards, Regex [regular expression], Wrap Around, Entire Word, Batch, Multi-File (with a Directory Scan pop-up menu), Recursive, and Text Files Only. Next to the last two are Search In and File Name pop-up menus and a text field. And finally, up on the top right are Find, Replace, Replace [and] Find, and Replace All buttons.

Another little box is Go To Line with a Line text field and Cancel and Ok buttons.

Finally, I’ll pick File Options as the last item to look at and from there, move on. In the first pane (Editor), Pe’s Editor Options include check boxes for Show Tabstops, Syntax Colouring, Show Invisibles, and a Show Invisibles check box. Below this group is a Font pop-up menu (set to DejaVu Sans Mono), a Size text field, and Input Encoding, Output Encoding, Linebreaks, and Language pop-up menus.

Statistics are exactly that, showing “Statistical and State Information” with “Name”, “Last saved”, “Mimetype”, “Size”, and “Lines” info.

And finally, Wrapping has “Options for Soft Wrapping” with a check box to “Soft Wrap Files”. A trio of radio options (Window Width, Paper Width, Fixed Column) then follows “And when wrapping use these settings:” with a text field available for Fixed Column (set to 80).

And… okay, one more. I really love the HTML palette shown here as it reminds me of GNUstep (and NeXTstep). Here, we have New, Font, Structure, Heading, Quotation, Lists, Image, Anchor, Update, Paragraph, Linebreak, and Preview. Seriously — I wish an option like this was available to all applications system wide… but that’s just me.

App 20 of 28: People

Okay — so back in the core application set and the land of reliving the past, Haiku has a People application like BeOS.

In starting with menus first, File contains New Person, Close, Save, Save As, Revert, and Quit.

And Edit has Undo, Cut, Copy, Paste, and Select All.

With that said, this is the main window for People. Just like one would remember from the old BeOS, it’s basically an editable card for a new ‘person’ or contact on the system with a series of text fields. These include Name, Nickname, Company, Address, City, State, Zip, Country, Home Phone, Work Phone, Fax, E-mail, URL, and Group (with an accompanying pop up menu).

If we choose to save a contact to disk, we get to one of the areas that make both the classic BeOS and the Haiku operating system unique — it doesn’t just save it as a normal contact file, but as metadata. And I’d definitely suggest to read my article of what makes BeOS and Haiku unique, as well as talks and documentation others have presented on this topic. It is truly fascinating.

App 21 of 28: PoorMan

Again, like the classic BeOS, Haiku Alpha 1 includes PoorMan. Upon launch, we get an info dialog with Cancel, Select, and Default buttons, which reads: “You have not yet selected the folder you want PoorMan to publish on the Web. PoorMan can create a ‘public_html’ folder in your home folder or you can select one of your own folders to publish. / Do you wish to select a folder to publish on the Web?”

After choosing the default, another info box reads, “A default Web folder has been created for you at ‘/boot/home/public_html’. Make sure an HTML document named ‘index.html’ is in that folder.”

PoorMan itself appears as shown below as a recreation of the classic BeOS version. There’s File, Edit, and Controls menus, a Status area with “Status: Running”, “Directory: /boot/home/public_html”, with “Hits: 0”, and a log area that takes up the bottom remainder of the window. The single entry so far shows “Starting up… done” with a date stamp.

Clicking About opens the about box, which reads: “Poor Man’s Web Server / Copyright © 2004–2009 Haiku / All rights reserved / Written by: Philip Harrison, Ma Jie” with an OK button.

In moving up to the main window’s menus, the File menu includes entries for: Save Console As, Save Console Selections As, About PoorMan, and Quit.

Edit is really simple, with Copy, Select All, and Settings.

And as the third and last menu, Controls has a check option to Run Server, and entries to Clear Hit Counter, Clear Console Log, and Clear Log File.

If we open PoorMan Settings (from the Edit menu), we get a box with three tabbed panes (Site, Logging, Advanced). Site includes a Web Site Location section with Web Folder and Start Page text fields at the top, and a “Send file listing if there’s no start page” check box option under Web Site Options at the bottom.

Logging includes “Log to Console” under Console Logging, and “Log to File” with a “Log File Name” text field and “Create Log File” text field under File Logging.

And lastly on our tour of this application, the Advanced tab has a sole Connections Options section with a slider for “Max. Simultaneous Connections” between 1 and 200. On the top right of the slider is the current value, “32 connections”.

Overall, it’s a continuation of the BeOS version that remains faithful to it… and I do find it incredible just how many of these apps manage to do it.

App 22 of 28: Screenshot

Next up on the application tour, we have a built-in tool that I am pretty sure is new in Haiku (as I didn’t see it in R5 or Dano)… and this is Screenshot.

The layout is nicely simple, with a nifty preview on the left, a Name text field (which set itself to screenshot1.png), “Save as” and “Save in” pop-up menus, and finally, Options, Cancel, and Save buttons.

As for what’s inside the pop-up menus, in “Save as”, we can save as a bitmap (BMP), GIF, JPEG, JPEG2000, PNG, PPM, SGI, Targa, or TIFF image — and in the “Save in” menu, we can save to Desktop, Home folder, Artwork folder, or we can also opt to ‘Choose folder’ as well.

If we click Options and look around it, here, we have radio buttons to “Capture entire screen” or “Capture active window” and a check box to “Include window border” in the first group toward the top. Below these is a check box to “Include mouse pointer” and a text field (set to 0) with a label to “Take screenshot after a delay of seconds”.

And that is a look at the Screenshot app.

App 23 of 28: SoundRecorder

Next is a simple one… that as far as I know, is probably not going to record anything inside my VM. Like in BeOS, there’s an audio scope that takes up a little more than the top half, a pale green progress and seek bar with the red seek ribbon and edge tabs, and rewind, stop, play/pause, wind, and save buttons. There’s also the familiar volume slider and mini mode switch.

Like in BeOS, if I do flip the switch, the app expands to show File Info with File Name, Format, Compression, Channels, Sample Size, Sample Rate, and Duration. There’s also a drop zone (Drop Files Here) on the left, and an Input pop-up menu.

App 24 of 28: StyledEdit

And now… we come to one of my personal favorites — the default text editor on BeOS and now, Haiku. StyledEdit is so simple that it just has this almost tangible, minimalistic aura to it. It’s UI is just its menus (File, Edit, Font, Document) and a page.

And yet… all this simplicity really belies that StyledEdit (per its name) is fully capable of basic document formatting, as shown below, where I’ve added bold and italic text, different sized fonts, and some blue and red text as an ode to Be:

In going through StyledEdit’s menus, File includes New, Open, Save, Save As, Revert to Saved, Close, Page Setup, Print, and Quit, just like the BeOS.

Next over is Edit, which has entries to Undo Typing, Cut, Copy, Paste, Clear, Select All, Find, Find Again, Find Selection, Replace, and Replace Same. Like File, it also remains true to the classic BeOS.

Font also is pretty much the same. There’s a submenu for Size (with points 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 18, 24, 36, 48, and 72)…

… and for Color, StyledEdit includes Black, Red, Green, Blue, Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow, which is identical to Dano.

The list of fonts included in Alpha 1 are Bitstream Charter, DejaVu Sans, DejaVu Sans Mono, DejaVu Serif, Konatu, and KonatuTohaba. And as illustrated below, each font entry expands into a submenu to choose Regular, Bold, Bold Italic, or Italic text.

As the fourth and final menu, Document has an Align submenu with Left, Center, and Right, and below it is a Wrap Lines check option.

The standard “Find and replace” box has text fields for “Find” and “Replace with”, and under these, check boxes for “Case-sensitive”, “Wrap-around search”, “Search backwards”, and “Replace in all windows”. At the very bottom are Replace All, Cancel, and Replace.

And before I leave StyledEdit, I would like to take a look at the Save box. I usually do whenever I’m in this app, and do so as it’s a standard part of the UI. On top are menus and a location drop-down (home by default), with a columned list pane of folders with Name, Size, and Modified sandwiched in between these and a text field, Cancel, and Save at the bottom.

In going through the menus in the Save box, File has New Folder, Get Info, Edit Name, Move to Trash, Cut, Copy, and Paste.

Favorites includes Add Current Folder and Configure Favorites.

And finally, Encodings includes a list of text encoding options to choose from. To save time, I won’t include all the codes in the parentheses here, but there’s Unicode (UTF-8), ISO 8859 (1–10) entries for West, East, South, and North European, Cyrillic, Arabic, Greek, Hebrew, Turkish, and Nordic, then Macintosh Roman, Japanese Shift JIS, EUC, and JIS, Windows Latin, Unicode (UCS-2), KOI8-R and Windows Cyrillic, DOS Cyrillic and Latin-US, EUC Korean, yet more ISO entries for Baltic, Celtic, and Latin, and finally, Chinese Big5 and GB18030… and Unicode (UTF-16). So, as you can see, Haiku includes quite the list of text encodings to pick from by default.

And just in case anyone was wondering, the default save locations include Desktop, Haiku, and Home. Similar to the Mac, there’s an Alt+D and Alt+H option for Desktop and Home — which mirrors the Cmd+D and Cmd+Shift+H shortcuts in Mac OS 10.x.

App 25 of 28: Terminal

And of course, “Welcome to the Haiku shell”. This is the Terminal in Haiku. It’s pretty much identical to its classic counterpart, complete with the classic black text on a white background and the trio of Terminal, Edit, and Settings menus.

The About box reads “Terminal / written by Kazuho Okui and Takashi Marai / updated by Kian Duffy and others / Copyright © 2003–2008, Haiku” with an ‘Ok’ button.

The first menu, Terminal, includes an option to Switch Terminals, as well as entries for New Terminal, New Tab, Page Setup, Print, About Terminal, and Quit. And this is where things begin to get a bit different. From Dano at least, you’ll notice there’s no Log to File here, and the New Tab, Page Setup, Print, and the about and quit entries are all new to Haiku.

Edit includes Copy, Paste, Select All, Clear All, Find, Find Previous (instead of Find Backward), and Find Next. Write Selection isn’t in here.

And lastly, in Settings, we can set the Window Size to 80 by 25, 80 by 40, 132 by 25, and 132 by 40, or Fullscreen. We can set the Encoding to UTF-8, ISO-8839 (1–10), MacRoman, JIS, Shift-JIS, EUC-jp, EUC-kr, GB18030, and Big5. And under Text Size, we can Increase and Decrease it with Alt plus and minus keyboard shortcuts.

Terminal Preferences in Haiku Alpha 1 are kept very simple and consolidate the Color and Font settings that lived in the Settings menu and pop-up windows in Dano.

At the top, there’s pop-up menus to change Font, Color, and Size, and below this is the Haiku color mixer. Like BeOS, there’s sliders for Red, Green, and Blue with accompanying text fields for each, but Haiku also adds a thoughtful black and white slider on top of the usual RGB set from BeOS for choosing grayscale tones. Below this are Save to File, Cancel, and OK buttons.

And in exploring what’s in the pop-up menus, Size offers 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 16, and 18 font points.

Font merely offers DejaVu Sans Mono with no other options in the release.

And Color allows us to individually change colors for Text, Background, Cursor Text, Cursor Background, Selected Text, and Selected Background by first choosing an entry and then by adjusting the sliders on the bottom to mix a color.

So… while Terminal in Alpha 1 doesn’t have any themes yet, we can manually give it a nice dark mode by tweaking the colors:

And that is a quick look at Terminal. I’ll be looking at it in a bit more detail when we get to the “odds and ends” part of this review, but for now, that’s a quick overview of what the app looks and feels like.

App 26 of 28: TV

So… this is definitely different! Here, we get a TV app that opens for us regardless of whether we have TV hardware (in contrast to the classic BeOS releases), and I do appreciate this as it allows us to take a look at what this app looks like. For menus, we have TV, Channel, Interface, Settings, and Debug, and these sit above the main body (which is a TV screen showing bands of white, yellow, cyan, green, magenta, red, blue, black, and below that grayscale gradients).

There’s not much to do here, since there’s no TV hardware, but the About box reads: “TV / DVB — Digital Video Broadcasting TV / Copyright © Marcus Overhagen 2005–2007 / Version 1.1 / Revision unknown / Build Sep 12 2009 17:55:42” with a Thanks button.

And in going across the menubar, TV has two entries: About TV and Quit.

Channel just has None (which makes sense as we’re not connected to anything).

Interface is also None.

Settings includes options for: “Scale to native size”, “Full Screen”, “No Menu”, “No Border”, “Always on Top”, “Keep Aspect Ratio”, and a grayed out entry for Preferences.

And finally, under Debug, it’s possible to set different “pixel aspect ratio(s)” of 1.00000:1, 1.06666:1, 1.09091:1, 1.41176:1, and “force” 720×576, 704×576, and 544×576, all with a “display aspect [of] 4:3”.

And that’s a limited overview of TV.

App 27 of 28: Vision

Vision is an included Internet relay chat (IRC) client for the Haiku operating system. Here, we can see the Setup Window with the Vision logo, Network pop-up menu (which reads “Choose Network”) and Connect, Network Setup, and Preferences buttons.

There’s not much to do here but chat if we did connect… so I think I will simply open Network Setup and leave things at that. On the left of it is a Defaults pop-up menu, a Network Details section with “Will connect to [not applicable]”, a “Change servers…” button, an Autoexec list pane, and check boxes for “Enable lag checking” and “Connect to this network when Vision starts up”.

On the right side is a Personal Details section. Here, there is a “Use Defaults” check box, a list pane with Preferred Nicks, yellow vertical arrow buttons, Add and Remove buttons, and text fields for “Real name” and Ident [or identity]. The first field has “Heisenburg may have slept here” and the identity is vision. And that is a brief look at the Vision app.

App 28 of 28: WonderBrush

Last (but not least) in the list of Alpha 1 applications, we have WonderBrush.

In brief, we have File and Edit menus, then a set of controls and toolbars. Under the menus, there’s icons for new canvas, open file, export canvas, save canvas, close canvas, and beyond this are sliders with check boxes for Opacity, Radius, Hardness, and Spacing. Then we have Solid, Tilt, and Subpixels check boxes and icons for Undo, Redo, Confirm, Cancel, and the Swatches palette. Like Icon-o-Matic this has the current color and a set of 20 shades, a color saturation well, and a color slider.

The toolbar under the four main sliders has pick objects, clipboard, crop, transform, edit gradient, brush, pen, eraser, eraser pen, clone, blur, fill, text, shape, ellipse, (round) rectangle, dropper, and guides icon controls.

But let’s actually do something with it! WonderBrush is really easy to use, and so we can create a few layers, draw some stuff out, and voila! We have a quick postcard of “it’s the OS!” as a reference to the Cotton Squares song of the same name.

WonderBrush to me is really cool, not just because it’s a great graphics tool for the Be desktop, but because it still includes the fun About boxes that have mostly went out of style on graphical desktop operating systems after the BeOS. Here, we can see it’s “2.1.2 Haiku by Stephan Aßmus (a.k.a. stippi) / Colorpicker based on Colors! by Werner Freytag / Text Tool uses libfreetype2 by the FreeType Team / Anti-Grain Geometry — Version 2.3 / Copyright © 2002–2005 Maxim Shemanarev (McSeem) / De-Noise filter uses Clmg.h by David Tschumperlé / see < http://cimg.sourceforge.net > / Registered to: Enjoy WonderBrush on Haiku! / © 2003–2008 YellowBites, All Rights Reserved.”

And… in quickly going over the menus, File has Open, Export, Export As, Save, Save As, Page Setup, Print, About, and Quit.

And Edit has Undo, Redo, Paste, and a Settings submenu (with Fullscreen, Show Pixel Grid, Tool Tips, and Program Settings).

Program Settings is divided into two sections (in the same view): Startup Action and Interface. In the first, we can pick the On Startup action in a pop-up menu (Do Nothing, Display Open Panel, Display New Panel, Create New Canvas of Size). If the ‘create’ option is on, there’s Width and Height text boxes with a lock (to lock the width and height to each other). And in Interface, there’s a “Live Updates in Navigator and Layer Icons” check box and Language pop-up menu (listed as English, Castellano, Deutsch, Français, Italiano, Nederlands, Norsk, Polski, Russian, Slovenščina, Suomi, Türkçe, and one at the end that appears as three blocks).

And of course, if we don’t click Save and try to quit, we get a save dialog.

But… if I wanted to save this as something other than a WonderBrush project, I could go to ‘export canvas’ BMP, GIF, JPEG2000, JPEG, PNG, PPM, SGI, Targa, TIFF, Cursor Source Code, Bitmap Source Code, RDef, SVG, and Adobe Illustrator.

And that is a look at the applications set in Haiku Alpha 1! Please continue to join me for the remaining parts of this review where I will be looking at the demos, preferences set, and a few system folders and ‘odds and ends’ in the final part of this review.

Hope you enjoyed this article! 🙂

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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 first look

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! 🙂

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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

Haiku at FOSDEM 2020

Haiku was at FOSDEM (Free/Open Source Software Developers’ European Meeting) 2020, where Francois Revol presented “What’s up on Haiku?” For more info and links to the video and slides, please see the link at: https://fosdem.org/2020/schedule/event/wuoh/

There’s also several fun blog posts of Haiku at FOSDEM by Preetpalkaur; these are featured in a thread on the Haiku forum linked to here: https://discuss.haiku-os.org/t/fosdem-report/9237

So definitely check out these links (and try Haiku today)! Hopefully, Haiku will reach Beta 2 soon! 🙂

Retro Review: Zeven OS

Xubuntu with Be and Zeta style thrown in the mix.

(This article is on my Be/Haiku blog, Isometric Leaves, my OS exploration blog, the OS Voyager, and is also on Medium.)

Here we are at the last article in this trilogy following the BeOS review series! Originally, this article was going to be next after BlueEyedOS, but I decided to cover the “Gonx” concept first, as I knew this review was going to be larger.

And as we meet Zeven, the first thing to note is that both ZevenOS and BlueEyedOS share something in common: rather than being powered by a BeOS foundation, they use a common Gnu/Linux base. And also — where BlueEyedOS tried to offer a compatibility layer of sorts, ZevenOS does not. It is purely a Xubuntu distribution (Ubuntu + Xfce) with several cosmetic themes that take after a Be/Zeta look. Zeven does, however, include several tools that make it both useful and enjoyable, as we’ll see while looking at the system.

I’m going to try to fit today’s article into one piece, rather than splitting it into several pieces. This means this one cumulative article will be a longer read, but at the same time, I’ll also try to be more brisk when looking at some points to save space.

So, definitely get a nice hot or cold drink and a good snack, as we enter the last retro review before entering the Haiku age!

Part 1 of 7: Starting up

Okay… so the first part of diving into any review is to start up the system. It’s an Ubuntu offshoot, so we get the same ‘accessibility’ screen here where pressing a key will bring up the boot menu.

And while it usually automatically continues from here… if I happen to press a key (for the sake of the article), I’ll then be presented with a set of function key options for Help, Language, Keymap, Modes, Accessibility, and Other Options for keys F1 through F6. In front, I have a wraparound menu of languages — again, just like I would expect on a classic Ubuntu disc. I’ll go ahead and pick English.

The boot options are fairly close to classic Ubuntu as well. We can “try ZevenOS without installing”, “Install ZevenOS”, “Check disc for defects”, “Test memory”, or “Boot from first hard disk” (i.e. cancel). Since we’re focused on the main desktop, I’ll go ahead and run it as a live CD.

The boot splash is very reminiscent of classic Ubuntu. For those that may remember, Ubuntu used to load on a black screen with a bar that had an orange progress bar that would bounce from side to side when the system was starting. This is very similar… and I’ve taken two screenshots to give an idea to the viewer what this animation looks like:

Here, you can see the white line on the right of the progress bar:

Now, since we are using a Live CD session here, so the login screen won’t appear here. But, for the curious, if you are wondering what this would look like, this is Zeven’s login screen:

At the live desktop, we can see Zeven definitely has a Zeta look to it. The File System icon and the yellow logo is very reminiscent of Zeta, as is the glossy yellow button for the Zeven OS menu.

Part 2 of 7: The Zeven OS desktop

The Zeven OS menu is definitely a spin of the Xfce desktop environment menu… but as I look at it (thanks to the default theme and icons), I think of Zeta.

There’s entries for About, Catfish File Search, Settings, Log Out, and 8 categories: Accessories, Development, Games, Graphics, Internet, Multimedia, Office, and System. Below these, there is a link to the Ubuntu Software Center.

The “Deskbar” itself on the right of the menu (and screen) has a clock (in 24 hour time), the tray, and several pinned shortcuts. As applications are opened, they appear as horizontal, stacked tiles underneath all the above.

It’s also worth mentioning (as a quick side note) that Zeven includes a third party package called “Docky” as well, which is a dock widget that imitates the one from OS X:

About box

Zeven definitely sticks to its BeOS inspiration here with a box that is very similar to BeOS R5. In the little splash box in the top left, Zeven OS is in all capital letters (and in red and blue as homage to the Be logo).

And just like in BeOS, on the left side of the window, there’s Platform (IBM PC/AT or clone) — which curiously looks pasted in as a raster clipping from R5 — CPU (Intel Core 2 Duo on this machine), Kernel (3.13.0–24-generic), System Version (ZevenOS 6.0), and Running (up 4 minutes).

The right side reads: “This is ZevenOS based on Ubuntu 14.04 / Thanks Canonical for Ubuntu. Thanks Debian Community for Debian and many useful Tools. / Zeven OS Team: Alex, Anatolij, Fredreichbier, Stefan, Lubomir, L33k, Leszek / Thanks to all testers and the community” in the first visible part.

The second part reads: “Special Thanks to: Eppo, Hiob10hiob, rolan, zedc / ZevenOS (including tools) released under the terms of GPL or BSD”. This last part most likely refers to the Zeven tools (like the Magi utility).

Catfish 1.0.2

After the About box, the next entry on the menu is Catfish: a search tool usually included in distributions that use Xfce. (In other words, this is not authored by the Zeven team).

Catfish is pretty simple. There’s a location drop-down, a search bar, a list or icons toggle, a gear menu with settings, etc. and the window’s main body for Filename, Size, Location, and Modified.

It is set by default to a live home folder, so there’s really not much to search for. How about ‘documents’? And as shown below, here’s what this looks like in a tiled icon view (Documents, 40 bytes, /home/zevenos, Today):

Now, inasmuch as I so wish Zeven had its own search box with a Be theme… Catfish is a good choice. It isn’t processor intensive, it’s simple to understand and use, and it does support basic indexed search. Options in the gear menu on the right include searching for Exact Match, Hidden Files, and Fulltext Search. It’s also possible to “Update Search Index” and pick the type and date modified through a “Show Advanced Settings” option that toggles a sidebar on the left.

Last but not least, “About” reveals this is Catfish 1.0.2, GPL licensed, and from what I gather from seeing the two authors, it was written by Christian Dywan and Sean Davis.

Moving down the menu from Catfish File Search, the settings in Zeven OS are mainly the Xfce 4 set. And as shown below, the Settings menu has a link to the (Xfce) Settings Manager and a list of settings.

These include (not all visible in the screenshot): About Me, Accessibility, Additional Drivers, Appearance, ARandR, Bluetooth Manager, Desktop, Display, File Manager, Input Method, Keyboard, Keyboard Input Methods, Language Support, Light Locker Settings, Menu Editor, MIME Type Editor, Mouse and Touchpad, Network Connections, Notifications, Panel, Power Manager, Preferred Applications, Proxy Settings, Removable Drives and Media, Screensaver, Session and Startup, Settings Editor, Software & Updates, Theme Configuration, VPNC-GUI, Window Manager, Window Manager Tweaks, and Workspaces.

And because Zeven OS is based on Xubuntu, we have the Xfce Settings Manager, which is an all-in-one settings manager similar to what one would find on Mac OS 10.0+, Gnome 3, and others. There’s a search filter, an All Settings and Close button, and the main body of settings are divided into 3 main sections (or 4 if a user counts “Settings Editor” in Other):

  • Personal has Appearance, Desktop, File Manager, Notifications, Panel, Preferred Applications, Screensaver, Theme Configuration, Window Manager, Window Manager Tweaks, Workspaces.
  • Hardware has Display, Keyboard, Mouse and Touchpad, Power Manager, Removable Drives and Media.
  • System has Accessibility, MIME Type Editor, and Session and Startup (and again, Other has Settings Editor).
\

Part 3 of 7: What’s inside the menus

There’s 8 different categories or menus here, thanks to this using the Xfce Desktop which organizes applications this way. The layout coincidentally is very similar to what the Max distribution, Zeta, and others have done… and so, even though this is Xfce, to me, this really also gives the system another touch of Zeta.

In going through what’s in each…

Accessories includes: About Xfce, Application Finder, Archive Manager, Bulk Rename, Calculator, Catfish File Search, Character Map, Clipman, Docky, File Manager, MAGI, Menu Editor, Mousepad, Notes, Orage Globaltime, Run Program, Screenshot, Task Manager, Terminal Emulator, Thunar File Manager, Xfburn, and Xpad.

Development has one lonely item, Geany.

Like the previous folder, Games just includes Mines.

Graphics includes: Document Viewer, GIMP Image Editor, ImageMagick (display), Inkscape, Shotwell, and Simple Scan.

Internet includes: Claws Mail, Firefox Web Browser, Liferea, Mail Reader, Pidgin Internet Messenger, Remote Desktop Viewer, Transmission, VPNC-GUI, Web Browser, and XChat IRC. (And as a quick note, as for Web Browser, this appears to open Firefox when I tested it).

Multimedia includes: Audacity, Audio Mixer, DeaDBeeF, Encode, GNOME MPlayer, OpenShot Video Editor, PulseAudio Volume Control, Xfburn, YAVTD.

Office includes AbiWord and Gnumeric (a word processor and spreadsheet application), rather than a larger office suite like OpenOffice.org or LibreOffice. There’s also Dictionary, Document Viewer, Orage Calendar, Orage Globaltime… and yes, in real Be nostalgia, there is People.

System is the second largest category in here. Like Accessories, there’s a lot to list here. Items include About, Bulk Rename, Compmanager, GDebi Package Manager, Gigolo, GParted, Htop, Install ZevenOS 6.0 LTS, Log Out, Network, Printers, Software Updater, Startup Disk Creator, Synaptic Package Manager, System Profiler and Benchmark, Task Manager, Thunar File Manager, Time and Date, Users and Groups, Windows Wireless Drivers, and Xfce Terminal.

Part 4 of 7: Xfce’s file manager

Next in this look at Zeven I wanted to take a look at the default file manager it comes with.

And, since we are looking at menus, let’s go ahead and take a look at the set of menus here… and think of Tracker (the file manager used on Be systems) a bit along the way. First, I’d like to open up the Go menu. Like on the Mac, the Go menu in Xfce’s Thunar allows the user to open the home folder, desktop, file system, network, or a location based on its path. A person can also browse templates and the trash can, and navigate back, forward, or to the ‘parent’ or enclosing folder. This is something that Tracker didn’t offer… and something that I do find useful.

And secondly, unlike Tracker, Xfce’s Thunar has a Help menu. This is something that I have often wished (maybe as a Mac fan) that Be applications included (although because the overall idea of the Be desktop was to let users feel power and discover the system as they used it, it makes sense).

As for View, we can Reload, choose options for Location Selector or Side Pane, toggle hidden files, status and menu bars, Arrange Items (per a submenu), Zoom In, Zoom Out, or view as Normal Size, and choose between View as Icons, Detailed List, and Compact List. Overall, in Thunar, we have a few novelties like a sidebar, a reload option, and zoom options… where writing a hypothetical clone of Tracker wouldn’t have these features built in (although as two examples, Haiku and Zeta do feature icon scaling, which works to zoom in and out nicely).

Edit in Thunar is pretty standard. It has options to Cut, Copy, Paste, Move to Trash, Delete, Select all Files, Select by Pattern, Invert Selection, Duplicate, Make Links, Rename, ‘Configure custom actions’, and open Preferences. However, one thing I did notice is that even though several options are inside an Edit menu, and not in the spots they would be in Tracker (in versions past R5), Thunar does include them, like the ability to Select by Pattern. So this is roughly equivalent in that respect.

And finally, here’s the File menu. One curious thing I’ve always liked about free desktop environments is that long before the Finder on the Mac had tabbed windowing in 10.9 Mavericks, free file managers had this years before. Beyond New Tab and New Window, there’s Create Folder, Create Document, Open, Properties, Close All Windows, Close Tab, and Close Window.

Thunar’s File menu also includes links to Open Terminal Here, Add to playlist, Open as root, Send with Bluetooth, and Search.

And the default home folder looks like this. We have a neat Zeta like Desktop folder (and pretty much all the icons take on this theme). The rest of what is inside the home folder includes Documents, Downloads, Music, Pictures, Public, Templates, and Videos. Kudos to the icon theme author for including the righteously retro red notes and BeBox in Music!

But despite all the stuff that I truly believe makes Thunar a good fit for this distribution, there’s one big feature that I think every Be reader out there can feel is missing here. I’d be remiss to not mention this. It would be like talking about a NeXT or Mac distribution without mentioning Miller Columns in the file manager. And as anyone who’s used BeOS knows, the feature I’m referring to here is drill down folders…

As shown in the above context menu, yes, Thunar has a Send To menu like Windows/ReactOS, but there’s no drill down functionality in it.

And beyond Send To, the context menu (shown above) includes the same links as the File menu (such as Create Archive, etc.), can summon “Properties” (the PC realm’s equivalent of Get Info), and do the usual open, copy, cut, and delete operations on the file. But again, no drill down fun.

The good news, however, is that Xfce 4.10 itself does allow directory menus in the panel — which means the Zeven Deskbar can have similar functionality, akin to using docked items (or later Stacks) in the Dock in Mac OS 10.0+. It’s not a total replacement for drill-down folders as it just allows looking… but it at least fills in some of the missing functionality I’ve been pining for.

As for what version of Thunar that this distribution is using, it appears it is Thunar 1.6.3, which per the about box “is a fast and easy to use file manager for the Xfce Desktop Environment”, with copyrights given to Benedikt Meurer, Jannis Pohlmann, and Nick Schermer.

And furthermore, it appears that we are using version 4.10 of the Xfce Desktop Environment in Zeven. The About box lists the about info for Xfce here, mentioning “Xfce is a collection of programs that together provide a full-featured desktop environment”. And… to save a lot of reading and writing in this article by quoting everything in the box, here is a link to the Xfce About page.

Part 5 of 7: The Magi Configuration tool

Okay, so that was a look around Xfce’s Thunar file manager, the Catfish search tool, the various menus, and some stuff around the Desktop.

But… since we are here to review Zeven, let’s get back into actually reviewing Zeven! The Zeven OS includes a configuration utility called “Magi” and I’m not quite sure what it means or stands for, but I do know the Magi from a historical perspective were magicians and/or priests in various religions, and also from a Biblical perspective that this also can refer to the ‘three Kings’ or the ‘three wise men’. So if I had to guess what the meaning here was, I’d say from both definitions, Magi would denote a feeling of wisdom or power within the distribution, maybe as a ‘smart’ tool for managing the system.

There’s four tabs in here, and its layout really does give me an ‘inspired by Zeta’ feeling. Back in Zeta, there was System, Copyright, Team, and Thanks. Here in Zeven, there’s System, Personal, Hardware, and Network.

The first stop is System. Here, we get a big BeOS kernel icon, and minus the memory usage meter, platform, and uptime stats, we get very similar info. Here, there’s Version (ZevenOS 6.0), Kernel (3.13.0–24-generic), CPU (an Intel Core 2 Duo), and Memory (1026008 or about 1 GB).

Below the info is a line of links to settings or preferences. I’ll open some of these, but for the sake of time, can’t get to everything. These include Users, Time & Date, Update, Softwarecenter, and Services with crisp icons and names below them.

Next is Personal, which just has 8 settings links in here for Desktop, Workspaces, Appearance, Language, Panel, Compositing, Autostart, and Windowmanager.

Hardware likewise has 8 settings links. These include Printer, Mouse, Keyboard, Screen, Powermanager, Sound, Devicemanager, and Drivermanager.

Lastly, Network has 5 settings links to Network, Ndiswrapper, Share, Proxy, and VPN.

Okay, so with our trip through Magi, let’s look at a few of the appearance settings on the system…

Style, icons, fonts, and mice!

First, here’s Theme Configuration. Here, we can specify custom highlight, panel, and menu colors with a sliding on/off switch. Text and background colors can be set for each with color well buttons, and from there, we can Revert or Apply per two buttons on the bottom. By default, we get a nice shade of sky blue, and R5 style grays.

Appearance has various Gtk chrome styles or themes that apply system (or rather desktop-wide) to applications, with a whole list of themes. By default, this is set to “Haiku”, which curiously doesn’t follow Haiku’s color scheme. It’s similar to how the curved title tab decor was named “Haiku” back in PhOS.

Zeven also ships with the “Be” icon theme by default (which isn’t actually the classic BeOS icons, but rather is more of a Zeta inspired set in nature), and also has the high contrast, Humanity, and Gnome icon sets from Ubuntu.

The default font here is “Ubuntu”, size 10 (set with a pane by clicking the button with this info on it). Xfce’s Appearance settings also also toggling anti-aliasing with a check box, as well as changing hinting, DPI scaling, and sub-pixel order through various controls, as shown below:

And also, Zeven comes with several X.org mouse schemes, like Redglass, Whiteglass, and Handhelds, but also comes with black and white DMZ mouse themes, Adwaita (from Gnome), and by default, has the BeHand (BeOS Like cursor) set enabled. On the right, there’s a box to scale the size up or down (set to 24 here), and a preview pane of the set, showing the cursor in its different states (like moving, busy, link, etc.)

Default backgrounds

Next up, I wanted to quickly show the thumbnails at least for Zeven’s default background set. Here, we can pick thumbnails for desktop backgrounds (called wallpaper here) quite nicely. The first half dozen in the set are roughly shown here:

And here’s the next batch:

And two more at the bottom. Xfce’s Desktop preferences also allows changing Menus and Icons settings as well via tabs, and we can pick different folders, background styles, or gradient/color solids through pop-up menus. Colors can be set through color well buttons, and it’s also possible to set a timer to cycle through backgrounds, or use check boxes to “Apply to all workspaces” or shuffle the pictures.

Compositing

The “Compmanager” dialog is pretty simple. There’s two check boxes for “Fade-In” and “Shadow” and buttons to Deactivate and Activate.

If I choose to turn on everything, I get nice fades and a very deep shadow on application windows.

To show just how deep this throws shadows, here’s an example of the main menu open. The shadows give the illusion of elevating it above the Magi window, and the Magi window itself appears to be hovering over the desktop this way. Overall, these shadows are definitely deep and dark, and while I love shadows in GUIs, not everyone does. Really, the only thing I wished (as I’m guessing this is xcompmgr) is that the settings box would have had a shadow depth setting to it.

As another example, look at how much shadow is cast onto the page white background of Thunar under the Magi window. It really does give the desktop a different sense of depth than with compositing turned off.

Part 5b: Miscellaneous settings picks

Now, beyond our quick look at the appearance controls, I don’t have the space in this article to open and go through every preference in here, but I did think I should go through the highlights, so here’s a quick look at 17 settings picks:

Settings pick 1 of 17: Xfce Power Manager

This one I had to pick to illustrate one big advantage running Xubuntu (what Zeven is based on) has over the classic BeOS. Not only can the power manager here “put [the] display to sleep” and turn it off, with sliders for both (as shown in the Monitor tab below), but it also can perform an action when the battery is really low, put the computer itself to sleep, and also has options to tone down how much power traditional hard disks and the processor uses in the Actions tab. And notice that in between General and Extended in the sidebar on the left, there’s “On AC” and “On Battery”; it’s possible to have two power profiles here if someone is using a mobile computer.

Of course, in General and Extended, there’s several more options available here, like to also lock the screen (which BeOS can do per ScreenSaver preferences), show the ‘tray icon’ (desktop applet in Be parlance), choose what happens when power buttons get pushed, and whether to be what manages power (since Linux has multiple DEs, power managers, etc.) The point, however, is that when comparing this to ScreenSaver preferences in BeOS (which sort of doubles as its basic energy pane), it’s pretty clear that Xfce’s Power Manager has more to offer to the end user here.

Settings pick 2 of 17: Users

Now, again, because this is based on Ubuntu, there’s yet another advantage that several distributions in the post-Be era tried to work on: multiple users. Here, each person added to the system gets their own home folder and environment to play with.

A list appears on the left with the ‘full name’ and ‘username’ (in this case, “Live session user” and “zevenos”) and we can Add and Delete users as well as Manage Groups with several buttons. On the right, we have an icon (currently a Be person), “Live session user” again, Account Type (Custom) and Password (which is “Asked on login”) with links to change these settings. There’s also an Advanced Settings button — and beyond the nice frontend here, it’s worth adding Linux has excellent tools for managing users that aren’t shown in this review.

Settings pick 3 of 17: (Ubuntu) Software Updater

The next highlighted feature in here is Ubuntu’s “Software Updater”, which means that ZevenOS can receive updates to the system quickly and easily… although it’s worth pointing out that because this LTS (long-term support) release is aged, the repositories will more than likely need to be updated to the newest Ubuntu LTS in the configuation files inside the /etc/apt folder to keep receiving the latest updates. But still — this is definitely an additional feature that Zeven offers, as its plugged directly into the Ubuntu universe.

Settings pick 4 of 17: Languages

The next settings pick I wanted to show is a “Language Support” box. While it does need to fetch language packages to be useful, the point is that one can pick the “language for menus and windows” from a list here, “Apply System-Wide” and “Install/Remove Languages” via buttons below the list as well. It is also possible to choose the “Keyboard input method system” with a pop-up menu; Regional Formats allows changing money, thousands, and the usual regional settings.

And my point here is that while the classic BeOS (R5) had some language support, it really wasn’t until the post-Be era where distributions like Vimba, Max, and Zeta began to work together that the Be desktop had better translation. 

And today, of course, modern-day Haiku has great localization support. But from the perspective of R5, this would’ve been cool to see.

Settings pick 5 of 17: Printers

Another setting here is Printers. There’s Server, Printer, View, and Help menus, and a toolbar with an Add button/menu, Reload, and Filter (a search box). Of course, because we’ve started from a Live CD, “There are no printers configured yet” and we’re offered an Add button.

And my point with showing this one is that (again, compared to the classic BeOS), Ubuntu supported more new printers out of the box.

Settings pick 6 of 17: Panel

I wanted to pick this one because it offers a huge amount of customization and to show how the ‘deskbar’ in Zeven OS 6.0 is setup. Xfce offers what are called ‘panels’ which can be customized to behave like the BeOS deskbar in “Deskbar” mode (set in Zeven), like a dock, or like a taskbar. And there can be multiple panels as well. There’s check boxes for “Lock panel”, “Automatically show and hide the panel”, and “Don’t reserve space on borders”. Below these, there’s also sliders to set both row and panel sizes and the number of rows.

Setting pick 7 of 17: Mouse and Touchpad

As shown below (thanks to the Device pop-up menu), yes, I am using VirtualBox to run Zeven. And there’s sliders to set Acceleration and Sensitivity, a checkbox to enable it or not, another to “reverse scroll direction” (i.e. enable natural scrolling), as well as radio buttons to set it to “right-handed” or “left-handed” mode.

But aside from describing what’s in here, what I hope to show with this settings box is that until the arrival of Haiku, having the ability to manage a trackpad and the ability to choose devices in Xfce definitely had functional advantages over classical BeOS. (Although… I will openly say as a fan of both Apple and Be desktop design, this window is a lot uglier than the old BeOS Mouse preferences!)

Settings pick 8 of 17: Keyboard

Next up is Keyboard. It’s possible to set shortcuts and the layout in the other tabs. This is kind of a staple of traditional desktop computing, so I had to show the Keyboard box. Here, there’s check boxes to “restore num lock state on startup”, “Enable key repeat” (with repeat delay and speed sliders), and “Show blinking” (with a ‘Blink delay’ slider under it):

Settings pick 9 of 17: Time and Date Settings

But around this point of the exploration I also began to really feel the difference between Xfce and the Be preference set more.

Here, in Time and Date, there’s pop-up menus for Configuration and Time zone, -/+ value pickers for hour, minute, and second, and a calendar widget underneath… but really, even though it gets the job done, it’s not the same. Things feel different here and it makes me miss the BeOS version.

Settings pick 10 of 17: Workspaces

Opening the “Workspaces” settings in Zeven will open one pane of the ‘Sawfish Configurator’ for the Sawfish window manager. On the right, there’s drop down menus to choose workspace behavior, a list of workspace names, and a checkbox to “preserve outermost empty workspaces”. Very different again from how Workspaces are managed on the classic BeOS.

Settings pick 11 of 17: PulseAudio Volume Control

Here, we have a piece of PulseAudio… a graphical volume control box from the pavucontrol package. Here, it’s possible to change input and output volume, playback and recording devices, etc. through the 5 tabs at the top.

Settings pick 12 of 17: Display

There is a “Display” settings box in Xfce (and by inheritance, in Zeven) which has a list of displays on the left side, and on the right, there’s pop-up menus to set Resolution, Refresh rate, Rotation, and Reflection. Again, like with Time and Date (or really the settings we’ve explored so far), it’s really not the same as in the classic BeOS. And also, I’ll add that Ubuntu does handle the displays differently. However, in adding a positive note before moving on, I will say it’s at least nice Xfce has the screen options on the right side.

Settings pick 13 of 17: Ubuntu Software and Additional Drivers

Now I wish I could go into full detail on software-properties-gtk, but we’re limited on time. But in short, the first four tabs of this window allow specifying locations where packages are fetched within the Ubuntu repositories, from extra sources (like the CD or Zeven’s repo), what sources and how often to check for updates, and keys for package repos.

As for the fifth tab, because this is Ubuntu, some modules may not be installed by default as they may contain non-free areas. And so “Additional Drivers” comes in useful for finding and installing said modules to get (mainly graphics or wireless cards) working. Here, as noted, “No proprietary drivers are in use.”

Settings pick 14 of 17: Network Manager

And here is a quick peek at the pretty Gtk window for network-manager. We can Add, Edit, or Delete connections using the buttons on the right, and on the left, there’s a list with “Ethernet” expanded out to show I’m currently using a wired connection, last used ‘3 minutes ago’.

Settings pick 15 of 17: Ndiswrapper

Ndiswrapper (or rather the ndisgtk frontend to it shown below) I thought was worth covering, because it allows using Windows drivers for wireless networking cards with Linux. At the moment, the list on the left is empty. Here, it’s possible to install or remove a driver, Configure Network, or close the window using the buttons on the right.

Settings pick 16 of 17: Shared Folders

“Shared Folders” would normally allow connecting to shared folders across the network on machines running Gnu/Linux or Windows… but as shown below, this is one of the annoying parts of not using the classic BeOS, despite the advantage that Ubuntu offers here. In order to use “sharing services”, we have to install these packages, as shown below:

Settings pick 17 of 17: System Information (hardinfo)

Last but not least, hardinfo (what the System Information tool is here) was a great choice to include. Again, because I’d like to keep the main body of this review in one article, I can’t go through everything this does, but this not only lists good info, but provides several graphs and benchmarks as well. Overall, I think it’s a good choice.

Part 6 of 7: A look at a few applications…

Now, like the BeOS distributions I had looked at back in the post-Be part of the BeOS series, there’s not enough time to go through every application that’s included here. So, like with the settings in the last part, I’m just going to pick a few out of the set it comes with:

People

Per Zeven’s Be inspiration, I wanted to start by opening an original app on the system: People. Now, every time I tried to start it on Zeven OS 6.0, it wouldn’t open… not sure exactly why at the moment, but People 0.2 from Zeven OS 5 does start just fine, so I’ll go ahead and launch it from there.

And… wow! People is very close to its Be counterpart. Here, we have File (with New, Open, Save, Save As, Export as vCard, Quit) and Help (with About) and text fields for Name, Nickname, Street, Zip, State, City, Country, E-Mail, Homepage, Tel (telephone), Mobile/Fax.

And per its about box with a nice People icon in there, it’s People 0.2, “A clone of the famous BeOS People application”, copyrighted to Leszek Lesner in 2009, under the BSD license.

Ubuntu Software Center

Ubuntu Software Center is the default application center on Zeven, as it is an Ubuntu distribution. There’s not much to say here about the app itself, other than it’s pretty much the standard app store of the era. There’s File, Edit, View, and Help menus and back, forward, All Software and Installed (with side menus), History, and Progress buttons, with the package storefront in the main body of the window.

But one thing I can say is that because this is an Ubuntu distribution, it has full access to the world of Ubuntu packages and the Aptitude package manager (inherited from Debian), which means that in addition to the packages and/or the software titles that are bundled in Zeven (like GIMP, Inkscape, Firefox, etc.), it is possible to choose between and add thousands of packages.

And as shown by the about box for Ubuntu Software Center, this is version 13.10, with a copyright of 2009–2013 by Canonical, which shows the age of this copy.

Xfburn

Next up is the bundled Xfburn application Zeven OS 6 comes with (version 5 had included Brasero instead). And… there’s no burners available to the system… oh well. But I did want to keep this here to illustrate the rather gorgeous BeOS alert icon though… look at how crisp that is!

Xfburn is pretty easy to understand. There’s File, Edit, Actions, View, and Help buttons, “Welcome to xfburn!” and four big buttons in the center for four main operations: Burn Image, Blank Disc, New Data Composition, and Audio CD.

Geany & Mines

Next up is Geany, an IDE for Gtk environments, and the only game included in the distribution: Gnome Mines (a clone of mine sweeping games on other platforms).

Evince

Also, here is the default PDF “Document Viewer” that comes with Zeven, Evince. While I don’t have any PDFs to open here, the about box reveals it is copyrighted to The Evince authors from 1996–2012 (and today as well).

GIMP & Inkscape

Next up we have the GIMP, which really needs no introduction. This is the alternative to Adobe Photoshop on free desktop environments. An example screenshot of it with a blank main window and tools palette is shown below:

This distribution also includes Inkscape, a definite essential to anyone doing graphics work in a free desktop environment.

Claws

Next up we have Claws Mail. Upon first starting it, there is a “setup wizard” box that pops up, and since we’re taking the express route through looking at applications, I’ll just mention this takes the user through the standard mail setup.

Once that’s done, Claws opens it’s main window, which looks like the standard mail clients of the 1990s and early 2000s. There’s File, Edit, View, Message, Tools, Configuration, and Help menus, and a toolbar with big Get Mail, Send, Compose, Reply, All, Sender, Forward, Trash, Spam, and Next buttons at the top. The left side has a Mailbox tree with Inbox, Sent, Drafts, Queue, and Trash. From there, the right body of the window has a message list with Subject, From, Date, etc. and a preview pane on the bottom that shows From, To, Subject, Date, and the letter itself. To save time (yet again) with the about info, here’s the page for Claws.

Firefox

The default Web browser included here is Firefox. And really, this doesn’t need an introduction — it is, by far, one of the most powerful modern Web browsers out there. It’s an older version that uses the curvy Australis design, with round tabs, a big back orb, the ‘awesome’ location bar, search, bookmarks, a more button, and the ‘hamburger’ menu on the right side. Here, the page is set to the “Ubuntu Start Page”.

And here is Firefox’s about info, which reveals it’s age as version 34.0. This is definitely a big upgrade from Zeven OS 5, though, which if I remember right had Firefox 17 in it. The about box itself has a big Firefox logo, Firefox, the version and “Mozilla Firefox for Ubuntu canonical — 1.0”, along with various links and a summary of who builds it. And so, again, to save time in this aspect, here’s a link to the Mozilla Firefox webpage for the interested.

GNOME MPlayer & Audacity

Next up, I’ve put both GNOME MPlayer and Audacity in the same screenshot to save room.

  • GNOME MPlayer has File, Edit, View, Help menus, back, play, stop, and forward buttons, a time slider, volume control, and fullscreen button. Overall, it’s a very simple frontend to MPlayer. And in the interests of moving forward, here’s a link to the MPlayer info page.
  • Audacity is basically a digital audio studio, where someone can cut, mix, edit, record, play, etc. audio files. It’s got File, Edit, View, Transport, Tracks, Generate, Effect, Analyze, and Help menus, and a toolbar set full of buttons. There’s pause, play, stop, previous, next, record, editing buttons, volume meters, volume and mic/input sliders, a set of buttons for cutting, pasting, and zooming in on audio, etc. and menus for choosing audio sources. Below all this is the main body of the window, where all the audio tracks appear. And as I’ve been doing so far, to save time saying more, here’s the Audacity webpage.

AbiWord

The little word processor included in Zeven is the nimble AbiWord by AbiSource, as shown below. It’s Word compatible and very easy to use; on the free desktop, it’s easily one of my personal favorites. Across the top, there’s a traditional set of menus (File, Edit, View, Insert, Format, Tools, Table, RDF, Collaborate, Documents, Help) and the standard and formatting toolbars one would see in word processors of the late 1990s and 2000s. The About box shows this is version 3.0.0, credited to “Dom Lachowicz and other contributors”.

Gnumeric

Of course, where there’s AbiWord, usually Gnumeric accompanies it as a simple spreadsheet app. Overall, I have to say that including this and AbiWord was definitely a good choice for the distro, as OpenOffice.org or LibreOffice would’ve made it heavier.

As shown below, there’s a band of menus, a standard bar, and a formatting at the top similar to AbiWord. There’s also a forms bar as well with several widgets, like one would see inside an app builder.

According to the About box, Gnumeric 1.12.9 is running here, and “is the result of the efforts of many people”. To save time here, here is a link to the Gnumeric webpage.

Orage Calendar

Here is the very simple Orage Calendar that is part of the Xfce Desktop… which basically is just a Gregorian calendar with clickable days, File, Edit, View, and Help menus, and month and year navigation widgets:

GParted

And here is GParted, which is the de facto disk utility for the Gnu/Linux desktop. It somehow looks different in its Zeven appearance, and yet instantly familiar. We have GParted, Edit, View, Device, Partition, and Help menus on top, and a toolbar with new, delete, resize, copy, paste, undo, apply, and a disk selector pop-up menu. Below that is the usual drive ‘window’ and list view showing the Partition, File System, Size, Used, Unused, and Flags. And as I’ve used it over the years, I’m really thankful for it being included in this distribution.

Startup Disk Creator

Because Zeven is an Ubuntu distribution, it has the luxury of inheriting all the good tools from Ubuntu, like their “Make Startup Disk” or Startup Disk Creator utility. The premise is simple. Simply choose a source medium or image in the list chooser at the top, choose a destination disk in the list chooser below that, choose how much space to keep for persistence (so files aren’t lost in the live disk) via a set of radio buttons and a slider to set the amount. Once all done, click “Make Startup Disk” and Ubuntu usually will automate doing this for you.

Synaptic

Next up — I had to pick this one! Synaptic. The “Quick Introduction” dialog is a bit lengthy to cover here, so I won’t. But in paraphrasing what’s in it, it’s like a cheat sheet card that basically explains what packages are, what the purpose of the app is, how to highlight packages with it, and a little advice.

Ah… the nostalgia. Synaptic definitely feels like a relic from before the application store age… and in a way, I miss it. I remember installing stuff with it (and granted, it’s still around, but not as popular as it used to be). Here, packages could be picked and managed from the columned list on the right, with info usually showing in the right quadrant. The left side has buttons for Sections, Status, Origin, Custom Filters, Search Results, and Architecture, and there’s a list that usually allows narrowing packages in the right list by category.

And as shown here, this is Synaptic version 0.81.1 made by Connectiva S/A and Michael Vogt.

Installer

And speaking of installing stuff, this is the ZevenOS installer. Or rather, the Ubuntu (graphical) installer. This version starts with a Welcome page where it’s possible to pick a language from the sidebar and read the release notes, then Continue from there or Quit. There’s also a Back button as well. And basically… I won’t cover installation in this article, as the steps are pretty much the same as in Ubuntu (14.04).

Xfce Terminal

Last but not least, here’s a really quick peek at the Xfce Terminal. I’m sorry we don’t have more time for it today, but I really am hoping to fit everything into one big article (with an installation extra) rather than splitting it up into 4 or 5 pieces this time.

But as shown in the above screenshot, we have the usual live Ubuntu list here: bin, boot, cdrom, dev, etc, home, lib, media, mnt, opt, proc, rofs, root, run, sbin, srv, sys, tmp, usr, var, initrd.img, and vmlinuz, the contents of the home folder (Desktop, Documents, Downloads, Mail, Music, Pictures, Public, Templates, Videos), the Ubiquity installer on the Desktop, and the lsb-release file contents (with the distribution ID, releaes, codename, and description reading Ubuntu, 14.04, trusty, Zeven OS 6.0).

Part 7 of 7: Shutting down

And so, at last, we are ready to shut down the system. To do that, I’ll go ahead and click “Log Out” from the main menu. From there, Xfce presents a box with a check box to “Save session for future logins”, Cancel, and five big buttons with icons to Log Out, Restart, Shut Down, Suspend, and Hibernate. And since it’s time to wrap up the review, I’ll go ahead and shut down…

And at last, we’re asked in live Linux CD fashion to “please remove the installation media and close the tray (if any) then press ENTER”.

Closing thoughts…

ZevenOS is a really cute distribution in a nostalgic sort of way. It’s classic Ubuntu with a zing of Zeta and BeOS in the mixture that (in this geek’s humble opinion) makes it fun and enjoyable to start up and explore. While it is certainly different than having the real, vintage BeOS running, and doesn’t have all the advantages of the BeOS, it definitely is something that I really wish would be resumed someday. From what I can tell, it appears dormant, as there’s been two LTS releases since 14.04 as of when this article was written. And overall, I hope you enjoyed this look at ZevenOS 6.0. Thanks for reading, and I hope you’ll come back again as we enter into the world of Haiku!

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