Fork me on GitHub

Falling for Haiku OS

Last February, I installed Haiku (alpha 3) on my eee pc 901. It worked well, except for not handling password-protected wifi networks. I used it a couple of times for web browsing, and then forgot about it.

Recently, I decided that installing random operating systems is amusing. This lead to installing Haiku as one of several OSes on my desktop, and installing the new alpha 4 version on my eee.

Making wifi work on the Asus eee pc 901

Unlike alpha 3, alpha 4 handles password-protected wifi networks. This is especially useful now because I don't have a cat5 cable at hand. I did have to replace the wifi driver, since the one that comes in alpha 4 is apparently broken. However, finding this out only required a little googling to locate this forum post.

Transfering the file from my laptop to the eee required a little more thought. With some help from Google, I found out how to ask Linux to partition and format my USB drive as NTFS. Both computers were happy with this. I was reformatting what was at that point a FreeBSD live image, so I don't know whether Haiku would be happy with something more normal like a FAT filesystem. NTFS seemed like a safe choice because Haiku's Drive Setup utility is willing to format partitions as NTFS.

The only current irritation I have with the wifi widget is that it does not remember the wifi network and password when I reboot. I'm used to only needing to type the wifi password in once, ever for any given network, unless I specifically delete it.

I like Haiku

I'd like to see how much I can switch over to using Haiku on a regular basis. One of my goals for this year is to contribute to open-source, and making Haiku's bugs and irritations important to me seems like a good motivator for contributing.

Admittedly, I'm mostly just growing rapidly fond of Haiku. It hasn't crashed even once, neither the OS nor any application. There are minor display glitches, but it feels very stable. It is similar to Linux, yet also refreshingly new.

I like Haiku on the eee, but I find the form factor frustrating for doing work. Really typing anything out is much more pleasent on a real, full-size keyboard. I definitely prefer having a keyboard to a touch screen. Keyboard shortcuts work, and typing short things (comments, urls, chat) is fine. However, I'm trying to increase productivity, which generally involves long-form typing.

This lead me to the idea of putting Haiku on my main laptop, dual-booting with Linux.

Would this work for me as a most-of-the-time OS?

Because Haiku already meets the "Is this stable?" test, my main concerns involve whether there are applications that will meet my needs. I already use Dropbox and mercurial to backup any files I actually care about, so even if Haiku turns out to have a destructive glitch, data loss in general is not a major risk.

My current idea of my main computer activities are:

  • internet (browsing, chat, email)
  • writing (blog posts, documentation)
  • programming (Haskell in Sublime)

Internet

WebPositive is a pretty good browser, especially considering the whole OS is still alpha-stage. It can be a bit slow, and it has some rendering glitches. It works very well on simpler pages, but overly modern JS-heavy pages can be hard to use. Because I got tired of waiting for gmail to load, I switched the default view to plain html. I am dissappointed that Google+ won't talk to Haiku. It renders properly, but sends up an error message popup in the page that blocks me from interacting with it.

The reason that Google+ not working bothers me is that I like to use gchat from that page. Most IMing is not terribly productive, so not having access to it may be a good thing.

I am looking forward to setting up POP/SMTP forwarding from gmail to Haiku. While I have never actually used a desktop email client rather than Gmail's interface, this seems like a good chance to become familiar with the usefulness of Haiku's file metadata and queries. This is something I consider to be an interesting user-facing feature -- something different from Linux/Windows/Mac.

Writing

Haiku has two native text editors: Pe and StyledEdit. The latter is like notepad plus bold/italic/underline formatting. Nearly all of my writing is done in Sublime, so I expect to miss some of it's features like Markdown Preview in Browser and Multiple Cursors. Because Vim runs on Haiku and I intend to use this as motivation to learn it, I may end up doing my writing there.

I use Calepin for my blog, so I manage posts by creating/editing files in a Dropbox folder. On Linux, this means managing files as usual and everything automatically syncs. Because Haiku does not have an integrated Dropbox client, this will involve using the Dropbox website. The Python Dropbox library does work on Haiku, so I expect to play with the CLI client example program. In the longer term, I might write a Dropbox client for Haiku, integrated with Tracker (the Haiku file manager).

Programming

As far as I can tell, Haskell is not ported to Haiku. I'm ok with this, as I'm ready for a break from Haskell.

Because I want to get into developing for Haiku, learning C++ would be a good idea. There are two books specifically about programming for Haiku: one for new programmers to learn C++ with Haiku, one for experience programmers to learn Haiku's C++ APIs. Reading these should get me off to a good start.

Both Python and OCaml do run on Haiku. OCaml is probably my favorite language, and Python is my favorite scripting language. Other than last summer's internship, I've written a lot more C/Javascript/Java/Haskell than either of these languages, so I'm happy to have an incentive to use them more.

I have yet to play with Paladin, Haiku's IDE, so I have no idea if I like it or if it's good for languages other than C++. However, I've been meaning to learn a terminal editor other than nano/ee and vim runs on Haiku, so I can use the lack of Sublime Text 2 as a new reason to learn vim.

Next Steps

I started out by trying Haiku on my laptop via live usb to check out the hardware support. Everything went fine. After a frustrating war with the LVM containing the existing Fedora install, I ended up installing Xubuntu and then Haiku. While it took two tries for Haiku to install, it was the smoothest and least frustrating part of the process.

Now that I have it installed, my first goals are:

  • read the C++ on Haiku books
  • run vimtutor
  • play with the Paladin IDE
  • compare the Dropbox CLI example to the website as a blog post publishing workflow

Conclusion

Haiku is a really sweet OS, and seems really stable for alpha stage software. It seems to have the essential software for my needs, and it runs fast even on the eee. Besides, Linux is just too mainstream. :P

social