A little less than a year ago we reviewed Haiku Release 1 Alpha 1 and it was pretty damned impressive.
At the time, this open source re-implementation of BeOS, held a great deal of promise: It was fast, visually clean and surprisingly full featured for an “Alpha 1″ release of any operating system (certainly more polished than early alpha/beta releases of Windows or MacOS X tend to be).
Sure, the catalog of applications available for Haiku was small (roughly the same as the applications available for BeOS, as one of Haiku’s goal is to be both binary and source compatible with BeOS… which means most BeOS application should run properly out of the box) — but usability, performance and system features (such as the ability to easily set the priority of any threads within any running application with just a few mouse clicks) made Haiku (even at Alpha 1) an incredibly enticing choice as a desktop OS… and even more enticing as a way to power Netbooks.
With one glaring problem: No WiFi.
Nearly a year later, we finally get our grubby little hands on Alpha 2… And what are we greeted with? Oh yes. Haiku now has Wireless networking support.
It may not be fully featured at this point (it has no WPA support for wireless networks), but the existence of this feature makes Haiku a viable way to power your laptops and netbooks.
Of course, the first thing I did was try to boot Haiku on my Asus Eee 900. And… it didn’t fully boot. This was, to say the least, disappointing.
After talking with other Haiku users, and asking around on the Haiku Forum, I came to the conclusion that my particular model wasn’t going to work currently. A bummer, but I can get over that. (Though I did come away with the general feeling that the Haiku user community was quite helpful and welcoming.)
And, luckily, I had a few other machines I could test out Haiku with (including my trusty HP Mini 1000 netbook, which ran Haiku splendidly), in addition to running Haiku in VMWare (which works wonderfully, there are even ready to go official VMWare images to allow you to take Haiku for a risk-free trial run).
Once I was up and running with Haiku Alpha 2 I immediately noticed something: Not much had changed.
At least not much that was immediately apparent. If you take a look at the release notes for Alpha 2, you’ll notice that it isn’t filled with many wiz-bang features — but many smaller items that add up to a substantial improvement over the first release.
Items such as USB mass storage performance, fixes for UDF support and improved localization support complement the countless number of bug fixes that accompany this release.
One of the few distinctly noticeable additions is a brand new WebKit based web browser called WebPositive — which I found to be fast, stable and plenty full featured for the majority of web browsing needs. With two big exceptions: No Flash and no full HTML5 support.
This, of course, makes watching video online a bit of a problem. But, aside from that (and, hopefully, HTML5 support will appear sooner than later), the web surfing experience in Haiku with WebPositive is excellent.
So Haiku is fast. Stable. Nerdy. Fun to use. Visually pleasant. Virus free.
But where does that leave us? Is it a system that I would use in place of Linux, Windows or MacOS X?
For a general web browsing, email, word processing, retro-gaming (some great emulators are available) machine… yes. Absolutely.
For a cool system to tinker around, and be generally nerdy, with… without hesitation.
At this point there are only three issues that need to be resolved before Haiku can be easily recommended to anyone for a working machine:
1) Either full HTML5 or Adobe Flash need to be available within the default web browser.
2) Continued improvement of general hardware compatibility and WiFi support.
3) More third party software.
It’s a tall order, to be sure. But one that I believe the Haiku team can accomplish. (In fact, I’m so confident in that, I’ve already announced that the next version of Illumination Software Creator will build Haiku applications.)
For me, Haiku isn’t posed to replace Linux on my desktop any time soon. But on a netbook or a secondary machine? Absolutely.
This review? Written and posted in Haiku.