BeOS, and Haiku, covered on HowToGeek

A tiny article on a not well known site, but better than nothing


Good article. Shame he didn’t mention that Haiku runs Libreoffice.

That would be false advertizing for x86_gcc2 as only x86_64 can run Libreoffice.

What happened to libreoffice? It used to run on 32bit:

See this bug report:

Wondered why the buildbot is building it for 64bit atm and not for 32bit, seems the old version for 32bit can’t be installed either atm?

For a start, it was a magazine article, not an advertisement.

And secondly, how many people are using 32 bit Haiku, or would do if coming to Haiku for the first time?

In fact, how many people still use 32 bit computers? I do use one for a specific purpose (serving music), but I wouldn’t use one for general computing.

So if LibreOffice really doesn’t work on 32 bit Haiku, I am not sure that it is very important.

It is not only about 32 bit hardware which is not widely in use anymore of course, but also about binary compatibility with BeOS. As far as I know several people in the community still run old BeOS apps and therefore a 32bit version of Haiku


OK, but what is the point of compatibility with BeOS? Is there any BeOS software that is worth using in this day and age (and which can’t be run on 64 bit computers without a lot of effort)?

I am not sure that BeOS compatibility is a worthwhile goal any more. But please tell me if I am wrong.

I think it was mentioned elsewhere that Haiku is largely developed by a small number of people in their own time. AFAIK supporting BeOS software, even for nostalgia alone, is a significant focus, Whether it is “worthwhile” or not is a matter of opinion here and it is the opinion of the developers that matters most here.

So unless that changes, or someone magically makes a way for that to work on 64-bit Haiku some people will be running 32-bit Haiku and unless it is untenable to fix, there’s no reason not to keep basic software working that worked before.

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I think that in 2020 we can mostly agree the 32 bit compatibily was useful to “focus” the Haiku project, otherwise everyone would pull their own way and Haiku would have long since willowed away. Now that R1 release is close to release, 32 bit focus doesnt matter anymore. If someone wants legacy apps, then can always dual boot or use a VM. There is even a patch set which tries to run 32 bit apps in 64 bit mode which requires developer review. Anyway this is not important, Haiku R1 will have BeOS R5 compatibilty mode in R1 32bit release. Its almost done. And the very next day after R1 release, it will be marked legacy/deprecated with most focus on post R2 64 bit mode only.

I use Haiku on a 32bit Thinkpad for note taking and also light webbrowsing (websearching mainly).
I like keeping vintage hardware in a usable state and haiku is the best fit to do some modern tasks on old hardware.
Windows Xp and previeous versions are too unsecure and, appart for a few targeted distros - antix comes to mind - Linux distros are too bloated nowadays to be usable on old hardware.
I, for one, like the fact that haiku still has 32bit compatibility.

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Indeed. I too keep one or two old laptops going, but I originally talked about BeOS apps. Do you use any specific BeOS software for which there is not a Haiku alternative?

I entirely agree that Haiku is a good choice for old machines, although there are some Linux distros that run well on old machines. One of my T42s is running a version of Puppy Linux very happily.

I’m not qualified to answer to answer that question myself as I never was a BeOS user back in the day (I just briefly tried out the personal edition shortly before BeOS was discontinued).
Maybe some folks who actually still use old BeOS apps can chime in?

Wonderbrush is available only for 32 bit Haiku.

As an Haiku developer, the BeOS compatibility is useful for checking our behavior against a reference implementation. When there’s a bug, it can be useful to check “how did BeOS behave?” and get some idea how they did things. Being able to run the same app in both environments is the simplest way to do this.

It is also a good training on handling forward compatibility issues, and planning ahead for how we will introduce new APIs in R2 while keeping some form of backwards compatibility with existing apps. We plan many changes in R2, but we want old apps to remain available, otherwise, what would be the point of building a new ecosystem of Haiku apps now, and then make future versions of Haiku incompatible with them?

The number of pure BeOS apps that are still relevant has indeed been much reduced over time with efforts to open source them and port them to 64bit. But that effort is not complete. WonderBrush was mentionned (but we have the sourcecode so it can be fixed), there is also SynC Modular (no source available, we were unable to contact the author to see if they would agree to publish it), and GoBe Productive (LibreOffice is of course a good replacement, but it cannot import existing documents, and some Haiku users have important documents in GoBe format that are not so easy to migrate).

So, in a purely practical sense, it has somewhat limited use, but don’t forget it also had an impact on how the OS is designed, on the mindset of the team, and in general is one of the important factors that led to the success of Haiku compared to other projects which claim some BeOS legacy but didn’t go with the compatibility as far as we did.


I did manage to contact the original author, Vadim Zavalishin, about 5 years ago, but he transferred the rights of SyncModular to NativeInstruments when he joined that company. My mail to NI went unanswered. Maybe they still use some code from SM…

Thanks for the explanation.

Even if only in VirtualBox I still use 32 bit Haiku as my main system (if only to check up on recipes that could run on both 32 bit and 64 bit Haiku)

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If you’re only using it to check up on recipes, is it really your main system?