Imagining BeIA-like concept in 2020

So to open with, as I’ve repeated in various articles, in the retro reviews of BeOS I’ve done, etc. I feel Haiku’s big focus (and strength) is the BeOS Desktop – it continues this tradition honorably, and to go all formal for a minute (but I am saying this for real): I really think it does this with excellence.


But… the platform that has been completely forgotten about it seems is BeIA… and if there was ever a time to re-imagine what Internet Appliances and a mobile BeOS would’ve been like if Be would’ve made it to 2020 (the 25th anniversary of BeOS) it’d be now. And 2021 (if I were to make this thing into a working alpha) would probably be around the 20th anniversary of the BeIA idea; Be went down in 2001).

While it’s true I use my desktop/notebook hardware (such as to make this concept, do Haiku on Mac, and write this post), I can also say tablets or phones are what I feel at home with and that several of my friends also use. Simply put, the desktop still can be useful but the classical desktop model is old school much in the same way CLI has faded. So, basically where Haiku is the ‘professional’ and traditionally focused system, this concept is focused on a more carefree, experimental approach.


Since Haiku is leaf/tree themed and this is the next gen of BeIA the concept has the internal nickname so far is “Sapling” (although it will have a better name when finished). This concept will be radically different than the ancient (but still useful) Desktop – basically mobile/IA driven. And here it is…


First, “universal access” as it is labelled on the Mac – the one thing BeOS really just doesn’t have are any serious accessibility options. And… honestly, Haiku has tried through packages to provide some solutions – but overall, out of the box, all there really is includes a Magnify tool, key/mouse options, and as of the latest Beta 2, font scaling/DPI support.

So… what if there was a central place to adjust accessibility options in addition to the old ones – stuff like text to speech (with a spoken user interface), high contrast/invert, captions, and a night light or dark mode? That’s basically what this first mockup is:


App cards

Long time Be fans will see unlike concepts of the past, the old tabbed windows are gone in this concept. I believe having tabbed windows were innovative in their day but are going ancient like the Deskbar has. Yeah, macOS uses them in 10.9 Mavericks and later (and I’d posted a tab concept proposal on it before)… but after deep thought, these really aren’t relevant to a modern mobile/“Internet appliance” system like a modern BeIA imagining – so cards would be the thing of choice here. My thinking on this is sort of inspired by Palm (where I think BeIA would’ve been headed) and similar ideas.

When you need them to, cards would switch from a single mode to a stack in a z-order (or in a neat stack if one wishes to view them that way). Also the reason the card button is round (not traditional square) is because it is not “close” or “quit”; it’s basically ‘dismiss’… and its purely optional. But… again, this heavily borrows from Palm/webOS and I’ve got designs that are a bit more original than this one :smiley: That said it’s kind of to give an idea of where I see a 2020 BeIA system…


And while small apps or preflets can work great as cards, some apps just need to run unhindered, so minus the top bar, the rest of the screen can be given entirely to the applet (with the option to put Home in the left or right corners). This is a rough (unfinished) idea of what this may be like:


But it doesn’t just stop at applets… or me cancelling the old Deskbar in this design. Let’s go “to the heart of it” :smiley:

Thinking about the home screen

The home screen journey started with me looking at vintage pictures of BeIA, which at least on the Sony eVilla appeared to have this weird kiosk of bookmarks and a Gonx-like thingamajig (picture credit: Computer Weekly photo gallery; retrieved 27 June 2020. Link to URL here):


But – why hide away the true abilities of the OS? Why not try to make it easy to just get going with it? I did mess around with bringing a glorified Firefox Start Page back… but this just didn’t feel right…

So that led me to phase 2… and I think any struggling college dropout (yeah, that’d describe me…) could generate a clone of an iOS or Android launcher screen – which was tempting… enough that I did actually give that a go…


… but it wasn’t true to the Be spirit and there had to be a better way – a way to be a bit more true to its BeOS ancestor.

Inside four walls

So I thought of what’d be uniquely ‘Be’ on a tablet — or even a netbook or box somewhere. Because it is designed to be mobile/modern or as Be put it an ‘appliance’, the Desktop itself and the Deskbar has been phased out. In its place is a modular sidebar that’s unified with the shell itself – and in homage of retro tech from the Be era, it’s called the Diskette. :slight_smile: The clock info is right on the main button (which pulses and animates btw to let the user know its an active element), the historic tray has been replaced by a notification card (which shows info by default) and under this is an activity meter (loosely inspired by the Blinkenlight feature) and applets can be switched between easily (and force quit with one press of the red button).


And like all modern OSes out there, it’d have a dark mode (as teased in Accessibility)…


But the other thing was if the Desktop is gone how’d one get to anything? For that, I decided to go with a retro mixture of a main menu (which ended up being in the form of a sidebar with large buttons) and then have what I’d nickname ‘walls’. And as shown here, there’s no more desktops and the spaces aren’t called ‘workspaces’ :smiley: Instead the UI (honestly inspired a bit by Gnome 3) would exist inside the 4 walls of a cube and like the smaller applets or settings that don’t scale well to fullscreen, replicants would also be reborn as cards (which someone could decorate their walls with) – so think of something like this…


… which also would be in 3D (and in this way it’d be different than Gnome 3, Android, iPad, etc.) and offer something unique:


The system could be put in guest mode too, so things could get stripped down (an admin could assign applets or settings someone could access) — or of course it could also be a kiosk…


And of course, because they’re blocks, elements wouldn’t be static but would be able to show opacity, depth, and could highlight when activated…


… or present convenient actions:


And speaking of actions, a tap or click on the level up button would be like holding down shift, option, or other modifiers on a Mac to shift the menus around (or for those who’ve been chained to Windows instead, think of the Win+X/admin menu) – so someone could ‘unlock’ options, and since the whole shell would be dynamic, any open replicants and app blocks could ‘level up’ too (like the disk and trash options):


However, extra features aside (that I’d hope Haiku could add to like the ‘power menus’), I’m hoping people are getting the full idea in this. There’d be no ‘windows’, no traditional apps (i.e. no moving, resizing, menubars, radio buttons, check boxes, etc. like a desktop), and overall, around 80% of the desktop trimmings from the eras past wouldn’t be here… so even going to look for settings would be something more like this (and this gives you an idea of some of the icons as well):


… and one cool thing is messing about with translucency and glows makes stuff like this possible too:


Beyond the concepts of the past…

The idea behind this is to create a Be-inspired UI that if I could market it, I’d use the tag phrase “not its parent’s desktop” – my hope is this concept inspires people to imagine more of a 2020 look and feel. And I know this isn’t the first time there’s been mockups of stuff here (like the Glass Elevator stuff I’d read about in the forum before the Discourse revamp) but I’m hoping this will add to the dream UIs all the nerds have thought up for fun :slight_smile:

Also – pretty sure I’ve given this next topic a mention before, but Haiku could really use something like an avatar (Apple, Facebook, Google, Nintendo, Microsoft, and in addition to the ‘tech titans’, several smaller vendors have adopted this idea) so why not make one that resembles the Be guy?


… and this idea isn’t just about goofing with silly Lego like stick figures; I’ve been really thinking about where it could be useful. I like games like Pingus, Tux [Kart, Racer, etc] – especially because they give me the feels of innocent times, but really, Haiku is sorely missing games. And its also sorely missing anything in the VR space too. So why not start messing around with a few ideas for the fun of it and see where it goes? (This is just a mockup of the my generic Be avatar guy on a picture with some translucent shapes).



Thanks for checking out my post :smiley: I just want to do this for fun and because I really like computers (to the point of obsession) and am hoping there’s room in the world for a mobile/BeIA focused system out there… mainly because I would like to make these reality sometime if people happen to like them (they’re only concepts atm – not real!)

Also, I can say there is more stuff that’s not really done yet… I’ve only showed a piece of this concept here :wink: A few random extras I’ll show here are a clock replicant and universal find…


Thanks everyone :slight_smile:


Interesting concepts. Not really my cup of tea, but will curious to see where this goes.


So - firstly, nice idea.

BeIA was more than just a skin on top on BeOS. They did a lot of stuff under the hood too.

  1. The Wagner (Opera) Browser was a full screen replacement for the desktop. The user was not ever meant to see Tracker or Deskbar. It was possible to get to them, but only if that feature was enabled in the image.

  2. The file system used was not BFS. It was something called CFS, and it was compressed. The file system took up way less space because of this.

  3. The executables in a release system were “crushed”. Every single exe was run through a one way process where it has a bunch of code removed and added to a common look up table (a crushed dictionary) and had the physical magic number in the exe changed from “ELF” to “CEL”. This further reduced the footprint. A crushed system with a fullish BeOS install could fit on an 8MB CF card (YES, 8 MEGABYTES!) The kernel knew how to load and execute crushed builds. It would do one or the other, and an uncrushed system would fail to run crushed exes and vice versa. This made BeIA very difficult to extend from and end users POV…you needed un uncrushed build or to be able to crush using the same dictionary… I doubt the plan was ever to allow end users to add executables.

  4. The Binder system was used to communicate between the apps. Apps could be embedded like COM objects in tot he Wagner browser window.

  5. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING was done through Wagner. The user saw nothing of the BeOS UI, save when controls were embedded in pages. All of the controls were styled like those in Dano, so if you look at those controls now, they make a whole load more sense because they were designed to look good embedded in a browser, not necessarily just for the OS.

You can probably recreate some of this… but you’d end up with a mega system, compared to the mini system you’d get in BeIA land. It would be quite a pale shade of what BeIA was and what it was capable of.


Also - if you want the BeIA builds, I used to have some of them - mostly pre 1.0 alphas and betas. There was one for the clipper that would run on real hardware (I had it running on a compaq deskpro at one point.) Somewhere I have the SDK and the files needed to create builds, compile BeIA exes and create crushed builds. I was thinking to set up a BeOS image to to all of this that would run in an emulator… but I just never got the time recently.

If I can get back to it I’ll see if I can get the Clipper image booting on something like PCem or 86box… it should be possible. The images the system produces are just raw disk images.

Also watch this BeIA demo

The eVilla was only one version of the UI. It was a browser and it could look very different. I had a DT300 webpad back in my BeIA days and it had a bunch of different versions of BeIA available, all subtly different.


Just out of curiosity how do you know all this?

I loved the HARP device that was made for MusicRepublic.

Edirol’s DV7 video editing system had the BeIA startup, but booted in to the BeOS desktop.

Haha, Francis Cabrel :wink:

For people outside France, I’m talking about the background music around 1:50

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I used to own a DT300 webpad and still have all the dev tools and a bunch of builds. I used to make builds for my webpad and I learned all the magic stuff along the way. I also used to maintain the BeIA wiki on BeBits, though I guess that is long gone and have done some of the work on the Wikipedia article. I’ve also spoken to people that worked at Qbit (licensed BeIA) and a few Be devs that worked on BeIA to get more info for the Wikis and in general.

One bit of trivia, JBQ has a patent off th back of the technologies used in BeIA, I think for the crushed exes, but it might have been the CFS filesystem. You can look it up if you want to.

Edit - here I did it for you: CEL exe patent

Edit 2: Just to be clear here - BeIA builds are all binary. You have a BeIA distro and you include the files you want to end up in the target and the process builds you the image file and either crushes or leaves the exes uncrushed, depending on how you specify it should proceed. No source was available to third parties as far as I know…


@cgimenez you always feel like the amount of Frechness at Be Inc was understated. :wink:

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@frankps was it ful BeOS? BeIA could boot to Tracker, but by default it usually booted to Wagner… IIRC you could type alt+Q at some specific point to make it load Tracker.

Having said that the BeIA Tracker was old school. It was more like R4.5. The about screen was still the 4.5 one. The level that Tracker was was more like pre Open Tracker, pre R5. The other interesting thing was that in the versions I saw, file attributes were completely broken and searching via Tracker didn’t really work. I think that was more a CFS thing though.


How Binder is working on BeIA? Is it related to scripting and application kit messaging system?

@X512 early BeIA didn’t really have it. Later BeIA it was used for comms and IPC as you’d assume it was. If you want docs, the build of Dano that was leaked had all the BeIA documents int he distro. in PDF format. It explained everything, including Binder.

Wasn’t investigating it. Just enjoying the editing software.

The Edirol box felt like it was running pure BeOS.

Thanks :smiley:

And… thought I’d ask a bit to learn more about this system if okay with you since it appears you’re a BeIA expert :smiley:

So with this, I’m pretty familiar with SquashFS/LZMA and live overlays from the Gnu/Linux Live CD/USB world and installer package archives from Mac OS – I think I can picture CFS if it’s like those. And if its anything like SquashFS, cool to know… but if ok to ask, what was the point of Be doing that? By the year 2000, disks had ample space (my classic iPod, a mobile device running its own iPod OS or ‘Pixo’ has 20 GB on it and my flash-based nano has 2 GB) so why crush everything down? Wouldn’t that eat up a lot of compute time and slow things down for the users? I know SFS filesystems can at least. As an eager fan of Palm computers as well, I get why the classic Palm and the competing ‘pocket PC’ CE devices had to because their ROM and flash sizes were so small, but I thought IA devices had disks? Asking from a historical learning perspective as I’m truly curious here…

Was reading more about OpenBinder here… interesting! :slightly_smiling_face:

I kind of got that impression (that the start page was the interface) from looking at the eVilla UI… I didn’t know what powered it though! Nice – but why they’d go with Opera (a closed source browser)? Mozilla seemed to be the most open thing… maybe the most innovative too… although I’ve read Opera fans who say Opera was innovative in a lot of ways? Asking just in case you might have a theory, a story, etc…

So from my research for the BeIA part of the Hardware page on Land of the Leaves I found out there were several devices besides the famous eVilla – but I always thought that the eVilla shell was the UI for BeIA so I got to learn something new :slight_smile:

Not sure if I could, really… I’ve been thinking about it (again because in the history of post-Be/Haiku no one’s given anything on the BeIA side a try afaik) but idk how much time it’d take to put this together for real – the designs aren’t really finished yet. And then there’s the question of whether to use Haiku or something like Linux or a BSD as the base system… and actually seeing it. :slight_smile:

Really interesting facts, btw! :smiley: I think with the same obsession some people look at old Windows builds like the “Windows on Windows” channel, I like learning as much as I can about old Be and Mac/Next stuff :slight_smile:

Awesomeness :sunglasses: If you have a BeIA build (on x86) I probably could get it to run in qemu and write a retro review on it :slight_smile: I got R3 to install and run so I’m pretty sure I could get BeIA started up if it’s an archived disk image or a compressed ISO or whatever.

Thanks for all the facts – that’s amazing! Were you an IA developer? Sorry I’m asking stuff everywhere but this is super interesting :smile:

Edit #1: Learned some stuff from the video you linked to :slight_smile: Like several different UIs, why they switched from Net+ (5:47 - 6:46) and it sounds like they were considering Mozilla (but it still leaves me to wonder why not Mozilla from the start?), around 9:24 or so the ‘Wagner’ framework and no hard drive (8:20), but then again… why no hard drive? Even a microdrive would’ve been cool. I saw later in the video where he had the shell going as an app on R5… so I wonder why they tried to do it this way? Seeing Flash was hilarious :sweat_smile:

Edit #2: So I opened the old links on the hardware page again (like to this jeanmarc77 gallery) and I see the browsers had a different UI and the Webpad had this bubble launcher, etc… but I wonder did these actually ever make it outside the concept stage and go anywhere besides the demo table? That’s probably why I’d never paid attention to these like Sony’s eVilla (which shipped and failed apparently)… although I saw from the video that the guy is using the other UIs, so I guess I’ll need to take a closer look at these now…

Do you mean “About BeOS” window accessible via Deskbar? That was part of IIRC. Could be opened with hey _ABR or something like that.

Sorry i don’t have a screenshot of the bootscreen, from memory it has a black background with the Edirol logo and “Powered by BeIA” in the bottom right corner, or “Loading BeIA” perhaps…but it’s the full BeOS 5.0.3 in there.


@Diver no is wasn’t. That was only from R5 (or maybe 4.5, but the about box I’ve seen hacked in to Open Tracker was based on R4.5’s) onwards. Prior to that, the about box was built in to Tracker. They put it n the Kernel when they opensourced Tracker so that no one could use a fake about dialog… because it came from the kernel, they controlled it. If you try to run Open Tracker on certain earlier builds of BeOS it will segfault when you open the about box because the kernel about box wasn’t implemented.


@lorezan well BeIA != BeOS… the kernel is different. So it’s possible they have some type of hybrid? The Stinger libs lack a lot of R5.03 changes and porting code to BeIA is made harder because of this. If the file system is BFS, and the system claims to be 5.03, it is probably not BeIA.The BeIA numbering system was completely different.

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So I dug out my old BeIA dev kit stuff and built a virtualbox R5.03 image. I’ll see what I can dig up.

One thing I did remember - the code name for BeIA was “Stinger”, which makes “Sapling” sound a lot less appealing. I think it should be something more to do with Bees, Wasps and that kind of thing maybe?

The only ready images I have were for a qubit web pad and as I remember they don’t boot on regular hardware (and I couldn’t get they to boot) so I’ll have a go at building the clipper image when I get a chance.

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Murder Hornets?