(note: this message was originally made for a French linux users forum, I’ve translated it quickly so it may still contains some errors. As the user guide states, “One of the main reasons for releasing an alpha version is to attract more people to test the system and discover bugs or provide suggestions for future enhancements.”. So those suggestions are for helping to improve Haiku, and I’ll try to open bugs in the trackers about some issues discussed here)
Since the release of the first Haiku alpha (14th September 2009), I installed it and tried to use it continuously for at least one whole week.
Unfortunately, I had to reboot for several reasons:
Haiku does not support (at least in this alpha version) writing on the ext2/ext3, and all my personal files, those on which I work daily are ext3. I have a copy of them on a USB key in vfat, so I could work on them from the USB key and periodically synchronizes them back on my ext3 partition with unison.
I needed to work with software that does not exist in Haiku : gimp, inkscape and many other programs that are not yet ported to Haiku, or exist only in some versions obsolete, less efficient (as in Firefox which is at version 2)
Nevertheless, Haiku uses a graphical interface but with the possibility of text-based shell, it has unique things that make nice, promising future, and pleasant to use:
- The file system BeFS is really interesting, even if that requires to use BeOS / Haiku continuously to enjoy it.
I find the concept of attributes very attractive, but it’s not really portable if you change computers and / or are not using Haiku all the time. If you copy files to another medium (FTP, USB key etc.), you lose all those extra data! (but if you zip your file, it will keep the attributes)
- Other significant facility: to create a new file type, simply add the proper file type, eg text in a specific folder:
~ / config / settings / Tracker / Tracker New Templates
I discovered later it’s possible to use something similar with a ~/Templates in the gnome desktop, but it’s less documented (you can’t miss it on Haiku when you create a new file type).
- With the tracker you can quickly explore all sub-folders with a right-click and you get an overview. It’s hard to explain, but it’s remarkably well-designed and more practical than the equivalent under linux (in kde4 for example). And this has nothing to do with the horrible finder on mac os x.
On the contrary, the notion of “Desktop”, is somewhat complicated. If you open a folder from the desktop to a subfolder, it will appear as “/boot/home/Desktop/folder” (in gray, and you can’t go up to the parent). But if you open the file /boot /home, you cannot find the Desktop in it! (and there is no problem to access it from Terminal). It reminds me of Windows a bit, and I’d prefer it to be like on linux/gnome/kde: a subfolder of the home folder.
The system boots quickly (15 s) and stops even more quicker (2 s)
A great feature is the “replicants”, some programs may open in a window, and if you want you can just post them on the desktop, like a plasmoid in KDE4. One example is a clock, calculator, the virtual desktop manager, etc. processes. But what is great is that you can distort them before, and stick it on the desktop, it takes this form. Of course, it was now with the widgets and other widgets, but the technology has arrived well before mac os x and kde. In short, as someone said, “BeOS did it 10 years ago”.
In summary, I find the interface very intuitive sometimes, but especially if you are a “geek”, maybe if you put in front of “normal” people, I fear they may not necessarily understand it, for example with the concept of editing the file attributes. Also you can save a text document with some formatting (bold, colors) which are copied to the attributes. If you move the file to another file system (typical on an USB key in fat32), the document will lose this formatting and an unaware (normal) person will not understand why.
Another strange thing is there is no interface to start the mail_daemon manually (no icon), and without that from the mail interface you cannot request to get new messages, you can just compose a new message. (and then be asked to start the mail_daemon to send it).
I found later a tab with the option to start the mail_daemon during startup, but it’s somehow strange to me.
This way of using mail also has some annoying flaws:
- Opening a message folder is quite long: around 17 seconds for 1500 messages (much more if you want to go in a sub-folder), since every message is a different file.
Then I found the search a bit confusing message, especially when you just want to quickly read a message arrived the day before. You can’t mark importante messages with a visible star etc…
Finally, also because I’m using several operative systems, it was easier for me to store my contacts and emails with thunderbird so I’ve started to use it after a while.
A few other things I noticed:
The keyboard shortcut alt instead of ctrl confused me a little. We can shift them, but then in the terminal that is inverted too (alt + A to return to the top of the line, while ctrl+A will select all etc.). It may seems more logical than on linux / other unix systems (ctrl+C will always copy, even in the terminal, instead of cancelling a started program), but it’s confusing in the first place, and besides, Alt+ something is less accessible than Ctrl+ something, and when you select a text with the mouse in a X11 terminal, you can easily paste it elsewhere with the middle click button.
I missed the copy / paste with the middle mouse click in X (it works in some programs, including the terminal, but not everywhere).
No resizing by clicking on the edges of windows (you must use the right bottom handle)
No upper accented letter when caps locks is on, like under unix or mac os x. (Haiku behavior is like on windows, which is not the best reference on this issue).
The dead keys are slow to react, if I type a circumflex too quickly, I get this: dr ^ole instead of drôle.
I couldn’t run midi file after the basic install. Then I found how to install a soundfont fluidsynth uses it, it’s like timidity with Linux.
It was detailled there: http://www.haiku-os.org/community/forum/playing_midi_files
The sound is horribly choppy. [edit: it was solved later, see the bug tracker and the forum thread]
It was discussed there: http://www.haiku-os.org/community/forum/playing_music
I’ve opened this ticket about this issue: http://dev.haiku-os.org/ticket/4656
No apparent conservation of the working sessions (it doesn’t keep either the recent document list after reboot).
Not able to run the web server “Poorman” with php (I don’t think it’s possible)
And I also didn’t find a way to connect to a remote file server (nfs or samba), probably this is not possible too.
A package manager for Haiku would be welcome (but it’s worked on: http://www.haikuware.com/directory/view-details/development/app-installation/packager )
There is only one version of the OS, but a multitude of sources to find software: haikuware, BeBits, haiku ports. Some packages on Bebits, provided for beos, no longer work under Haiku, or may cause serious problems with haiku: while installing ssl when I tried to run a Jabber client, I could no longer use ssh afterwards (and there is no uninstaller either)
Moreover, we can often find different versions of software (obsolete ones on bebits and such). This should be better with an official package manager.
Firefox is still an old version (firefox 2), and some sites are difficult to navigate because of this. The forum on haiku is especially slow to navigate from Haiku.
A dedicated web browser is worked on, fortunately.
There is an irc client, but no jabber client in the default installation. I had a hard time finding a working one (like this one: http://haikufire.com/?appid=Q9AhOJcePvLDtOAWjbLwy6jIqVelAUlQ )
I find slightly annoying, that when asked to turn off the machine after a few seconds (very short) this indicates that we can turn it off by hand only (but may be it lack of things to deal with it directly, the acpi?).
Installation is rather easy, as long as the material is well recognized. On another computer, a generic network card (Realtek 8139, driver rlt8139), was recognised in listdev, but I couldn’t find it in the network options.
In spite of everything I could state above, I really appreciate haiku.
I was following it from time to time in the past, trying the nightly build and founding it more and more enjouabe
And since I watch a little Haiku, this Alpha version is really a turning point in its use: with the installed version on my hard drive, I can really use Haiku on a daily basis, and it’s quite stable (I had a few kernel panics, but not so often)
Haiku is therefore an alternative desktop that I hope will get more users in the future, and will have new original applications.
So as a user, YES, I’ll keep Haiku, because it’s already very usable and I feel well when running it, also because I have a big part of my working files (abc musical format, documents in txt2tags files) in open formats which are plateform and even software independant. Of course I’ll have to back Linux from time to time, but this is not a problem because I enjoy also using Linux