Just what is “Haiku?”

If you’ve ever changed the channel on the TV and found yourself in the middle of a movie, you can probably appreciate the feeling people get when they stumble upon a web site that assumes its readers already know what the site is talking about. leBUZZ is probably as guilty as any of failing to provide an onramp for newcomers, so let me address that right now with a very brief introduction to “Haiku,” the operating system.

We all learned about Haiku poetry in school. Beautiful little three line poems that evoked lovely imagery, with simplicity. As operating systems go, Haiku lives up to its name; presenting a beautifully simple interface that delivers fast, fluid performance.

Open sourced (translate: “free!”), and authored by a stalwart team of programmers with amazing long-term vision and staying power, Haiku is a Be Operating System clone that has been under development for over a decade. Carefully adhering to the behaviors of the original operating system, Haiku is remarkably compatible with BeOS, meaning many of the programs written for BeOS run just fine on Haiku. And as you might expect, there are also programs being designed specifically for Haiku as well. There’s a need for much more good software for this platform, though I think this will come as more and more people, including developers, find their way to it.

What’s it like? Comfortable and familiar. For anyone who has used other desktop environments like Windows, Mac, or Linux, with their icons, windows, wallpaper, “deskbar” and start button, you’ll find using Haiku to be second nature. You do all the same sorts of program launches, drags and drops, copies, pastes, etc. you’re used to. If you like to use ALT as your main option key, as Linux and Mac users do, you can do that. If you prefer CTRL as Windows users do, you can do that instead.

Haiku has matured into a trusty desktop environment that, while still labeled “alpha” by the development team, has the look and feel of a polished, finished product. It runs on both old and new PC hardware, including systems based on both Intel and AMD processors. Its small footprint and low overhead requirements mean programs launch and run very, very fast. You see evidence of it when you double-click on an audio or video file and a media player launches and starts playing it immediately. That’s something I’ve never seen on any other platform, even a Mac with brand new, high-end hardware.

BeOS has always been about media, with its silky, jitter-free audio and video handling capabilities. Haiku is poised to walk in its footsteps. And since the leBUZZ web site is all about media, that’s a lot of what you’ll see us covering here.

And did I mention, Haiku is free? That means everybody can download it, install it to a spare partition on their computer, and start having fun with it. I’d encourage you to give it a try. You can get it at the official Haiku web site. A brand new “Alpha 4.1” version has just come out, and it’s plenty cool. Enjoy.

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