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haiku

I love Haiku.

Within the small circle of people I know who know Haiku, I see this sentiment echoed unanimously. Haiku is beautiful.

On the service, it doesn't seem so different from a Linux distribution, or macOS, or Windows. It comes with the programs you'd expect, a package manager, and a terminal. It's interface is slightly different, but not unconventional. It's what is underneath that is more special.

Something about Haiku just feels more coherent than other operating systems. I think that a lot of that comes from the fact that it's a product of the 90s rather than the 60s or 70s like the foundations of the other mainstream offerings. By the 90s it was pretty clear the way that computers were going - personal. If you're reading this you've probably heard it said before, but Haiku is built with the idea that one user will be using it with more than one processor, rather than that multiple users will be connecting to one processor.

The system boots fast, even from a USB. There's no faffing with users and permissions because the system is built just for you. Programs launch almost instantaneously. How much of these observations are down to my rose-tinted glasses and how much is down to the technicalities of the system I do not know. But Haiku feels clean. It feels like the jigsaw puzzle was cut by the artist.

I was trying to load some music from my thumb drive into the media player the other day. I didn't know where to look for the drive, but I knew that all drives appeared on the desktop. I dragged the icon onto the file explorer and it opened into the drive. Maybe I'm just a decade behind the times, but this impressed me.

The filesystem is where the real wonder lies. BeFS is more like a database than a traditional file system. The built in mail client uses tracker as its interface. (Tracker is the file manager for Haiku). Each email is its own file but the metadata is stored as if it's in a database. It feels elegant. It doesn't feel like a hack.

Haiku uses the alt key for copy and paste keyboard shortcuts. Copying and pasting from the terminal no longer feels like a hack. Admittedly the same can be said about macOS, but it's worth mentioning here, as comparisons to how Macs do things in terms of intuitiveness are usually a positive thing.

Haiku has its own interface toolkit, just like Qt or GTK, except it is much more a part of the system. User interface design is one of the only places that I think benefits from an object-oriented system, and Haiku is built from the ground up embracing the paradigm. I don't like writing graphical programs, but I've written some for Haiku (admittedly only toys) purely for the joy of an interface toolkit that feels sensible.

Maybe I'm preaching to the choir. But sometimes even the choir need their faith checked. Haiku is a solid and easy to use system, and succeeds in the tasks that the average user needs in their computer - it can take notes and access the internet. Maybe if we get the choir excited enough again people will take notice - it takes one company to notice and we might make something better.

October 15, 2019