What is Haiku?
In short, Haiku is an open-source re-creation of the operating system BeOS. In 1990, a company called Be Incorporated was found in California, USA, by ex-Apple employees Jean-Louis Gassée and Steve Sakoman. Be, Inc. had a vision: to create a powerful, elegant, media-oriented, and friendly computer with a matching operating system. They did create one. The computer was called the BeBox, and it and its operating system, the BeOS, were first presented at Agenda 95 in October, 1995. It made the audience go wild.
The BeBox was ahead of its time in many ways. In the middle of the 1990s, it was unheard of that a consumer PC would have more than one CPU. The BeBox had two CPU's; originally AT&T Hobbits, and from 1995 onwards PowerPC. The operating system, BeOS, had pervasive multithreading, pre-emptive multitasking, 64-bit journalling, database-like filesystem, very low latency in audio and video tasks, and a clean, slick user interface. It was, in a word, an operating system you could almost fall in love with.
Sadly, as things go, Be had to quit hardware due to financial and hardware supply problems, and they ported BeOS to PowerPC in 1997 and later, in 1998, to Intel compatible systems. Although the operating system had many enthusiastic users and developers, it never gained a significant market share. Lack of applications was one thing, as BeOS was developed from scratch and had only partial POSIX compatibility. In 2000, Be released the BeOS version 5.0, called the Personal Edition, for free (as in freeware) on the Internet – which undermined the sales of the Pro edition, increasing Be's financial difficulties. The company shifted its focus to Internet appliances, which eroded the credibility of BeOS as a viable alternative to Windows or Linux. Be, Inc. went bankrupt in 2001.
Be left a legacy: a free of charge version of the BeOS. Although the operating system's future looked bleak, many still wanted to use it daily. From that want rose several projects to re-implement the BeOS experience in open source. Haiku is one of them.
Haiku is Japanese and means a short poem of a certain type. Originally, when the project was started in late 2001, it was called OpenBeOS; later, it was renamed Haiku. Haiku poems are simple and elegant, and that is what the Haiku Operating System also strives to be. The goal of Haiku is to be source and binary compatible to BeOS 5.0, and then extend it further to new areas. Because of the modularity of BeOS and because a free of charge, usable version was available, it was not an impossible task to start recreating the operating system.
At the time of writing this introduction (Dec 2005), Haiku has advanced slowly but steadily. The first working, alpha version seems to be just around the corner.
Purpose of this book
What you are reading now is the Unofficial Haiku Handbook – a user manual. This book will guide you in installing and using Haiku, configuring it, installing software, connecting to other computers, playing media files, and managing your files efficiently. Although it is written more from the beginner's perspective, many old, advanced BeOS users will no doubt find useful hints. Haiku R1 is very similar to BeOS 5.0.
FIXME: Add description of chapters once the table of contents has been fixed.