BeOS reborn: 30 days with Haiku

Apparently, you can use the NetPositive browser, as found on the BeOS installation CD (which I obviously don't have). Alternatively, you can download a version of either Opera or Firefox. I go for the latter, but it's not straightforward. The answer is to use Wget to download a pre-built binary of Firefox, and type a few commands to create a couple of environmental variables.

As I can't load the page into Haiku directly, I have to painstakingly copy the command character by character into the Haiku terminal. But a couple of minutes later, and I'm able to jump into the Firefox directory and launch the executable. It's not exactly user-friendly, but these are the kind of problems you expect when you're visiting a new country.

It turns out that Firefox is being actively developed for BeOS, but that the BeOS Firefox project goes under the name of Bezilla. This is because the current port doesn't meet Mozilla's strict requirements to qualify for use of the Firefox brand. It also means that the BeOS version of Firefox is always going to be a few steps behind the Linux version. And the same is true of Java, which currently has no BeOS port (though a small team of developers have just taken on the task).

Now that I've got a web browser running, things are looking much brighter. For a start, I can actually use Haiku productively. Firefox runs a little slowly, but otherwise it's the same browser we all know and love. Google Mail and Google Documents work fine, and I can download things through a GUI for the first time.

There's no Java and no Flash support, but that's probably a good thing, as it stops me wasting time watching early 80s pop music videos on YouTube. I was able to use the Haiku desktop for web browsing without much difficulty, and I carried on like this for several days before wanting to delve any deeper into the operating system.


After spending a couple of days using Haiku for idle browsing, I thought it was about time to try something more interesting. And that meant installing more software. Fortunately, there's a portal for all things BeOS, and it's This is one of those subversive hideaways you never realise live on the internet until you have cause to visit.

Windows users must think the same thing about Linux until they first Google for it and realise the internet is Linux. BeBits is a time capsule for BeOS applications, utilities and games, many of which I hope should start on Haiku without too much difficulty. That's the idea anyway.

Serious business

The retro feel of the whole desktop put me in the mood for some classic gaming, so I searched the site for a BeOS Tanks clone, thinking that simplicity would be a good place to start. There were several (including the open source classic Barrage), but I opted for the primitive classic TankGame. Unfortunately, TankGame needed registration information to get to the download page.

Faced with dozens of other games to try, I simply switched back to BeBits and tried the second option – the infamous Barrage. This got a good rating, and was only a 709KB download (or should that be 'a single floppy disk'?), but the link was dead. I found dead links and forgotten applications were common in my Haiku confinement, and this left me with some random game searching.

I ploughed through the games list, and chose a game called Alien Attack 2, a title I can remember from my Acorn Electron days – which may explain why it was only a 40KB download and nearly 10 years old. After a split second, the zip file could be found on my desktop, and a right-click later the executable was extracted to the desktop. The nice thing about Haiku is that you can often run applications directly. There's even a pretty alien icon on the desktop, and a click on this and the game runs. In a small window. And way too fast. But it's a neat-looking game, and I'm left wanting to try something else.