beos

BeOS is the new Amiga

by Michael Alderete on 6/4/2003

I hate to say this about something I once loved, but the BeOS — or more accurately, the community that is still around it — is becoming the Millennial version of the Amiga.

Nowhere is this more clear than a recent OSNews.com article reviewing the latest beta of YellowTAB‘s “Zeta”. The author begins by saying “it’s not dead” and then gives copious detail about how screwed up this release is, and makes it clear (without intending to) how impossible it is that it will ever be fixed. Just a couple of examples the author gives:

  • It’s base off of EXP, or what was Be’s main development branch for BeOS. At the time Be stopped working on it, EXP was known to be very unfinished in many areas. Frankly, without the original engineering team, EXP is probably not salvagable in an interesting timeframe.
  • Smooth window dragging is admitted to work less well than Mac OS X. Not surprising, Mac OS X has had 3 more years of development, by a vastly larger team, but that’s exactly the point. Zeta is behind the state-of-the-art, with zero hope of ever catching it.
  • It uses BONE, the next-generation networking stack, which was 75-85% finished when Be stopped working on it. It’s probably the most straightforward module to complete, so if they can’t even finish it…
  • “And hopefully, there is better support for the SB128 sound cards which was the main complaint in 2001.” Um, it’s the middle of 2003 now.
  • No usable web browser, no 3D / OpenGL, no Java.

These are fundamental problems, a minimum of 2 years of development for a large, dedicated team, not things fixable by a couple programmers working for a couple months. YellowTAB simply doesn’t have the means to complete this project. It would be one thing if the author began her review by saying, “OK, BeOS is basically dead, but for those of us who still like to hork around with it, here’s something new and fun to play with.” But to treat the release like it’s a serious project with hopes of someday being useful, instead of a hobby, is just kind of crazy. Just like the Amiga folks.

Why won’t people let BeOS rest in peace? It’s unfortunate but true: BeOS is a red shirt of the computing industry. It’s dead, Jim. Beam back to the Enterprise, and move on to the next planet.

I recommend Mac OS X.

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virtual (void)

by Michael Alderete on 1/29/2002

Since getting started on refurbishing all these BeBoxes, I’ve been listening to Baron’s “virtual (void)“ [MP3], over and over again.

For those who never saw a BeOS demo, “virtual (void)” was the song baked into one of the most compelling demo apps we had, a 3D audio mixer that never failed to get jaws to drop. Andy Grove himself said “I didn’t know a PC could do that” when he saw the BeOS demo.

At any rate, listening to this song, which I truly love, and which is so completely tied to Be in my mind, I’m reminded (over and over) how much fun it was to work there, and how much I enjoyed working with the other people who were having fun there, like Baron.

So, I named the first BeBox “Baron”. ‘Cause I still feel guilty for trying to take the files from him.

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Liquidation of history

by Michael Alderete on 1/16/2002

This morning I’m headed down to Menlo Park, where I worked for three years at Be Incorporated.

It’s been over two years since I left Be, and in the time that’s passed, so has Be. Today they’re just another victim of the economic downturn, and their assets are being auctioned off.

I was at Be during some of the most exciting times, including the first public release of the BeOS, being invested in by Intel, and the public offering.

Be was a special place to work, and BeOS is still unmatched by any other operating system in some areas of functionality and technology. Be, the BeBox, and BeOS have a place in computing history, and it’s a tragedy that it will be as curiosities, evolutionary dead ends, rather than as an important turning point in the computer industry.

I’m headed down to Menlo Park to collect my piece of that history. Some momento of what it was like to work there, what it meant to me, what the company accomplished.

I’m taking the credit card. Don’t tell my wife.

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Once upon a time, I worked for Be Incorporated, of BeOS (semi-) fame. For those who used it, BeOS (an operating system for desktop computers) was unique, and special. But Be is officially no more, and BeOS has been dead for a while.

What made BeOS so useful was a wonderful, responsive graphical interface on top of a powerful, Unix-like environment. The marriage of the two was unique at the time, and the work of some engineers who truly had magic powers.

For a lot of reasons Be didn’t make it, and BeOS died when the company did. It would remain a curiosity of computing history, and a tragedy for those of us who cared, except that some of the ideas live on.

I write this posting on a new Macintosh G4, in a Web browser that is the most beautiful, graceful browser I’ve ever used (OmniWeb). When I click the Save button, the information I’ve typed into a lovely GUI application gets transfered to the web server running a PHP application, which saves the text to a database (MySQL), so that you can read it later.

This relates to BeOS in that all of the software used to run my Weblog application is running on the same machine, running Mac OS X. It’s a lovely graphical interface on top of a true Unix-like environment, which allows the use of both a beautiful Web browser and the Unix-based Web server, PHP, database, and the other Open Source software upon which this site depends.

So, BeOS has died, but some of the most important ideas live on. Mac OS X isn’t for everyone, but for those who give it a whirl and can harness its powers, it’s truly magic.

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