Haiku, an open source project inspired by BeOS, has hit a new milestone, with developers releasing Alpha 4 of the operating system.
More than 1000 bugs were fixed in the new release, and improvements include a new native debugger; upgraded graphics, networking and wireless support; and enhancements to the BFS file system.
The release notes state that one of the goals for Alpha 4 "was to provide current and future Haiku developers an updated and (mostly) stable operating system to work on their software projects. Therefore we have included the basic build tools. This release of Haiku is capable of building and running binaries using either GCC 2 or GCC 4. The use of GCC 4 is discouraged however if not absolutely necessary, as no API compatibility is guaranteed with future versions of Haiku."
"We had a quite long release cycle this time, longer than we have ever had, and while that might normally be a good thing, I think it got to the point of being a detriment," Haiku developer and former release coordinator Ryan Leavengood told Techworld Australia.
"I spent a large part of the release cycle as release coordinator before Alexander von Gluck took over, and both of us spent a lot of time merging things from the master branch to the release branch. This took up time which might have otherwise been spent doing new Haiku development."
Leavengood said that the time between the project issuing Alpha 3 and Alpha 4 being released was "way too long", and that releases will hopefully be more frequent, even if it means there are fewer changes between releases.
One Alpha until Haiku Beta?
Leavengood said that there is likely to be an Alpha 5, but that hopefully it will be the final Alpha before a Beta release of the operating system. The focus for Alpha 5 will be package management. "Quite a bit of work" has already been done on package management for the system, he said.
Leavengood said that the pace of Haiku development has been too slow, but that "unfortunately that is just the how it is with such a big goal and a small set of people working on it".
"Overall what has been accomplished with the Haiku project is pretty impressive, but the reality is that for Haiku to really have any impact, it needs to get a first stable release out as soon as possible. Most of the Haiku developers are perfectionists (including myself), and while that can result in a nice product, it can also result in things taking longer than they might otherwise.
"Many people in the Haiku community have brainstormed over how we can fix this, and mostly I think it is a monetary issue. Like everyone, the Haiku developers have 'day jobs' and need to make a living, and if the Haiku project has money to pay them to work on Haiku, they will do that.
"Right now that usually means they work at a very, very low rate compared to what they might usually make, but if Haiku had more money at its disposal, they could be paid more closely to their going rate."
One idea that has been mulled is using a crowdsourcing platform such as Kickstarter to raise funds.
Leavengood said that an ARM port of Haiku, which could run on the ARM-based Raspberry Pi, is in its "very early stages". "We are still even just getting the bootloader and kernel very roughly working," he said.
"I've seen some commits to this effect even today though, so it is actively being worked on. I bought a Raspberry Pi a few months ago, and have done some very initial work with it, but I have a lot to learn before I could be too useful in helping with the port. My area of expertise is more in 'userland', though like any developer the idea of working in the kernel is intriguing."