As promised by the Haiku team earlier this month, Haiku R1 now stands released in its beta version! After the big gap between Haikus’ latest release in November 2012, users can expect a lot more upgrades in the R1/beta1. The Haiku OS is known for its ease of use, responsiveness, and overall coherence. With improvements to its package manager, WebPositive, media subsystem and much more Haiku has made the wait worth its while!
Let’s dive into some of the major upgrades of this release.
#1 Package management
The biggest upgrade in the R1 Beta is the addition of a complete package management system. Finalized and merged during 2013, Haiku packages are a special type of compressed filesystem image. These are ‘mounted’ upon installation and thereafter on each boot by the packagefs.
It is worth noting that since packages are merely “activated”, not installed, the bootloader has been given some capacity to affect them. Users can boot into a previous package state -in case they took a bad update- or even blacklist individual files. Installations and uninstallations of packages are practically instant. Users can manage the installed package set on a non-running Haiku system by mounting its boot disk and then manipulating the /system/packages directory and associated configuration files.
The Haiku team has also introduced pkgman, the command-line interface to the package management system. Unlike most other package managers where packages can be installed only by name, Haiku packages can also be searched for and installed by provides, e.g. pkgman install cmd:rsync or pkgman install devel:libsdl2, which will locate the most relevant package that provides that, and install it. Accompanying the package manager is a massively revamped HaikuPorts, containing a wide array of both native and ported software for Haiku.
#2 WebPositive upgrades
The team has made the system web browser much more stable than before. Glitches with YouTube now stand fixed. While working on WebKit, the team also managed to fix a large number of bugs in Haiku itself – such as broken stack alignment, various kernel panics in the network stack, bad edge-case handling in app_server’s rendering core GCC upgrades and many more. HaikuWebKit now supports Gopher, which is its own network protocol layer.
#3 Completely rewritten network preflet
The newly rewritten network preflet, is designed for ease of use and longevity. In addition to the interface configuration screens, the preflet is also now able to manage the network services on the machine, such as OpenSSH and ftpd. It uses a plugin-based API, which helps third-party network services like VPNs, web servers, etc to integrate with it.
#4 User interface cleanup & live color updates
Mail and Tracker now sport Haiku-style toolbars and font-size awareness, among other applications. This will enable users to add proper DPI scaling and right-to-left layouts.
Instead of requesting a specific system color and then manipulating it, most applications now instruct their controls to adopt certain colors based on the system color set directly.
#5 Media subsystem improvements
The Haiku team has made cleanups to the Media Kit to improve fault tolerance, latency correction, and performance issues. This will help with the Kit’s overall resilience.
HTTP and RTSP streaming support integrated into the I/O layer of the Media Kit. Livestreams can now be played in WebPositive via HTML5 audio/video support, or in the native MediaPlayer.
Significant improvements to the FFmpeg decoder plugin were made. Rather than the ancient FFmpeg 0.10, the last version that GCC2 can compile, FFmpeg 4.0 is now used all-around for a better support of both audio and video formats, as well as significant performance improvements.
The driver for HDA saw a good number of cleanups and wider audio support since the previous release. The DVB tuner subsystem saw a substantial amount of rework and the APE reader was also cleaned up and added to the default builds.
Haiku’s native RemoteDesktop application was improved and added to the builds. The RemoteDesktop forwards drawing commands from the host system to the client system, which for most applications consumes significantly lower bandwith. RemoteDesktop can connect and run applications on any Haiku system that users have SSH access to, there is no need for a remote server.
#7 New thread scheduler
Haiku’s kernel thread scheduler is now O(1) (constant time) with respect to threads, and O(log N)(logarithmic time) with respect to processor cores. The new limit is 64 cores, this being an arbitrary constant that can be increased at any time. There are new implementations of the memcpy and memset primitives for x86 which constitute significant increases to their performance.
#8 Updated Ethernet & WiFi drivers
The ethernet & WiFi drivers, have been upgraded to those from FreeBSD 11.1. This brings in support for Intel’s newer “Dual Band” family, some of Realtek’s PCI chipsets, and newer-model chipsets in all other existing drivers. Additionally, the FreeBSD compatibility layer now interfaces with Haiku’s support for MSI-X interrupts, meaning that WiFi and ethernet drivers will take advantage of it wherever possible, leading to significant improvements in latency and throughput.
#9 Updated file system drivers
The NFSv4 client, was finally merged into Haiku itself, and is included by default. Additionally, Haiku’s userlandfs, which supports running filesystem drivers in userland, is now shipped along with Haiku itself. It supports running BeOS filesystem drivers, Haiku filesystem drivers, and provides FUSE compatibility. As a result, various FUSE-based filesystem drivers are now available in the ports tree, including FuseSMB, among others.
Apart from the above mentioned features, users can look forward to EFI bootloader and GPT support, a build-in debugger, general system stabilization and much more!
Reddit also saw comments from users waiting eagerly for this release:
After a long span of 17 years from its day of launch, it would be interesting to see how this upgrade is received by the masses. To know more about Haiku R1, head over to their official site