Haiku Project started in 2001 as an open-source OS. As they could not get the exact name for the domain, the OS website is available as haiku-os.org. It is a non-profit organisation from the US, and the OS became self-hosting in 2008. The last release was in the year 2012. The system is known as fast, easy to use and efficient OS. The original project has inspiration from the BeOS, targeting personal computing. If you want to experiment with this OS, you can find freelancers working on this OS and can test your applications on this OS.
Why Haiku Name?
You might have heard Haiku name related to poetry as it relates to short three line Japanese poems. Later, the same name is used in many other languages to represent such short poems. Like Haiku poems, the OS is supposed to be powerful, simple and easy to understand.
Haiku OS, Linux, and BeOS
Many people think that this OS has a Linux base, but it is not true! The Haiku project team want to focus on leaner and easy operations. They also want to focus on better user experience and is not based on Linux, though it is also an open source OS. The initial version was BeOS based with Tracker and Deskbar code. Later, the code kept undergoing several changes, and it is no more BeOS base system.
Starting with Haiku
Haiku website mentioned above has a Slideshow and Movies Pages which are good starting points to start using Haiku. The initial version is stable, and you can start using it for daily tasks. You can use FreeBSD and get connected to the network. There are an inbuilt email client and a web browser. Wi-Fi driver support is there, and you can connect to WPA, WEP and open networks as well. The majority of the code is available under MIT licence.
The current version is x86 32 bit, and x86-64 bit version is available but without any formal support. The development is still going on, and the freelance web developers are awaiting for a new release. You can still download the 64 bit version and test it. The best way to get into an open source project is during its development stage and provide your inputs.
Haiku comes with a package manager making it easy to install applications and update them regularly. The Applications distribution is through package files, which you can download and start using them. Your installation updates are only possible through the terminal as of now. For all new software/applications, you have to keep visiting the HaikuDepot application.
There is a package for Caya, the multi-protocol IM client with many other alternatives to support Instant Messaging (IM) functionality.
Application and Language Support
The OpenJDK Virtual Machine (VM) is available and allows you to run applications such as Netbeans, JDownloader, and much more. There is no Flash support as of now. You can use HTML5 compatible versions to use other Adobe equivalent tools.
You can buy ThinkFree Office, which runs fine on Haiku using the OpenJDK virtual machine or you can use Google Docs also. The native applications are Sum-It (for spreadsheet) and WonderBrush (for drawing and graphical design).
The HaikuDepot has a selection of open source and freeware games. Most games written for BeOS will run fine, and you can use some emulators as well.
Technology & GCC Compatibility
The GNU Compiler Collection (GCC) compiler system is a product of the GNU Project supporting multiple programming languages. The Free Software Foundation (FSF) distributes GCC, which has played an important role in the growth of free software.
GCC2 is used to compile a big part of the system to ensure binary compatibility with BeOS. GCC3 introduced a new mangling convention for the C++ language, which makes it impossible to link gcc2 and gcc3+ compiled binaries or libraries, so Haiku team is still using gcc2 for BeOS compatibility. This limitation is for the x86 (32-bit) version, and other versions are not providing binary compatibility with BeOS and are free from this restriction, so they use the latest compiler.
Is there support for newer GCC compilers?
To provide support for C++ and up to date libraries, the official versions of Haiku come with both gcc2 and gcc5 installed, and a set of libraries suitable for use with each compiler. You can also opt for the GCC4 system.
The Haiku Kernel has a user friendly on-screen debugger. You can enter commands, investigate the problem and collect information to write a defect report.
Haiku runs on a Pentium or better CPU with 128MB of RAM, 600MB of storage space and a VESA compliant video card. Better the hardware, you will see better performance. 1 GB memory machines are very common, and if you are using the same, you can have a nice speed of operations.
Haiku is using the VESA driver, which has some limitations. The VESA driver cannot configure an arbitrary resolution. It can only select one resolution from a fixed list, the VESA BIOS list as manufactured in your graphics board.
Test whether your sound card is visible in the Media preferences. If, detected but there is still no sound, this is a problem with the OS audio drivers.
The latest PC hardware uses sound devices compatible with the Intel HDA specification. It leaves the routing of the audio signals to different outputs, making it difficult to write a driver that works out of the box on all machines.
You can download Haiku ISO from their website and burn it to a CD. Alternatively, you can get official installation CD from the Company and get the latest release. Keep looking at freelance tips on a blog like this one for more updates. Be ready to have an unstable release as this is a developing OS and until there is a new release you will have to go with the unsupported release. It is worth trying a new personal computing OS and being a part of its development with considerable new learning.