Palm Buys Be, Inc.

Still trying to figure out how I feel about today’s news that Be, Inc. has been purchased by Palm. Or, to be more specific, Palm has purchased BeOS, BeIA, and has dibs on Be engineers – they didn’t actually purchase the company per se. But Be will probably close up shop once the sale is complete.

In a way, we were all prepared for this for a very long time now. We’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop, and it finally has. I don’t think that many of us thought that whoever bought the company would have big designs for the desktop OS, and Palm almost certainly is uninterested in doing anything on the desktop. More likely, Palm wants to beef up and extend its product line – make palm-sized devices more media-friendly, and possibly build appliance-like units for the home. No one has heard yet whether Palm has any plans for the desktop at all, but I doubt it.

This pretty much seals the deal – it’s the end of the road for BeOS as we know it. In a way, it’s been dead for two years. But now, barring a miracle or a surprise announcement from Palm, BeOS is really, really dead. I have to confess that there’s a part of me that just wishes BeOS would go away. It has left me exhausted and apathetic. Tired of waging a battle against ridiculous odds. Tired of the humming of in my office. Tired of trying to stand up and evangelize like a crazy old man with tinfoil in his hair ranting about the second coming. But another part of me still believes deeply in what Be is and what they’ve created. Believes that there is a way to best MS at their own game (without having to tread the open source quaqmire). Believes that there is no better desktop user experience, period.

I don’t think any of BeOS users are shocked, really. More like relieved to finally know where things are headed. The people who continue to use BeOS after this news are going to be the hardcore users only. Like the people who still use their Amiga boxes after all these years. I doubt I’ll become one of them. At this point, only the regular Byte gig keeps me hanging on and watching the news. If that falls away, I probably won’t be using BeOS anymore. The compromises have become too plentiful to outweigh the advantages.

More than anything, I think what’s sad about all of this is that it sends a message to the world : “Don’t bother trying to create a better desktop OS — it doesn’t matter how hard you try, how many engineers you throw at the problem, how much money you spend, or how many years you put into it. Microsoft owns that space and, worse, the public is totally complicit and fine with that fact. People will not stop using Windows. It is a losing battle.” It is unlikely now that anyone will ever again attempt what Be has attempted.

And that’s the saddest thing of all — the insidious ways in which the monopoly has wormed itself into the fabric of our economy and culture. The message that “resistance is futile” has been hammered home.

Three Movies

Three great movies in three days. On Friday we rented “Bridge on the River Kwai”, a 1957 war movie with almost no bullets – a very psychological, unusual plot. We expected it to be good but weren’t prepared for just how good it would be. Alec Guinness as the corporal of a group of British POWs in a Japanese-run internment camp in Ceylon, who turn their defeat into psychological victory by building this amazing bridge. Won’t spoil the ending, but it’s pretty gripping. Beautifully shot.

Last night went out with Amy, Chris T, and Mike to see Terry Zwigoff (Crumb)’s “Ghost World”, which is quite easily the best movie to come out this summer. One of the only movies about teen angst and disconnection that’s really worth watching. Intensely sardonic. Anyone who spent much of their lives so steeped in hip, ironic detachment that they lost contact with the real world (like Amy and me) will relate to this. Very witty, but also poignant. And fun. The “Zen Guerilla” is a hoot.

I was really excited about this movie because I used to read a lot of Daniel Clowe’s comics when I lived in Boston – Eightball and Velvet Glove Cast in Iron, and they used to have brief Ghost World segments in them. What was amazing was how true this movie was to the comic. I mean, little details that got carried across with total accuracy, like her batgirl mask, and the stuffed weasel enwrapped by snake at Buscemi’s garage sale. We came home and dug out all those comics and read all the old Ghost World episodes together and were just amazed at how perfectly the movie captured the comic.

After Mike and Chris left, we watched Ang Lee’s “The Ice Storm”, about the swirling lostness and discontent of families in the 70s. A very unusual vantage point on family life. What was nice was how most movies set in the 70s play up all kinds of 70s retro stereotypes about decor and fashion; this one didn’t at all. Instead it focused on how weird that decade was in terms of coming down from the revolutionary zeal of the 60s into something that was trying to be normal but was actually pretty f*cked up. Somehow the director managed to make insignificant details really portend larger things. Got kind of boring towards the end though, or at least I thought so (Amy didn’t).. kind of spiralled down into tedium.

Refreshing to take in some quality movies in the midst of the summer void.

Talking about Ghost World later, I realized something about myself: How I’m perfectly prepared to consume trash movies and trash TV on a fairly regular basis. As long as I know I’m sitting down to consume trash, I don’t mind. It’s just a relax and enjoy kind of thing. But I don’t feel the same way at all about music. I have no patience for bad music, feel that world is overflowing with the stuff, get annoyed and frustrated that 90% of the world seems content to consume bad music, and sometimes want to cry that there seems no way out. “Give ’em a Big Mac and a pair of Nikes and they’re happy” said Steve Buscemi’s character. Exactly. Anyway, I wonder what it is that makes me able to swallow bad movies and just shrug my shoulders, but to get so wound up and angry/sad about the state of music these days. Seems kind of paradoxical.

The Joy of Linux

I’m reading this book The Joy of Linux by Michael Hall and Brian Proffitt. Pretty interesting read, and quite funny in places, but the arrogance and blindness of the authors is astounding to me as well. They use words like “elegant” to describe Linux, and talk about how cohesive the Linux community is. What a joke. They never even mention BeOS once in the whole book, even in the context of “fighting the good fight” etc.

Anyway, it’s nice to read a book about computing culture by otherwise very good writers rather than the usual technical manual type of book.

Hardcover only right now though – I’d say it’s not worth the price of admission unless they do a soft cover.

Apache and BeTips

BeTips is now running Apache, rather than Robin Hood. Forget about Xitami. Have done a bunch of benchmarking, and Xitami is slow as molasses compared to Apache and RH. Maybe Xitami does well on single-threaded platforms, but on a dual-proc BeOS machine, it’s all about multithreading, and single-threaded just doesn’t cut it.

Learning a lot by learning to configure Apache. I’ve never had the opportunity to do it before. Not difficult, just brand new territory for me. Enjoying the changeover. Now have everything working but SSI, and that seems to be an acknowledged problem. We’ll lick it.

Have been using Microsoft’s Web Application Stress Tool for the benchmarking. Pretty sophisticated. Did an 8-hour run against Apache last night, requesting alternating HTML and CGI pages as fast as possible. Did nearly half a million overnight. Would have been a lot more, but running through the slow pcmcia network card in my laptop, and my CGI pages do a lot of work. Apache also comes with ab, so I can do stress testing on the local BeOS machine without having the network in the way — huge difference.

Out of Words


My grandfather had a very husky, slow, quiet voice. When I was very young I took this to mean that he was running out of words – I thought he had used up his lifetime supply. I thought I had to be very careful because I didn’t want to run out of words too. I went through a period where I didn’t say much, because I was trying to be careful and not run out.

White Boy Dreadlock

What I don’t understand is why most of the posts here are complaining about people who are critical of white dreads, when none of the posts here are critical of white dreads! And in fact, the original post that started this discussion (which I wrote) does not criticize white dreads. So… uh… is there like, a persecution syndrome happening here?


Cool – Rob Judd just compiled the Xitami web server for BeOS, so I’m running betips on xitami rather than RobinHood now. RH is great, but there are some things it doesn’t do, like output standard Apache log format. Xitami does, so I’ll finally be able to parse my traffic logs with analog.

I’ve also wanted to see whether frequent server stoppages are a result of BONE or RH. Wanted to test with Apache, but was never able to get Apache to compile under BONE. Anyway, this test is going very well so far. Spent a couple hours configuring last night and all is good.

Already reported one bug last night, and Judd sent me a new binary by this morning with the problem fixed. Wow – a responsive developer!

The BeOS Paradox in 2001

I just posted this on BeNews. Re-posting here because it summarizes my thinking about the operating system that was one of the most important things in my life for the past four or five years. I’ve had to go through a lot of gear-gnashing to come to terms with the current state of things. This sums up where I stand with it today.

Many people seem to misunderstand my current position on BeOS. If my words and my actions seem contradictory, it is because of the apparent paradox of these two true statements:

1) The BeOS _marketplace_ is extinct, done for, and beyond hope of resurrection. This fact would not change even if a major new BeOS release appeared (which I feel is highly doubtful) — it’s far too late for that and too many businesses have been burned by attempting BeOS development. There is no money to be made on the platform. Without either monetary incentive or open source momentum (we have neither), the future growth and evolutionary potential of BeOS and BeOS apps is extremely limited.

2) Despite its shortcomings and missing mature applications, BeOS is the best desktop operating system ever developed, period. So good, in fact, that people will continue to enjoy finding uses for BeOS despite the truth value of #1.

I am bitter because of #1, but I still (sometimes) use and promote BeOS because of #2.