Don’t we all just love computers? Of course we do. You’re reading this on one right now. Yes, even if it’s on your phone or a tablet. They’re all computers. No matter how small.
So I bought a Raspberry Pi. I don’t have any major plans for it, but I got it because it’s neat and small. Like, palm of my hand small. In a case. It’s not particularly powerful but it’s good enough to sort of run a web browser. I’m writing this entry on it right now.
You might think that would be enough for me. You’d be wrong. You see, long ago, back in the 1990s, there was an operating system called BeOS. I’ve always liked playing with different operating systems. Even before the concept of an operating system was general knowledge.
See, back in the old days, computers were different from each other. Ataris were different than Apples which were different than Commodore 64s, which were different from Commodore PETS, which were different from TRS-80s, which were different from Radio Shack Color Computers, which were different from… Well, the list goes on and on. Some used the same processors and some used different (6502, Z80, 6800, 68000, 8088, etc.) processors. But they all had different ways of doing things. And I thought it was great.
And then there were basically two processors: Intel’s x86 and Motorola’s 68000 families. Granted, there were actually a lot more but they weren’t for the general masses and home computers. Later, it was a choice between an x86 or a PowerPC.
And then it was generally x86, whether you get one from Intel or AMD. And the choice of operating systems boiled down to Windows or MacOS.
Then BeOS rolled around. Originally written for the AT&T Hobbit processors, it was then ported to the PowerPC and then, finally, to the x86. When that happened, I bought a copy and started using it. And I loved it because it was way better than Windows 95 at the time. But Be Inc. was a small company thrown in the waters of the big sharks of Microsoft and Apple and, eventually, they went out of business.
Around that time, a group of people got together with the idea of re-creating BeOS. Writing a new operating system from the ground up that would look, act, and feel like BeOS. It would even, they promised, be able to run software written for BeOS right out of the box (so to speak).
Years and years and years later, that operating system (which is now called Haiku) has reached a stable and usable state. Really, I say ‘years’ a lot but you have to understand that this is a labor of love being worked on by very few people so it’s remarkable it’s still around and even more remarkable that it’s usable.
These days we’re still stuck with just the x86 (and the 64-bit version) processors. But we have a choice of three operating systems (for the most part): Windows, macOS, and Linux.
However, because of the tiny computers that have become very popular, the tiny computers that we use to text to each other, play games, watch videos, and, sometimes, call people, another processor has become very popular: ARM. Now, some people are creating tiny desktops that use ARM processors.
I thought it would be totally neat to run Haiku on the Pi, but right now it doesn’t work on ARM processors, which the Pi uses. I can’t run it on my other computers because there’s also an issue with booting on systems with UEFI, which is the modern replacement for BIOS. Neither of which I’m going to explain right now.
So what can I do? I started wondering if anyone made a super tiny Pi-sized computer that ran an x86/x86_64 processor. Because that would be super awesome. Haiku doesn’t need a lot of horsepower, so something small, like an Atom, would work pretty well. If it was small enough I could even screw it onto the back of a monitor and have my own neato All-In-One Haiku system.
Should be pretty easy, right?
Sadly, when I start trying to figure out what to do nothing is easy. First it started on which processor to go with: Atom, Celeron, or Pentium (I know, right? Surprised the hell out of me). Then it was memory: 2GB, 4GB, or 8GB. Or should I get something that could be upgraded and start with 4GB and then go up if I need to? Complicated web pages can be brutal on memory and the best (that I’ve found) web browser for Haiku is iffy, anyway. Trying to figure all this out caused the price to go up. And up. Until I was in the price range of a small (but not Pi small) Intel Core i3 system.
And, to top it all off, these are all modern systems with UEFI so I’ll probably run into the same problem I already have.
That’s where I currently sit. Nowhere, really.