I sat down today (with just a few thousands Kms separating us) with Rene Gollent, known member of the BeOS community and part of the Vision team.
ICO: Hello and welcome to our interview Rene. Actually, you're the first person interviewed here at ICO, how does it feel? :)
Rene: Scary :p ICO: Tell us a bit about yourself Rene, where you come from, what do you do, etc?
Rene: I'm originally from Austria, though at the moment I live in Belgium working as a .Net software engineer. Oh and I'm 23.
ICO: What is it like, to code in .Net? In comparison to the BeOS API.
Rene: It's quite different from the BeOS API really. I'd be more inclined to compared it to the Java JDK in terms of how it's structured and how you generally use it. It's definitely vastly superior
to any of MS's previous APIs though, which admittedly from a friendliness standpoint isn't saying a huge amount. Most of what I do I really can't talk about too much though, since we mostly do custom private apps for companies.
ICO: Ah, the joy of NDAs. And what is your BeOS background? When did you start using it and coding for it?
Rene: Well, I actually started using it with the release of R5. I had followed it in the
past in magazines and such but had never actually used it, since in the earliest (i.e. BeBox)
days, they were well out of my price range, and on the x86 side because of various pieces of hardware lacking drivers. R5 fixed that so I got it then and have been using it since.
As for coding, I started learning C++ and the BeOS API about two months after that. Mostly by joining up with the OpenTracker project.
ICO: When you started using it, what did you like more about it? And dislikes?
Rene: It just felt really nice, simple and fast. Everything pretty much worked the way it should, I never really felt like I had to fight the system to get it to do things I wanted, which I
generally haven't found to be the case with most OSes.
As for dislikes, I seem to remember my main gripe in the early days being crashing net_server on a regular basis. (Ed note: I remember hating that as well)
ICO: Everyone (or almost) knows of your involvement with the IRC client Vision. How did that start? What motivated you to write one and who was/is part of the team?
Rene: That's kind of a long story... What actually happened was that before I was using BeOS I was already a fairly heavy IRC user. So of course I went looking for a client on BeOS as well.
Finally ended up mostly using Bowser, and as it turned out the IRC channels I went looking for BeOS help in also had a few of the Bowser devs as regulars. So I kind of got to know them anyhow...
And once I was a bit more comfortable with the API, I started contributing patches here and there.
Eventually that kind of evolved into working on it a bit more seriously, and at some point the main thing everyone wanted was single window. At that point the main developer was still Wade Majors. He originally tried to just hack single window support into Bowser itself... but the number of things
that didn't work right and the complexities of what needed to be dealt with were too much to do it
cleanly. So he took Bowser's IRC core and just started from scratch.
That was essentially how Vision started, and after he more or less stopped using BeOS I took over it
and have been maintaining it since. He has still been involved in the decision making process on UI,
features, etc. He's not been gone entirely :) And of course he contributed the much famed l33t translation ;p
ICO: And as it stands now, what could be improved in Vision? What would you like to add/change?
Rene: Well, what piece of software can't be improved?
In terms of missing features though, the main things would be ignore, themes (in terms of colors/fonts,
not skinning), and eventually scripting, but that'd be a lot more complex and would take considerably
more time to do than the others. Particularly since I'm not a student any more and as such don't have
anywhere near as much free time to work on it as I once did.
ICO: What are your opinions and views on the several ongoing projects to keep BeOS alive? Namely OpenBeOS, BlueEyedOS, Syllable, Cosmoe etc?
Rene: Syllable I'm not sure I'd include in that list since it seems to be more about keeping AtheOS alive than anything else, and doesn't really appear tied to any of the other Be-related efforts anyhow.
With respect to Cosmoe, in its current incarnation it sounds quite a lot like BlueEyedOS, though he's changed directions a few times in the past, so who knows how long it'll stay that way.
As for BlueEyedOS and OBOS, I'm kind of mixed...on the one hand I think it'd be a bit more productive
if everyone could band together on one effort in that respect, since there'd be less fragmentation and
probably more accomplished in less time that way, but since people can't seem to agree on approaches there, it seems unlikely that will ever happen.
Conversely, I'm not entirely sure I agree that straight clones of R5 are really a good idea. The system is very rapidly showing its age, and had tons of design flaws, many of which have been pretty well documented.
Also with respect to bin compat, I don't think that's really the right way to go either, since there aren't
really a huge number of apps we'd lose by breaking it, and the gains of actually being able to use a decent compiler would be huge in many respects. Also there are a lot of things that probably can't really be fixed without breaking binary compat anyhow. In any case though, I'm pretty much taking a wait and see attitude.
Once these projects start putting out something that end users can see and work with I think it'll be a better time to really judge what they've accomplished.
ICO: And what about Zeta?
Rene: Same answer, we'll see with the end product. Well, Zeta's a bit of a different case, I mean, they have the actual BeOS tree, they're not spending years replicating it.
Though yes, that certainly applies to Zeta in some respects as well, since there are certainly things that could be fixed (i.e. major BeOS flaws), but there's the question of time, manpower, etc., as was already mentioned in various recent interviews.
That's not so much of a problem for the free/open projects since they're not commercial entities and as such don't have investors and such to satisfy, so they can work with far fewer constraints with respect to scheduling.
ICO: What were your feelings about the focus shift and later, when Be, Inc sold it's IP to Palm?
Rene: Well, bear in mind, I wasn't actually in the BeOS world proper for most of BeOS's history... so I guess I didn't quite show the same animosity towards the focus shift that most of the old timers did. Especially considering that from what I saw they were still working on BeOS (i.e. with the various betas that were being worked on). But I'd say it was more depressing than anything else when you could really see the end in sight, so to speak.
As for being sold to Palm, well, I'd have to say that I'm just glad it's surviving in some form or other...
we'll see what Palm ultimately make of it. But since open sourcing it, etc. weren't realistically possible
anyhow (for various reasons including the presence of various licensed components in critical areas), it's
better than it just dying.
ICO: I know you own a couple of BeBoxes. Not wanting to pressure you with our readers, when are you thinking of offering me one?
Rene: You wish :p
ICO: You've moved from California to Belgium, how are you settling? Ate many belgium waffles?
Rene: Settling down ok for the most part, in the process of moving into a new apartment at the moment still, but otherwise...
ICO: For those who don't know, me and Rene met personally in Belgium earlier this year, then we went together (along with Frans van Nispen and Chris Simmons) to BeGeistert. Tell our readers Rene, how was that experience, especially when we shared a bed?
Rene: Meeting people and going to Begeistert was a lot of fun...as for the bed, well, all I can say is I'm scarred for life. :-)
ICO: Thanks for your time Rene, i'm sure our readers enjoyed reading the interview... and some got scared I think.
Rene: Only some of them? :)
Interview With Rene Gollent.
- Written by DaaT