The BeOS Bibleby Scot Hacker, Chris Herborth, Henry Bortman
Fast, elegant, powerful, and new, the Be operating system, like Linux, delivers workstation power on inexpensive desktop hardware. An OS you have to see to believe, it's designed to give digital artists and content creators who work with video, animation, graphics, audio, and Internet publishing unprecedented power and speed. Plus it's ready to go "out of the box"… See more details below
Fast, elegant, powerful, and new, the Be operating system, like Linux, delivers workstation power on inexpensive desktop hardware. An OS you have to see to believe, it's designed to give digital artists and content creators who work with video, animation, graphics, audio, and Internet publishing unprecedented power and speed. Plus it's ready to go "out of the box" on both PowerPC and Intel platforms. The BeOS Bible is the complete guide for this exciting new operating system, and the first book on Be written with non-programmers in mind. Like all books in the "Bible" series, The BeOS Bible covers it all, from starting up to running servers. The expert authors, all intimately involved with Be, guide readers through the details with instructive explanations and graphics. The most complete end user guide to the BeOS available-everything you need to know to use, configure, print, network, and run applications on the BeOS.
Foreword by Jean Louis Gassee, CEO of Be, Inc. Includes over 11 interviews with key Be engineers and collaborators. Part of the popular "Peachpit Bible" series, long respected as the best computer reference in print.
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The Filetyping Solution: MIME When MacOS and Windows were developed, hardly anyone knew the Internet even existed. But BeOS had the advantage of evolving while the Internet was in heavy growth mode, and Be was paying attention. One of the Internet's great strengths is the fact that it's inherentlycross-platform. Theoretically, documents made on any operating system can be viewed on any other operating system. While that may seem obvious and old-hat to you by now, this was pretty exciting stuff to geeks the world over once upon a time. In fact, it's one of the many reasons for the Web's rapid rise to mass popularity. And how did the Web break the cross-platform boundary? By adopting an intelligent, platform-neutral system for identifying filetypes.
Rather than worrying too much about how to handle proprietary fileformats like Word and Photoshop documents, the Internet depends on a system called MIME, or Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (the mail bit arises from the fact that MIME grew out of solutions originally built for handling email attachments). The MIME system looks at filetypes in terms of their overall class (image, text, audio, and so forth). Every file, without exception, belongs to one of these meta-classes, or supertypes. Then the exact type of file within that class is specified. For instance, images can be JPEGs or bitmaps, text files can be plain text or HTML, and so on. There are hundreds of MIME types registered by an international standards organization called the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA, www.iana.org), and developers of new file formats are free to register them in this central MIME database. Filetypes are thus assigned in supertype/type pairs with the following format:
CLASS/TYPEimage/jpeg text/html audio/wav application/exe and so on.
Whenever a file is transferred from aWeb server to your browser, its MIME type is sent along with it. Neither the server nor the Web page dictates which application should handle any given MIME type--that's up to the recipient's browser or operating system, and is configurable by the end-user. Thus, say your copy of Netscape is configured to launch the RealAudio player whenever it receives a file with the MIME type of audio/x-realaudio, and to display documents of type text/html within its own window. If you'd rather have your favorite audio application play downloaded .wav files rather than your browser's built-in player, all you have to do is tweak the MIME type in your browser preferences. In this way, the MIME system serves as a sort of abstraction layer, doling out just enough information about a file's type to get the job done, but leaving plenty of room for every user to configure their preferred application for each filetype.
What happens when the server doesn't send a MIME type along with afile? That's when Plan B kicks in. The browser examines the file's extension and runs a lookup in its database of known types. If your browser already knows that files ending in .wav are almost always of the type audio/wav, then it can still figure out which application gets to handle the file in question. The system is fast, logical, inherently compatible with any operating system, and, thanks to its simplicity, reliable.
By now you're probably wondering what all of this has to do with BeOS(or maybe it's obvious by now). Rather than repeat the sins of systems past, Be took the well-established MIME system and fused it into their operating system. All application associatio ns in BeOS are handled by MIME types--the same kind of type/creator pairs used on the Internet.
Be's adoption of the MIME standard is a fine example of thecompany responding to the wishes of the developer community. Chris Herborth, this book's technical editor, spearheaded a movement to get the original Mac-style type/creator system replaced by the superior MIME scheme. Of course, the MIME standard was never designed to support an entire operating system, so Be has added a lot of extra functionality and intelligence to the basic idea, adapting the concept to suit their needs. For instance, the MIME system already handles classes and types of documents very nicely. But what about the program files themselves? In BeOS, most of your applications have both a standard MIME type (application/x-vnd.Be-elfexecutable for x86 or application/x-be-executable for PPC), as well as a unique signature that looks much like a MIME type, but is not.
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