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A Look at MINIX (version 3.1.4)

Jan 05, 2010, 00:03 (1 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Jesse Smith)

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"I believe it was Paul Gauguin who famously questioned: "Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?" (D'où venons nous ? Que sommes-nous ? Où allons-nous ?) While it may be impossible to say for sure, I think he was expressing the idea that we can't really know what we are or where we're headed unless we also know where we originated. Bearing that thought in mind, I decided to take a look at MINIX, the operating system which helped to inspire the creation of Linux.

"MINIX has traditionally been an operating system with an eye toward education. Both versions 1 and 2 of the MINIX system were designed to be useful for students learning about operating systems. The code behind MINIX was small and clean, making it a practical study tool in this complex field. The latest offering of MINIX, version 3, attempts to keep the same principles as the previous versions, but also strives to be more practical as a modern, UNIX-like, operating system.

"The MINIX web site is an example in clean, easy to read documentation. The site covers a good deal of the project's history, current development goals and benefits of the MINIX design. The most interesting point of the design, perhaps, is that the MINIX hardware drivers run as user processes. This means if a driver crashes, the kernel does not become unstable. Instead, the kernel simply restarts the failed driver and continues on as before. This makes MINIX somewhat self-healing. The web site also contains a good deal of information on how to install and use the operating system, including disk partitioning, multi-booting and setting up user accounts."

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