Minix and me

This week (End of July 2010) I spent quite some time with installing Minix on various machines:

Minix is nice as an academic system. As an aid for going through the AST book about Operating Systems. But it is limp and feeble for all other purposes. It's a waste of time to start work in it. In fact: the best part of Minix is the ACK compiler. Modula-2, Pascal and C in one compiler for many platforms. That is nice.

For the rest: I'm not sure what to do with Minix. It looks like a waste of time to me. You might be better off with a Slackware 3.3 and start work with that to make yet another version of Slackware (like www.slax.org is).

Minix: the operating system

Minix may well have been 'the forgotten operating system'. Minix was developed by AST (Andy Tanenbaum, CS professor at the Free University of Amsterdam (The Netherlands)) to be used in his books and colleges. In the beginning of Linux, the Linux Founding Fathers tried to start with Minix and then extend it with more and more whistles and bells.
This was not what AST wanted so he kept a straight back and the Linux Founding Fathers eventually stopped asking for enhancements and started their own enterprise. So, at this moment, true Linux lovers may well give a big hand to AST for his 1992 attitude. A fresh code tree was started for Linux. And Minix could remain what it was: a tool for a teacher.

Around 2004 a new Minix source tree was created. The design goal was to make an as compact as possible operating system with the highest possible reliabillity. At that time, people were thinking of the OPC (One Per Child) compyter which was meant to be given away to Thrid World countries. The machine was also referred to as the USD 100 computer. But it never became much.
Still, Minix 3 would have been a serious candidate for the operating system. Modern Linuxes are just getting too big for a small and cheap computer. Minix is different. And I can tell. I am running tests at the moment and I keep on being impressed by this light weight system.

This section on Fruttenboel is about Minix 3: installation, operation and proliferation. In that order. Please be a returning visitor to these pages since I will publish my learning curve, plus the one from my friend Frans Pieter Vonck (FP in short).

Topics covered

Below are the topics being covered in this section. The topics are in reverse order: the most recent addition is on top. This makes adding topics easier, although the newby needs to go down the page to read about the first topics. Still, what you find in this section, are just teasers: a topic header plus a short description. The actual topic files must be accessed via the navigator frame on the right.

Install: Minix 3 on Lithium

Lithium is my intermediate strength computer: it has a 450 MHz AMD K6-2 processor with plenty of disk space and a quarter Gig of RAM. I run it with Slackware 9.1, Oberon and Minix 3. I installed Minix 3 in an 8 GB partition and it took close to 1.5 hours until the fully running system.
Lithium is a multi boot system. Linux is the main operating system and I use the LiLo loader to boot either Oberon, Slackware or Minix.

System tasks: feel the power of the root

Add a user. Add software, the easy way, with packman. File transfer between Minix and Linux.

X11: getting it to run

Project two: get X11 (X Windows) running on Lithium with Minix 3.1.2. It took some fiddling and the startup needs some manual intervention, but now it works reasonably stable. Try running the 'xv' file manager (start the Schnauzer program for the file manager).

Hello World compiled

Project one: compile a simple 'Hello world' style program for every compiler that is available for Minix 3. Score until now:

Network basics

Create a file called /etc/hosts in order to use names instead of IP addresses for reaching out on the web. How to set up a fixed IP address Minix machine. By far the easiest method to exchange files between the Minix box (Lithium) and (for example) this computer (Beryllium) is by means of FTP. Minix comes with 'ncftp', by far the best FTP client available.

Type limits

FP managed to generate a CARDINAL overflow trap. So I had to make an experiment to confirm his results. See it in the 'Type limits' section. For the time being, only CARDINAL, INTEGER and CARD will be covered. The other types will follow soon.

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