Pondering Operating Systems

For a long time, my goal has been to develop a higher-level, natively-compiled programming language, and then to develop a proof-of-concept kernel in it. Well, someone else beat me to the punch.

House is a proof of concept operating system written in Haskell. It has some simple graphics, a TCP/IP stack, etc. Naturally, it's just a research project, but achieving proof of concept was my goal too.

On that subject, I'm also keeping my eye on Microsoft's Singularity. It's a microkernel, and much of it is written in C#. Unlike most microkernels, the different components do not run in separate address spaces. The VM does protection in software, rather than hardware. I had been toying with this idea too, but my buddy Mike Cheponis informed me that VM/360 did it decades ago.

Is anyone other than me bummed that BeOS never took off? I'm sadly coming to the conclusion that Linux might not ever make it on the desktop. It's just not a priority. Too many great hackers use Linux on the server with Mac laptops. There's always hope that Haiku might recreate BeOS in a completely open source way, but it would have been a lot easier if Be had simply open sourced it in the first place.

In the meantime, SkyOS thinks that there is room for another easy-to-use, featureful, proprietary OS. Apple succeeded at this. BeOS failed. It's hard for me to get excited about a new proprietary OS. I'd sooner buy a Mac (although I still haven't been fully de-Stallmanized).

Speaking of which, has anyone else noticed how few non-UNIXy, open-source operating systems there are? Maybe it's true that Systems Software Research is Irrelevant.

Well, now that House has shown that you can write a kernel in Haskell, I think I need a new goal. Maybe I'll go solve world hunger. I've heard there's a little squabble going on in the Middle East that could use some attention. Maybe I'll go write an entire operating system in modern assembly; oh wait, it's already been done ;)


Noah Gift said…
Sounds like you need a way to find out how to be a part time scientist. I think you would be a good one.

I agree an OS in some other language than C would be very cool.

On the OS X front, I would recommend just doing it. When it is all said and done, the OS X desktop is just amazing. Leopard looks to be amazing as well, but I can't comment on whether it really is or not due to a NDA.

With the coming world of Virtualization, it becomes almost a moot point that linux can do X,Y,Z and Microsoft only runs the programs: A, B, C. VM Fusion is a great application and allows you to run a shell to any OS you want! Now you have the most productive UI in the world, and a shell to an almost limitless amount Operating Systems.

On the Virtualization front, the IBM AIX OS is quite an interesting beast. It has incredible virtualization technology that is allowing the world to head back into the realm of mainframes. There was just an article last week about it:

Hey Noah,

Thanks for your comment. Something's wrong with that article. "139 football fields" worth of servers to service "350,000 users"? Must have been a typo ;)
> I can't comment on whether it really is or not due to a NDA.

hahaha That's exactly the sort of stuff that keeps me running Linux! Not to mention, that I'm running it on a brand new $375 Compaq laptop ;)
Adam Ulvi said…
The article on systems research being irrelevant was quite disheartening, especially because in the 7 years since it was written, it's only become more and more true.

The computer industry continues moving away from public or university-funded R&D and keeping it all in-house under lock and key. Standards are ignored either to ensure vendor lock-in or because standards organizations take longer to make up their minds than commercial software feels like waiting. Tight, cohesive systems integration is still a dream, even getting something "industry standard" like Kerberos working is a big PITA. Why don't we have true working single sign-on, it shouldn't be that hard!

Personally, I'm fed up with closed-source software. Sorry to rant on your blog :-)
The L4 implementations Fiasco and Pistacio are GPL-licensed. And their certainly not purely research kernels. So don't trust Wikipedia too much.