Minix 3 vs portability - was Re: Looking for a small fast VAX development machine

Toby Thain toby at
Mon Feb 22 09:54:38 CST 2016

On 2016-02-22 10:33 AM, Liam Proven wrote:
> On 22 February 2016 at 15:39, Toby Thain <toby at> wrote:
>> So has Minix 3 - last I checked, x86 & ARM only - what's the point of that.
> Oh, come on. Be fair.
> First, it's a student project without a huge amount of visibility in
> the outside world.
> Secondly, those are *the* two main computing platforms in the world
> today, amounting to sales of *billions* of processors every year. I
> suspect that every other general-purpose processor arch put together
> amounts to a rounding error compared to ARM+x86.
> It's not NetBSD. They're comparing it to NetBSD for what you could
> call marketing purposes, but it's not a fork or derivative or anything
> else. It's a whole new kernel to which they are porting the NetBSD
> userland, as it's a good, clean, solid, FOSS offering.
> If you want a simple low-end very portable Unix, there is still NetBSD itself.
> Minix 3 is not just another FOSS Unix. It is trying to become
> something very very different, something that has never been
> successfully done in the FOSS world: a true microkernel Unix-like OS.
> Not like the Xnu kernel of MacOS X: that is based on Mach 3.0, but it
> is a large monolithic kernel containing a single huge in-kernel "Unix
> server" derived from FreeBSD.
> Unlike the GNU HURD, Minix 3 is relatively complete and functional --
> and it's got there in under a decade.
> It's not a new version of Minix 1 or 2 -- it's a totally new kernel.
> The *only* OS in the world remotely comparable to Minix 3 is QNX,
> which is not FOSS.
> Minix 3 is built from a number of cooperating user-space processes --
> servers -- which can die and be respawned while the OS is running.
> Yes, including the filesystem, network stack etc. They even have tech
> demos of this allowing for in-place complete version upgrades of the
> running OS, *without reboots.*
> Minix 3 is the single most technically impressive new Unix-like OS
> that I have seen or heard of in the entire FOSS world in this century.
> It deserves more respect than "what's the point of that".

Portability was a fundamental free software tenet. It has technical 
benefits and it would make the project more relevant. The original Minix 
was far more portable.

If it can't adapt to what comes after x86 and ARM in whatever markets(?) 
it is pursuing then it will be in danger of extinction. Surely if it is 
chasing things like QNX then that would be vital - it's a different 
market with more diversity of architectures.

I don't think the current perceived size of x86/ARM markets will protect 
it as effectively as a diversity of targets would. Remember how 
ubiquitous SPARC, VAX, 68K were at one time; if you were stranded there, 
you don't exist now.


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