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Segin segin2005 at
Sat Aug 5 01:28:17 CDT 2006

Don Y wrote:
> Alexey Toptygin wrote:
>> On Thu, 3 Aug 2006, Chuck Guzis wrote:
>>> Maybe, but Linux doesn't have anything like the old QNX demo--an OS and
>>> browser that boots from a single 1.44MB floppy:
>>> Even back then, it impressed the heck out of me.
>> They could only get away with that because of the supported hardware:
>> Hardware requirements:
>>     * 386 or better.
>>     * 8 megs of ram.
>>     * Hardware / RS232 modem (not a winmodem) or NE1000/2000, DEC 21x4x,
>>     or 3com 509 based network card.
>>     * Serial or PS/2 mouse.
>>     * VGA or Vesa 2.0 compatible card.
>>     * No hard disk needed
>> That must be the simplest set of x86 hardware that you can write a 
>> networked, protected VM OS on; all long-lived, well-defined 
>> interfaces, and only one set. No disk drivers even :-) Could you fit 
>> into such a small footprint with their stock kernel? I doubt it; I 
>> think this was a special build.
> Yes and no.
> Of course it is a special build.  Just like bootable *BSD floppies
> "crunch" the core utilities into a single executable image
> (with multiple entry points) instead of separate binaries.

Not exactly multiple entry points, but a main() that just parsed argv[0] 
and a shitload of hard links or symbolic links.

> But, one key difference between the QNX approach and that of
> most other current OS's is the microkernel architecture.
> Instead of a BIG monolithic kernel with ALL the drivers
> installed (or, extra glue for LKM support, etc.), a microkernel
> based design treats all of these as components which can be
> plugged together.  And *talk* to each other (instead of being
> invoked "from above").
> I suspect that they could REPLACE the support for NE1000 cards
> with some OTHER card and not change the overall footprint
> by much.  And, *possibly* not even have to relink (!?).

Minix 3 comes to mind on this.

> Even Mach -- probably the most bloated microkernel -- would
> fit into a 1MB footprint.  OTOH, how big is the latest
> Linux Kernel?  The NetBSD kernel that I run is almost 3M...
> and I've trimmed out much of the support for devices that
> aren't present in my machine!
>> Then there's their entirely in-house userland. Could you fit a variety 
>> of things written by different groups? Again, I doubt it; code would 
>> be duplicated, and it would be hard to remove everything non-essential 
>> without removing something essential attached to it.

That's when you make like Busybox, combine all utilities into one 
program, and have main() call out each 'program' subroutine based on the 
string pointed by by argv[0].

> QNX doesn't try to be a desktop OS.  Just like Linux doesn't
> claim to be MacOS.
>> I don't hate QNX, but for some reason this demo has always irked me; I 
>> don't feel it's fair to compare a nifty trick to a complete minimal 
> I dont see it as a nifty trick.  You want "tricks"?  Look at
> PIC-based web servers  :>  Gives new meaning to the term
> "truth in advertising"  :-(
>> system. If you want to do something practical on x86, you'll need a 
>> lot more than one floppy. Today's debian installer needs 2 1.44 
>> floppies of drivers on top of the most common ones built into the 
>> kernel (which lives on its own 1.44 floppy).
> But that's a consequence of the way that *they* decided to support
> the hardware that *they* chose to support!  Do they support
> Mitsumi CD-ROM's?  Adaptec 1542's?  ATM / SONET?
> Gee, there's another OS that tres to do all of those things.
> I think it's made by MS...  :>

I think that's why some people that use that OS act like jerks -- 
they're fustrated at their machines :>

> A single floppy is a *lot* of code.  You can *do* a lot with
> that much code (since it only needs to reflect the size of
> the TEXT segent, more or less, and could conceivably be a
> compressed executable).  Look at what most cell phones do
> nowadays...
> If you want to burden the implementation with "this has to
> run on ANY conceivable x86 machine built since 1980", then
> you're imposing a lot on the design.  How many Linux kernels
> will boot on a 4MB machine?  What about a *1* MB machine??

What about ELKS?

> No, I'm not a fan of QNX (their licensing doesn't justify
> the value they add).  But, I think this is a reasonable
> marketing ploy -- especially to a market (embedded systems)
> where an 8MB machine is considered "resource RICH"!


The real problem with C++ for kernel modules is: the language just sucks.
	-- Linus Torvalds

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