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MINIX 3 is a new open-source operating system designed to be highly reliable, flexible, and secure. It is based somewhat on previous versions of MINIX, but is fundamentally different in many key ways. MINIX 1 and 2 were intended as teaching tools; MINIX 3 adds the new goal of being usable as a serious system on resource-limited and embedded computers and for applications requiring high reliability
This new OS is extremely small, with the part that runs in kernel mode under 4000 lines of executable code. The parts that run in user mode are divided into small modules, well insulated from one another. For example, each device driver runs as a separate user-mode process so a bug in a driver (by far the biggest source of bugs in any operating system), cannot bring down the entire OS. In fact, most of the time when a driver crashes it is automatically replaced without requiring any user intervention, without requiring rebooting, and without affecting running programs. These features, the tiny amount of kernel code, and other aspects greatly enhance system reliability.
MINIX 3 is initially targeted at the following areas:
* Applications where very high reliability is required
* Single-chip, small-RAM, low-power, $100 laptops for Third-World children
* Embedded systems (e.g., cameras, DVD recorders, cell phones)
* Applications where the GPL is too restrictive (MINIX 3 uses a BSD-type license)
* Education (e.g., operating systems courses at universities)
MINIX 3 Features
* POSIX compliant
* Networking with TCP/IP
* Two ANSI C compilers (ACK and gcc)
* Over 400 UNIX programs
* Many improvements since V2
* Full multiuser and multiprogramming
* Support for memory up to 4 GB
* Device drivers run as user processes
* Full C source code supplied
* Runs on 386, 486, Pentium, etc.
To run MINIX 3, you need a PC driven by a 386, 486, or Pentium CPU or compatible. The standard configuration requires 16 MB of RAM. An 8-MB version is also available, but it is slower due to a smaller buffer cache. Since the distribution comes on a live CD, you can test it without allocating any hard disk space, but for a hard disk installation, 50 MB is needed as a minimum, 600 MB minimum if you want all the sources.
The current version of MINIX 3 (3.1.2) is a work in progress. It is nowhere near as mature as FreeBSD or Linux right now. Ports to the Xscale and PowerPC are underway. Various programs and device drivers are being ported, and so on. People who would like to help develop a highly reliable operating system are more than welcome.