Teaching with Minix Howto

modified: 12 July 2006

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For MINIX 3 go to http://www.minix3.org. (Minix 3 released Oct 2005)


Minix was written for use in teaching operating systems concepts:

"When Unix was young (Version 6), the source code was widely available, ... [click here for more]

This page is a work-in-progress. Much of the information to be referenced on this page already exists on the web and can be found on or via my Minix Hints/FAQ page. What I hope to do here is to organize links to this information in ways that will be useful for teachers and professors who want to teach a laboratory course using Minix. I would appreciate feedback, and (especially) links to your course pages and other references you find useful. Please e-mail me (Al Woodhull <asw@woodhull.com>).

Topics to be referenced here may include:

Suggestions for other topics are welcome!

Minix was written for use in teaching operating systems concepts:

"When Unix was young (Version 6), the source code was widely available, under AT&T license, and frequently studied. John Lions, of the University of New South Wales in Australia, even wrote a little booklet describing its operation, line by line. This booklet was used (with permission of AT&T) as a text in many university operating system courses.

"When AT&T released Version 7, it began to realize that Unix was a valuable commercial product, so it issued Version 7 with a license that prohibited the source code from being studied in courses, in order to avoid endangering its status as a trade secret. Many universities complied by simply dropping the study of Unix and teaching only theory.

"Unfortunately, teaching only theory leaves the student with a lopsided view of what an operating system is really like. The theoretical topics that are usually covered in great detail in courses and books on operating systems, such as scheduling algorithms, are in practice not really that important. Subjects that really are important, such as I/O and file systems, are generally neglected because there is little theory about them.

"To remedy this situation, Andrew Tanenbaum decided to write a new operating system from scratch that would be compatible with Unix from the user's point of view, but completely different on the inside. By not using even one line of AT&T code, this system avoids the licensing restrictions, so it can be used for class or individual study. In this manner, readers can dissect a real operating system to see what is inside, just as biology students dissect frogs. The name Minix stands for mini-Unix because it is small enough that even a nonguru can understand how it works.

"In addition to the advantage of eliminating the legal problems, Minix has another advantage over Unix. It was written a decade after Unix and has been structured in a more modular way."

- From Operating Systems Design and Implementation, 2nd. edition

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