2006-05-28 1011 Lifestuff: No school like the old school.

Grey and Green

That’s all I can see outside today. Grey sky, green grass. Well, at least it’s the right way round. A green sky would probably freak me out. So would grey grass for that matter.

Anyhow. I’m fiddling with VMWare today. It really is an amazing piece of kit, able to put an operating system inside an operating system with no mess, fuss or bother. And do it many times too. Right now I’ve got Knoppix (booting off live CD), Minix 2 and Damn Small Linux all running happily as the same time, and my ‘real’ Operating System (Slackware, King of Distros) is ticking along like nothing’s happening.

Minix is amazing, btw. I cut my Unix teeth on it oh-so-long ago, before Linux was even a sperm in the eye of Linus Torvalds. Something’s wrong with that metaphor, but I can’t work out what. Ah well. Minix is an old-school (read: no perl, no X Windows) ultra lite version of Unix that’s designed for education. I guess that’s just a cop-out way of saying “doesn’t work properly”, but it’s great to be able to look back at Linux’s heritage and see just how little it really leapt.

I mean, Linux is a revolution, because it opened up the power of Unix to everyone in ways that no other attempt managed, including BSD in all its incarnations. For the first time, anyone can now have a complete, free, legal, virus-free, stable Operating System, Office Suite, high-quality graphics and sound tools, and install it themselves, on their own computer.

But it’s also an evolution. Linux has a past, it’s just one more step along the road that started back in the ‘60s with the birth of Unix. Like any other evolutionary trail, it’s sure to be superceded sometime, maybe by BSD, Syllable, QNX or one of the other up-and-coming systems out there. I dunno.

What Minix has that Linux lacks though is the ability to run on really low-spec hardware. We’re talking 286, 2Mb RAM and 35Mb disk space. In other words, even that machine you tossed in the skip as useless 3 years ago would have run it. Now, that’s a sickening thought.

I’m too lazy to find links for all the stuff above today. Just google for ‘em, ok? I will provide one link though, for something that I had trouble finding, and that’s a ready-made Minix 2 vmware setup. It’s here. Just download the link under section 1.3, unzip it and fire it up in VMWare and you’re looking at computer history.


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