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The Minix operating system is the same system that inspired Linus Torvalds to make the Linux OS. Minix is a POSIX compliant system and a Unix-like OS. Minix is open-source and free of charge. Clearly, Minix is a lot like Linux and is an interesting system to study. The main point of interest is the small and simple kernel (or core). Unlike Linux, Minix uses a microkernel.
Microkernels are very small and simple cores. Microkernels lack drivers and only contain the essential components needed by the operating system (Johnson, 2015). This lightweight design allows the kernel to restart when system crashes occur. This allows the system to keep running even when low-level issues occur. In other words, the kernel behaves like a system daemon.
Because the Minix kernel contains the essential components of an operating system, it can be assumed that the kernel contains small amounts of code. Minix's official website (http://www.minix3.org/) states that the kernel contains "about 12k lines of code" (Lionelsambuc, 2014). This small size makes it easy to fit Minix on systems with small amounts of storage such as the Raspberry Pi motherboard or the Beagleboard. In addition, developers can easily maintain and change the kernel's source code which can be found at http://git.minix3.org/index.cgi?p=minix.git;a=tree;f=minix/kernel
Despite this lightweight design, the kernel is not faster than other designs. Since the kernel is so small, the drivers must exist in the userland. However, this does increase security strength at the cost of performance. According to an article in the Free Software Magazine, "the performance overhead is 5-10%" (Berg, 2007). Despite this performance cost, some people may need the additional security rather than the speed.
The Minix kernel is an operating system that uses a very lightweight kernel. Like anything, this has its advantages and disadvantages. With this kernel design, users gain extra security and maintainability over performance. This is a system that some admins should remember for such needs.
- Berg, A. (2007, March 19). MINIX: What is It, and Why is It Still Relevant?. Retrieved April 15, 2015, from http://www.freesoftwaremagazine.com/articles/minix
- Johnson, D. (2015, January 29). About Microkernels. Retrieved April 15, 2015, from http://dcjtech.info/topic/about-microkernels/
- Lionelsambuc (2014, November 19). What is Minix?. Retrieved April 15, 2015, from http://wiki.minix3.org/doku.php?id=www:documentation:read-more
- Anykernel - http://dcjtech.info/topic/anykernel-another-kernel-structure/
- Exokernel - http://dcjtech.info/topic/about-exokernels/
- Hybrid Kernels - http://dcjtech.info/topic/quick-explanation-of-hybrid-kernel/
- Microkernels – http://dcjtech.info/topic/about-microkernels/
- Monolithic Kernels – http://dcjtech.info/topic/a-brief-explanation-of-monolithic-kernels/
- Unikernels - http://dcjtech.info/topic/unikernels-lightweight-kernel-design/
- Very Specialized Kernels - http://dcjtech.info/topic/very-specialized-kernels/