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Interview: Andrew Tanenbaum

Andrew Tanenbaum will give a talk about MINIX 3 at FOSDEM 2010.

Could you briefly introduce yourself?

I'm Andy Tanenbaum. I am a professor of computer science at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam.

What will your talk be about, exactly?

The talk will be an overview of the MINIX 3 operating system, describing its goals, architecture, and implementation, with an emphasis on its reliability properties.

What do you hope to accomplish by giving this talk? What do you expect?

I hope to generate more interest in MINIX 3 and perhaps pick up a few volunteers. I am also looking to hire a full-time (paid) programmer to work on the project.

What's the history of the MINIX project? How did it evolve?

It started in 1987 as a way to teach UNIX after AT&T forbid the teaching of V7 UNIX. Sine then it has become a vehicle for researching high reliability in operating systems. It is also a vehicle for seeing how well a multiserver operating system fits a multicore environment.

The MINIX website mentions that the operating system targets embedded systems, high-reliability applications and low-power laptops. Can you give some real-world examples where MINIX is used in these domains?

One of the disadvantages of the BSD license is that nobody is required to tell us when they modify and use it so I don't know much about it. I believe it was used in one embedded system for managing commercial parking garages.

How are the ports to PowerPC and ARM architectures going?

Poorly. The people doing both of them recently lost interest and gave up. If anyone wants to pick these up that would be great.

What are people using MINIX for?

I actually don't know. We are still developing it of course.

How many developers are working on MINIX?

We have about a dozen people all in all at the VU, plus various volunteers in other places. It's hard to say. It's not a big group.

What new features will we see in MINIX in the near future?

Live update is on the agenda and eventually kernel threads, which will open up porting all kinds of software, a new compiler, and eventually multicore.

Have you enjoyed previous FOSDEM editions?

This is my first FOSDEM. I am looking forward to it.

Creative Commons License
This interview is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Belgium License.