Forget about MinWin and Microsoft Singularity. You can now download the open source Cosmos operating system. MinWin is of course the kernel of Windows 7, the next version of the Windows platform and the successor of Windows Vista. Throughout 2007, Microsoft Distinguished Engineer Eric Traut and his teams have labored to strip the Windows kernel of all dependencies in order to create a low footprint code for Windows 7.
Singularity* is an operating system project from Microsoft research that has reached Version 1.0 stage and was shipped to selected company partners. Nothing more than a research operating system prototype, Singularity is in fact a non-Windows platform written in C, C++ and C#. In this context, MinWin, the Windows 7 kernel, and Singularity have almost nothing in common.
At the same time, the Cosmos open source microkernel is very close to Singularity. “Officially is it the ‘C# Open Source Managed Operating System’, but we just go by Cosmos. In fact, the name Cosmos was chosen before any meaning was attributed to it. Later we decided by chance what the letters stood for. Thus it is also Cosmos, and not COSMOS or CosmOS,” reads a message on the FAQ page for Cosmos.
Cosmos is in fact closely connected with Microsoft, while at the same time having nothing to do with the Redmond company. The C# Open Source Managed Operating System is the creation of Chad Hower, a former Microsoft Developer and Platform Evangelism, and currently Microsoft Regional Director. But at the same time, Cosmos is an independent open source product, licensed under BSD. Hower has revealed that the current bit version is heading for the Wii, One Laptop Per Child and even the iPhone.
“Who doesn’t want to build their own OS? Cosmos provides all the legos and lets you forget the hard parts of writing low level kernel pieces, and unlike other OS’s does not force you into C++. Use C# (or any .NET language), plug the legos that you need, and build your shell,” the team revealed.
*Deep in the research laboratories over at Microsoft, the Singularity platform is being built. As of yet, Singularity is merely a research operating system, but this is not to say that the project is not evolving or that future versions of Windows won’t include the prototype’s technology. However, Singularity is in fact a non-Windows operating system, and this is how the project is described by two Microsoft researchers working on Singularity: “Singularity is a research project focused on the construction of dependable systems through innovation in the areas of systems, languages, and tools. We are building a research operating system prototype (called Singularity), extending programming languages, and developing new techniques and tools for specifying and verifying program behavior,” revealed researchers Jim Larus and Galen Hunt.
Singularity is not a new prototype, as it has been debuted before Windows Vista, and the version 1 of the operating system is already complete, the team moving ahead to v2.0. The Singularity microkernel is an example of 100% managed code and of how Microsoft is drifting away from Windows.
“Singularity uses type-safe languages and an abstract instruction set to enable what we call Software Isolated Processes (SIPs). SIPs provide the strong isolation guarantees of OS processes (isolated object space, separate GCs, separate runtimes) without the overhead of hardware-enforced protection domains. In the current Singularity prototype SIPs are extremely cheap; they run in ring 0 in the kernel’s address space,” reads a fragment of Singularity’s description on Microsoft Research.
In order to get a complete idea of the Singularity operating system prototype, Microsoft has made available four video fragments on the subject: Singularity: A research OS written in C#, Singularity Revisited, Singularity III: Revenge of the SIP and Singularity IV: Return of the UI. Singularity is relevant because it offers an insight into the future potential development path that Microsoft could take for its Windows platform. I may have exaggerated a tad by referencing Singularity as the next operating system from the Redmond Company, but the project definitely has a future with Microsoft’s platform.
Microsoft, Windows Vista, Singularity, Microkernel, MinWin, Cosmos, Operating System, Open-Source, Open Source