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Prof. Andy Tanenbaum Retires From Vrije University

timothy posted about 3 months ago | from the congratulations-and-good-wishes dept.

Education 136

When Linus Torvalds first announced his new operating system project ("just a hobby, won't be big and professional like gnu"), he aimed the announcement at users of Minix for a good reason: Minix (you can download the latest from the Minix home page) was the kind of OS that tinkerers could afford to look at, and it was intended as an educational tool. Minix's creator, Professor Andrew Stuart "Andy" Tanenbaum, described his academic-oriented microkernel OS as a hobby, too, in the now-famous online discussion with Linus and others. New submitter Thijssss (655388) writes with word that Tanenbaum, whose educational endeavors led indirectly to the birth of Linux, is finally retiring. "He has been at the Vrije Universiteit for 43 years, but everything must eventually end."

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His epitaph in future years: (5, Funny)

halivar (535827) | about 3 months ago | (#47424247)

"Microkernels are still better, you little punk!" With an engraving of a shaking fist.

Re:His epitaph in future years: (4, Interesting)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 3 months ago | (#47424411)

I really miss the good old days when technical debates were over the merits and faults of such simple things as different kinds of kernels, and not about whether or not every single thing you do online is being stacked into half a dozen nation's permanent data storage facilities.

The Linus vs. Tanenbaum dustup is from a simpler, more positive age.

Re:His epitaph in future years: (1)

StripedCow (776465) | about 3 months ago | (#47424455)

Yes, but look where that age took us!

Re:His epitaph in future years: (3, Insightful)

rubycodez (864176) | about 3 months ago | (#47424757)

eh, all that good old stuff is in a national permanent storage system called Usenet archives

Re:His epitaph in future years: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47424847)

The Linus vs. Tanenbaum dustup

IWPTA "The Linus vs. Tanenbaum dubstep".

Re:His epitaph in future years: (5, Funny)

TeknoHog (164938) | about 3 months ago | (#47424917)

The Linus vs. Tanenbaum dustup is from a simpler, more positive age.

It's your father's microkernel. A more elegant weapon for a more civilized age.

Re:His epitaph in future years: (-1)

metlin (258108) | about 3 months ago | (#47425095)

It's your father's microkernel. A more elegant weapon for a more civilized age.

That's not what your mom said.

Re:His epitaph in future years: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47425373)

Agreed! That was a refreshing, and somewhat enlightening read. Makes me REALLY wish I'd found the itch for computers around that time.

Teenage hormones will do it every time!

Re:His epitaph in future years: (2)

itzly (3699663) | about 3 months ago | (#47425223)

We can still hope he'll come to his senses before that.

Re:His epitaph in future years: (2)

Z00L00K (682162) | about 3 months ago | (#47425491)

Both architectures have their merits. I wouldn't say that one is better than the other.

At least Minix has come a long way since the late 80's where any crash after an uptime of more than 2 hours could be attributed to the OS instead of the application.

His epitaph in future years: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47425711)

It's interesting noting that QNX handles messages much better than Microkernels. I had access to the source code at 6.3 and now it's closed.

Unless you go and learn through that path, you won't be able to win the argument.

"Vrije University"? (4, Informative)

RGuns (904742) | about 3 months ago | (#47424277)

"Vrije" is a Dutch adjective, meaning "free". So either you write "vrije Universiteit", or you write "Free University". "Vrije University" is just silly.

Re:"Vrije University"? (4, Informative)

kruach aum (1934852) | about 3 months ago | (#47424323)

Pretty sure it's Vrije Universiteit, because the whole functions as a name. In fact, to distinguish it from the one in Brussels, it should probably be referred to as Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

Re:"Vrije University"? (4, Funny)

Trepidity (597) | about 3 months ago | (#47424349)

But then it gets ambiguous, because someone might think you mean Free University as in no tuition, rather than Free-as-in-Freedom University. And Liberty University [wikipedia.org] is already taken.

Re:"Vrije University"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47424445)

Already taken?

Please compare
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberty_University
to
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VU_University_Amsterdam

BTW Any ambiguoty is ended with the Latin motto: Universitas Libera. This also disqualifies the VU Brussel which was established in 1834 from claiming Liberty.

Re:"Vrije University"? (5, Funny)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | about 3 months ago | (#47424967)

Split it down the middle. GNUversity

Re:"Vrije University"? (1)

Powys (1274816) | about 3 months ago | (#47425031)

What about "Libre University" then?

Re:"Vrije University"? (2)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 3 months ago | (#47425345)

This is confusing in Brussels, because there is Université libre de Bruxelles (Free University of Brussels), but there is also Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Free University of Brussels), a different university.

Re: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47425449)

Actually, the "official" English translation is "VU University Amsterdam".

Re:"Vrije University"? (1)

tverbeek (457094) | about 3 months ago | (#47425519)

And Liberty University is already taken.

Liberty University is called that instead of "Free University" because it is neither free-as-in-beer nor free-as-in-speech. It teaches the religion of Capitalism and the legal principles of the Bible.

Re:"Vrije University"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47425827)

Free as in free-thinking
But then again you'd have to be able to think to understand that

Re:"Vrije University"? (2)

gnupun (752725) | about 3 months ago | (#47424435)

Vrije is pronounced "Fria." "Free University" and "Fria University" kinda sound the same.

Re:"Vrije University"? (1)

Racemaniac (1099281) | about 3 months ago | (#47424649)

Vrije is pronounced "Fria."

lol, no it isn't XD

Re:"Vrije University"? (1)

tepples (727027) | about 3 months ago | (#47424835)

Is it closer to "fryer"? (Slashdot's Unicode code point whitelist unfortunately doesn't include IPA.)

Re:"Vrije University"? (3, Funny)

rogoshen1 (2922505) | about 3 months ago | (#47425247)

Good, IPA's are way too hoppy.

Re:"Vrije University"? (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 3 months ago | (#47425523)

Is it closer to "fryer"?

Awesome! Fryer University, as in bacon!

. . . do they fry up weed along with your bacon in Holland . . . ? That would be a formidable combination:

"Eggs, bacon, weed and Spam . . ."

Re:"Vrije University"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47425845)

its more closer to vree-ya

Re:"Vrije University"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47424519)

I prefer "Free Universiteit"

Re:"Vrije University"? (1)

CAPSLOCK2000 (27149) | about 3 months ago | (#47424769)

That's "free" as in "freedom", not as in "free beer".

Who gives a VUCK? (3, Funny)

tepples (727027) | about 3 months ago | (#47424825)

They have to use "Vrije" because it was discovered that not only is the name of "Free University Compiler Kit" [gnu.org] obscene, but it's also misleading: the software is non-free.

Re:"Vrije University"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47425335)

Who cares.

Re:"Vrije University"? (1)

tverbeek (457094) | about 3 months ago | (#47425541)

You'd at least capitalize it as "Vrije Universiteit", because it's a proper noun* and those are capitalized (in either English or Dutch).

*Not just a free university, but the Free University.

Re:"Vrije University"? (1)

Mister Liberty (769145) | about 3 months ago | (#47426867)

Free in the sense: free to teach according to their Reformed Church biblical and religous views.
That's what the VU was created for by Abraham Kuyper (see wiki).
Meantime, hat's off for Prof. Tanenbaum.

Aaaaahahaha ... gotta love it: (4, Insightful)

Qbertino (265505) | about 3 months ago | (#47424285)

"A multithreaded file system is only a performance hack. When there is only one job active, the normal case on a small PC, it buys you nothing and adds complexity to the code. On machines fast enough to support multiple users, you probably have enough buffer cache to insure a hit cache hit rate, in which case multithreading also buys you nothing." - Andy Tanenbaum on the "LINUX is obsolete" Thread from 30 Jan '92

Nice to see a so called "expert" so far off. Seriously, not the first CS Professor to be completely backwards. I've met a few of those too. :-)

Re:Aaaaahahaha ... gotta love it: (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47424397)

What do you mean? Seems like a sensible comment for the time.

Re:Aaaaahahaha ... gotta love it: (0)

Alioth (221270) | about 3 months ago | (#47424527)

It wasn't a sensible comment for anyone who could see the writing on the wall. If you weren't in academentia, you could see that it wouldn't be long before personal computers would have more than one process active at a time.

Re:Aaaaahahaha ... gotta love it: (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47424609)

Even today there is usually one process grabbing most of the CPU time, and even worse, it's additionally fiddling thumbs for long periods as it waits for the slow mechanical HDD. Provided with a nice large buffer, in most scenarios Andy's single-threaded file system access would still serve single-user desktop machines quite well.

Multi-spindle PCs are not uncommon (1)

tepples (727027) | about 3 months ago | (#47424891)

Even today there is usually one process grabbing most of the CPU time

Yeah, the antivirus.

in most scenarios Andy's single-threaded file system access would still serve single-user desktop machines quite well.

Is a single-threaded file system still practical on multi-spindle PCs? These include machines with a boot SSD and a data HDD, or a boot HDD and an optical drive, or a boot HDD and an external USB SSD used for sneakernetting files too big for the available Internet connection. And by "desktop" did you mean to exclude laptops?

Re:Multi-spindle PCs are not uncommon (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47425093)

I clearly meant a computer with a single mechanical hard disk drive. Why are you being so difficult?

Re:Multi-spindle PCs are not uncommon (3, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | about 3 months ago | (#47425163)

What's "difficult" is finding "a computer with a single mechanical hard disk drive" that stays that way for long. Desktops tend to have internal optical drives, laptops often have an internal SSD or internal or external optical drives, and both tend to often get small SSDs plugged into them.

Re:Aaaaahahaha ... gotta love it: (2)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47426183)

It wasn't a sensible comment for anyone who could see the writing on the wall. If you weren't in academentia, you could see that it wouldn't be long before personal computers would have more than one process active at a time.

(Even at the time, it wasn't exactly the future. The Amiga was minor marketshare, but not obscure.)

I think it's irrelevant, though. I still (in 2014!) think of filesystems as being primarily I/O bound. For the most part, filesystems still just wait for things and don't take a lot of CPU.

If there's a "future" (by 1991 standards) to be seen, it's not so much "busy computers" or multi-user, but it's doing to be features like checksumming, deduplication, or maybe some nasty cases like maildirs (where something might hunt through a large inefficient data structure and takes a long time, but most things aren't like that) or maybe really fast block devices like SSDs or enormous RAID0s. The maildir example isn't really even futuristic, I'll admit. But mostly, if your filesystem is CPU-bound, then either something relatively unusual is happening, or something is broken! (In a microkernel I'd address the maildir case by having that mountpoint's filesystem be a specialist intended to deal with that particular problem (i.e. don't have an inefficient data structure, even if that means you pay some others costs). Interestingly, I think I'm sort of already doing that with Linux, maildirs being the only remaining situation where I'm still using ReiserFS.)

Given a situation like that, whatever your multithreaded filesystem is doing, I can envision the same damn thing as a single thread in a single process that's taking a bunch of async file requests and turning them into a series of block requests forwarded to block drivers that are typically going to slowly handle them one a time, perhaps with some elevator re-ordering. And that block driver is going to be "slow" no matter what OS you're running.

And if you do have something CPU-bound in there, it's not like microkernels can't spin off threads or launch sub-processes to do work. I'm not familiar enough with Minix to say WTF Linus was talking about there, but I bet it's a Minix problem rather than a microkernel problem.

So what I'm saying is that by the standards of any time (whether 1991 or 2014) single-threaded filesystems are not usually bottlenecks, and in the exceptional cases where they might be (because the filesystem needs to do something CPU-bound), microkernels are not your problem. Tanenbaum was not foolish.

I use Linux and I love its performance but even in 2014 it would take some work to persuade me that its ability to multithread within filesystems is important. I think we just happen to have some great filesystems that a lot of people have put a lot of work into. A lot more engineering goes into them now than in 1991. Just like the all the things that have changed in userspace! You don't have to be in kernelspace to take problems seriously.

Also, Tanenbaum was right that the harder you're working your machine, the more likely you have more RAM and might get more cache hits. I'm amazed anyone would imply otherwise. "Add RAM to make things faster" is hardly a sooper-seekrit performance tip. WTF?

Re:Aaaaahahaha ... gotta love it: (2)

jedidiah (1196) | about 3 months ago | (#47424551)

No. It was not a "sensible" comment for the time. Anyone with a lick of sense could see where the tech was going and could easily realize that you had to plan for the future.

PCs of the time were stuck in the kind of situation that Tannenbaum described not because of any inherent technical limitation but because Microsoft was a lame monopolistic sandbagger holding back the entire industry.

Even in 1992 there wasn't that much of a gap between the capabilities of proprietary Unix hardware and PCs. Some Unix machines even ran on microprocessors used by competing home computers.

That's why Linus created his own kernel to begin with.

Re:Aaaaahahaha ... gotta love it: (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47426071)

It was ridiculous. Personal computers have these things called interrupts. They allow the system to do what appears to be many things at once. Waiting for your tape to write shouldn't lock the keyboard, likewise with updating the screen. This is going back into the 1970s, something a professor should have understood. But alas, these people are stuck in their ancient thoughts even back then. Most of my CS hardware lectures were based around paper-tape and punched cards, magnetic media was currently very common, but these old prof's had little experience of them, so they pretty much skipped them. He made is daft comment in the early 90s, when multitasking OSes had long since been on the market for consumers.

Re:Aaaaahahaha ... gotta love it: (4, Interesting)

Megol (3135005) | about 3 months ago | (#47424621)

In 1992, on a small PC this is true. That doesn't mean it was true for a multi-user design. Remember that for a "small PC" the disk interface was ATA without (usable) DMA support and no of the later features to lower CPU overhead - this means that a good buffer cache implementation would provide better performance not only in throughput and latency of disk accesses but also lower wasted CPU cycles proportional to the size of the cache.

But using ATA also means that the performance of multi-threaded filesystems are unlikely to be much faster than a single threaded one, this because the bottleneck stays the same and also loads the CPU.

A bigger PC intended as workstations (yes, there were some) would probably use SCSI instead of ATA and then the situation is a bit different. But the original quote is still true IMHO.

Re:Aaaaahahaha ... gotta love it: (2)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 3 months ago | (#47425187)

Except he was right in 1992.
He just underestimated the growth in speed and power of a PC. On a 386 with 4 megs of memory and a single slow hard drive he was right.

Re:Aaaaahahaha ... gotta love it: (1)

itzly (3699663) | about 3 months ago | (#47425257)

No, in 1992 we still used floppies. Also, since in Unix everything is a file, the file system also comes into play when accessing device nodes. Without multithreading, the harddisk access could be stuck in the queue behind a floppy or terminal access. This is simply unacceptable.

Re:Aaaaahahaha ... gotta love it: (1)

SuiteSisterMary (123932) | about 3 months ago | (#47426829)

He might as well have said '640k should be enough for anyone.'

At the time (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 3 months ago | (#47426253)

In reality, both were correct, in their own way. You have to remember the hardware they were using in 1992. Its NOT what you have today. Not by a long shot.

ATtiny85 (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 3 months ago | (#47424297)

I don't need no stinkin' OS.

Re:ATtiny85 (0)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 3 months ago | (#47425299)

Overrated? You do know an excellent karma gives your posts a score of two by default, mr. moderator?

If anything, it should have been modded offtopic.

A legend of OS design (5, Insightful)

sg_oneill (159032) | about 3 months ago | (#47424321)

A lot of people have the wrong impression about the good professor after the infamous exchange, but they miss that this is what academics do, and despite the flameyness of the exchange, Linus and Tanenbaum had a great deal of respect for each other. After all Linus was, for all purposes, Tanenbaums greatest student. I remember borrowing his book from UWA and getting the disks from the UWA computer club, following the instructions to get a functional minix up, then following his book to write a driver for my highly bugshit WANG (yes that was the brand name lol) hard drive controller. I learned more from that about how computers *really* work, than almost any thing I've ever learned. The difficulty of his book was notorious, probably the only books I found harder was Walter Pistons music theory book "Harmony", and Deleuzes philosophy text "Capitalism and Schizophrenia". And like those books, in its field Tanenbaums work shook the foundations of academia.

Enjoy your retirement old man, you deserved it.

Re:A legend of OS design (4, Interesting)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 3 months ago | (#47424441)

Minix was really the first of its kind; a Unix-like OS that you could run on cheap (relatively speaking at the time) commodity hardware and that you could get the source code for. A lot of the computing we take for granted now comes from Tanenbaum's work.

My first Minix install was on a 386-SX with a whopping 4mb of RAM I borrowed from work back in the early 1990s. I quickly abandoned Minix for Linux once it came out, but for several years I had Minix running on an old 386 laptop just for fun.

Re:A legend of OS design (3, Interesting)

sg_oneill (159032) | about 3 months ago | (#47424685)

Part of the reason I used Minix was I had an old second hand 286. because I couldn't afford one of the new-fangled 386s. Computers where bloody expensive back then! At the time I had started using a local BBS called "Omen" which had just gotten a brand spanking new ISDN connection to this new thing called "ARPAnet" (aka "Australian research something something net") , aka the australian wing of the internet, and it had two amazing features 1) IRC, 2) Usenet (There was also Gopher but eh..... Usenet was better indexed and also had hilarious flame wars). Anyway it struck me that if I had a unix I could get a SLIP connection to the internet and run IRC *and* Usenet simultaneously using the magical wonder of multitasking. Omen was using Linux (very very brand new) but since I didnt have a 386 I couldnt use it. So I grabbed Minix, since I couldnt afford Xenix or SCO Unix (Pre SCO getting brought out by Caldera and then turning cthulhu it was a great company).

Problem is Minix didnt have a network stack :(

Re:A legend of OS design (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47425433)

... this new thing called "ARPAnet" (aka "Australian research something something net") , aka the australian wing of the internet ...

ARPANET [wikipedia.org] is the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network.

Re:A legend of OS design (3, Interesting)

McGruber (1417641) | about 3 months ago | (#47425167)

Minix was really the first of its kind; a Unix-like OS that you could run on cheap (relatively speaking at the time) commodity hardware and that you could get the source code for. A lot of the computing we take for granted now comes from Tanenbaum's work.

Truly!

I first learned of Minix by reading about it in Byte magazine. At the time, I was an undergrad at a big US university, a member of the Association of American Universities [aau.edu] . The only multitasking computers on the entire campus were a Unix mainframe, a VAX, and a cluster (lab) of Sun workstations that only graduate engineering students could have accounts on. The Unix and VAX machines could be accessed using VT-100 (and later) terminals in computer labs spread out all over the campus. There were also BYOF (Bring Your Own Floppies) computer labs filled with DOS (pre-windows) PCs, and a few labs filled with early Macs, but those labs were mostly used by humanities majors hunting-and-pecking their term papers out.

Booting a multitasking unix-like OS on a personal computer was a huge deal back then.

Re:A legend of OS design (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47424611)

you deserved it

The man is retired, not dead. At least wait until he dies to refert to him in the past tense.

Re:A legend of OS design (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 3 months ago | (#47424785)

Ah, but is it the man or the deserving that the past tense is referring to? Perhaps he deserved a good retirement 20 years ago,but has since become a world-champion puppy-kicker and is no longer deserving of it?

And no, I don't actually know enough about the guy to make any such assertion.

Re:A legend of OS design (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47425033)

AC had a good point there.

Re:A legend of OS design (-1, Offtopic)

retchdog (1319261) | about 3 months ago | (#47425481)

no, you have it all wrong. traditional education is just state power keeping progress down.

true capitalist geniuses like Linus would have done just as well, and even provably better because of free markets, if we abolished education completely. imagine how much better Linux would be today, if Linus were not shackled by the vestiges of religion.

What I remember (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47424389)

More than Minix, I remember Tanenbaum for his "Computer Networks" textbook. Especially this:

"The nice thing about standards is that you have so many to choose from; furthermore, if you do not like any of them, you can just wait for next year's model."

What I remember (4, Interesting)

Kohenkatz (1166461) | about 3 months ago | (#47424655)

I'm sorry, but the best quote from that book is actually this one:

Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway.

In my networks class, we extended the calculation to a 747 full of DVDs (the best we could do at the time). Maybe one of these days, if I have a minute, I'll go back and do an A380 full of flash drives.

Re:What I remember (1)

swb (14022) | about 3 months ago | (#47424879)

Maybe an An-225 full of a 6 TB hard disks?

Re:What I remember (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47424951)

http://www.dansdata.com/gz105.htm

Vrije University? (2)

De Lemming (227104) | about 3 months ago | (#47424395)

"Vrije University" in the title sounds realy strange to me, as a native Dutch speaker. Vrije isn't a city, "Vrije Universiteit" means "Free University," which indicates it's not linked to e.g. the Catholic church. Just FYI.

Re:Vrije University? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47424479)

That is just you, it is actually called Vrije Universiteit, just like there are Technische Universiteiten where Technische is not a city. If you are confused, think: Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

Also it is not the word free but liberty you are looking for, maybe freedom, but not free.

Re:Vrije University? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47424707)

No, that is just you. Use your finger to read again the GP.

Re:Vrije University? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47424743)

It's doesn't indicate it's not linked to the Catholic Church but that it's not linked to government.

The Vrije Universiteit was/is the university of a the Gereformeerde kerk (reformed church) witch is a church that split of of the Dutch Reformed Church. They Dutch Reformed church was a semi-controlled by the government and to free/liberal for the tastes of the Gereformeerden.

Re:Vrije University? (1)

Rashdot (845549) | about 3 months ago | (#47425317)

The word 'Free" in its name is a bit misleading. The university was founded by "a group of orthodox-Protestant Christians" (English Wikipedia page):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VU_University_Amsterdam [wikipedia.org]

Does this mean the death of Minix3? (2)

Chrisq (894406) | about 3 months ago | (#47424429)

Does this mean the death of Minix3? That would be a shame I'd like to have seen a good open-source microkernel OS - a sort of "open source OSX".

Re:Does this mean the death of Minix3? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47424497)

Despite Prof. Tanenbaum's retirement, the MINIX 3 project will continue as a volunteer-based open-source project. A major new release will be out in the Fall and will include support for the ARM processors and the BeagleBone boards. Check the Website periodically for the announcement.

Re:Does this mean the death of Minix3? (4, Interesting)

plasticsquirrel (637166) | about 3 months ago | (#47424729)

Minix 3 will probably keep going as an open-source project, and maybe he will be even more involved?

I feel it necessary to point out, though, that OS X is not a microkernel system comparable to Minix. OS X is largely monolithic, so if one part of the core system crashes, the whole system crashes. Minix 3 is far more ambitious because everything that is not in the (truly tiny) microkernel runs as a separate server process. For example, drivers are running in their own process, so if a driver crashes, the rest of the system can continue running.

To manage the system, Minix has a so-called "reincarnation server" that restarts core system daemons if they go down unexpectedly. It's totally modular and redundant -- far more ambitious and advanced in its design than Linux or OS X. Minix is designed from the beginning to never go down. There is nothing else like that in the Unix world.

This talk by Tanenbaum describes the Minix 3 design in much greater detail:

Youtube: MINIX 3: a Modular, Self-Healing POSIX-compatible Operating System [youtube.com]

Re:Does this mean the death of Minix3? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 3 months ago | (#47425395)

I feel it necessary to point out, though, that OS X is not a microkernel system comparable to Minix

While this is true, it's worth noting that a lot of the compartmentalisation and sandboxing ideas that most of the userland programs on OS X employ (either directly or via standard APIs) have roots in microkernel research. OS X is in the somewhat odd situation of having userspace processes that are a lot more like multiserver microkernels than its kernel...

Re:Does this mean the death of Minix3? (1)

DamnOregonian (963763) | about 3 months ago | (#47425841)

Userspace processes that also function as servers for the microkernel that do most of their heavy lifting with the monolithic BSD skin graft. It's bizarre, ugly, and a nightmare to work with.

Re:Does this mean the death of Minix3? (1)

drerwk (695572) | about 3 months ago | (#47425107)

Does this mean the death of Minix3? That would be a shame I'd like to have seen a good open-source microkernel OS - a sort of "open source OSX".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D... [wikipedia.org] is Open Source OSX. http://www.opensource.apple.co... [apple.com]

Re:Does this mean the death of Minix3? (1)

DamnOregonian (963763) | about 3 months ago | (#47425823)

OSX does have some portions of it with a microkernel architecture, complete with userspace servers, but the vast majority of it deals with talking back and forth to the massive monolithic BSD tumor grafted onto the side of Mach. I guess you could technically call it a "hybrid", but for most intents and purposes, it's a monolithic kernel with some microkernel primitives that are bloody awkward to use.

Of all the kernel work I've done, there's nothing more vile than working with Darwin, while Minix, complete with its shortcomings is actually a breeze to work in.

His other project -- electoral-vote.com (5, Informative)

MAXOMENOS (9802) | about 3 months ago | (#47424483)

So...Dr. Tannenbaum's other project is Electoral-vote.com [electoral-vote.com] (2 [wikipedia.org] ), an election prediction site (and one of the first). Any clue what's going to happen to that?

His other project -- electoral-vote.com (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47425587)

So...Dr. Tannenbaum's other project is Electoral-vote.com [electoral-vote.com] [electoral-vote.com] (2 [wikipedia.org] [wikipedia.org] ), an election prediction site (and one of the first). Any clue what's going to happen to that?

Andy Tanenbaum may be retiring. But there are two things he will never abandon as long as he is physically able: computer systems and politics.

His other project -- electoral-vote.com (2)

white_owl (134394) | about 3 months ago | (#47426199)

Not only does he use polling data to do a good job of predicting the races and the control of the US Senate/House (his track record here [electoral-vote.com] and a comparison of his model to Nate Silver [electoral-vote.com] ), but he has, IMHO, excellent explanations of how the campaign managers are thinking and the likely impact of political news.

It is surprising to me that being located in Europe that he 1) cares and 2) is so wired into the US political scene. I hope he continues.

Minix download fee? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47424503)

"You can download the latest from the Minix home page"

Is he still charging $169 for Minix?

Re:Minix download fee? (2)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 3 months ago | (#47425407)

Minix has been BSD licensed for well over a decade. I'm not sure exactly how long, but it was when I was an undergrad and that was a depressingly long time ago now. As the kids today say: Old troll is old.

Re:Minix download fee? (0)

retchdog (1319261) | about 3 months ago | (#47425467)

that is so last year. old meme is old.

fuck, i meant to say, "wow. such old. much trolling."

A great writer (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47424567)

I own both "Operating Systems: Design and Implementation" and "Distributed Operating Systems". When I saw the retirement announcement, I cracked them open for the first time in many years to recall how much I learned from them.

But my favorite of Tanenbaum's works is "Structured Computer Organization". I suppose it may be a bit dated, but I still recommend it to anyone who wants to know how computers work.

Re:A great writer (2)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 3 months ago | (#47425431)

I found Modern Operating Systems better than the Minix book. The Minix book tells you exactly how a toy OS works in detail. Kirk McKusick's Design and Implementation of the FreeBSD OS (new version due out in a month or two) tells you how a real modern OS works in detail. Modern Operating Systems gives you a high-level overview of how modern operating systems work and how they should work. If you want to learn about operating systems, I'd recommend reading the FreeBSD D&I book and Tanenbaum's Modern Operating Systems and skipping the Minix book (which was also a bit too heavy on code listings for my tastes).

Minix on Atari ST (3, Interesting)

sbaker (47485) | about 3 months ago | (#47424723)

I ran Minix for a year or more on my Atari ST - having a UNIX-like operating system on a machine I could have at home was a truly awesome thing. Tanenbaum's work is fascinating, useful and will be around for a good while...which is more or less the definition of "successful" in academic circles.

The debates with Linus were interesting - but I always felt that they were arguing at cross-purposes. Linus wanted a quick implementation of something indistinguishable from "real UNIX" - Tanenbaum wanted something beautiful and elegant. Both got what they wanted - there was (and continues to be) no reason why they can't both continue to exist and be useful.

Tanenbaum's statement that the computer would mostly be running one program at a time was clearly unreasonable for a PC - but think about phones or embedded controllers like BeagleBone and Raspberry Pi? Perhaps Minix is a better solution in those kinds of applications?

Re:Minix on Atari ST (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47424921)

Raspberry pi runs quake3 around 10-30fps@1080p 4x anti-aliasing... i guess it has enough power to run bloated linux kernel :D

Re:Minix on Atari ST (2)

hansot (2960597) | about 3 months ago | (#47426529)

I ran Minix for a year or more on my Atari ST - having a UNIX-like operating system on a machine I could have at home was a truly awesome thing. Tanenbaum's work is fascinating, useful and will be around for a good while...which is more or less the definition of "successful" in academic circles.

The debates with Linus were interesting - but I always felt that they were arguing at cross-purposes. Linus wanted a quick implementation of something indistinguishable from "real UNIX" - Tanenbaum wanted something beautiful and elegant. Both got what they wanted - there was (and continues to be) no reason why they can't both continue to exist and be useful.

Tanenbaum's statement that the computer would mostly be running one program at a time was clearly unreasonable for a PC - but think about phones or embedded controllers like BeagleBone and Raspberry Pi? Perhaps Minix is a better solution in those kinds of applications?

I'm still "using" Minix (currently 1.6.25) both on my ancient Atari 1040 ST and on an Atari ST simulator. Part out of nostalgia of course, but also to remind myself what you could do using a CPU that is about 10000 times slower than current CPU's, running an OS that you could actually understand completely by reading the complete source code. And I am using a cross compiler these days, based on GCC 4.x running on FreeBSD (see www.beastielabs.net/prerel.html) and it is amazing to see what you still can get to run on the 1993 vintage Minix, although there is still no networking.

I remember having read the first edition of OSDI (including the source code) from cover to cover several times in the late 80's (the book split in two volumes as a consequence 8-) ) and a really learned a lot from it, although I was already heavily involved in Unix kernel hacking by then (both BSD and SVR4 based kernel ports). I still value Andy's OSDI in its several editions as a most educational experience.

Re:Minix on Atari ST (1)

gayleard (993671) | about 3 months ago | (#47426695)

I think Minix was much better than Linux at the time - it was better written, cleaner and well-documented. I'm pretty sure Tanenbaum just got tired of the hassle of running the project. He wasn't good at collaborating with subordinates - basically, he wanted to do everything himself. One of Torvald's merits - perhaps the secret of his success - is his ability to get a team round him and share out the work - somewhat surprising since he can be so rude. In practice Tanenbaum refused to extend Minix to 386's, on the grounds that there were enough 286's (and less) in the world to fulfil the needs of Minix.

Class Act (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47424795)

I remember when Microsoft paid Ken Brown throug the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution to do a hatchet job on Linus claiming that Linux was stolen from MINIX. Now Tanenbaum, who has criticized the Linux kernel design and had some spirited exchanges with Linus, could have just said nothing and let Linus fend the FUD off by himself, but instead he stepped up and did the honorable thing by decimating Brown's arguments that Linus could have come up with the Linux kernel in just a year and his competency as a researcher/writer.

http://www.cs.vu.nl/~ast/brown/
http://www.cs.vu.nl/~ast/brown/rebuttal/

A rare proof (1)

Murdoch5 (1563847) | about 3 months ago | (#47424899)

This is truly one of the very few profs who can talk about software design.

Remembering an early 80s Tannenbaum presentation (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47424969)

In the early 80s, I did a Unix systems startup in the UK: we were an early licensee of Unix from AT&T and sold VAXen with BSD installed and supported. DEC UK hated us. DEC US happily sold us CPUs.

In April 1983, the European Unix User's Group (EUUG), held a conference in Bonn, Germany. The speakers included Bill Joy, Sam Leffler, Steve Bourne and Andy Tanenbaum.

It was a hugely memorable event, including Prof. Tanenbaum's presentation. We were paying AT&T $200 or so for each Unix license. Not a huge deal for a $100,000 VAX system. But, even then, many of us could see a future where Unix or something like it would run on countless devices, including cars and washing machines. In fact, when I worked for AT&T in 1984 (yes, I know, it was "a learning experience"), I was pitching exactly that to OEMs. It was clear that something cheap or free would be required. So, back in 1983, when dinosaurs ruled the Earth, Prof. Tanenbaum gave us all the seed of a thought that free (as in beer) software could change the world.

As an aside, his presentation was a little hard to follow, but worth the effort, because his English wasn't that great. A Dutch guy sitting next to me said that his Dutch was pretty sketchy, too. I have no means to verify this but, if true, he would join a small group of my friends and acquaintances who don't speak any (human) language well. They're all engineers :-).

I also learned that, despite Bonn being largely flooded because of heavy rains, nothing stops a Unix conference, and that the "Geoffnet" signs I saw all over the place weren't a promotion for a new network stack, but meant "Open" in German.

Remembering an early 80s Tanenbaum presentation (4, Interesting)

AlexOsadzinski (221254) | about 3 months ago | (#47425017)

D'oh. Accidentally posted as a Coward and misspelled Prof. Tanenbaum's name. Carry on....

In the early 80s, I did a Unix systems startup in the UK: we were an early licensee of Unix from AT&T and sold VAXen with BSD installed and supported. DEC UK hated us. DEC US happily sold us CPUs.

In April 1983, the European Unix User's Group (EUUG), held a conference in Bonn, Germany. The speakers included Bill Joy, Sam Leffler, Steve Bourne and Andy Tanenbaum.

It was a hugely memorable event, including Prof. Tanenbaum's presentation. We were paying AT&T $200 or so for each Unix license. Not a huge deal for a $100,000 VAX system. But, even then, many of us could see a future where Unix or something like it would run on countless devices, including cars and washing machines. In fact, when I worked for AT&T in 1984 (yes, I know, it was "a learning experience"), I was pitching exactly that to OEMs. It was clear that something cheap or free would be required. So, back in 1983, when dinosaurs ruled the Earth, Prof. Tanenbaum gave us all the seed of a thought that free (as in beer) software could change the world.

As an aside, his presentation was a little hard to follow, but worth the effort, because his English wasn't that great. A Dutch guy sitting next to me said that his Dutch was pretty sketchy, too. I have no means to verify this but, if true, he would join a small group of my friends and acquaintances who don't speak any (human) language well. They're all engineers :-).

I also learned that, despite Bonn being largely flooded because of heavy rains, nothing stops a Unix conference, and that the "Geoffnet" signs I saw all over the place weren't a promotion for a new network stack, but meant "Open" in German.

Tannenbaum's predictions... (4, Interesting)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | about 3 months ago | (#47425079)

Anyone else laugh themselves stupid at some of the predictions of the future in those posts? The idea that x86 would go away and GNU/Hurd would supplant Linux...

Predicting the future is REALLY hard.

Re:Tannenbaum's predictions... (3, Insightful)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 3 months ago | (#47425245)

X86 has gone away. Everyone is using X86-64 and Arm. I would be more Unix like systems are ARM than X86 or X86-64.. So is AMD64 X86-64 orX86/64? I can never remember.

Re:Tannenbaum's predictions... (2)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | about 3 months ago | (#47425475)

Yeah, for mobile, but until the last 4 years, ARM really hasn't been seen as a huge thing. Relatively speaking, this is a new development. Beyond that, x86 is *still* kicking.

Plus there's that whole bit about GNU/Hurd being the future. :)

Re:Tannenbaum's predictions... (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 3 months ago | (#47425531)

Predicting that x86 would go away was more wishful thinking than anything else. At the time, Intel had just switched from pushing the i960 to pushing the i860 and would later push Itanium as x86 replacements (their first attempt at producing a CPU that it was impossible to efficiently compile code for, the iAPX432, had already died). Given that Intel was on its second attempt to kill x86 (the 432 largely predated anyone caring seriously about x86), it wasn't hard to imagine that it would go away soon...

I read your book! (3, Interesting)

Daniel Hoffmann (2902427) | about 3 months ago | (#47425123)

Really, his books are quite good, I used his the operating systems book in my undergraduate classes. I honestly found reading his book more productive than going to the classes.

I read your book! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47426167)

I did a CS Under-grad in India (late 80s, early 90s) and Prof. Tanenbaum's book was the prescribed textbook for the OS course. Since most of us students couldn't afford the book (or many other books, for that matter), the local photocopy shop had brisk business selling us boot-legged copies. I remember the bound version of the photo-copied book was in landscape mode, since they photocopied two pages at time on to one A4 sheet.!

Re:I read your book! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47426315)

Pirate!!!

Really, nothing to complain about... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47426705)

Tannenbaum wanted his thing to be a learning tool, simple, intentionally small and easy for students to grasp, yet enough to show how things worked. Efficiency wasn't part of the equation, functionality was not a priority. Education was. So the theory that a microkernel based system is theoretically the best way to go was what Tannenbaum professed. Torvalds wanted his system to use a macrokernel. Its a design decision. To mitigate the very large kernel size, Torvalds designed and developed loadable (and dynamically unloadable/reloadable) kernel modules. You get a small kernel size, and none of the message passing overhead of a microkernel. So small memory footprint, and high performance. Tannenbaum didn't want to see innovation in what he considered to be 'old technology' and even though Torvalds got an IEEE Turing Award for his innovation, the theory war flared, and that was more than 15 years ago. Certainly Tannenbaums mailing list shrunk after Torvalds started Linux, and to suggest that Tannenbaum was crestfallen may not have been a far stretch.

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