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QNX: When an OS Really, Really Has to Work

michael posted more than 11 years ago | from the abnormal-termination dept.

Operating Systems 514

An anonymous reader writes "Fortune has this article about how QNX's OS has found a niche and is doing well. Especially after 1996 when Microsoft executives said they would crush them in 2 years. When your software absolutely positively needs to work!"

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514 comments

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w00t! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6207656)

...It's summer!

--
This post is powered by Santana Row Wi-Fi and Caipirinha.

Re:w00t! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6207694)

Good to see you are spending it productively.

Re:w00t! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6207874)

I hope your mom has a nice summer fag!

Re:w00t! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6207940)

The summer solstice isn't for another week.

Don't worry (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6207661)

SCO will sue them soon enough, probably for using a 3 letter name.

QNX is still around? (3, Funny)

RLiegh (247921) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207668)

Wow. Do they still have the web-browser-on-a-bootfloppy offer?

Re:QNX is still around? (4, Informative)

$calar (590356) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207723)

Yes they are around, in fact some more recent news about them came out of the JavaOne conference: http://rcrnews.com/cgi-bin/news.pl?newsId=13840 They are going to be integrating IBMâ(TM)s WebSphere Micro Environment.

QNX Floppy Challenge (4, Informative)

hendridm (302246) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207950)

If you haven't taken the challenge yet, it's pretty cool [www.inig.at] . You can get it here [www.ncf.ca] too.

Sex Section (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6207670)

When is /. going to create a section for articles about sex? I like most nerds could really use a series of informative articles and discussion on the subject.

Re:Sex Section (-1, Offtopic)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207699)

When is /. going to create a section for articles about sex? I like most nerds could really use a series of informative articles and discussion on the subject.

As soon as they can find an editor with experience!!

Re:Sex Section (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6207718)

When is /. going to create a section for articles about sex? I like most nerds could really use a series of informative articles and discussion on the subject.

As soon as they can find an editor with experience!!

You mean like cmdr taco? [trollse.cx]

But Linux is much better! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6207674)

Linux is the future.

FIRST MICHAEL HATING POST (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6207684)

M|CHAEL S|MS |S A HYP0CR|T|CAL CENS0R NAZ|!

Old article! (0, Troll)

privbit (653238) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207690)

This was written in March! dtdodge: is the marketing budget now dedicated to resubmitting old articles to Slashdot? Quick: someone post a link to the Byte story from 1994!

Re:Old article! (1)

bsharitt (580506) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207888)

Okay, I found the archive, which one do I submit?

Re:Old article! (1)

fatboyslack (634391) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207947)

Still, it would be amusing to see the look on some SysAdmins (or whoevers in charge) face when he tries to work out why a two month old article just got slashdotted. Also, I recommend you read 'page 1' or the first article, its about the guy who invented/co-invented protein and dna sequences. Pretty cool stuff.

Re:Old article! (1)

Tuffnut (618438) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207959)

Captain Obvious strikes again!

:) I'm sure anyone reading slashdot can read that for themselves. Except for those select individuals who never read the articles, you trolling bastards!!

um (1)

drDugan (219551) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207700)

shouldn't all OS design have at least the "intent" of working like this?

not knowing anything about QNX, it sounds like they're just a better OS.

have I missed something?

Re:um (4, Insightful)

b0r1s (170449) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207720)

You're missing a little ...

QNX is a great operating system, but it's a much different market. It's not made for PCs, it's made for embedded, real time applications. You'll find QNX in routers, you'll find it in medical devices, and you'll find it in nuclear power plants.

What you won't find in QNX is USB support, drivers for a Sound Blaster 16, or Accelerated 3D drivers.

It's a great operating system, but comparing it to things like Windows, Mac OS, Linux, FreeBSD, or even Solaris and AIX are silly. QNX isn't designed to have any frills: it manages resources, incredibly well, and that's it. It doens't do complex scheduling, it doesn't do advanced 3d tricks, and it's not going to do much with the latest firewire hard drives. It will, however, guide a laser over someone's eye for Lasik and other such procedures a thousand times a year without a glitch.

Re:um (1)

StarTux (230379) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207768)

Exactly, only thing that has caused me issues an *any* desktop OS has been video, or USB. Embedded is a whole different universe.

Article sounded like someone who has gotten very confused over this embedded area. Embedded could easily mean your device running non-stop for ten years in a place where you cannot easily or cheaply replace it.

Re:um (2, Informative)

Cylix (55374) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207779)

I do believe it is made for PC's. (It at least was at one time)

It also happens to have a nice niche in the embedded market as well.

At an embedded systems conference, a while ago, the QNX guys showed me tablet pc's, citrix servers, remote X stuffs and my favorite at the time... the QNX port of quake. The quake port was a little buggy and I don't believe their system had sound support on or no speakers.

We chatted, grabbed the install floppies (2 or 3 at the time), and got some cards.

All in all, it was one of the better booths to visit.

Re:um (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6207925)

Yes, it can and does run on PC hardware. However, it's not a PC OS. Was never meant to be, likely will never be

Re:um (5, Informative)

SoSueMe (263478) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207799)

Here's what you DO get (from the Neutrino [qnx.com] page):
The QNX Momentics Development Suite Non-Commercial (NC) edition gives you a full self-hosted development environment with the QNX Neutrino RTOS, plus tools, device driver kits, a desktop class browser, and more.

QNX Neutrino RTOS v 6.2.1

* Symmetric Multiprocessing (SMP)
* QNX Photon microGUI
* Hundreds of POSIX, UNIX, and QNX utilities
* Distributed processing

Self-hosted C/C++ development environment for x86 & ARM development only. Reference Platform:

* iPAQ (ARM development target)

Driver Development Kits (DDKs)

Libraries and Tools:

* ANSI C, GCC v2.95x optimizing compiler, GDB 5.x, Binutils 2.10.x

Crap... (3, Informative)

SoSueMe (263478) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207847)

Should have linked here [qnx.com] .

Re:um (5, Informative)

imnoteddy (568836) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207880)

What you won't find in QNX is USB support

Sorry, wrong. QNX USB support [qnx.com] .

Re:um (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6207892)

Exactly, usb is mostly a replacement for rs232. Something you're going to want in an os that exists to control hardware.

We Will Crush You? (1)

maliabu (665176) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207707)

Especially after 1996 when Microsoft executives said they would crush them in 2 year

can a company said that regarding a competitor?

Re:We Will Crush You? (1)

rodgerd (402) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207813)

Of course it is. You're allowed to crush your competitors, so long as you dn't use illegal tactics to do so.

Re:We Will Crush You? (1)

calags (12705) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207818)

I don't think there's any problem with saying that to your competitor.

Actually doing it and the means by which this is done is an altogether different matter.

A couple things (-1, Interesting)

ObviousGuy (578567) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207708)

No doubt QNX is a good enough embedded system. So is VxWorks, so is WinCE, so is Linux. That's completely besides the point.

1) It isn't the operating system controlling the grinding of lenses or correcting the tilt of the TGV. It is a function of the hardware to do these things. That they report back to some software (which could frankly be run on any embedded OS) which then tells them what to do next is almost irrelevant.

2) An OS is the least important part of an embedded system. It is perhaps the most replaceable part. This is why WinCE is such a poor choice when it comes to UIs. Why do you need the OS to define the UI shell for you when what really matters is the final software that will be visible.

An embedded system simply described looks like this:

Software->OS->Hardware

The OS part of the picture is completely interchangeable and hardware too, to some respect.

Proclaiming the joys of QNX is as silly as proclaiming the joys of Linux or VxWorks. What really matters at that level is not the OS but the support that the system integrator can provide to the OEM. In that situation it is WinCE that comes out ahead of the pack.

Re:A couple things (5, Insightful)

aggieben (620937) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207738)

It isn't the operating system controlling the grinding of lenses or correcting the tilt of the TGV. It is a function of the hardware to do these things. That they report back to some software (which could frankly be run on any embedded OS) which then tells them what to do next is almost irrelevant.

Ummm...it is the operating system that matters -- the O.S. is the software that controls the hardware. Just like software on a PC can make the hardware do things it ought not do, software can make a precision laser be off by 1/100 of a millimeter, destroying someone's retina in the process.

Re:A couple things (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6207787)

There's nothing software can do to fix a hardware problem. If the laser is not built to be precise to within 1/100th of a millimeter, there's nothing software can do to fix that. The best software can do is send correct coordinates/settings to the hardware and hope that the hardware works correctly.

As for your assertion that the OS is the software that controls the hardware, that is really a gross generalization of an embedded system. If we assume that an embedded OS works correctly (and it is safe to assume this Windows bashing notwithstanding), then the software that matters is not found in the OS (as such) but in the software that runs atop it.

Re:A couple things (1)

AndroidCat (229562) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207828)

If we assume that an embedded OS works correctly

Is it really safe to assume this for real-time control applications?

Re:A couple things (1)

ObviousGuy (578567) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207846)

It of course depends on your definition of "real time". And in the end everyone and their mother's got a hard real-time kernel for their OS of choice, even WinCE (though the name of the 3rd party that offers this extension slips my mind at the moment).

Re:A couple things (1)

alienw (585907) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207943)

I sure as hell wouldn't want to have my eyes operated on by a WinCE or even a Linux system. They are not stable enough. That's one of those situations when 99.9% isn't good enough.

Re:A couple things (5, Funny)

wfberg (24378) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207758)

WinCE a good embedded system? Hmm.. Isn't that the WinCE that is at the heart of PocketPC? The embedded OS that brought blue screens of death (well, ok, depending on your color scheme a light khaki screen of death) to PDAs? Yeah. I trust WinCE to run my heart monitor if I ever end up in an Intensive Care Unit... *cough*

For the PHBs out there... (1)

ticklemeozmo (595926) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207769)

In case you didn't understand what ObviousGuy meant by "Operating System" or "OS", I quoth the article:

Like Windows or Linux, QNX's program is an operating system, the traffic cop that organizes and runs a computer's many functions.

Fortune Magazine really coming through with the analogies for those PHBs. :)

Re:A couple things (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6207832)

'Good enough' for many embedded systems means:
1. the OS is Really Real Time
2. the OS doesn't crash.

WinCE fails on both counts, Linux on at least the 1st, I don't know about VxWorks, but...

Re:A couple things (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207853)

Interesting? What type of fuck not are you?

QNX is an OS, yes. But it fills a very small niche where it works very well. I've used it in a college course "real-time programming". Hint....

If you absolutely need control over how a process will run [e.g. timing] QNX beats linux and windows handsdown.

QNX [neutrino] is also VERY small. A fully functioning kernel + drivers + Networking + terminal + etc can run you less than 1MB.

So moderators: how about you RTFA before modding people?

Tom

So, How Long Have You Worked For Microsoft? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6207927)

Are they good employers? What's their dental plan like? The last outfit which employed me didn't have one, so naturally my wisdom teeth needed pulling, and it cost me a fortune. I bet Bill and Steve have really great teeth...

Re:So, How Long Have You Worked For Microsoft? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6207944)

It wasn't so bad. It was certainly a better environment than the place I currently work.

As for the dental plan, I never availed myself of it, so I wouldn't know.

Re:A couple things (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6207941)

you don't know much about ROTS's do you lol ?? ..... btw for your info ..... its non-trivial to design such a reliable OS ..... till now we do not have any step by step scientific method for the model verification ... yes there are tools to judge the deadlocks/livelocks/race conditions/etc ... but the entire process of designing is not totally laid down ......

>> In that situation it is WinCE that comes out ahead of the pack

PLEEEASE don't compare WinCE to QNX :)) ROFL ... your basis of reasoning about the h/w support for microsoft being more is silly ....... do you think that one would be so insane that he would even start designing an OS for a life support system without getting 110% support from the OEMs ??

next time please do not post just for the sake of it ....

Re:A couple things (1)

Tony-A (29931) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207956)

That they report back to some software (which could frankly be run on any embedded OS) which then tells them what to do next is almost irrelevant.

What is not irrelevant is that the OS is ready, willing, and able to tell them what to do next, no matter what else is going on.

Drive a mountain road at high speeds. Make most of the curves.

Interesting? (5, Informative)

cgenman (325138) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207963)

I'm trying not to comment on this, but as two people modded it "interesting," obviously this fallacy needs to be shot down. While true for PDA's, which is obviously what ObviousGuy has experience with, it is not at all true for many real embedded systems.

QNX is for those times when "Good enough" isn't good enough. An associate of mine used to run the network for a major medical responce company. They used to count downtime in the number of people dead due directly to the lack of a network. If you accidentally pulled a plug on the way to lunch, 4 people would be dead because of you.

Their uptime target was 24-7-365-20. There was no such thing as "Good Enough."

Ideally, any OS should do. It should be a flawlessly written middleman layer between flawlessly written hardware and flawlessly written software. But we all know that software is flawed, hardware drivers are flawed, and OS's are flawed. When WinCE comes across a problem in the kernel, it panics and comes crashing down. When Linux comes across a problem in the kernel, it panics and comes down. According to this article, when QNX comes across a problem in the kernel, it cuts off, shuts down, and reboots just the offending section, cutting downtime from 30 seconds to microseconds. That's pretty darned cool.

Sure, the foundation of your house is just the interface between the ground and your software creation. But if your foundation is bad, no matter how much support the system integrator can provide, your house won't stay up for long. If you're building apartments, that might not matter. If you're building a hospital, your negligence could cost lives.

And by the way, it's the software that controls the grinding of the lens. If the hardware knew how to grind a lens already, it wouldn't have electronics. The software controls the OS, the OS controls the hardware. Your Software->OS->Hardware diagram should have proven to you how important it is to have a reliable OS in the middle.

spawn() hangs system (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6207710)

We are running QNX 6.1 Patch B on PowerPC's with a custom BSP.

We have ported QNX to two custom boards, one based on the MPC7410 PPC and another based on the MPC755. The MPC7410 system is running fine. The new port to the MPC755 has a nasty problem. Anytime spawn() is invoked, the entire QNX system hangs. All processes stop, regardless of priority. This system hang doesn't happen on the MPC7410.

It looks like it's just spawn() that is the problem. We can start and kill large processes from the ksh shell just fine.

This problem does not happen on our MPC7410 system. Other than this spawn problem, both systems run great.

Both systems have MPC107 controllers, 128 MB of SDRAM, and the same Ethernet controller. The MPC7410 system has 2 MB of external L2 cache, the MPC755 system has 1 MB of external L2. We believe that memory and cache integrity are OK.

What could spawn() be doing to take down the whole kernel on the MPC755?

Here is a simple example program that runs fine on the MPC7410, but completely hangs QNX on the MPC755:

#include <stdio.h>
#include <spawn.h>

int main(int argc, char** argv)
{
char* path ="/bin/ls";
printf("About to spawn %s\n", path);
fflush(stdout);
spawn(path, 0, NULL, NULL, NULL, NULL);
printf("Spawn is done\n");
return 0;
}

Here are the PPC registers on the MPC755 board seen by typical applications:

MSR = 0000.9932
HID0 = 0010.C0A4
HID1 = 8000.0000
L2CR = BB00.0060

We've submitted a request to QNX support for help on this. However, if anyone has any thoughts regarding this problem then please share.

Thanks

Re:spawn() hangs system (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6207721)

From the docs:

argv
A pointer to an argument vector. The value in argv[0] should point to the filename of program being loaded, but can be NULL if no arguments are being passed. The last member of argv must be a NULL pointer. The value of argv can't be NULL.

Argv is the second to last parameter for spawn. You have it set to NULL.

Re:spawn() hangs system (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6207852)

Totally incorrect response.

You should have stated:

RTFM

Re:spawn() hangs system (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6207795)

Why was I modded at offtopic? I asked a question about QNX in a story about QNX.

QNX doesn't work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6207716)

I work for a company that spent three years developing a solution using QNX. We found QNX to be unstable (we had it crash countless times), ill-supported (their support personnel are expensive and often not very knowledgable), and to generally have no redeeming qualities. We are now moving to a Linux solution instead.

Newer version of QNX borrow *heavily* from the GNU system software anyway, so all you're doing is swapping out Linux for a "micro" kernel (we were forced to use 64MB Pentiums for our target platforms -- not very micro).

The licensing costs kill your bottom line too. QNX is VERY expensive.

I think it does have a niche, a very small one where people have started using it, released a product and can't easily abandon it.

Ironically, our contracted QNX expert is now doing Linux work since he can't find anyone who wants to use QNX.

I know people use this Operating System and have good success, I'm just not sure why or how. Linux is probably a better choice. Period.

QNX? ICK! (3, Insightful)

SmileeTiger (312547) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207726)

I am currently working on a software development project migrating code _away_ from QNX to Linux. Every time I have to work on the old QNX project I want to bang my head against the monitor.

From what I have seen there is nothing that QNX does that Linux can't do that would justify the license cost.

Re:QNX? ICK! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6207761)

If you were smart, you'd use a BSD, and avoid the whole viral GPL issue.

When you release your software, are you going to enjoy giving away your hard work in the form of source to conform to the GPL?

Re:QNX? ICK! (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6207820)

You really are a fuckin' idiot aren't you?

Do you even know what an embedded system is, assgerbil?

Re:QNX? ICK! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6207829)

When you release your software, are you going to enjoy giving away your hard work in the form of source to conform to the GPL?

Why would they have to do that? If they're not making changes to the GPL code itself (and building modules that dynamically link at run time don't count), and if all the libraries they link to are LGPL instead of GPL - then there's no reason/need for them to release their source

troll

Re:QNX? ICK! (0)

alienw (585907) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207964)

If you were smart, you'd use a BSD, and avoid the whole viral GPL issue.

Right -- and also avoid receiving any improvements to the software performed by other users. A bug in a BSD program can stay unfixed until the author finds it. In a GPL program, it gets fixed as soon as ANYONE finds it.

Also, can you name a single embedded device that uses BSD? Embedded linux is hot. Embedded BSD is unheard of.

Re:QNX? ICK! (1)

Cylix (55374) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207792)

So wrong!

Linux cannot force you to bang your head against the monitor in the same manner QNX does!

Geez, so hypocritical ;)

Re:QNX? ICK! (2, Insightful)

jjh37997 (456473) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207896)

From what I have seen there is nothing that QNX does that Linux can't do that would justify the license cost.

Except not crash.....

I'm sorry but as much as I like linux I want something a little more robust running my nuclear power plants and laser eye-surgery machines. I think that warrants a little extra cost.

linux real-time stuff (-1)

StuffMaster (412029) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207728)

So how does the Linux real-time stuff compare to this?

If they can make a watch run Linux, how about QNX?

you can download a free copy of Neutrino (2, Funny)

lingqi (577227) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207731)

Neutrino being the QNX-based PC OS.

This should prove to be interesting in several ways:

1) hands on experience with an "never-crash" OS
2) if QNX is the inmmoveable object, and /. is the unstoppable force, will this cause the universe to end?

p.s. specialized OS don't crash because it's exactly that - specialized. I think windows crash so much because (part of the reason) it runs on so many kinds of hardware, for one. As much as I will get flamed, in OEM applications, like, say, most of the new fancy I-will-never-be-able-to-affort oscilloscopes and the likes, windows usually don't crash.

software and hardware goes together - you can't ALWAYS blame on the software; i am not saying MS writes good code, it's just that I don't think is 100% their fault.

maybe 98%...

download link here (2, Informative)

lingqi (577227) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207756)

sorry for being a dork and replying to myself, but look here [qnx.com] for Neutrino. right side of the page.

OS crashes. (2, Insightful)

Christopher Thomas (11717) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207858)

p.s. specialized OS don't crash because it's exactly that - specialized. I think windows crash so much because (part of the reason) it runs on so many kinds of hardware, for one. As much as I will get flamed, in OEM applications, like, say, most of the new fancy I-will-never-be-able-to-affort oscilloscopes and the likes, windows usually don't crash.

The purpose of an operating system is to provide an abstraction layer between the hardware and application software, and between all of the tasks running on a machine. If done right, this prevents most crashing no matter what you're doing (as most software doesn't have the privileges needed to take down the whole system). If done wrong, application software can muck with things it shouldn't, and the whole system comes crashing down when something goes wrong.

Any of the 9x series of Windows, and WinME, fall into the second category. Windows NT (including 2K and XP), and various Unix flavours and clones (including MacOS X), fall into the first category.

While a general-purpose system has more potential points of failure in software - as you're running more software - this is not an excuse for it to be crash prone. A well-protected OS is vulnerable to bugs in the OS core and in the drivers interfacing with hardware, which will for the most part still be there even in a single-purpose system.

In summary, you can't blame windows crashing on it being a general-purpose operating system. There are plenty of general-purpose OSs that crash far less. There are special-purpose OSs that are designed shoddily, as well (it's just easier to catch that before it goes to market, because the test space is smaller).

FWIW, re. another thread, my understanding is that WinCE is a stepchild of NT (heavy rewrite to make it modular and to pare out functionality that isn't needed in embedded systems, while keeping most of the core OS design). That should make its behavior similar to that of NT.

Re:OS crashes. (1)

Zenki (31868) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207909)

Windows CE is very different from NT. It was written to provide real-time performance, something that NT can't do (do to driver architecture, etc.) The only thing common between CE and NT (other than coming from Redmond) is the Win32 api (and there are still some api features not supported on CE.)

QNX rules (5, Informative)

CausticWindow (632215) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207739)

QNX is designed like a modern os should be. It's straigt out of an Operating Systems 101 textbook.

If only Linux had more of QNX's design niceties and robustness.

Too bad the Amiga/QNX desktop thing never became a big hit.

Re:QNX rules (1, Informative)

beee (98582) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207866)

Your description of QNX, though elegant, is a little off. If QNX is straight out of any book, it'd be "Unix for Dummies". Its endless striving towards reckless simplification, abstraction, and minimalism is what keeps it from being one of the "big boys".

QNX's major problem is its lack of focus on who its userbase is (or should be). They're catering to the wrong people, not realizing that their core userbase could (and should) be the typical knowledgable Linux geek. Instead, they seem to be chasing after an elusive "newbie" core of users.

I, for one, am glad Linux lacks QNX's "design niceities". That's what seperates the two, and I am more than glad to have an OS which isn't concerned with things I consider to be a waste of code -- which seems to be where QNX spends most of its development time.

Robustness is definitely comparable, so I wouldn't give QNX the upper hand in that corner -- all you need to do is take a look at the GPH support in both to figure out which is more robust.

My view on QNX is this: Good, but not great. I'm actually a little suprised to see such support here at Slashdot.

Re:QNX rules (1)

Christopher Thomas (11717) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207882)

QNX is designed like a modern os should be. It's straigt out of an Operating Systems 101 textbook.

If only Linux had more of QNX's design niceties and robustness.


Care to provide details, as opposed to just making vague assertations?

Re:QNX rules (4, Insightful)

73939133 (676561) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207919)

Let me second that. I think that's the direction open source operating systems should go.

Microkernels have gotten a bad reputation because Mach/Hurd, for one reason or another didn't deliver. But that doesn't mean the approach itself is flawed.

Traditional monolithic kernels like Linux (and UNIX and NT/XP--and don't try pretending that NT/XP is a "microkernel") are appealing for budding operating system projects because it's easy to hack something together quickly. But those architectures don't hold up in the long run. You can see the same in ecology: fast growing, non-native plants often displace native plants quickly, but in the end, they die because they aren't well adapted to the long-term conditions.

Well, maybe if SCO wins, we can look on the bright side: it will finally get Linux out of its rut and create more opportunities for other kernels. Don't get me wrong: like everybody else, I'd much rather not change from the Linux kernel, but if I do have to change, I don't view it as all bad. (Of course, I don't think SCO has any legal grounds at all, but that is probably not related to whether they can win.)

Kids In The Hall (3, Funny)

niko9 (315647) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207751)

Just picture Bill Gates with a fro, runnning amok on the street of Canada fully armed with thumb and index finger yelling: "I will crush your little precocious head!"

Inaccurate microkernel claims? (1, Interesting)

deepchasm (522082) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207753)

From the article:

QNX has been the only company so far to commercialize a microkernel OS.

Isn't the Windows NT kernel supposed to be a microkernel? Admittedly, it is a bit larger than people intended when they came up with the idea of a microkernel (especially since MS added GUI code to it in NT 4.0), but still...

And what about OS X? That has Mach at its heart doesn't it? That's a microkernel too.

Both of the above are commercially successful.

Re:Inaccurate microkernel claims? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6207807)

I thought Darwin/OS X/Mach was microkernel, too, but take a look at this [apple.com] , where it says "This modular structure results in a more robust and extensible system than a monolithic kernel would allow, without the performance penalty of a pure microkernel." Evidently OS X is neither monolithic nor microkernel.

Re:Inaccurate microkernel claims? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6207854)

Linux is really just as much microkernel as that is.

Unix kernels have changed a lot since the 80s when the whole microkernel thing was a trendy theory among various academics. Today with loadable modules it pretty much makes the whole mono v. macro debate fairly pointless.

I mean if you are a professor somewhere i suppose you could get a paper or two published in some theoretical CS journal about it, but as for the real world the whole arguement is pretty pointless at this stage of the game.

Re:Inaccurate microkernel claims? (1, Insightful)

Uller-RM (65231) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207840)

It's utter bullshit, is what it is.

BeOS was a microkernel. Wasn't necessarily commercially successful by some people's metrics, but it was certainly a sellable product.

Mac OS X is based on the Mach 3 microkernel.

The NT kernel is monolithic. About the only part that's segmented out is that it takes advantage of the 386 protected-mode privilege rings.

The rest of the article is alright, but that's one hell of a technical error.

Re:Inaccurate microkernel claims? (5, Informative)

be-fan (61476) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207843)

NT is hardly a microkernel. A microkernel, according to strict definitions, doesn't include anything like drivers, paging or the filesystem. QNX fits this definition --- the filesystem runs in userspace, and even drivers run as seperate processes that communicate via message passing. In Win2k and WinXP, almost everything runs in kernel space. Heck, in the next version, rumor has it that large parts of SQL and the .NET runtime are going in kernel space! And OS X isn't a microkernel either. It uses Mach, but the BSD server runs in kernel space, and message passing between the two has been replaced by procedure calls.

Re:Inaccurate microkernel claims? (1)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207851)

I can't speak for MacOS, but NT isn't a microkernal, at least not completely. The idea of a "true" microkernel, which I believe QNX to be, is that the ONLY thing that runs in kernel mode is the kernel, which sets up basic message passing and little else. Everything else, including graphics, file system, etc all runs in user mode. MS found that, at least on computers of the day, this was too slow. So we have a kernel that is designed around a microkernel idea, but isn't a real microkernel. Plenty of stuff runs in kernel mode.

As to OS-X, I don't know, but I wuold bet it isn't a "true" microkernel desin either. I also bet that if you did intensive graphics benchm,arks, QNX would not do well as compared to either of those two. That's not the point though, it was built for embedded apps, not for desktop performance apps.

Umm MacOS X? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6207755)

Quoting from the article: QNX "is the only company to commercialize a micro-kernel OS" which is in fact not true since MacOS X's Darwin/BSD layer is built upon the Mach micro-kernel... (kind of a different beast, but a micro-kernel nonetheless)

Moral: Take all non-technical tech writing with a large grain of NaCl

That said, QNX is a solid OS.

Only commercial microkernel? (1)

mkramer (25004) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207762)

Okay, I can forgive all the other typical non-tech-savvy errors, but what's this about QNX being the only commercial microkernel OS?

What's Mac OS X, chopped liver?

Re:Only commercial microkernel? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6207819)

Depends on what Ol' Steve was smoking that day!

Yesterday, I do believe he was quoted as saying OS X was a Pot Of Honey and he was the glorious Grand Pooh Bear.

That whole, I am the lizard king comment, totally a Jobbs thing.

Re:Only commercial microkernel? (1)

be-fan (61476) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207868)

OS X uses something that used to be a microkernel, but its been totally changed. The BSD server runs entirely in kernel mode, and message passing between Mach and the BSD server has been replaced by function calls.

Re:Only commercial microkernel? (2, Informative)

csirac (574795) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207952)

They should have said "... possibly the best commercial microkernel-RTOS OS for embedded systems.."

A life support system, pick'n place robot, or a plant monitoring/control system, or your submarine's navigation and control system etc. running Mac OS X is going to need 256MB RAM and 10GB HDD...

By comparison QNX is designed from the ground up to be a true RTOS, responding to real time signals reliably and FAR faster than MacOS X or any other desktop OS could possibly hope for. It's not just bragging, it is fact. It was designed to beat normal OSes in this regard. And it does it with less.

IIRC QNX will boot quite happily with little more than 16MB RAM, a 100MHz CPU, and some flash rom. Perfect for tiny mission critical embeded systems; a single board computer, no HDD, low power consumption, low profile, with performance, features, a good dev enviornment and flexibility to boot. Environmental considerations: you can easily box up a custom SBC to be x-ray/microwave/radiation/water/weather/vibration proof. Big companies with lots of money use custom embedded systems. An iBook running MacOS X 'aint gonna get you there.

Also, IIRC QNX has extensive, documented, certified/standards based QA in testing and development, which companies using an OS for mission critical embedded systems just can't get (but really need) from many other solutions.

- Paul

Pronouciation? (4, Interesting)

hoser (95281) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207775)

Kyu-nicks? or Kyu-Enn-Eks?

Re:Pronouciation? (4, Informative)

heli0 (659560) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207845)

1) What is QNX? [fh-hamburg.de]

QNX pronounced like "queue nicks" is a commercial operating system that runs on intel processors, mainly the 386, 486, and Pentium, and their clones, such as MD, Nat Semiconductor, Cyrix, and SGS Thompson.

The simple answer is that QNX is a realtime, microkernel, preemptive, prioritized, message passing, network distributed, multitasking, multiuser, fault tolerant operating system. This is a "true" microkernel, with the largest QNX kernel to date being less than 10K.

The QNX/Neutrino microkernel is about 32K, but can run standalone, something the QNX4 microkernel cannot. The QNX/Neutrino microkernel + process manager is about 64K, which is half the size of the QNX4 microkernel + process manager, and it does more.

Re:Pronouciation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6207860)

no no no.. Its canadian..

the proper pronounciation is "Kah-nuks"

Re:Pronouciation? (2, Informative)

JerryKnight (465510) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207871)

According to this [fh-hamburg.de] the pronunciation is the former.

Isn't google great. (1)

JerryKnight (465510) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207894)

You don't even have to spell things correctly. There should be a "google prerequisite" for posting a question to slashdot.

QNX (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6207802)

ooh, i want to run qnx on my desktop now :P

QNX NC (5, Informative)

christurkel (520220) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207805)

You can download a bootable CD from QNX.com that runs "Live", from the CD, so you kick the wheels, so to speak. You can then install it, if you wish.
The QNX floppy demo was for QNX4, while the CD is QNX 6, a vastly improved OS. The floppy can still be found but its not half the OS that QNX 6 is.
QNX is POSIX compliant and can run all Unix utilities, Besides the Photon GUI, you can run various window managers. You can run X Windows apps seemlessly rootless using XPhoton. Already Gimp, AbiWord and others have been ported. There are many native apps as well, irc clients, a mozilla and opera port. Worth a try, at least!
QNX isn't the easiest OS to use (try getting a USB printer to work and you'll find a new definition of pain and suffering) but it is rock solid and fun to geek with.

QNX is a nice RT OS (3, Informative)

Dolphinzilla (199489) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207810)

I have used QNX and I can tell you it is great for embedded systems - it is like an affordable VxWorks - a real time OS with lots of bells and whistles and super stability. However like VxWorks it does lack a lot of hardware support - but you can write your own drivers (of course). You use to be able to download the OS for free for evaluation in a single executable that runs kind of like Knoppix - no real install necessary. Its a cool way to kill an afternoon if your bored (and a geek).

Still need to write good applications (1)

That_Dan_Guy (589967) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207815)

This is an embedded system that is for things like manufacturing. Which means the code for the applications still has to be error free for it to do what is needed. same with regards to efforts to put the system into cars.

I kind of feel the article is misleading, making some beleive just because a system is running QNX that nothing can go wrong.

Some interesting points to note (2, Informative)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207821)

The problem with this approach, still followed in widely used operating systems such as Windows and Linux, is that a trivial error in any one of the many functions that share the same memory space can shut down the whole system.

Well this is somewhat of a generalization. Yes some errors can cause the whole system to crash in both Linux, Windows, and Unix. The difference is that it the way Unix and Linux are designed, it is far less likely.

All the components of their OS were isolated from the microkernel and from one another in their own protected memory spaces.

Protected memory space for the kernel or microkernel: Even Windows has that. The only problem is that "protected" is a very loose tem for Windows. Unlike Windows, Unix and Linux doesn't allow any ordinary application to write to the kernel.

Other than that, QNX does have some potential, but their market is really a niche. Since it is a niche, it doesn't offer the interoperability that other OS offers.

I remember using qnx in a Canadian Highschool (5, Interesting)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207824)

Canada's school systems are strange compared to American schools I have previously attented. I have found their computers horrible inadaquite and out of date.

Anyway I took 2 programming courses in basic and pascal. The labs used some strange Unisys dumb terminals connected to a builky black looking box. Very XT-ish and looked like it was from the early to mid 80's. Anyway it ran a no name OS called QNX. I believe it was powered by a 286 or 6800 with about 4 megs of ram for all 20 students. It had no display but a teletype printer where we would print out our programs. It handled quite well for such a limited server.

Its Very old and I remember a 1984 copyright that showed up whenever I booted. I had no idea it was a unixlike system.

It seemed just as fast as a standalone 286 and it had a "$" as the prompt sign with a strange scripting system. I considered it underpowered and old but was supprised by the included gcc, sed, gmake, and other utilities and powerfull scripting. It had some nice api's for 2d graphics displays.

Anyway 2 years later I wanted to try Unix after playing with NT 4 when after it just came out. I tried Caldera (shudder )Linux and I was supprised that I have been running gnu and unix all long. The shell scripts and everything were identical and I have been using Unix without even knowing it.

Linux felt quite old without X in the old days( before kde was stable and gnome was around). But I have qnx running on that horribly ancient system to thank.

Re:I remember using qnx in a Canadian Highschool (1)

Afbc0m (623144) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207859)

Canada's high schools do not all have poor and or outdated computer equipment, in fact they don't, as a student of 4 so far, in different provinces and different community sizes, none of have had a poor setup, in fact just the opposite, one even has a computer per 3 students, try and find that anywhere else.

Re:I remember using qnx in a Canadian Highschool (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6207887)

This was in 1995 at an inner city Toronto High School. Things might be different now but only one lab had pc's with WIndows 3.1. They were reserved for the honor students in OAC.

Re:I remember using qnx in a Canadian Highschool (-1)

Seth Finklestein (582901) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207929)

My experiences with Canadian high school computers have been quite the opposite.

In 1999, I saw a Canadian computer powered by young Canadians emotions. The battery had two terminals. Connected to the '+' terminal was the Canadian students' love of American television, popular music, and motion pictures. Connected to the '-' terminal was the Canadian students' resentment of American politics and dominance of world affairs.

The computer received so much power, it exploded. When I asked the Canadian students why their computer broke, they blamed the Americans.

Re:I remember using qnx in a Canadian Highschool (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6207942)

...and judging by your spelling and grammer I say that the Canadian school district might be better.

OMFG!! VLAGGOT!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6207831)

LOLLOL0L!!!

They better be careful (0, Funny)

castlec (546341) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207833)

They couldn't possibly have reliable code without stealing from Unix. I mean look at the only operating system that hasn't ->Windows. It runs like crap. And don't say that BSD never stole from Unix. AT&T just had crappy lawyers. They should have won that case. IBM and Linux are going down and QNX will soon follow. As soon as SCO wins the IBM case they will go after QNX. The discontent of many companies will then follow. IP thieves will pay!!!

Lemmings (1)

Afbc0m (623144) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207835)

*watches as everyone rushes to the site and downloads the free version, like moths to a flame

Re:Lemmings (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207920)

And that's bad? Maybe 10000 people will download it over the next three days. Of those maybe 1000 will be impressed and of those maybe 10 will be in a position to buy/use it commercially.

All in all a good day at QNX :-)

Don't forget those who have already used QNX [e.g. in college] and don't need to download a new copy.

Tom

Um, notwithstanding Mach/MacOS... (1, Offtopic)

caulfield (39545) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207869)

QNX has been the only company so far to commercialize a microkernel OS.

I love QNX, but they definitely aren't the only company to commercialize a microkernel OS. Apple [apple.com] , while late in the game, are shipping some big numbers. Of course, don't forget NeXT before them, or for you penguin-heads, MkLinux [mklinux.org] .

I read slashdot using QNX (4, Funny)

leighklotz (192300) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207878)

I read Slashdot using QNX, on an Audrey [audreyhacking.com] . I almost bought another one at a garage sale today for $20, but it had no power supply. Plus the keyboard was Lime.

QNX only commercial microkernel? (1)

Durindana (442090) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207893)

From the article: "QNX has been the only company so far to commercialize a microkernel OS."

Am I just ignant, or isn't Mac OS X built on top of the Mach microkernel, with a monolithic 4.4BSD kernel atop it?

Dan Hildebrand would be happy! (2, Informative)

farrellj (563) | more than 11 years ago | (#6207951)

Dan Hildebrand was one of the early luminaries of QNX in Kanata, just outside of Ottawa. Although I only met him once, I knew him well via the local Fidonet and Unix communities. It's too bad he isn't around to enjoy this story. But I am sure he is smiling about it wherever he is! Slashdot story about his death [slashdot.org] It's hard to believe it's been 5 years.

ttyl
Farrell
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