MINIX3: Setting up the Environment

Over the past week, I found myself running head-first into a wall with MINIX. I ended up having to do lots of reading before I could even begin with development/tinkering. Having never done a project like this, I found rather quickly that the hardest part is getting started. Persistence is key, though!

In my research, I found that many resources were giving me mixed results. I saw a lot of people cross-compiling from their host machine into their VM, and I also found a lot of resources compiling from within MINIX itself. I really wanted to get a bit more experience with the feeling of low-level programming and using things like vi as an editor, even if it ends up making my life harder than necessary. So as a result, I was pretty set on the idea of compiling and rebuilding from within MINIX itself.

As it turns out, MINIX was originally designed with this type of native development in mind. From 1.0 to 3.2.1, they included the source files along with the install. In following versions, like the stable release of 3.3.0 shown on their download page, the /src directory isn’t even included within /usr. In order to obtain the source code, you need to use the git repository (also found here on Github) to clone the files. I found a section of the MINIX developer’s guide called “Tracking Current“, which explained how to go about using git within MINIX in order to track the most recent stable increments of MINIX’s development. On this page, it explains that the current stable release of 3.3.0 is not compatible with tracking current, as there have been key changes to the system since — the most recent snapshots are on version 3.4.0.

So, after a reinstall using a 3.4.0 snapshot, I finally have the source files included in my VM! I’ll start refactoring and show off what I do in following posts. I already played around a little bit by changing the startup text and rebuilding the system so it displays my name before I log in, just to make sure I actually understand how the “make build” command works. I’ll go more in depth on that subject next time. My task this coming week is to do a lot of reading through source code to understand what functions do what, and thinking about what changes I want to make exactly.

Until next time!

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