Exchanging Data with Other Operating Systems
If you use two or more operating systems you probably will want to exchange
data between them at some point. If they are on separate computers and the
computers are networked, you can use programs like
(available for most, if not all, operating systems)
or (between Unix-like systems)
Between nonnetworked computers you can use
(also available for most, if not all, operating systems) to transfer data
via modem or over a serial line connection.
Exchange of data between different operating systems running at
different times on the same computer (or at the same time using a
virtual or emulated machine such as provided by VMWare and Bochs) or on
two computers that can't communicate by wire requires arranging for one
system or the other to read and write "foreign" floppy disks or hard
disk partitions. With floppy disks the only problem is to interpret
the data structures used by the foreign file system. With hard disk
partitions there may be another problem to be solved first: although
all operating systems that use the same hardware platform must use the
method of defining primary disk partitions that is supported by the
system's ROM boot code, operating system designers have devised various
ways of further dividing primary partitions into subpartitions. This
document deals with the problem of interpreting foreign file systems;
see the file on partition compatibility for information on the subpartition problem.
MINIX's primary purpose is to illustrate operating system principles.
Keeping MINIX small enough to fit into a student's head during a semester-
or year-long course has required keeping it simple. In particular, the MINIX
file system supports mounting only media containing MINIX file systems.
MINIX Access to Foreign File Systems
In the Unix world mounting a file system has a definite meaning: a
mounted file system is part of a single directory tree with / at its
root. But just because MINIX cannot mount foreign file systems doesn't mean
they can't be accessed. The standard MINIX distribution contains utility
programs to allow reading and writing files and directories in MS-DOS and
Windows file systems, and for reading files and directories in ISO-9660
file systems, as found on CD-ROMs. These programs are the dos*
utilities, mtools, and the iso* utilities.
Accessing MS/DOS and Windows file systems from MINIX:
- The old way (before MINIX 2.0.3) is the MINIX dosdir/dosread/doswrite utilities.
These can handle floppy disks and relatively small FAT partitions.
If your native Windows file system can't be handled by the dos* tools,
one way around the problem is make an extra small Windows FAT partition that
the MINIX tools can handle to use as a staging area for files to be
transferred between the OSs.
- The new way is the mtools command. Unfortunately, as of the MINIX
2.0.3 release there is no man page for mtools. However, use is simple.
Mtools takes as its first argument a standard DOS command line command,
such as copy, dir, etc. Additional arguments are DOS and MINIX paths.
The MINIX path is expressed in standard MINIX syntax. The DOS path is
expressed with the MINIX device, a colon (':'), and the path with Unix type
forward-slash separators. For example:
# mtools copy /dev/fd0:/dir1/file1.txt /usr/local/doc
Mtools contains its own help facility, type "mtools -?". Mtools does have a
downside, it is greedy for memory. By default it is chmem-ed to use more
than 10 Mbytes. But most systems with disk partitions too large for the
dosread family of utilities have lots of memory.
- Also, see the article on using DOS-MINIX as a bridge
between MINIX and Windows.
Accessing ISO-9660 (CD-ROM) files from MINIX:
- isoinfo -- to get information about a CD-ROM
- isodir -- to read a directory
- isoread -- to read a file
Of course, to use the iso* tools you need to know the MINIX device
that corresponds to your CD-ROM. It will most like be /dev/c0d1 or /dev/c0d2
on a typical computer with one hard drive and one CD-ROM drive. (That's for
MINIX 2.0.3 or later, for earlier versions try /dev/hd5 or /dev/hd10). You
can use the part command or experiment with isoinfo with different arguments
to identify the CD-ROM drive.
Accessing files in Linux ext2 file systems from MINIX:
Terry McConnell ported a package called
originally written for MS-DOS, to MINIX.
As originally written by Claus Tondering, this package provided tools
for accessing a Linux ext2 filesystem from MS-DOS. The port provides
the same functionality for accessing Linux files from MINIX.
The following programs are included:
e2cp: copy a file from an ext2 filesystem.
e2cat: list a file from an ext2 filesystem.
e2ls: give directory listings for directories on an ext2 filesystem.
Of course, as of 2003 Linux has moved on, and ext2 is no longer
the most widely used Linux file system. One way to deal with this is similar
to what was suggested above for Windows: make an extra Linux partition that
uses ext2, or perhaps even the Linux minix file system, and use this as a
staging point for files to be transferred.
MS-DOS and Windows Access to MINIX File Systems
Terry McConnell has extended a package originally called MinDOS to make
which gives access to MINIX files from an MS-DOS prompt.
Linux Access to MINIX File Systems
This category is a no-brainer. Linus used the then-current MINIX file
system as the basis for Linux , and although Linux hard drives usually
use the Linux ext3 or another newer file system now, support for the
MINIX file system is usually included if floppy disk access is required
-- newer file systems are not suited for floppy disks, and the MINIX fs
is used for floppy disks by default. Just be sure when you configure
Linux that you include support for the MINIX file system.
File Transfers between Guest and Host OS on Virtual or Emulated Systems
With a virtual or emulated host platform, as provided by Bochs or
VMWare, one frequently needs to transfer data from the host OS to the
guest OS or vice versa. Depending on the capabilities of the two
systems, there may be several ways to do this.
Virtual and emulated system links: Here are sources of more
information about some of the topics mentioned in this section.
Network connection: If both the host and the guest are
network-capable, then file transfers are easy. With MINIX on Bochs on
a Windows host the host can use ftp to get and put files into
the file space of the MINIX guest. I believe this will also work with
MINIX on VMWare on Windows, but MINIX support for the type of emulated
ethernet card presented by VMWare to a guest OS isn't yet part of the
standard MINIX distribution. If a direct network connection between the
guest and the host isn't possible, transfer of files through the file
space of another machine on the network might be the easiest way.
Floppy disks: If the guest OS can write to physical floppy
disks, these can be used to transfer files. MINIX can use
mtools or the dosread and doswrite programs to
access an MS-DOS formatted floppy disk. From the Windows host side
mintools can be used to access MINIX disks. For files too big
to fit on a floppy disk the fdvol utility provided in the
dosutils directory on MINIX download sites can be used on the Windows
host side to write to multiple disks that the MINIX guest can read with
the vol command. From the MINIX side dd can be used to
break a large file into smaller chunks that doswrite or
mtools can write to MS-DOS floppy disks, and on the Windows side
the MS-DOS copy command can be used to concatenate smaller files
to a larger file.
Virtual disks: With Bochs on Windows 98 access to physical
floppy disks from a guest OS is not supported, so only files used as
virtual disks can be read and written by the guest OS. But in many
cases virtual disks are easier to use than physical floppy disks
anyway, especially since access to floppy disks from Bochs is very
slow. Fortunately, unlike a virtual hard disk, new virtual floppy
disks can be created while running Bochs, and multiple virtual floppy
disks can be accessed during a single session. Also, mtools can
be used to format a virtual floppy disk with an MS-DOS FAT file system,
and on the Windows side there is a free program, DiskExplorer,
that can transfer files back and forth between the virtual disk and the
Windows host file system.
Things unknown ... As I write this section most of my own
experience with virtual and emulated systems has been with VMWare and
Bochs on Windows. I would like to add to this section more information
about file transfers between MINIX guest systems on VMWare or Bochs on
Linux and Unix systems, as well as with MINIX as a guest on Bochs on
the Mac OS. Information from readers would be appreciated.