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What is MINIX 3?

MINIX 3 is a small free UNIX clone designed for very high reliability. It is especially well-suited for low-end PCs, resource-constrained systems, and embedded applications. It is available with all the source code, which makes it well-suited to classroom or self study by people wanting to learn how an operating system works.

What hardware do I need to run MINIX 3?

You need an Intel 386 or higher with 4 MB of RAM, an IDE hard disk with100 MB of free disk space, and an IDE CD-ROM for booting. It is not possible to boot off a USB CD-ROM drive (yet).

Where can I get MINIX 3?

MINIX 3 Version 3.1 is distributed on a CD-ROM included with the text Operating Systems Design and Implementation, 3/e by Andrew S. Tanenbaum and Albert S. Woodhull. Newer versions are available for free at the MINIX 3 download page.

Where can I get help with MINIX 3?

There is a Google newsgroup. Post a query there. There is also a mailing list.

I am a beginner. Where can I learn about MINIX 3 programming?

See this guide as a start.

Somebody must have seen my problem before. Is the newsgroup archived?

Yes. look in the archive.

A page I once saw is gone. Is there a way to find it?

Maybe. Try the Wayback machine.

Where can I find information about using MINIX 3 for teaching?

A good place to start is this Web page.

Can I become a MINIX 3 developer?

If you have the requisite time, interest, and knowledge, you are welcome to join the MINIX 3 community. Here is the starting place.


What is the MINIX 3 license?

The MINIX 3 license is a clone of the Berkeley (BSD) license. In plain English, it says you can do whatever you like with the system provided that (1) you agree not to sue us under any conditions, and (2) you keep the credit lines in the source, documentation, and publicity unless other arrangements have been made. Specifically, you are free to modify the source code, redistribute it, incorporate it into commercial products with only the above restrictions.

Why didn't you use the GPL?

We feel the GPL is too restrictive. Companies that put a lot of money into further developing open-source software rightly do not want to give it their competitors. Since MINIX 3 has clear applications in embedded systems, we felt the BSD license was more appropriate.

What is the relationship between MINIX and Linux?

MINIX was released in 1987 as a small easy-to-understand UNIX clone for use in courses teaching operating systems. Linus Torvalds, then a student at the University of Helsinki, studied MINIX in an operating systems course and was sufficiently impressed that he bought a PC to run it. He then used MINIX as a platform, guide, and inspiration to develop a MINIX clone, named Linux, which he released in 1991. Here is his announcement of Linux.

Linus has been accused of stealing Linux from MINIX. Is that true?

No. Absolutely not. Ken Brown of the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution wrote a report, funded in part by Microsoft, claiming that Linus stole Linux from MINIX. Brown's conclusion was that companies should not use Linux because the ownership of the intellectual property rights is unclear. This is complete garbage. While it is most unlikely that a 21-year-old student would have been capable of writing his own operating system had he not had the complete source code for a similar operating system available to use, study and modify, Linus wrote the initial version of the Linux code himself. The Brown report and a response from the creator of MINIX was discussed in detail on Slashdot.


How do I boot the usb image?

Write the usb image file to the usb device sector-by-sector. In other words, don't write it to a FAT filesystem on the usb device, but write the file to it starting at the 0th sector. This will, of course, effectively wipe all other information that was on the usb device. Then you can boot from the usb device if your BIOS supports that.

How do I change the network configuration after an install?

Edit /etc/inet.conf. Usually, the format is:
eth0 fxp 0 { default; };
where 'fxp' is the name of the ethernet driver you want to start (this is the name of the process inet looks for to talk to for ethernet). Take a look at /usr/etc/rc how ethernet drivers are started. Currently, the choices are:
 lance rtl8139 fxp dpeth dp8390 
For details on inet.conf, please see the inet.conf manpage.

My SATA drive doesn't work with MINIX

MINIX 3 does actually have SATA support, but we've seen problems if they're set to "Enhanced" (sometimes called "Native") mode. Try changing the setting to "Legacy" or "Combined" in BIOS.

MINIX 3 claims to be POSIX compliant. What is POSIX?

See this document on POSIX.

How do I learn to program in the MINIX 3 environment?

See this document on MINIX programming.

How can I make a RAM disk bigger than 8 MBytes?

See this document on RAM disks.

How can I boot multiple operating systems on the same computer?

Use a multiboot loader. See this document on multiboot loaders for more information.

How can I avoid problems with the vol command and floppy disks?

See this document on vol.

Why doesn't the elle editor behave the way the man page says it should?

For help with elle, see this document on elle.

Is it possible to exchange data between file systems of different operating systems?

Yes. See this document on data exchange.

How do I view a draft man page that hasn't been installed yet?

Use nroff -man man_file | more

What is the performance of MINIX 3 like

We made measurements of the performance of MINIX 3 (user-mode drivers) versus MINIX 2 (kernel-mode drivers) and MINIX 3 is 5-10% slower. We have not compared it to other systems because there are so many other differences (e.g., the current disk driver does not even have DMA, the ACK compiler is faster than gcc but the code is worse, the file systems differ etc.) The biggest difference is that MINIX 3 represents about 1 man-year of work so far and other systems represent thousands of man-years of work and our priority has been reliability, not performance.


How do I run MINIX 3 on VMWare?

See this document on MINIX and VMWare. Also, you can download a VMWare virtual machine, pre-installed with Minix 3. There is a link to it on the main page, under 'VM installed with MINIX 3'. You can run this virtual machine using VMWare's freely downloadable VMWare Player.

Can I transfer data between a MINIX 3 guest on VMWare and a Windows host?

This copy-and-paste tool will allow that. If you select the LANCE Ethernet chip when you install MINIX 3, you can then use FTP from MINIX 3.

Can I use the Bochs emulator to run MINIX 3 on a Mac?

Yes. See this document on MINIX and Bochs.

Can I run MINIX 3 on top of Windows using Virtual PC?

Yes. see this document on MINIX and Virtual PC.


Modified: 24 October 2005

Copyright Albert S. Woodhull