An Introduction to MINIX
MINIX remains a shell-based operating system, and its concessions to the desktop are minimal. It starts with a boot menu of different system states, including (assuming you followed the install instructions) a pristine version of the operating system that you can use for recovery. When you are finished, the command shutdown halts the system, and shutdown -r reboots it.
For anyone who has used a UNIX-like system, the MINIX directory hierarchy should be broadly familiar (Figure 2). However, you will notice a few missing top-level directories, such as the ever-contentious /opt, and directories added to operating systems like GNU/Linux for user-friendliness, such as /cdrom and /media. Also missing is /proc, which tells you that the pseudo-filesystem procfs does not exist to access process information from the kernel. Because MINIX runs drivers in userspace, it does not have the need for /proc that GNU/Linux does.
Descend a directory level, and you find that the logic of the directory hierarchy is differently applied. For instance, GNU/Linux's /var/spool directory, which contains queues for cron jobs, printing and mail as well as locks, is located in /usr/spool instead. But, such examples are exceptions, and previous experience with UNIX-like systems can only benefit those exploring MINIX for the first time.
What may require more acclimatization is MINIX's naming system for devices. Open /etc/fstab, and, if you accepted the default partitioning scheme during installation, you will see something like:
root=/dev/c0d0p0s0 usr=/dev/c0d0p0s2 home=/dev/c0d0p0s1
Although this naming system may seem intimidating at first, in practice, it is very simple. It lists the physical controller and disk, followed by the partition and sub-partition, with the first of each item numbered 0.
Naturally, other distinguishing characteristics of MINIX will become clearer as you explore it in more detail. But if you do need help, MINIX supports man pages, just like most UNIX-like systems, and it includes an interesting application called whichman that attempts to find approximate matches to a query. However, you will not find any info pages, despite the fact that MINIX uses utilities provided by the GNU Project. You also can find help on the MINIX Wiki, although it is not always up to date and often suffers from a lack of detail.
When you install MINIX, the result is a minimal system (a setup that is in keeping with basic security principles). If you want more, you have to install it yourself. Beyond the basic system, MINIX has a small but well-rounded collection of 135 packages, tailored to the needs of the command line. By default, it uses the ash shell, but BASH and zsh are also available. It includes support for several programming languages, including Tcl, Perl, Python and FLTK, and users can choose between vile, vim and nano for text editors.
Some of MINIX's applications, such as Kermit, might seem old-fashioned from a modern GNU/Linux user's perspective. Others will seem thoroughly contemporary, such as SQLite, OpenSSL and wget. Then, there are the usual suspects, such as ImageMagick, tar and zip. You even can unwind with a game of Nethack on MINIX. In keeping with MINIX's status as an educational operating system, typing a command without any parameters displays a brief summary of usage.
In MINIX, you won't find desktop applications, such as Firefox or OpenOffice.org. Such programs are many times larger than the whole of MINIX, and including them would go against the project's goals of being suitable for embedded systems. Strangely enough, you will find a package for The GIMP. But the closest you will find to Firefox is Lynx, and the closest to OpenOffice.org is TeX.
For that matter, you will find little attention paid to graphical interfaces in general. The X Window System is available, but the interfaces are few. You can run TWM (Figure 4) for an extremely basic desktop, but with the unaliased text, you are better off at the command prompt. The Equinox Desktop Environment (Figure 3) is considerably more sophisticated, but unless you're doing something like viewing graphics, running any sort of graphical interface in MINIX is mostly beside the point. Although you could study the X Window System in MINIX, the overwhelming majority of the work you might do in MINIX works just as well from the command line, if not better.
Whatever your choice of extras, they are installed with the command packman. Packman opens with a list of the available packages (Figure 5). Dependencies are not resolved automatically in packman, but the list informs you when a package requires another one.
When you know what packages you want to install, press the q key, and enter their numbers at the prompt (Figure 6). When you are finished installing, press the q key twice to exit.
-- Bruce Byfield (nanday)
|Dynamic DNS—an Object Lesson in Problem Solving||May 21, 2013|
|Using Salt Stack and Vagrant for Drupal Development||May 20, 2013|
|Making Linux and Android Get Along (It's Not as Hard as It Sounds)||May 16, 2013|
|Drupal Is a Framework: Why Everyone Needs to Understand This||May 15, 2013|
|Home, My Backup Data Center||May 13, 2013|
|Non-Linux FOSS: Seashore||May 10, 2013|
- RSS Feeds
- Making Linux and Android Get Along (It's Not as Hard as It Sounds)
- Using Salt Stack and Vagrant for Drupal Development
- Dynamic DNS—an Object Lesson in Problem Solving
- New Products
- Validate an E-Mail Address with PHP, the Right Way
- Drupal Is a Framework: Why Everyone Needs to Understand This
- A Topic for Discussion - Open Source Feature-Richness?
- Download the Free Red Hat White Paper "Using an Open Source Framework to Catch the Bad Guy"
- Tech Tip: Really Simple HTTP Server with Python
- Please correct the URL for Salt Stack's web site
3 hours 1 min ago
- Android is Linux -- why no better inter-operation
5 hours 16 min ago
- Connecting Android device to desktop Linux via USB
5 hours 45 min ago
- Find new cell phone and tablet pc
6 hours 43 min ago
8 hours 12 min ago
- Automatically updating Guest Additions
9 hours 20 min ago
- I like your topic on android
10 hours 7 min ago
- This is the easiest tutorial
16 hours 42 min ago
- Ahh, the Koolaid.
22 hours 21 min ago
- git-annex assistant
1 day 4 hours ago
Enter to Win an Adafruit Pi Cobbler Breakout Kit for Raspberry Pi
It's Raspberry Pi month at Linux Journal. Each week in May, Adafruit will be giving away a Pi-related prize to a lucky, randomly drawn LJ reader. Winners will be announced weekly.
Fill out the fields below to enter to win this week's prize-- a Pi Cobbler Breakout Kit for Raspberry Pi.
Congratulations to our winners so far:
- 5-8-13, Pi Starter Pack: Jack Davis
- 5-15-13, Pi Model B 512MB RAM: Patrick Dunn
- 5-21-13, Prototyping Pi Plate Kit: Philip Kirby
- Next winner announced on 5-27-13!
Free Webinar: Hadoop
How to Build an Optimal Hadoop Cluster to Store and Maintain Unlimited Amounts of Data Using Microservers
Realizing the promise of Apache® Hadoop® requires the effective deployment of compute, memory, storage and networking to achieve optimal results. With its flexibility and multitude of options, it is easy to over or under provision the server infrastructure, resulting in poor performance and high TCO. Join us for an in depth, technical discussion with industry experts from leading Hadoop and server companies who will provide insights into the key considerations for designing and deploying an optimal Hadoop cluster.
Some of key questions to be discussed are:
- What is the “typical” Hadoop cluster and what should be installed on the different machine types?
- Why should you consider the typical workload patterns when making your hardware decisions?
- Are all microservers created equal for Hadoop deployments?
- How do I plan for expansion if I require more compute, memory, storage or networking?