An Introduction to MINIX
Assuming you have experience with UNIX-like operating systems, you shouldn't need more than a session or two to familiarize yourself with MINIX and its resources.
If your interest is not just casual, your next step might be to read the MINIX Developer's Guide. This concise guide goes all the way from the resources you might need to learn more about programming in MINIX to explaining the MINIX API and packaging format in detail. Then, you might want to see what MINIX projects are already organized on the project's Who Is Working On What page and joining the Google Group for MINIX. Conversely, if you are considering using MINIX for teaching, look at the Teaching with MINIX Web page for resources.
But is MINIX worth this effort? Is it, perhaps, a historical relic whose best days are past? How you answer that is very much a matter of perspective.
On the one hand, MINIX development and teaching are both relatively small worlds, so individuals might expect (all else being equal) to contribute to them more easily and meaningfully than to larger free and open-source projects. MINIX development in particular seems to be at a significant stage as the project tries to redefine its relevance. And, there is something to be said about learning and teaching about UNIX-like systems in a smaller, less-cluttered environment, especially one that is not desktop-oriented.
On the other hand, some might consider MINIX (to be frank) a dead end. Why, they might argue, should anyone put effort into such a small project when working with GNU/Linux or FreeBSD is more relevant today and promises to teach more marketable job skills?
Either way, MINIX is worth some attention. You may decide not to invest a lot of time in MINIX, but after examining it in any detail, you will probably return to your own free operating system of choice with a better understanding of how it is structured. For all the efforts to refocus MINIX, teaching is very much what it continues to do best.
The Tanenbaum-Torvalds Debate: oreilly.com/catalog/opensources/book/appa.html
Some Notes on the “Who wrote Linux” Kerfluffle, Release 1.5 (Kenneth Brown book proposal): www.cs.vu.nl/~ast/brown
MINIX Hardware Requirements: wiki.minix3.org/en/UsersGuide/HardwareRequirements
MINIX man pages: www.minix3.org/manpages
MINIX Wiki: wiki.minix3.org/en/FrontPage
MINIX Software Packages: www.minix3.org/software
MINIX Developer's Guide: wiki.minix3.org/en/DevelopersGuide
Who Is Working On What: wiki.minix3.org/en/WhoIsWorkingOnWhat
Google Group for MINIX: groups.google.com/group/minix3
Teaching with MINIX: minix1.woodhull.com/teaching
Bruce Byfield is a computer journalist who covers free and open-source software. He has been a contributing editor at Maximum Linux and Linux.com, and he currently is doing a column and a blog for Linux Pro Magazine. His articles appear regularly on such sites as Datamation, LinuxJournal.com and Linux Planet. His article, “11 Tips for Moving to OpenOffice.org” was the cover story for the March 2004 issue of Linux Journal.
-- Bruce Byfield (nanday)
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