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Re: ``Shut-up and Hack!"

From: Jonathan S. Shapiro
Subject: Re: ``Shut-up and Hack!"
Date: Sat, 12 Aug 2006 14:43:37 -0400

On Sat, 2006-08-12 at 14:11 -0400, Luis Araujo wrote:
> I actually believe languages play an important role in the design of an 
> operating system. So, it isn't good to underestimate its influences. One 
> of the reasons we keep living in a unix-like world is because of C.

In my opinion, the reasons we are still in the C/C++ world for OS's are
as follows:

  1. More modern languages all rely on GC. GC does not get along with
     real time or DMA, media applications are important, and they
     rely on both.

  2. Legacy apps are written in these languages. Even if you write your
     core system in something else, you need to be able to support the
     C/C++ runtime environment for apps. This creates a legacy/fusion
     problem in your architecture.

  3. There is no compelling performance reason to choose a safe language
     and language-enforced safety in preference to C and address spaces.
     In fact, the Singularity numbers show that the costs are, at best,

  4. The majority of alternatives rely on JIT compilers. A high
     performance JIT compiler is easily 10x the complexity of a fast
     microkernel, and takes *years* longer to develop.

     Singularity is a notable exception to this statement, because they
     chose to omit dynamic loading and also to compile in advance. Their
     compiler is still within the TCB, but it can be removed from the
     TCB for most purposes if the typed assembly language stuff works
     out. They also gave up the class loader idea, which was a VERY good
     decision. Class loaders are completely unnecessary if the OS has
     a decent application domain model.

  5. In the absence of a compelling advantage, the risk of adopting new
     technology isn't justified **if** it doesn't already exist in
     established form.

So the real question is: is there some market where the benefit might be
compelling so that the new technology can be demonstrated? More
precisely: where the benefit of new technology is so clear that the cost
of developing the new technology while simultaneously supporting the
legacy technology is justified.

Perhaps the answer is yes, but identifying that market is a very
challenging thing to do. It took us 10 years for the EROS/Coyotos stuff
to figure out the right initial market.


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