OS/161 is an educational
operating system developed by the Systems Research
at Harvard group, at Harvard
University. It aims to strike a balance between giving students
experience working on a real operating system, and potentially
overwhelming students with the complexity that exists in a fully
fledged operating system, such as Linux. Compared to most deployed
operating systems, OS/161 is quite small (approximately 20,000 lines
of code), and therefore it is much easier to develop an understanding of
the entire code base.
The complete OS/161 environment consists of three major parts:
- OS/161 itself;
- System/161, the simulated machine that OS/161 runs on;
- development tools required to compile and debug code for the
In your assignments, you will be working exclusively on the
OS/161 operating-system source code.
System/161 and the development tools are already
installed on CSE machines — you will not need to modify nor
understand their source code.
The OS/161 source code distribution contains a full operating system
source tree, including the kernel, libraries, various utilities
(ls, cat, etc.), and some test programs. OS/161
boots on the simulated machine in the same manner as a real system
might boot on real hardware.
The assignment specifications will contain instructions on how to
get a copy of the sources for each particular assignment.
Warning: Only use OS/161 sources obtained from
the assignment specifications. We modify some parts of the
environment for local use. Hence, there are no guarantees that any
local assignments will be achievable or assessed correctly
if you use components sourced from elsewhere.
System/161 simulates a "real" machine to run OS/161 on. The machine
features a MIPS R2000/R3000 CPU including an MMU, but no floating
point unit or cache. It also features simplified hardware devices
hooked up to lamebus. These devices are much simpler than
real hardware, and thus make it feasible for you to get your hands
dirty, without having to deal with the typical level of complexity of
Using a simulator has several advantages. Unlike software you have
written thus far (Windows excluded :-)), buggy software may result in
completely locking up the machine, making to difficult to debug and
requiring a reboot. A simulator allows debuggers access to the machine
below the software architecture level as if debugging was built into
the CPU chip. In some senses, the simulator is similar to an in
circuit emulator (ICE) that you might find in industry, only it's
done in software. The other major advantage is speed of reboot.
Rebooting real hardware takes minutes, and hence the development cycle
can be frustratingly slow on real hardware.
The OS/161 environment uses modified versions of the usual GNU
developement tools (compiler, linker, etc.), named with the
os161- prefix: os161-gcc, os161-gdb,
os161-ld, etc. The OS/161 build system hides most of the
complexity of using these tools directly. However, you will still
need to learn to use GDB.
You should already be familiar the GDB, the GNU debugger. GDB allows
you to set breakpoints to stop your program under certain
conditions, inspect the state of your program when it stops, modify
its state, and continue where it left off. It is a powerful aid to the
debugging process that is worth investing the time needed to learn it. GDB
allows you to quickly find bugs that are very difficult to find with
the typical printf style debugging.
Our GDB tutorial
is a brief and focused introduction to using GDB with OS/161.
Details beyond the level you need to know can be found at http://www.gnu.org/software/gdb/gdb.html.
Working from home
See the wiki for
for installing System/161 and the development toolchain on non-CSE machines. Feel
free to build and install them at home. However, while we make every endeavour
to ensure the tools build and function for you, we cannot be responsible for
them working (or not) on your machine.
We only guarantee our automated assessing to work on
submissions that correctly build and function on CSE machines. Please make sure
your assignment works at CSE before submitting it!