posted by Michael Reed on Thu 12th Oct 2006 18:00 UTC
IconThis article is a inspired by some of the ideas which seem be constantly floating around my mind whenever I think about or read about operating systems. Surely, every time-served OS-geek carries a mental list of this sort around with them? This is a summary of all of the features which I would like to see in my dream FOSS based Operating System.

Unfortunately, I don't have the technical skills to actually go out and make this OS myself and this fact should be pretty obvious to anyone who reads the article. There are some areas of the design which aren't actually fully explained and probably some fairly important areas that I have forgotten to address. In the same way that most Star Trek nit-picks can be explained away with "It happens for some reason which is obvious to the characters although never actually shown on screen", I ask you to grant this article the same suspension of disbelief.

Design Brief

Although this article is concerned with a hypothetical, fantasy operating system, its value would be diminished if the fantasy were not forced to exist within some limits. In that spirit, let's lay down some criteria with which to limit the scope of the fantasy.

Let's say, for the purposes of devising plausible fantasy that stays within reasonable limits, that I were to win five million Euros on the lottery: No need to work, no need worry about material wants ever again. I'm sitting on the beach, in the sunshine, with a spanking new laptop on my lap, suddenly really popular with members of the opposite sex and the rest of the chaps down at the comic shop but then the realisation hits me that something is missing from my life: All of the money in the world can't buy me a decent computer.

It's not the hardware, you understand; the hardware is great; it's really moved on a lot since the 8 bit BBC Micro that I started with at age 7. Besides, I don't have THAT much money.

In fact, that can be rule 1: I'm not going to do anything about the hardware. No quantum computers or anything like that.

Over the years, I've moved through the BBC's MOS, RISCOS, Amiga OS, DOS, OS/2, Linux, Windows 3.0>Windows 2000, often moving back and forth between them. There is a saying that 'every woman has her charms' and with the exceptions of Margret Thatcher and most super models, it's one that I would agree with. In the case of a super-turbo-geek such as myself, I'd say that the scope of that statement could be extended to include computers; every computer that I have ever used has had its own special charm. Every system that I have used had some feature that I wished that I could transplant into the others.

So, it seems that my manifesto is beginning to achieve some definition: In the fantasy created, parallel dimension in which I have won five million Euros, I have decided to devote 1 million Euros (I have to keep some for myself, those Blake's 7 DVDs are expensive) to the formation of The Mike Operating System Foundation. The purpose of TMOSF will be to, within one year, create a completely new operating system. This operating system will be tailored to the needs of Mike. It's my gift to the world, or rather, my gift to all the Mike-type-persons; there must be at least a few of us.

This can be the second rule: It's an operating system that reflects the values, needs, preferences and lifestyle of Mike. In other words, it's not necessarily going to be the worlds greatest server OS.

A million Euros sounds like quite a lot of cash but, being practical, it's not nearly as much as other commercial operating system developers can throw at a project. However, even this can be turned to our advantage because these limitations can serve to further focus the goals of the project.

Firstly, the most efficient use of of resources can be made by, wherever possible, reusing existing technology; there's no need to create a kernel from scratch when there already exists a number of suitable, well supported and maintained kernels. By the same token, there is no need to create, for example, a grep tool; it already exists in the form of GNU Grep.

Taking the idea further, given an infinite amount of financial resources, it might be nice to create, from scratch, every application that the users of the OS might want but as we have placed finite limits on financial resources, it just isn't possible. For these reasons, there is a huge gain in efficiency to be made by making this OS reasonably compatible with other operating systems.

The second way of making the money go as far as possible would be to make the OS itself open source. This means that, if other people like the look of Mike OS, they can contribute to it. I don't care about personally profiting from the OS in monetary terms - I've still got four million Euros, remember. I'm not going to get dragged into an argument about the best licence to use; let's just say that it's a licence that means that anyone can contribute to the OS and also that, we can help ourselves to most of the FOSS freely available on other platforms.

Therefore, the Foundation is going start the MikeOS project and get it to a state where it is usable. This will use up the first million Euro and from that point onwards, it will have to survive on its own.

With that, we have specified rule three: Wherever possible, reuse rather than create components from scratch.

Table of contents
  1. "My Dream OS, 1/5"
  2. "My Dream OS, 2/5"
  3. "My Dream OS, 3/5"
  4. "My Dream OS, 4/5"
  5. "My Dream OS, 5/5"
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