If there is one operating system that has a special place in my heart, it’s QNX. This microkernel operating system served as my main desktop operating system for months and months back in the day, during the short-lived QNX Desktop scene – which died out due to a lack of interest from QNX’ parent company, QNX Software Systems. The money is in the embedded and high reliability markets, and that’s where QSS – understandably – focused its efforts. QNX was sort-of open sourced in September 2007, and today the company has announced the release of QNX 6.4, the first major release since 6.3 in 2004.
This release focuses its efforts on performance, hardware support, a new networking stack with improved wi-fi support (welcome to today), a new graphics engine (Core Graphics), POSIX PSE52 certification, among other things. A quick overview of the major improvements in this new release:
- Performance – improvements in performance for the kernel and the networking stack are significant for the 6.4.0 release. Moreover, the complete OS has been rebuilt with the gcc 4.2 compiler, resulting in more compact and faster code.
- POSIX PSE52 Certification – Neutrino RTOS version 6.4.0 is officially POSIX certified.
- New Power-Safe Filesystem – The power-safe filesystem, fs-qnx6.so, is a new copy-on-write filesystem for block file devices.
- If you install QNX Neutrino in a Power-Safe filesystem partition, Symmetric Multiprocessing is enabled by default. The SMP version of the kernel works on multi- and single-processor systems.
- Expanded Processor Support – ARM version 6 Support (the Core OS now takes full advantage of the ARM V6 architecture. This support also removes the 32 MB restrictions on process memory space). Freescale e500 and Renesas 7786 processors with SMP support.
- WiFi Wireless Support – the new networking stack introduced with 6.4.0 includes WiFi support.
- Introduction of Core Graphics – the former Advanced Graphics TDK is no longer offered. In its place, the same advanced graphics capability is available as a runtime option, Core Graphics. Photon and Core Graphics share a common driver framework, so drivers for either technology work (e.g. Photon can run on AG TDK drivers). Note also that Photon requires Core Graphics to run.
- Adaptive Partitioning – no changes to CPU partitioning, but we’ve added memory partitioning as an experimental feature.
- High Availability Technology – now available as part of the base QNX Neutrino runtime.
To prove just how insanely cool QNX actually is, consider the following YouTube video. It shows QNX doing a cold boot on an Intel Atom-powered board in one second (it boots into a 3D OpenGL ES program). It uses a BIOS replacement developed by QNX; using ordinary BIOS results in a boot time of 17 seconds.