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Singularity: Microsoft's Open Source Operating System

| by Jonathan Allen Follow 576 Followers on Nov 18, 2008. Estimated reading time: 1 minute |

The Singularity project was started in 2003 as a fundamental redesign of how operating systems work. From the ground up everything is based on the concepts of isolation and verifiability.

Processes are highly isolated from one-another. Communication is done strictly via type-safe channels, shared memory of any form is not allowed. Processes are "sealed", meaning they cannot dynamically load or generate code. This has the advantage of making virus injection virtually impossible, at the cost of not being able to use dynamic link libraries or meta-programming techniques.

Other than a small part of the kernel, the bulk of Singularity is written in the type-safe language Sing#. Instead of platform specific assembly languages, Singularity uses .NET's IL as the lowest common denominator. Singularity will not even try to load unmanaged applications.

The first 2.0 release includes the full source code tree and a bootable CD image. A Virtual PC file is also available in this release.

In an unusual move by Microsoft, Singularity is soliciting patches and offering full developer rights on CodePlex.

We're also looking to increase community participation in the RDK 2 - so if you're using the RDK for something cool, let us know on the Discussions tab, and submit Patches on the Source Code tab. Patches will be integrated into the codebase, so that other RDK users can take advantage of your work. We will grant Developer permissions to frequent contributors to help streamline their contributions and let the users drive the future of the RDK.

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OSS? No DLLs? No meta-programming? Really? by Stefan Wenig

it's not quite OSS: www.codeplex.com/singularity/license
Microsoft Research License Agreement
Non-Commercial Academic Use Only

And I think that "at the cost of not being able to use dynamic link libraries or meta-programming techniques" is a harsh misinterpretation. First, in .NET all libaries are DLLs, even if they are statically referenced. I'd assume that it's the same in Singularity, so this would just prevent us from loading add-ins at runtime in the same process. Second, meta-programming is probably just requiring setting up new processes too, which Singularity should be good at (static verification makes memory boundaries unnecessary, leading to faster process launches and context switches).

I hope MS is following this path. In a world of virtualization, there might be a sensible, practical path to a new OS paradigm.

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