I'm doing the a Operating Systems postgraduate course this semester at a NZ University, and
the class at the beginning of the semester had three choices on
what to study, a lecture/assignments/exam or a lecture/big assignments/no exam
using Linux, or a lecture/big assignments option in Minix.
The class overwhelmingly chose to go down the Minix path, ostensibly as it would be simpler
and cover more topics, rather than the few specific areas in the Linux kernel, which some
of the class voiced as being "complicated".
The flip side of this is that the lecturer has more than made up for the "uncomplicated"
nature of Minix with large volumes of readings and difficult assignments.
Universities differ (In my opinion) to prescriptive technical institutions by teaching their
students a framework of how a system works, rather than how a specific instance of a system
In the instance of the paper I did, has this translated to a framework for getting to an
understanding how other kernels work? I think it may have - things like syscalls and process
scheduling now make a lot more sense than they used to.
On the quote about microkernels, I had to revise some assumptions I had about the message
passing methodology being a hideous waste of resources after reading the barrelfish paper at http://barrelfish.org/barrelfish_sosp09.pdf after seeing the benchmarks at the end of the
paper. Short version seems to be that on large multicore systems, ccNUMA doesn't scale, and
specific message passing between cores and sockets seems to be a good idea, though I'm not
quite clear how exactly the kernel running on each core passes messages around inside the
My observations on university classes that I've attended are that there are some very good
students, who at postgrad level are finally being stretched and will end up doing great
things either in the kernel or elsewhere, there are a few good students who will also do
good works, and there rest will probably go on to work with the languages that they've been
using at Uni.
I'm not terribly sure that this has changed much from when I finished my undergraduate
degree in Chemistry 6 or so years ago (I should know, I was one of the crap ones back
then), and I wonder if comments to the contrary from the audience are another form of "Back
in my day"?