Tuesday, April 5, 2016

NunyaOS: An Experimental OS Kernel

This semester, I am organizing an experimental class around the design of an operating system kernel.  Six students formed a team in response to a call for volunteers, and now busy designing NunyaOS, an experimental OS kernel.  Building on top of the Basekernel, they have built a system that boots an X86 machine, reads a CD-ROM filesystem, runs multiple processes in paged virtual memory, and has a simple windowing system.  We are off too a good start.

To try it out, download the source, build it, and run it in a VM like this:
qemu-system-i386 --cdrom basekernel.iso

The key organizing principle of NunyaOS is hierarchical containment.  This means that each process lives within a security container.  Within that container, the process has complete authority to manipulate its resources.  It also has the power to create sub-containers and then place child processes within them.  The containment can be applied to each of the resources within the system -- currently the filesystem, the window system, and the memory allocator.  As a result, each process lives a in a sort of a lightweight virtual machine, where it perceives itself to be the superuser.

For example, here are a few nested containers, each with their own filesystem root, display, and memory allocation:

Ideally, every child process will live in a container, so that we can eliminate attack vectors between code provided from different sources.  For example, your desktop should run your web browser in a container, your web browser should run each tab in a container, and each tab should run downloaded code (like a video codec) in yet another container.  In this way, untrusted code has very little leeway to affect other elements of your system.

Of course, this idea changes the customs by which processes interact with each other.  We can no longer build programs that scatter data all over the filesystem, and expect others to read it.  There are many challenges here, and we have only begun to dig into them.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. and can you give me a example of plot_pixel(); function