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Phantom OS, the 21st Century OS? 553

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the more-ways-to-shoot-your-foot dept.
jonr writes "Phantom OS doesn't have files. Well, there are no files in the sense that a developer opens a file handle, writes to it, and closes the file handle. From the user's perspective, things still look familiar — a desktop, directories, and file icons. But a file in Phantom is simply an object whose state is persisted. You don't have to explicitly open it. As long as your program has some kind of reference to that object, all you need to do is call methods on it, and the data is there as you would expect."
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Phantom OS, the 21st Century OS?

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  • Doubt it. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy&gmail,com> on Friday February 06, 2009 @05:34PM (#26758017) Journal

    Yes, yes, very interesting.

    Is it volatile? If it is, then no thanks. If it isn't then it must be written to disk, in which case it's simply a regular file with a spiffy interface. Does that interface take up memory? How does it handle locking conflicts? How does it handle paging?

    FTFA it's more like a virtualization system that takes constant snapshots of the system states, and reverts to them if there is a power loss or a shutdown or whatever. Fine. Cool.

    But TFA skips over (in true Register style) any possible downsides to that. I'm a typical geek. I have 20 things running at any given time. Over time, with a traditional software system, there are enough page faults that when I roll back around to something I opened yesterday, the performance is extremely slow while all the states are being loaded back into active memory (and the states of something I'll need in 5 more hours are being written to disk).

    If I'm persisting my whole filesystem in that fashion, there are quickly going to be issues. If I'm not, then there is some bullshit in there somewhere. They may have a fancy file allocation table, they may have some fancy I/O tricks, but their stated abilities are frankly contradictory, because the state is not being maintained, it is simply being preserved, and the difference is only subtle linguistically.

    In short, the Phantom OS sounds more like the Phantom game console than anything I'd want to run on my computer.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Also, how they send something via e-mail? Is FedEx involved in process?

    • Re:Doubt it. (Score:5, Informative)

      by SerpentMage (13390) <ChristianHGross AT yahoo DOT ca> on Friday February 06, 2009 @05:44PM (#26758161)

      Frankly you are thinking like an old operating system.

      How does it handle locking conflicts? Well, think about it, how do you handle locking conflicts in your program? That is your answer.

      The idea from this Phantom OS is that you don't need to think about "paging", or "locking conflicts" etc. You only need to think about your objects that are serialized to the system. Contention? Well create a server process. Think Erlang...

      Here is I think his link...

      http://www.dz.ru/en/solutions/phantom/ [www.dz.ru]

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 06, 2009 @05:57PM (#26758343)

        How does it handle locking conflicts? Well, think about it, how do you handle locking conflicts in your program? That is your answer.

        You try, fail, and your program crashes.

        At least, that's how most programmers handle anything to do with locking.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by DarkOx (621550)

          You say that as if you have some better idea. What exactly can you do if you are regular unprivilaged process. You try, you fail, ideally sleep your I/O thread for a little while and then try again. That is all you can do; after some number of revolutions you might as well abort and tell the user sorry.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by mustafap (452510)
          >You try, fail, and your program crashes.

          You try, it works, you sell, one year later it fails, and your program crashes, and the customer sues.

          There, fixed that for you
      • Re:Doubt it. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy&gmail,com> on Friday February 06, 2009 @06:04PM (#26758441) Journal

        I still don't buy it. They're throwing an abstraction layer on top of a regular system and calling it something different, but all the underlying structures are the same.

        Except they're not because you're basically forbidden direct access to any system resources! Any gains that you would traditionally expect to be able to make through use of C or assembly are right out the window, and that is acknowledged right up front.

        Hardware abstraction is going to have a cost. All virtualization has a cost, and I'm not sure that this is the way to handle the problem. It seems more like a pipe dream than a practical application.

        • Re:Doubt it. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by drik00 (526104) on Friday February 06, 2009 @06:39PM (#26758857) Homepage

          IANAP, but isn't the notion of using "files" and "folders" and a "desktop" analogous to how an normal person would work WITHOUT a computer, hence the concepts being transferred to a tool used to speed up and improve the efficiency of a person's work? How are these referred to as antiquated concepts? We use compartmentalized words because of the balance of efficiency with modularity. Our brains inherently compartmentalize, so why should we try to move away from that in a new OS (that I'm betting will be on the vaporware list in the near future)?

          Capt Negativity here,
          J

        • Re:Doubt it. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by black6host (469985) on Friday February 06, 2009 @07:06PM (#26759171)

          I mean no offense, but I can't help but read your comment and see myself, many years ago, feeling much the same when moving from DOS to Windows. I lost a level of control, at the hardware level, that made me question why I would want to give up peeking and poking video memory, etc. Back then, direct control meant a world of difference in performance. Of course, I have many more options now than I did then, and if I still want to get to the hardware bad enough, I still can. But I don't feel the need to nor do I feel the abstraction has held me back. We can do much more now, than we could then....

          Not to say that the OS in question is the way to handle the problem or not, but I've become a little less resistant to change, a bit more willing to be open-minded and much more appreciative of pioe dreams :)

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by icebraining (1313345)

            This could be implemented as a library. It seems to be basically a class which implements "auto-serializing" (maybe activated by a system callback) and make every class which needs to save data to extend it.

            This is taking Python's and such higher level languages simple libraries to an OS level and enforcing everyone to write using them, along with it's performance penalty. And that is useless, because we're seeing that switch already. The applications that use C or C++ and becoming less frequent but are sti

            • by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Saturday February 07, 2009 @12:11AM (#26761571) Journal

              Keep in mind, the whole OS is designed this way, including all programs.

              Let me give you an example of what happens when it's implemented as a library: GNOME and KDE sessions. At least in KDE, it's possible to save a session, or even to have it autosave when you logout. It will remember all open programs, and the geometry of their windows. It will even query the programs, asking them to save their state.

              Now, this would be awesome, wouldn't it? It'd be a lot more efficient than hibernate/resume, if it worked -- for example, an ODF (plus some simple geometry and state) is much smaller than the entire virtual image of OpenOffice. If the programs were written well, to load only what they need on demand (and thus start much faster), the whole system would shut down and wake faster.

              You could even start to have multiple sessions, maybe mapped to virtual desktops, maybe not, so that when you boot, you could choose whether to have it launch your web browser, text editor, and terminals, or have it launch your mail client, IM client, and softphone, or maybe have one that just launches whatever movie you were playing (which would resume from the exact moment it was at when you shut down)...

              Problem is, too many programs don't support this. Some, like Firefox, seem to supply their own session management. Some don't even try, and thus, when the DE tries to resume them, it ends up launching a fresh instance. Some can't be persisted, due to their fundamental architecture -- how would you propose to save the state of a running terminal?

              So, doing it as a library doesn't work, unless everything's using that library. If everything's using that library, that's pretty much what you get.

              And sometimes, you do have to enforce sometimes performance-decreasing features in order to provide a better user experience. Imagine if filesystem access was just a library, and programs had access to the entire disk. It might be interesting to build an OS that way, but even if you did, I imagine you'd want to restrict most user-level programs to dealing with the POSIX API, and being bound by Unix permissions and POSIX ACLs.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by julesh (229690)

              This could be implemented as a library. It seems to be basically a class which implements "auto-serializing" (maybe activated by a system callback) and make every class which needs to save data to extend it.

              Not really. The point is that it applies to all data in the system. And also it isn't serializing in the traditional sense (transforming objects into a format that can be written to a stream) but is rather directly storing the in-memory representations of the objects in a persistent storage system.

              In o

    • Sounds lucrative.. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mr_stinky_britches (926212) on Friday February 06, 2009 @05:48PM (#26758221) Homepage Journal

      Sounds lucrative.. not!

      At first, when I read the OP's post, I thought he was being harsh. Then I actually read TFA, and here are some highlights:

      Q: Is Phantom a POSIX-compliant system?
      A: No. It is possible to layer POSIX subsystem above the Phantom native environment, but it is not an idea per se.

      Q: OS is based on VM â" does it mean that not all the possible programming languages will be supported?
      A: Yes. Say goodbye to C and Assembler. On the other side, everything is in Java or C# now, or even in some even more dynamic language, such as Javascript or even PHP. All these languages will be supported.

      Then it also has a special ASM language called "Phantasm". Looking over the example code, the question "Why?" kept flashing in my brain.

      Ah, then we come to Why a new os? [www.dz.ru]:

      The most obvious questions: why new operating system? Isnâ(TM)t Linux enough? Of course, Linux is not enough. Being a clone of Unix, Linux conceptually is a dinosaur. Donâ(TM)t be happy, Windows guys, Windows is not really far away. Lets see, what is wrong with todayâ(TM)s popular operating systems.
          >> OO-Friendly? No!
          >> Network friendly? No!
          >> Simple? No.
          >> Communication friendly? No!
          >> Future friendly? No!

      Okay, so according to the guy who created it, OS's should be simple, oo-friendly (my mom always says "Hey, stinky, why isn't my computer more object oriented?" (wtf?no), and future friendly? The guy must be just another cracked out developer..

      Thanks but no.

      • Read About Face... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by SerpentMage (13390) <ChristianHGross AT yahoo DOT ca> on Friday February 06, 2009 @06:00PM (#26758381)

        About face is a very old book written by Alan Cooper. And in the book he was very critical of things that have been completely ignored by the computing mainstream.

        One of the things he critiques is the notion of files that need to read and written. That is not how people expect things to happen.

        I actually think this guy is not a crackpot, but understands completely what is going on. What I think bothers people is that he is not following current dogma.

        Having the OS as a virtual machine sounds very attractive because as we all know now, the virtual machine can do things that C, C++, assembler cannot.

        For example with a virtual machine you have all of the metadata that you need to serialize, and transport data. With C, C++, and assembler you must explicitly say I have four bytes that need to go to point a. A big big difference in my mind.

        We are already writing this code today, and it is called ORM, persistance frameworks, etc... He is just saying why not make this an operating that is part of the operating system?

        • by orclevegam (940336) on Friday February 06, 2009 @06:26PM (#26758667) Journal
          Biggest problem I see with this, is the whole persistent process thing. There have been similar things tried in the past, for instance PalmOS had a behavior very similar to this, but it tends to be more trouble than it's worth. There's also a very good reason why we use files in some instances, such as for storing documents that parallel physical ones (that is, most things that come out of Office type products). A file represents a very convenient discrete packet of information separate from the application that produced it, and that is easily transferable, archiveable, and processable, without adding the overhead of bundling a particular instance of an application along with it. Other problems this introduces include how to handle a crashed program, or one that has managed to get itself into an inoperable state. How difficult is it to "rollback" a process to an initial state, particularly without doing the same to every other process in the system. Does doing so wipe out your configuration options? What if those options are the reason the process isn't working?

          For an embedded device in certain specialized environments this sort of thing might work very well, but it's certainly not a good idea as a primary OS in your typical desktop or work environment.
          • by rho (6063) on Friday February 06, 2009 @06:54PM (#26759013) Homepage Journal

            There have been similar things tried in the past, for instance PalmOS had a behavior very similar to this, but it tends to be more trouble than it's worth.

            I don't see how you can say that. The never-saving paradigm of the PalmOS was one of its brilliant features. Combined with the flash memory of the Tungsten E2 Palm reached its pinnacle IMO. Having a computer that never forgets what you've done is, really, what people expect a computer to be. It's just that we've been amateur sysadmins for so long we think it's normal.

            Which is not to say that the PalmOS was perfect. I believe it could have been perfected, but they company was more interested in eating itself alive. And I'm also not saying that this Phantom OS is going to change the world. But the nature of what they're talking about is eminently non-crazy.

            Your concerns are notable, but they're also not terribly obscure. I'm pretty sure they're thinking about such things.

            • by The Mighty Buzzard (878441) on Friday February 06, 2009 @08:12PM (#26759845)

              Having a computer that never forgets what you've done is, really, what people expect a computer to be. It's just that we've been amateur sysadmins for so long we think it's normal.

              Or it could be that we've been actual sysadmins long enough that we know the value of always having a working state to fall back on. Preferably one that doesn't erase all the work done in the past few years. Saying something as foolish as that can only mean you haven't had to repair a thoroughly hosed system in far too long.

        • by mabinogi (74033) on Friday February 06, 2009 @06:29PM (#26758727) Homepage

          The only real problem with this guy's concept is that he's effectively going to rewrite the concept of a Smalltalk Image in Java.

          If you read his FAQ, every point can be answered by Smalltalk. (And could be 30 years ago).
          Unfortunately I have a feeling he's never seen Smalltalk, so he's going to re-implement it poorly.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          For example with a virtual machine you have all of the metadata that you need to serialize, and transport data. With C, C++, and assembler you must explicitly say I have four bytes that need to go to point a. A big big difference in my mind.

          That's not really true is it. With C++ I can get a library that serializes my object, transmits to a file, or over a network, or to a cluster via MPI and then reconstructs it at another point or on another computer (e.g. Boost Serialisation, Boost MPI etc.). It's just isn't a language feature, it's a library feature. Because it's a library feature it can be harder to use than say Java. That's the trade off, flexibility and performance over ease of use.

          Some people might say that flexibility isn't important

      • by molarmass192 (608071) on Friday February 06, 2009 @06:55PM (#26759033) Homepage Journal
        Yeah ... I was thinking the same thing. Good bye to C and Assembler? Ahhh, they mean goodbye to any low level hardware I/O or custom drivers ... nice. We already have a Phantom OS, it's called HTML / JavaScript ... no files to persist, no access to hardware, no low level performance tuning, networking is built-in, everything is interpreted ... how exactly is Phantom OS any different? OSes succeed when they offer GREATER flexibility, not when they insulate developers for low level APIs. Look at what can be done on an iPhone versus what is possible on a Mac. I think I'll stick with my "dinosaur" UNIX variant, with all the terrifying freedom and non-restrictions it provides, thank you very much.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Goaway (82658)

        The guy must be just another cracked out developer..

        None of the ideas in this OS are new. They have been around for decades. He's just taking one more shot at implementing and popularizing them.

    • by mangu (126918) on Friday February 06, 2009 @05:55PM (#26758325)

      From what I read, these "objects" are nothing but a fancy new name for files. For instance, if you are writing a program in Python you don't save a file, you pickle an object. Oh, wait, that's exactly what Python is able to do right now, in any OS that implements Python! Doh....

      FTFA:

      does it mean that not all the possible programming languages will be supported?
      A: Yes. Say goodbye to C and Assembler. On the other side, everything is in Java or C# now, or even in some even more dynamic language, such as Javascript or even PHP. All these languages will be supported.

      Think of that: you cannot program in C, but you can write programs in PHP or Javascript. How cute! I suppose it supports Logo, right?

      • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Friday February 06, 2009 @07:49PM (#26759663)

        From what I read, these "objects" are nothing but a fancy new name for files. For instance, if you are writing a program in Python you don't save a file, you pickle an object. Oh, wait, that's exactly what Python is able to do right now, in any OS that implements Python! Doh....

        Python is rather archaic. This new OS features a brand-new scripting language called Poodle. It is designed to be forward and backward compatible with Python, both current and future versions. This means Poodle scripts and programs don't need a separate interpreter - they can use the existing Python framework you have installed. To facilitate this, the Phantom OS developer suggests you use the file extension '.py' for Poodle code.

    • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@hacki s h . o rg> on Friday February 06, 2009 @06:24PM (#26758637)

      IBM also took the approach of ditching files, and just having persistence of objects (which yes, presumably somewhere in the bowels of the OS got written to disk). It was efficient enough to run on 1980s hardware, so I don't see a reason it couldn't be done today.

      From Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]:

      In most computers prior to the System/38, and most modern ones, data stored on disk was stored in separate logical files. When data was added to a file it was written in the sector dedicated to this, or if the sector was full, on a new sector somewhere else. In the case of the S/38, every piece of data was stored separately and could be put anywhere on the system. There was no such thing as a physically contiguous file on disk, and the operating system managed the storage and recall of all data elements.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Bearhouse (1034238)

        I worked on the S/38 - fantastic...really.
        But there's a reason for nearly all the advanced features of Pacific disappearing through the generations of AS/400 and now IBM i.

        Much to learn, you have, young Jedi...and answers all you will not find on Wikipedia.

    • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Friday February 06, 2009 @06:37PM (#26758819)

      In short, the Phantom OS sounds more like the Phantom game console than anything I'd want to run on my computer.

      I was also wondering about the choice of names there. I did some research and found that actually they made the right choice given the options. Some of the other names they were considering:

      - Edsel OS
      - New Coke OS
      - Delorean OS
      - Betamax OS
      - Cold fusion OS
      - Cure for the common cold OS
      - Esperanto OS
      - Zune OS
      - This OS will totally break your computer OS
      - Enron OS
      - weloveventurecapital OS
      - Dreamcast OS
      - Y2K bug OS
      - Completehoax OS
      - Flyingcar OS
      - Windows Vista OS

  • by LordKaT (619540)

    I can't wait to handle the consistently changing data in my DB applications.

  • Hmm... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tubal-Cain (1289912) * on Friday February 06, 2009 @05:35PM (#26758033) Journal

    Two questions:

    • Is it self-hosting yet?
    • How is it licenced?
  • Opera of the phantom (Score:5, Informative)

    by mcgrew (92797) * on Friday February 06, 2009 @05:37PM (#26758057) Homepage Journal

    I skipped the Register article and went to the Phantom site, and I'm still puzzled. Somehow I get the idea that somebody's trying to snow somebody.

    Q: [does phantom have] separate address spaces?

    A: No. No! At this point you thought to yourself something like "than Phantom can not protect one application from another", and were wrong. Phantom is one big address space. But, nevertheless, everything inside is protected. Protection is based on a simple idea. Phantom is a big virtual machine. And this VM has no means to convert integer to pointer - due to this it is impossible to scan through address space and gain access to anything you have no pointer to. That's simple. And - yes, due to the absence of separate address spaces IPCs are really cheap in Phantom. And there are no context switches, which add effectiveness to the system. One can argue that VM makes system run slowly, but nowadays this problem is solved with effective JIT compilers, so we don't expect real degradation due to the VM. Moreover, the result of JIT compilation can be stored so usual Java-like startup penalty won't exist in Phantom either.

    Memory in all computers is mapped to address space. I get the idea that these guys are programmers who don't really understand how the hardware works.

    Q: File system?
    A: Nope. Sorry. Nobody needs files in Phantom. All the operating system state is saved across shutdowns. Phantom is the only global persistent OS in the world, AFAIK. All the state of all the objects is saved. Even power failure is not a problem, because of the unique Phantom's ability to store frequently its complete state on the disk. The most unusual Phantom property is its hybrid paging/persistence system. All the userland memory is mapped to disk and is frequently snapped. Snapshot logic is tied with the common paging logis so that snapshots are done cheap way. From the application point of view it means that all the user documents or any other program state doesn't have to be squished into the linear filespace with the help of the serialization code, as it is in classic operating systems. Anything is kept in its internal, "graph of objects" form. This means that Phantom programs are much simpler and more efficient also. Opening text document in classic OS means reading file (transferring its data to specific place in process memory) and then converting its contents to program internal form (decoding and once more moving data), and just then - showing it to a user. Opening text document in Phantom means just executing some object's printMe() method - all the data is ready and available directly without conversion.

    Nobody needs files? How, exactly, can I retrieve a document then? This FA is damned short on details.

    Q: OS is based on VM - does it mean that not all the possible programming languages will be supported?

    A: Yes. Say goodbye to C and Assembler. On the other side, everything is in Java or C# now, or even in some even more dynamic language, such as Javascript or even PHP. All these languages will be supported.

    I really don't think I'm interested in this OS. TFA didn't point to a single thing about it that would lead me to want it, except for the state saving on shutdown, and I doubt seriously that's going to work. If your data are in memory and not the hard drive when it quits, you'll lose your data. If data are all written instantly to the HD, your PC will be slower than molasses in january.

    • by halivar (535827) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <reglefb>> on Friday February 06, 2009 @05:45PM (#26758181) Homepage

      M'thinks it shares much in common with its gaming namesake, the Phantom Console.

    • by SuperKendall (25149) on Friday February 06, 2009 @05:48PM (#26758215)

      Anything is kept in its internal, "graph of objects" form. This means that Phantom programs are much simpler and more efficient also.

      In many languages, you can easily serialize objects or trees of objects. I'm not sure how this differs much in the Phantom OS except that it is choosing when to serialize out to disc for you, but I don't really see that as being much simpler.

      What happens when a Phantom user runs out of disc space? What if they attach an eternal disc and want some things there, or in both places for safe-keeping? All of the sudden you find you need something that looks and awful lot like Finder or Explorer to manage graph persistence locations...

      And what happens when you have one file, er, object you may want to open with multiple apps? It didn't seem from the description like it would attach a single object to multiple app object graphs, just that it had easy IPC. So what happens when I want to open a JPG in my photo management app and then Photoshop?

    • by OG (15008) on Friday February 06, 2009 @05:52PM (#26758267)

      Nobody needs files? How, exactly, can I retrieve a document then? This FA is damned short on details.

      I think he's talking about programmer-land, not user-land here. Sure, users can do File->Open and see the documents they've created. As a programmer, though, you don't need to worry about creating a handle to a file, populating that file, closing the file, etc. Instead, you would just create a new object of whatever document class you need. Because EVERY object on the system is automatically persisted, your document objects are automatically persisted and you don't have to worry about file i/o, autosave, etc. It's built into the OS for all objects.

      I think there are many interesting ideas behind this OS, but from an actual usability perspective, I'll believe it when I see it.

      • by Rary (566291) on Friday February 06, 2009 @06:01PM (#26758411)

        I think he's talking about programmer-land, not user-land here.

        That's the problem. Everything about this appears to be designed for developers, not users. There's absolutely nothing that indicates anything that would make a user want to use this OS.

        So, basically, if you're a developer, and want an OS that makes it cool, easy, and fun to develop applications that no one will use, then this is for you.

        • by The End Of Days (1243248) on Friday February 06, 2009 @06:26PM (#26758669)

          So there's something wrong with a dude scratching an itch and having a little fun with it? There was a time when Linux was a niche system that had no real purpose aside from the fun of making it. That seems to have worked out well.

          In any case, there are interesting concepts in here that deserved to be explored, and the best way to explore programming concepts is the program them.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by maharg (182366)

          Everything about this appears to be designed for developers, not users. There's absolutely nothing that indicates anything that would make a user want to use this OS.

          I expect Babbage came up against the same attitude. Good job it didn't put him off, eh ! Not to compare this guy with Babbage, but really, does lack-of-user-appeal really mean that it's not worthwhile ? I think this is very interesting indeed. If you consider something like a database application, which needs to persist state changes to disk pronto, then why not let the OS handle this for you ? It needs to be done either way. I just wonder how a generalised object persistance layer can can handle specialise

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by AuMatar (183847)

            A database is the *last* thing that would want to let the OS handle something like this- how would it do transactions then? How would it efficiently lay out the data for reading (large databases can become disk bound easily).

            Its a rather pointless idea all in all. You want a simpler API than file? Write a function Save() that writes it, and call Save from then on. Want it to do so automatically? Do so in response to a timer. You can even write a function that sets up the timer, or have your construct

    • by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy&gmail,com> on Friday February 06, 2009 @05:53PM (#26758275) Journal

      Yea, I'm there with you. Power failures are a problem for one reason and one reason alone: RAM I/O is faster than disk I/O. If disk I/O was faster, we wouldn't even need RAM...RAM would be useless because it has a huge disadvantage: its volatility.

      Now Phantom wipes that problem out by "...storing its complete state on disk". Either this is bullshit, or this OS will have serious performance issues.

      Then, then it starts talking about C vs Java. WTF is that about? Regardless of how cool the OS' underpinings are, you could write C for it with an OS-specific compiler. That's no different from the output of Java's intermediate compiler.

      It's not like Java is outputting some sort of magical instructions that are different from the output of compiled C. The difference is that C doesn't abstract the hardware layer in the user code like Java does, and that Java is compiled to be interpreted on the fly by an intermediate virtual runtime environment. Get right down to the hardware and there isn't a lot of difference.

      I'd want to see some real specifics that they could deliver anything resembling what they're promising, and frankly, I think that'll never happen.

    • by SerpentMage (13390) <ChristianHGross AT yahoo DOT ca> on Friday February 06, 2009 @05:53PM (#26758293)

      >Memory in all computers is mapped to address space. I get the idea that these guys are programmers who don't really understand how the hardware works.

      No I think they know what they are talking about. Instead what they are saying is that if you look at the VM concept (eg .NET with AppDomains) you can run everything into a single address space.

      Of course underneath there is an address space, but remember that each process has its own address space that the CPU has to maintain. There is quite a bit of legwork that the CPU does that he thinks is probably not necessary.

      >Nobody needs files? How, exactly, can I retrieve a document then? This FA is damned short on details.

      Have you read About Face from Alan Cooper? He explains in that the concept of a file is horrible from a user perspective. Files are added as a concept because it is a hack and makes it easier for the programmer. A user in fact does not want to have say, "oh I have to save this?"

      Thus the idea is that you have an entity that you can manipulate. And whatever changes you make are immediately persisted. This is what users expect.

      >I really don't think I'm interested in this OS.

      I am extremely interested in this OS because he is simplifying things. Remember one thing that we learned with Jit'ing is that "slower" apps can actually be very fast. C++ is not the fastest game in town. And that should make us all think.

      • by dazedNconfuzed (154242) on Friday February 06, 2009 @06:14PM (#26758551)

        I'm inclined to agree.

        Linux is, indeed, based on what is now a very old paradigm - approaching half a century. Concepts have advanced since, and much of what we do is just to retain that backwards compatability.

        Windows, is, well, Windows. This being /., no more be said of that.

        Grokking object-oriented programming, and users' mindsets as well, I agree that it would be worth at least examining the concept of a "file-less OS", one that simply keeps a live OO system persistent. I'd like to write software knowing that when an object is instantiated, it persists until explicitly deleted - without having to awkwardly save state to something as non-orthoganal as a file. I want to be able to manipulate & transport objects as such, not as files. Obviously the prime issues are performance (storage vs. RAM consistency) and recovering from shutdown; resolving these is simply a geeky engineering challenge, not an impossibility. The concept of "files" is archaic. Storing/transferring what we call a "file" would be better served by persistence & portability of objects.

        A prime example is the notion of "restarting" a computer. Why, these days, should a computer startup time be so long? it should simply resume, but more robustly than "sleep" or "hibernate" - restoring the state of objects as they were, not restarting from practically scratch every time.

        Could be that the OS ultimately does store data as "files", but that is an implementation abstraction, not a core of the paradigm. Users do not intuitively think of "files", and programmers should not force them to due to ancient rock-and-chisel backwards compatability.

        "Those who say it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it."
        - Chinese proverb

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Ornedan (1093745)

          So you've got this really spiffy object-oriented OS automatically persisting your objects. What's the serialized representation of those objects? Any answer other than just having the system puke the memory representation of the object onto permanent storage media means that the programmer has to have a say in determining that representation. And this system was all about not having the programmer worry about those messy details. Except having the serialized form be a memory blob means the only thing you ca

      • by vadim_t (324782) on Friday February 06, 2009 @06:31PM (#26758743) Homepage

        Have you read About Face from Alan Cooper? He explains in that the concept of a file is horrible from a user perspective. Files are added as a concept because it is a hack and makes it easier for the programmer. A user in fact does not want to have say, "oh I have to save this?"

        Heard of this idea, and disagree completely with it.

        Continous autosave isn't a technically difficult problem. It could be implemented quite easily. But it would take one minor inconvenience, and replace it with several more difficult ones.

        Ok, so you don't have to save anymore. Great. But now you have to deal with that you went to make tea, and your document now has your cat walking on the keyboard saved in it. You can't simply choose not to save, you have to figure out how many changes to undo to get the document to its pre-cat state. How many times do you have to press the undo button?

        Same goes for extensive modificatons. Maybe you decided to drastically reformat the document, but then decide the idea doesn't look good after all. You can't choose not to save, you've either got to undo 50 times, or have created a copy before starting making the changes.

        Here's another issue: since there's no save operation, the undo history has to be kept forever. This means that whoever you're sending the document to, if they're so inclined, can replay your writing process backwards to see if there was anything you changed your mind on. Or if using another document as a starting point, what was there before.

        It also removes safety: I spend much time telling people that they can't easily break anything. With this system they can. Somebody who accidentally selects and overwrites the whole document will find out that even pulling the plug won't bring the document back. Now there's one excellent way of making a newbie really freak out. What if you intentionally or by accident write something insulting in the document? How do you make the program remove the record of it?

        Here's another one: Imagine this sequence of commands: I type a long document, decide I didn't like the last changes, undo too much, and then press a single letter. Does in this moment the undo history become a tree, or do I lose the ability to redo the excessive undo?

        Resuming: You remove one small thing, the need to explicitly save, and add the requirement of eternal undo (potential issues with embedded images here), requirement for the user to understand the undo system, requirement to design it in such a way that hours of work can be undone without getting RSI, add potential problems with disclosure of things that the user doesn't want to disclose, make it harder to do large experimental changes, and remove a way for an user to completely revert a change.

        IMO this is too much of a mess for so little benefit.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by nine-times (778537)

          It seems to me that a lot of your issues might just be cultural issues. For example, if you do have an "eternal undo" and don't want to pass that along, get people into the culture of exporting the file to something else when they want to send it to someone. The problem already happens, with metadata and tracking information being passed along, but people don't think about it because it's not their experience that these things get saved. If the undo was always saved, maybe people would think more about w

        • by Bryansix (761547) on Friday February 06, 2009 @07:13PM (#26759267) Homepage
          Think outside the box for a moment. Nothing you brought up could not be fixed with a simple mechanism. You could still hit "save as" when you wanted a snapshot of a document but the point is that the document will persist even though you lost power in the middle of typing it.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            Think outside the box for a moment

            Agreed. We seriously need his synergy.

            However, he's got the point that it introduces problems that might have a workaround, but one that's less efficient/effective than the original problem. Why not just add a library that can be used with the dynamic programs that allows them to do this easily while still retaining the ability to do things the old fashioned way?

            In addition, files are absolutely necessary. As someone pointed out, how do you take an object from one program to another? How do you find i

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Be waery of anyone who acn't completly and clearly explain what they are developing. It means they don't understand it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hal9000(jr) (316943)
      I am not affiliated with these guys, but from the faq and the site, here is what I get.

      Memory in all computers is mapped to address space.

      Right, but you, the programmer, don't worry about memory allocation or de-allocation in the same way. You don't do pointer math or any of that shit. The OS does it for you (which is what an OS should do). Think how Java manages memory is different than now C does. Hopefully, the OS manages memory well.

      Nobody needs files? How, exactly, can I retrieve a document t
      • by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy&gmail,com> on Friday February 06, 2009 @06:11PM (#26758519) Journal

        The thing is, it's only pushing the work down a level, it's not that the work doesn't still have to be done. The "file" still has to be saved, the memory still has to be loaded and unloaded.

        And it doesn't truly fix the problem of crashes and failed writes. If my program shits itself and dies before it's complete, how is that going to result in complete data? It may be complete up to the point where it died, but for many things that's not sufficient.

    • This all sounds like what Smalltalk was trying to do. Basically there are no files, just one big VM where everything resides.

      Believe me the absence of the file notion is a pain in the butt, since it is not clear where one thing starts and stops, and by the time you have tried making things clear to people, you are probably best representing a file.

    • by sjames (1099)

      It may be one big address space, but nothing says that everything has permission to access the whole thing. It might also be handled through x86(_64) style segmentation. As to no context switching, I'm not so sure about that. Unless it's cooperatively tasked (yuck), it must be doing something context switch like.

      Nobody needs files? How, exactly, can I retrieve a document then? This FA is damned short on details.

      There is an object that points to a bunch of document objects.

      I don't see why C wouldn't work just fine in a system like that, it's just libc that would need some changes since there are no files.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by grotgrot (451123)

      Read Inside the AS/400 [amazon.com] by Frank Soltis (or a more recent edition) and you can see exactly how they did all these things starting with the System/38 in the 1970s.

      You don't have to have multiple address spaces. Heck even the first Linux kernels just used one huge address space with each process getting a 64MB chunk of that.

      The System/38, AS/400 and whatever they call it this week has always had persistent "objects". They are named but they aren't files although if you squint hard enough you could claim they

  • IBM already did it (Score:5, Informative)

    by ebunga (95613) on Friday February 06, 2009 @05:38PM (#26758077) Homepage

    The S/38 and AS/400 have done this since like 1980 in COMMERCIALLY PRODUCED systems.

    • by sjames (1099)

      Also in KeyOS (used in a number of embedded systems). ErosOS as well, but I don't think it's even been used commercially.

      • by Animats (122034)

        Right. "Persistent object store" machines have been around for years. In addition to the ones listed above, the Go Computer (the first tablet machine) had a persistent object system.

        There are some good points and some bad points to this. On the plus side, one of the big problems today is that support for "big objects", things one calls across a protection boundary, is lacking in many operating systems. There's no standard way to talk to protected middleware, like a database. (Notably UNIX/Linux, whi

  • Oh wait, I think that's The Shadow. When does that OS come out?

  • More specifically, this sounds just like a Canon Cat.

  • OS vs lib (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ultrabot (200914) on Friday February 06, 2009 @05:41PM (#26758109)

    So, what's the basic difference between what we have in phantom and what can already be done with a library/framework in, say, linux?

  • Or it didn't happen.

    • Re:Screenshots... (Score:5, Informative)

      by mrjb (547783) on Friday February 06, 2009 @05:48PM (#26758219)
      Screenshots can be faked: user@phantom$ But according to this page, [www.dz.ru] it's about 90% unimplemented. Someone please tag the article 'vaporware'.
      • ...it's about 90% unimplemented. Someone please tag the article 'vaporware'.

        Precisely my point. It sounds like a wishlist for a new OS and I don't think it has any business being a news article. Maybe if there were a solid technical roadmap and proof of concept code available for people to work with it would be worth discussing. As it stands it looks like a bunch of cool ideas that someone has leapt into implementing without thinking through.

  • by scubamage (727538) on Friday February 06, 2009 @05:44PM (#26758153)
    POINTERS! POINTERS EVERYWHERE! OH MY GOD POINTERS! *runs around like a lunatic*POINGERSPOINTERSPOINTERSPOINTERSPOINTERS *head explodey*

    Yeah, I think the development will go something along those lines.

  • Besides the fact that this is vaporware, it simply sounds like a high-end RTOS running on a PC desktop... which isn't really a great place for it.

    Call me conservative, but I am a bit skeptical about this.

  • Oh really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vux984 (928602) on Friday February 06, 2009 @05:45PM (#26758175)

    But a file in Phantom is simply an object whose state is persisted.

    Persisted to a file?

    You don't have to explicitly open it. As long as your program has some kind of reference to that object, all you need to do is call methods on it, and the data is there as you would expect.

    I've written countless classes that work the same way. When I want to read the settings file for my app for example, I just instantiate my settings object and start reading the settings, the object handles actually opening the file (creating it if necessary), opening it if necessary, etc. If I set new settings, the object handles persisting them.

    So all they've done is taken my (and anyone else who does any OO programming) model, and moved it into the OS API?

    I'm not usually one to say, "no big deal, this has been done before" but seriously... this time it really is no big deal, its been done before. Hell, lots of API's for this sort of stuff even already exist, some of them even come with OSes.

    The only thing that might be novel is if this phatomOS goes whole hog, and forces you to use that api and actually denies you all access directly to files using more traditional methods. But I have my doubts... that would make it needlessly incompatible with a lot of existing software.

    • by Sique (173459)

      Persisted to a file?

      For instance yes. It could also be a blob in a data base. Or just the page of memory the object lives in gets written bit by bit to the hard disk. A file is just a special method to make a sequence of data persistent.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by bittmann (118697)

      Sounds like MUMPS (err..ummm...Cache?) to me....

      S MYNODE=^SOMEGLOBAL(INDEX1,INDEX2)
      S MYVAR=$P(MYNODE,"^",1)
      S MYVAR=MYVAR+" BET YOU THOUGHT THIS WAS GOING TO BE MATH, DIDN'T YOU?"
      S $P(MYNODE,"^",1)=MYVAR
      S ^SOMEGLOBAL(INDEX1,INDEX2)=MYNODE

      Wow...we never opened OR closed a file, but the next time I reference ^SOMEGLOBAL referenced by INDEX1, INDEX2, darned if the first up-arrow delimited piece of the returned value doesn't have the string "BET YOU THOUGHT..." appended t

  • by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Friday February 06, 2009 @05:46PM (#26758191) Homepage Journal
    Oh boy, I can't wait for every application to have to invent it's own directory system to store saved state in, since it can't just use the filesystem to save the file to like in the old days. I bet it will be all kinds of fun to try to get your data from one application into another, especially competitors applications. Not to mention the pure joy that making an incremental backup on this system must be.

    This seems like a throwback to old IBM mainframes and PalmOS. It's fine if your users don't mind being more or less locked into their applications and don't want to move data around very much, but it's crappy when they want to do more sophisticated things like compressing and emailing the document they're working on.

    In short: This is a compatibility nightmare. There is a good reason full fledged systems don't use it.
    • I'm not going to argue with you since you probably know 908376 times more about this than I do.
      But I'm wondering: why have a directory system in which you store your saved state? If you stored it as, essentially, an image -- this is what's on the screen -- that would get rid of the directory system (and substitute a single monster humongous file: a dubious improvement.)
      Likewise, you could communicate data between files either with cut-and-paste or by including some sort of scripting hooks that allowed you

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jandrese (485)
        The problem is when you have 500 or 5000 or 50000 different unrelated documents that you need to keep organized. Right now you just write them out to the filesystem and let the existing tools work for you. In this new system each program would have to figure something out on it's own. Having a pipe like interface or cut and paste between programs suffers from the fact that programmers will implement exactly how much they think people need, and will miss out on the last 10% of the functionality.

        The bigg
  • In AS/400. Dr. Frank Soltis, you are the original god. The whole OS runs in a virtual layer. That way, they were able to host legacy System/36 stuff up along side more "modern" OS/400. Everything is an object... yep..

  • by pongo000 (97357) on Friday February 06, 2009 @06:00PM (#26758391)

    ...now, if they gave me a desktop that no longer had files, file directories, links, and other archaic throwbacks that map directly (in a fashion) to the hardware, then I'd be impressed. Give me a "semantic" desktop like my desktop at home: The ability to quickly, and visually, rifle through documents stacked on my desk so I can find that recent copy of my dissertation I made. I don't need a filename -- just give me the document based upon some quantifiable characteristic about the document, such as keywords, format, or even the visual layout. Folders? I don't keep the stuff on my real desktop in a file cabinet, so why the hell would I want to use folders on my virtual desktop?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ReeceTarbert (893612)

      I don't need a filename -- just give me the document based upon some quantifiable characteristic about the document, such as keywords, format, or even the visual layout.

      Maybe a long shot and not quite what you have in mind, but I think that Spotlight [apple.com] is close enough -- and it's fast too. So fast, in fact, that's also my application launcher of choice.

      Reece

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by vux984 (928602)

      Give me a "semantic" desktop like my desktop at home: The ability to quickly, and visually, rifle through documents stacked on my desk so I can find that recent copy of my dissertation I made. I don't need a filename -- just give me the document based upon some quantifiable characteristic about the document, such as keywords, format,

      Ever heard of Desktop Search?

      Windows Vista this is done by pressing the start button and then typing a few letters or words. It will pull up results that match filenames, file c

  • by DutchUncle (826473) on Friday February 06, 2009 @06:01PM (#26758407)
    Once upon a time, in the 1960s, in the dawn of the multitasking OS concept, there was Multics. It had no distinction between files and data; after all, a file is just a backing store for a piece of data currently mapped into RAM. Since RAM was expensive and small, and paging had to handle everything anyway, the data object that we think of as a file just gets paged in as it is accessed.

    Unix was inspired by Multics.

    As for eliminating languages to prevent bad code, it's been done too - by Pr1mos, on Pr1me Computers, which you may notice doesn't exist any more. So it's not so much "we prevent you from doing bad things" as "we make it hard for you to describe bad things to do so we don't have to work hard to prevent you."

    Those who will not learn from history have to make their own mistakes at their own cost. History matters.
  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Friday February 06, 2009 @06:03PM (#26758425)

    Oh gee, look... Someone has changed the description of something and now it's completely new. It's not a file anymore, it's a persistent object. You know, I remember the day when they just called them files. Nice, simple. You could almost visualize it in your head. Files, you know, like what you put in cabinets. And there were folders too, and it made sense. Then Macintosh came along and, in order to make their mark in the world, we stopped talking about files and started talking about Resources. Well, they've added four more letters, bit harder to understand, a few more tech support calls to explain it. And then along comes the next iteration of this naming game, a persistent object. Now we're at five constants, we've added seven more letters, tech support can't explain it, and although everything looks the same, by golly it isn't. Next they'll be calling it a post-operation management data structure.

    See, here's a problem in our community in plain sight but nobody's going to talk about it, and it's this: We make things unnecessarily complicated. And we buy into these complications, because we want to impress our other geek friends and cohorts with our impressive cutting-edge knowledge. So companies sell us an ever-enlarging and increasingly dense lexicon to obscure what are really simple, fundamental concepts. You know, it has taken me decades to learn even a tenth of what computers can really do. It's what has drawn me to them my whole life -- they are based on such amazingly simple principles but yet can so such incredibly complex things. Learning information technology is like peeling an onion. I never finish. And you know, truth be told I like the challenge.

    But what I don't like is having to learn an ever-changing lexicon just to have a conversation with someone, when we both understand the concepts and principles already. Why should we, as a community, constantly have to re-learn the same things over and over and over again? We need to stop doing this. We are wasting more and more of our time just trying to keep up with the language, instead of actually working the problems. And before I get the petty intellectuals to jump on my case for "dumbing things down", I'd just like to say anyone can make things more complicated but it takes true genius to make things simple. So there, I've said my peace. Bring on the rebuttals.

  • Smalltalk did this in the '70s, and the idea goes back to APL in the early '60s.

    I could speculate about the reasons this never seems to become mainstream, but instead I'll just point that out and let other people do that... :)

  • by Fishbulb (32296)

    Sounds like this would be easily adapted so that you can't access a file if you don't have permission due to DRM restrictions (you have paid your monthly access fee!).

    Expect to see this on set-top boxes and as a feature of Microsoft Media * (or just Windows generally) as soon as the MPAA/RIAA get wind of it.

    These guys'll make a fortune licensing to those asshats.

  • Rebooting (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dmomo (256005) on Friday February 06, 2009 @06:23PM (#26758631) Homepage

    What does this model say for Memory Leaks? If the state is persisted... rebooting won't clear the memory. I imagine there must be a "reset state" mechanism. Perhaps this can be done without actually rebooting. I dunno.

  • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Friday February 06, 2009 @09:01PM (#26760309) Journal

    ... it'll be a closed ecosystem: an OS that cannot run the a lot of the presently popular, mainstream programming languages. C/C++ - no, obviously (they say as much) - this means that vast majority of existing apps go right out of the window. Great already. Java? That should run, but how many good Java desktop apps you know? Now forget about those that use JNI in any way - now what? About 5-10 - The rest will have to be written from scratch. C#? Nope (no pointers), though a limited subset might be possible. Perl, Python, Ruby? Sure, all will work, but have fun rewriting the interpreters themselves in Java! And despite the claims that "JITs are fast enough", for stuff like that they aren't - you really need dirty tricks such as computed goto and jump tables to code fast bytecode interpreters.

    So, in the end, this is going to suffer the same fate as all OSes that came bundled with their own language - death and extinction. Remember Lisp machines? Or, say, Oberon-3? Yes, that's how it usually ends...

  • by piranha(jpl) (229201) on Saturday February 07, 2009 @03:35AM (#26762299) Homepage

    There's little or nothing original that's being presented here. The Phantom people claim originality to the idea of orthogonal persistence [www.dz.ru], but they are flat-out wrong:

    Q: File system?

    A: Nope. Sorry. Nobody needs files in Phantom. All the operating system state is saved across shutdowns. Phantom is the only global persistent OS in the world, AFAIK. All the state of all the objects is saved. Even power failure is not a problem, because of the unique Phantom's ability to store frequently its complete state on the disk.

    To illustrate the utility and awesomeness of persistence, there's a famous story about KeyKOS [eros-os.org], an earlier OS that embraced this notion:

    At the 1990 uniforum vendor exhibition, key logic, inc. found that their booth was next to the novell booth. Novell, it seems, had been bragging in their advertisements about their recovery speed. Being basically neighborly folks, the key logic team suggested the following friendly challenge to the novell exhibitionists: let's both pull the plugs, and see who is up and running first.

    Now one thing Novell is not is stupid. They refused.

    Somehow, the story of the challenge got around the exhibition floor, and a crowd assembled. Perhaps it was gremlins. Never eager to pass up an opportunity, the keykos staff happily spent the next hour kicking their plug out of the wall. Each time, the system would come back within 30 seconds (15 of which were spent in the bios prom, which was embarassing, but not really key logic's fault). Each time key logic did this, more of the audience would give novell a dubious look.

    Eventually, the novell folks couldn't take it anymore, and gritting their teeth they carefully turned the power off on their machine, hoping that nothing would go wrong. As you might expect, the machine successfully stopped running. Very reliable.

    Having successfully stopped their machine, novell crossed their fingers and turned the machine back on. 40 minutes later, they were still checking their file systems. Not a single useful program had been started.

    Figuring they probably had made their point, and not wanting to cause undeserved embarassment, the keykos folks stopped pulling the plug after five or six recoveries.

    The notion of a language-based OS exploiting the semantics of pointerless/"safe" programming languages in order to isolate processes, rather than the norm of executing untrusted native machine code in different address spaces, is nothing new either.

    If these ideas shift your bits, take a look at some real, interesting work done by real people that have more clue than fashion:

    • Coyotos [coyotos.org], an OS whose orthogonal persistence falls out of the capability model of security that they embrace. Coyotos is written in BitC [bitc-lang.org], a purpose-built high-level programming language with special focus on formal semantics and reasoning.
    • Singularity [microsoft.com], a language-based OS in development by none other than Microsoft Research. (Certainly the most interesting Microsoft project that I am aware of.) Singularity exploits language semantics to isolate processes.
    • TUNES [tunes.org], a collective wet-dream of what the OS, programming language, and generally computing system of tomorrow should look like. With all due respect towards the insurmountable difficulty and endless complexity of a task like this, it must be said that TUNES is just vaporware.

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