Skip to content


Switch branches/tags
This branch is 144 commits ahead of Nils-TUD:dev.

Latest commit


Git stats


Failed to load latest commit information.
Latest commit message
Commit time

NOVA runtime environment (NRE)

NRE is supposed to be the successor of NUL (NOVA UserLand). It has the goal to be much simpler and cleaner than NUL, because NUL is quite complicated and difficult to maintain. This is achieved by providing easy-to-use abstractions, using C++ exception handling and the well known pattern RAII. Another important difference to NUL is that each service (typically a component that would be a single or a group of host-drivers in NUL) runs in its own protection domain to make it more reliable and reduce the dependencies between them. Additionally, the architecture x86_64 (besides x86_32) is supported from the beginning.

Getting started:

Please take the following steps:

  1. Go into the directory cross/.
  2. a) If you want to download a precompiled cross-compiler, execute <arch>, where <arch> is either x86_32 or x86_64. It will download the compiler into /opt/nre-cross-<arch>. There are only precompiled versions for certain host platforms, of course.
    b) Otherwise, execute <arch>, where <arch> is either x86_32 or x86_64. This builds the cross compiler. Thus, it will take a few minutes :)
  3. To checkout the submodules, please do a git submodule init && git submodule update in the root directory of the repository.
  4. Before you continue, choose the target and build-type that you want to use:
    export NRE_TARGET=(x86_32|x86_64) NRE_BUILD=(debug|release)
  5. Go into the directory nre. You'll find the convenience-script b, which is responsible for building everything that needs to be build and executing the specified command. So, simply do a ./b to build everything. It will build NOVA and, of course, build NRE as well. Please run ./b -h to see the help of the script. For a quick start use ./b qemu boot/test to run the test application in qemu.
  6. To use ./b srv <script>, you have to generate the novaboot-config by:
    ./tools/novaboot --dump-config > ~/.novaboot
    You might want to adjust it afterwards

Note that there are few boot-scripts that require additional binaries and images. You can download them via ./dist/ in the nre directory. They will be put into dist/imgs/. You have to download quite a few MB and it will probably get more over time, which is the reason it is not included in the repo. Similarly, you have to invoke ./dist/ to build a few test harddisks and iso images first to be able to use a few boot scripts that reference them.


NRE provides a console service that allows multiple applications to write to the screen (not at the same time, of course). To do this, they request a sub- console in a specified console. A console groups multiple subconsoles together, so that e.g. all management stuff (Bootloader, Hypervisor, sysinfo, ...) can be put in one console and each VM can be put in a different one. The console service uses the following keybindings, where the modifier (ctrl by default) can also be changed via modifier=x in the cmdline of console:

  • ctrl + left/right: switch between consoles
  • ctrl + up/down: switch between subconsoles
  • ctrl + 0..9: switch to console 0..9. You can also use esc to get to console 0
  • ctrl + end: reboot the host-machine


In case you experience a problem and would like to debug it, here are a few general suggestions on how to hunt it down:

  • Do always use the debug build of NRE to find errors, as long as they occur in debug mode.
  • You can enable/disable logging output in nre/include/Logging.h. Especially, it might be helpful to turn on EXCEPTIONS in order to see every thrown exception.
  • It might also help to enable logging in NOVA by enabling some log-types in kernel/nova/include/stdio.h.
  • To remote debug the system running in qemu via gdb, you can use ./b dbg=<app> <bootscript>. This will start <bootscript> and use the debugging symbols of <app>. Since every NRE application is linked to a different address you shouldn't interfere with others.

Reporting errors:

If you encounter a bug, you'll often see a backtrace that looks like this:

[4] Backtrace:
[4] 0000:0003:0030:a4d2
[4] 0000:0003:0030:2210
[4] 0000:0003:0030:fd5c

You can start ./b trace=<app>, where <app> is e.g. root, and simply paste the backtrace in there to decode it. Please always post the decoded backtrace, because the addresses might map to different code for different people. Errors should be reported via the issue tracker on github.


Please note in general, that NRE is still a young project and a work in progress. So, there will probably be bugs and a lot of missing features. Additionally, don't expect that the API stays stable.

The following lists a few known issues and limitations that you might run into:

  • The network models of vancouver have not been ported yet and a network service in NRE is missing as well.
  • It is not possible yet to get direct access to a PCI device.
  • The storage service of NRE supports ATAPI drives, but vancouver does not.
  • When using the storage service on real hardware, DMA with ATA/ATAPI drives might be an issue. You can turn it off by adding the parameter "noidedma" to storage


NOVA runtime environment (official branch)







No releases published


No packages published


  • C++ 68.2%
  • C 25.1%
  • Shell 2.3%
  • Perl 2.2%
  • Python 1.1%
  • Assembly 0.9%
  • Other 0.2%