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HelenOS is a portable microkernel-based multiserver operating system designed and implemented from scratch. It decomposes key operating system functionality such as file systems, networking, device drivers and graphical user interface into a collection of fine-grained user space components that interact with each other via message passing. A failure or crash of one component does not directly harm others. HelenOS is therefore flexible, modular, extensible, fault tolerant and easy to understand.

HelenOS does not aim to be a clone of any existing operating system and trades compatibility with legacy APIs for cleaner design. Most of HelenOS components have been made to order specifically for HelenOS so that its essential parts can stay free of adaptation layers, glue code, franken-components and the maintenance burden incurred by them.


HelenOS runs on seven different processor architectures and machines ranging from embedded ARM devices and single-board computers through multicore 32-bit and 64-bit desktop PCs to 64-bit Itanium and SPARC rack-mount servers.


Building the toolchain

In order to build HelenOS, one must first build the cross-compiler toolchain (either as a root or by specifying the CROSS_PREFIX environment variable) by running (example for the amd64 architecture, further list of targets can be found in the default directory):

$ cd HelenOS/tools
$ ./ amd64

The toolchain script will print a list of software packages that are required for the toolchain to correctly build. Make sure you install all the dependencies. Unfortunately, the script cannot install the required dependencies for you automatically since the host environments are very diverse. In case the compilation of the toolchain fails half way through, try to analyze the error message(s), add appropriate missing dependencies and try again.

As an example, here are some of the packages you will need for Ubuntu 12.10 (may be out of date):

$ sudo apt-get install build-essential libgmp-dev libmpfr-dev ppl-dev libmpc-dev zlib1g-dev texinfo libtinfo-dev xutils-dev

Whereas for CentOS/Fedora, you will need:

# sudo dnf group install 'Development Tools'
# sudo dnf install wget texinfo libmpc-devel mpfr-devel gmp-devel PyYAML genisoimage

In case the toolchain script won't work no matter how hard you try, let us know. Please supply as many relevant information (your OS and distribution, list of installed packages with version information, the output of the toolchain script, etc.) as possible.

Configuring the build

Go back to the source root of HelenOS and start the build process:

$ cd ..
$ make PROFILE=amd64

Now HelenOS should automatically start building.

Note: If you installed the toolchain to a custom directory, make sure CROSS_PREFIX environment variable is correctly set.

Running the OS

When you get the command line back, there should be an image.iso file in the source root directory. If you have QEMU, you should be able to start HelenOS by running:

$ ./tools/

For additional information about running HelenOS, see UsersGuide/RunningInQEMU or UsersGuide/RunningInVirtualBox or see the files in contrib/conf.


HelenOS is open source, free software. Its source code is available under the BSD license. Some third-party components are licensed under GPL.


This is the HelenOS repository containing experimental XHCI implementation (WIP).






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