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README

X1 - A minimalist educational operating system
==============================================

X1 is a very small operating system meant to introduce students to low-level
system programming. As a result, it focuses on clarity of explanation. It's
not meant to demonstrate state-of-the-art methods and algorithms, but rather
simple, naive ones that do the job, while providing pointers and references
to the more modern ways.

X1 is a single address space operating system, always running with the
highest privileges. There is no userspace, and no system calls. Despite
that, the operating system is also called the kernel.


Building
--------

X1 expects a Unix-like environment, including make and a GCC compilation
toolchain. It's been tested on a few Linux distributions such as Debian
and Arch.

Building the kernel is done using the make command from the source root
directory. The end result is a statically linked ELF [1] file named x1.
On Debian, the following packages are required :

 - build-essential
     Meta-package pulling the gcc and make packages, among others.
 - gcc-multilib
     Multilib support for GCC, which provides the 32-bits static libgcc
     library required to link the kernel on 64-bits machines.


Examining the kernel binary
---------------------------

The kernel can be examined with standard GNU binutils tools [2]. Here are
some common command line examples to obtain information directly from the
kernel binary :

 - objdump -d x1 | less
     Disassemble the kernel machine code.
 - readelf -aW x1 | less
     Display ELF information, such as headers and sections.
 - addr2line -e x1 0x1003f0
     Convert an address into a source location.
 - nm x1
     List symbol names.


Running
-------

X1 targets the x86 32-bits architecture only (i386) [3], and ignores some
advanced features such as virtual memory and SMP. It is compliant with the
original multiboot specification [4] and GRUB is the recommended boot loader.
It only supports legacy BIOS systems (no EFI/UEFI).

A simple way to run the kernel is to use the qemu.sh shell script, which
relies on the QEMU -kernel option to act as a multiboot boot loader.
On Debian, the following packages are required :

 - qemu
     The well known machine emulator.

When QEMU is running, you may enter (and leave) its monitor prompt using
the Ctrl-a c key sequence. The most useful monitor commands are :

 - info registers
     Print the content of all core registers.
 - info pic
     Print the state of the legacy PIC interrupt controller.

If you're interested in the details, the following commands may be of interest :

 - info mtree
     Print the various emulated address spaces.
 - info qtree
     Print the emulated device tree.


Getting started
---------------

Even a simple project like X1 requires broad knowledge, spanning from a basic
understanding of processors, memory, assembly and compilation toolchains. The
OSDev website [5] provides a good starting point to find information of decent
quality. Beyond that, readers are encouraged to refer to actual reference
documentation, and of course, search engines.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of topics readers should hopefully develop their
understanding of with this project, and are encouraged to briefly learn about
even before starting playing with X1 :

 - Processor architecture, including core registers, machine instructions
   and accessing memory through loads and stores.
 - Control of the link step through a linker script.
 - The concept of an executable format, including partitioning the content into
   sections, such as code and data sections. See ELF [1].
 - The C programming language, including common extensions, such as controlling
   alignment. The source code conforms to C99 [6] with some GNU extensions.

The two files reader should use as their entry points are :

 - src/boot_asm.S
     The assembly source file containing the very first instructions.
 - src/kernel.lds
     The linker script used to control the link step.

Sources organization
--------------------

The project sources are split into three directories :

- include
    This directory may only contain standard headers, normally provided
    by the "implementation" (e.g. the compiler and the C library) in a
    hosted environment. Because this is a kernel, the environment is
    free standing instead, so any additional standard service must be
    added manually. See ISO/IEC 9899:1999 5.1.2.1 "Freestanding environment"
    in the C99 specification for all the details.
- lib
    This directory contains external code used as a library by the kernel.
    These files are copied from the librbraun library [7] and are meant to
    provide a tiny and easily embedded "development kit".
- src
    This directory contains the actual kernel code.

The coding style used is borrowed from X1's big brother X15 [8].


References
----------

[1] ELF: http://refspecs.linuxbase.org/elf/elf.pdf
[2] GNU binutils : http://sourceware.org/binutils/docs-2.29/
[3] Intel combined manuals : https://software.intel.com/en-us/articles/intel-sdm
[4] Multiboot specification : https://www.gnu.org/software/grub/manual/multiboot/multiboot.html
[5] OSDev website : http://wiki.osdev.org/
[6] C99 specification : http://www.open-std.org/jtc1/sc22/wg14/www/docs/n1256.pdf
[7] https://www.sceen.net/librbraun/
[8] https://www.sceen.net/~rbraun/x15/doc/style.9.html

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