jueves, 29 de abril de 2010

Getting started with SqueakNOS

The idea of this article is to explain what are the different bundles that are available to deliver SqueakNOS.
You probably already know that SqueakNOS is(n't) an operating system. Then, the way to use it is by booting it's code from some media, like a CD or a hard drive. The good news is that it's not necessary to alter your hard drive in any way, nor reset your PC each time you want to test SqueakNOS, and that's possible thanks to virtualization. The idea of virtualization is to simulate the existence of an entire machine (processor, memory, hard disk and other devices), where you can install an entire operating system. The software used to do this is called a virtualizer, and there are many of them available, including VMWare Player, Sun's VirtualBox, Bochs, QEmu, etc.

SqueakNOS bundles


SqueakNOS comes bundled ready to be used in two ways:
  • as a bootable CD, actually an ISO image, which you can burn and boot in your machine or load into the virtualizer to simulate a CD (as you'll see in the next section).
  • as a small bootable virtual hard drive, prepared to run inside the virtualizer.
It isn't necesary to download them both, you should choose the one you feel more comfortable and use it. The virtual harddisk has the benefit of allowing you to mount it read/write in your filesystem if you need. With the ISO you can mount it read-only, and if you want to change any file you have to regenerate the image (which gets done with one simple command).

To download any of the bundles go to SqueakNOS files section in SourceForge.
As of 19-feb-2010, the hard disk image is some days more recent than the ISO image, but that should change quickly, we are preparing an update right now.

SqueakNOS in a virtualized environment


The easier way to test and work with SqueakNOS is through virtualization. That means that with the help of a virtualizer you'll create a virtual machine where you can install and boot the SqueakNOS easily. I use VMWare Player because it's a the fastest virtualizer I know, and also because it comes with vmware-mount tool which is useful to access disk images outside the VM. But there are many others supported, including Sun's VirtualBox, Bochs, QEmu, Microsoft's VirtualPC and Parallels.
Both ISO and hard drive images come with a .vmx file. This is a simple text file that VMWare uses to describe the virtual hardware. By opening it with VMWare Player you can run SqueakNOS. It takes just seconds to load the image, after this you should see the video mode changing.

SqueakNOS in a real system


The easier way of trying SqueakNOS in a real system would be to burn the bootable ISO to a CD and boot from it. Installing it to the hard drive is a bit more complex and will be addressed in another article.

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