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Inferno OS Running On Android Phones 109

Posted by Soulskill
from the hot-stuff dept.
New submitter Digi-John writes "Employees at Sandia National Labs have put the Inferno OS on Android-based phones, replacing the default Java UI. Applications are written in Limbo rather than Java. The full announcement is at the bitbucket repository, and a short video demonstrates some of its capabilities."
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Inferno OS Running On Android Phones

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  • My fork of the Inferno OS, tweaked to run on Android

    and more

    The Hellaphone runs Inferno directly on top of the basic Linux layer provided by Android. We do not even allow the Java system to start. Instead, emu draws directly to the Linux framebuffer (thanks, Andrey, for the initial code!) and treats the touchscreen like a one-button mouse. Because the Java environment doesn't start, it only takes about 10 seconds to go from power off to a fully-booted Inferno environment.

    • by MacGyver2210 (1053110) on Saturday September 17, 2011 @07:08PM (#37431268)

      The Android OS is actually a Java layer running on a Linux base code. If you never load the Dalvik VM, Zygote, or any of the Java system, you are not loading Android OS, you are loading nothing.

      Inferno replaces nothing with something. The Inferno OS system is running on the Linux abstraction layer on an Android-compatible device. It *is* an operating system, and is *not* 'running on Android OS'.

      • From the wiki [wikipedia.org]:

        Android consists of a kernel based on the Linux kernel, with middleware, libraries and APIs written in C and application software running on an application framework which includes Java-compatible libraries based on Apache Harmony. Android uses the Dalvik virtual machine with just-in-time compilation to run compiled Java code.[17] Android has a large community of developers writing applications ("apps") that extend the functionality of the devices. Developers write primarily in a customized version of Java.[18] There are currently more than 250,000 apps available for Android.[19][20] Apps can be downloaded from third-party sites or through online stores such as Android Market, the app store run by Google.

        Android as you describe would be a desktop environment.

        • by Microlith (54737)

          Android is much more than that, however. Android drags along with it a custom libc that renders its code and libraries incompatible with standard Linux systems.

        • I'm not sure that I should listen to somebody describing specific definitions and semantics who doesn't bother to distinguish between the concept of wikis and the Wikipedia project.

    • by Timmmm (636430) on Saturday September 17, 2011 @07:48PM (#37431436)

      No, native apps still use the Android APIs (mostly). This is a separate OS that is built using the core of Android.

      You can't press home and go back from Inferno into Android. And MacGyver2210 is right.

  • I'm underwhelmed (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Maow (620678)

    I hadn't heard of Inferno, so watched the video.

    Sorry, but it was just not impressive. Seems to me Android has more interesting visuals in its robotic fingernail than Inferno on mobile has.

    Seems barely better than operating a phone from a terminal session.

    So I clicked the link about what Inferno is (Bell Labs' distributed computing effort), which DID sound interesting, but was hard to jive with what I'd seen on the phone.

    I think it's great that new stuff is being ported to mobile devices, and like the idea

    • Re:I'm underwhelmed (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Alain Williams (2972) <addw@phcomp.co.uk> on Saturday September 17, 2011 @06:10PM (#37431032) Homepage

      Sorry, but it was just not impressive. Seems to me Android has more interesting visuals in its robotic fingernail than Inferno on mobile has.

      It is a start, not something complete -- we all need to start somewhere. You don't need a lot of imagination to see that once they attract more developers then they may get something that can provide true competition to Android & iOS.

      But: why would anyone bother when they have a choice anyway ? Applications written using Limbo seem nice & small, small is good on something like a mobile 'phone. Probably lots of other reasons -- but I don't know enough about it. I was a little concerned to see that the GUI is based on Tk, this is quite old, will it be up to the job for the high quality graphic apps that some people want ?

      Whatever: competition is good!

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Sorry, but it was just not impressive. Seems to me Android has more interesting visuals in its robotic fingernail than Inferno on mobile has.

        I for one am not impressed by sluggish eye candy. This project is interesting because it opens new possibilities by bringing a new operating system to new hardware.

        I was a little concerned to see that the GUI is based on Tk, this is quite old, will it be up to the job for the high quality graphic apps that some people want ?

        Inferno's GUI has always been neglected because there was little need for it before now.

        -- Colonel Simon Vale, Plan 9 Internet Defense Force (Ret.)

      • by Maow (620678)

        It is a start, not something complete -- we all need to start somewhere. You don't need a lot of imagination to see that once they attract more developers then they may get something that can provide true competition to Android & iOS.

        RIM would give 100 left testicles to attract enough developers to provide competition for Android & iOS, and it doesn't appear to be happening. MS is arguably in the same boat.

        So I'd suggest that it would take a lot of imagination to see enough developers jump on board

    • Re:I'm underwhelmed (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jamiethehutt (572315) on Saturday September 17, 2011 @06:57PM (#37431232)

      Fuck fancy visuals.

      The idea in Inferno is that your phone, your desktop, the cloud and your mate's computer are all the same file system space. You can copy data between all these devices, seamlessly, securely and quickly. "Data" is anything represented as a file, so that's music and documents, your phone's cpu, speaker and microphone, or even the applications your currently running on your desktop.

      Plan9 and Inferno are about addressing networking and adding operating system support for it. The developers don't consider modern OS as networked. This is a project to make every computer attached to the network, as far as the user is concerned, the same computer, and the idea is to do it at the OS level, not the browser.

      You want the yet to be programmed Inferno equivalent of Office on your phone? It's there. Not just as an installable application but that instance you have running on your desktop right now is also available to you on your phone via an exported file system either to stream over the network or you could just copy the running instance...

      Fuck fancy visuals.

      • Fuck fancy visuals.

        Some people have learned nothing from the last 25 years or so. The "fancy visuals" are everything. They key to successful personal computers lies in making the human-machine interface as natural as possible to make sure people can smoothly interact with their computer so they don't have to think about what they want to do, they can just go ahead and do it. All the technical things you talk about sound nice but they'll never be used without a well designed shell around them.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jamiethehutt (572315)
          OS9 Vista Rebecca Black Countless other bits of more instantly forgotten crap. Don't kid yourself, without a core the shell is just a shell. I mean if this guy had made a pretty GUI in Flash you'd of been here posting "this is awesome!"? No, you wouldn't, you'd see it for the substance-less crap it is. You've forgotten the massive amount of work that it's taken for your fancy visuals to come about, DECADES of work on ugly software. And you guys don't half ask for the earth. Where would we be if when Lin
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Where would we be if when Linus had posted the Linux kernel everyone just went "This sucks. Why is there no GUI?".

            We'd be using a superior BSD OS rather than shitty Linux?

        • The fancy visuals are the bit you put on once you've screwed down the side of the case and not while the bits are all still hanging out. If you hunt around the net there are thousands of dead "projects" that are nothing but concept art because they paid almost 100% of effort to form instead of function. Once you work out what the hell you are doing you then start to have some idea of how to present it in a pleasing way to the user. Projects such as a revival of Plan9 are not yet anywhere near the point w
        • >The key to successful personal computers lies in making the human-machine interface as natural as possible to make sure people can smoothly interact with their computer so they don't have to think about what they want to do.

          Absolutely correct, but the last time something like that was achieved was... in pre-quicktime MacOS days, when everything but very vertical applications had the same menu layout and action names. Quicktime started breaking apple's own guidelines and made something "fancy": windows a

      • Sounds to me like SSHFS/NFS on Linux. My N900 will allow my to use both, so I can simply mount any of my networked machines folders, and copy files on or off. I can also do the reverse, mounting my N900 as a directory on my desktop/laptop.

        Interoperability is nice.

    • Seems barely better than operating a phone from a terminal session.

      Now, THAT would be cool:

      dial 001340287261 -speaker=true

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Either why you understand that this is neat:
      Dial a number:
        echo dial > /phone/phone

      Hang up a call:
        echo hangup > /phone/phone

      or you don't. If you don't, then you can stick with your flashy android graphics. If you do, we've got a new environment for you, waiting for interesting things to be done.

      ron

    • by DrSkwid (118965)

      > I hadn't heard of Inferno, so watched the video.
      > Sorry, but it was just not impressive. Seems to me Android has more interesting visuals in its robotic fingernail than Inferno on mobile has.

      For something you've never heard of and never used you;re quite the expert on its use cases.

      Newsflash : not eye candy bullshit

  • by diegocg (1680514) on Saturday September 17, 2011 @05:57PM (#37430982)

    I wish I could do the same with MeeGo.

    • by Microlith (54737)

      You can, theoretically.

      You'll just have to forward port the drivers in the kernel tarball for your phone forward, taking care to strip out the android-isms they're rife with. Then you'll have to hope there aren't too many userspace binary blobs linked against Bionic, though you're guaranteed to hit a hard stop with X11 (and OpenGL) drivers except for a handful of platforms.

    • by Digi-John (692918)
      It should actually be easier than Android. MeeGo seems much more of a standard Linux system, and Inferno already supports Linux/arm systems. It's up to you to run Inferno as an app on top of the MeeGo graphical layers, or to strip things down to the kernel/utilities layer and build from there, like we did.
  • What is inferno? I just looked at the video and same as others here, it's errr terribly small, clunky and I don't see any significant features there which would even make me consider using it?

    It looks vastly worse than any of the other Android 'skins' deployed by carriers over the top to crum things up?

    Can someone please explain, I honestly thought this was a joke?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      If I recall, it's meant for distributed computing. Applications written in Limbo can run across multiple machines witout even being aware that they're doong it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Folks that haven't just arrived here are well aware of Inferno [slashdot.org]

      Inferno is an offshoot of Plan 9, a AT&T research OS created by such luminaries as Ken Thompson, Rob Pike and Dennis Ritchie.

      It looks vastly worse

      Phone people...

      was a joke?

      No joke. Replacing the entire Java stack in Android with Inferno is not a joke. In fact, I'm certain it is far beyond anything you will ever accomplish.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Replacing the entire Java stack in Android with Inferno is not a joke.

        I'd like to add that Java and Inferno are contemporaries whose purposes were much the same. There are some articles kicking around explaining Inferno vs Java in more detail. On the one hand, Java was slow, bloated, and not too portable. On the other hand, Inferno was quick, small, portable*, and marketed by AT&T. So naturally Java became popular.

        * 386, Arm, Mips, Power, Sparc, WinNT, Linux, *BSD, Internet Explorer plug-in, Mac OS X, Solaris, Irix, and probably more.

        -- Colonel Simon Vale, Plan 9 Internet

        • Hey, AT&T really does suck that bad at some things...the mobile people saw the logo of the Evil Empire and ran away....

    • by nedlohs (1335013) on Saturday September 17, 2011 @06:46PM (#37431200)

      Are you sure you're on the right website?

      Next you'll say you haven't heard of Plan 9 or that it's just a crappy movie. Or that you don't know who Rob Pike or Ken Thompson are.

      And yes it won't make for anything usable for someone who wants to, oh I don't know, make a phone call. But this isn't "Consumer Phones For Idiots" either.

      • Or that you don't know who ... Ken Thompson [is].

        Isn't he that lawyer who ended up suing Facebook because user called him a knob for wanting to ban violent video games?

        I jest!

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Saturday September 17, 2011 @07:46PM (#37431420) Journal
      Inferno(at least if true to its Plan9 from Bell Labs roots) is pretty much "more unix than unix".

      Instead of unix's "everything is a file, except a bunch of special stuff", that is actually carried through. Also, there is a robust network filesystem included. By comparison to virtually everything else, we are talking crazy elegant manipulation of pretty much everything throughout an N node networked environment. It's really pretty cool.

      Unfortunately, it is also "more unix than unix" in the sense that it is more obscure, less widely supported, and more nerds-only-need-apply than are conventional unix and unixlikes... It's too bad, really.
    • by AbRASiON (589899) *

      So the third post asking "WTF is inferno" is a troll, clearly there's either 2 other trolls asking the same question,... or I dunno maybe we actually haven't heard of this obscure thing.
      Which I might add is so ugly, it quite seriously looks like the first OS written for a phone or something, it's so plain, boring and seemingly awkward to use.

      So, I ask again - what am I (or rather, several of us) supposed to be excited about here? and would someone please fix the moderation.

  • by sauge (930823) on Saturday September 17, 2011 @06:32PM (#37431138)
    If people cannot see the potential of this... so much for slashdot being for programmers...
    • by turkeyfeathers (843622) on Saturday September 17, 2011 @07:03PM (#37431246)
      Mod parent up! As a programmer, I can definitely see the potential and I plan on porting my Bitcoin mining program to Inferno OS.
    • by Timmmm (636430)

      I'm a programmer and I can't see the potential. The UI looks really really awful. Is Limbo some super-language that I've never heard of, despite its amazing awesomeness?

      Or were you being sarcastic?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Unfortunately, the sort of seamless network-agnostic computing Plan 9 and its descendants enabled is now a commercial threat to all the other players in the mobile space. Half the point of the "cloud computing" trend is to lock people in to one provider's weakly interacting web service, and, by extension, into the controlled ecosystem of third-party services that do interoperate well with it. Plan 9 is too good at what it does to be successful.

  • by MacGyver2210 (1053110) on Saturday September 17, 2011 @07:11PM (#37431286)

    This OS is definitely not pretty, but it seems more like a functional OS than a visual "Future Look" OS. I bet all of the crazy graphics compositing and overhead of the typical Android Java VM/OS is enough to slow it down significantly. Without those I bet my phone or tablet would be seriously fast.

    • by nurb432 (527695)

      You mean the interface is not pretty. I have never "seen" an OS. And that interface is not set in stone, this is just a start to get the core OS running.

      Also, pretty is relative. And you are right, java is the reason your android phone is slow as mud.

    • If I read all the descriptions about this OS, it seems like a "future look" OS as in they think ahead. :)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...I write a review about Inferno OS in a newspaper:

    http://dl.dropbox.com/u/11296162/Inferno.jpg

    Yep, it's nostalgic! ;-)

    • by acoster (812556)

      Wow - it's amazing that the Diario de Pernambuco had such an in-depth computer section (or at least much deeper than other brazilian newspapers). Congrats on the article.

      (Brazilian here - just writing in english for the benefit of other slashdotters) :)

  • by Wovel (964431)

    Now I have a use for his POS Inspire (I hope). Had to go back to my 3GS while I wait on the iPhone 5 and stuff that thing in a drawer. I know I should have recognized I hated it during th return period, but I was trying to like it.

  • "Abandon all hope, ye who port here."
  • Having lived with the openmoko as my only phone for nearly three years I can safely say the novelty of a community developed ui with barely functioning code for basic tasks wears off quickly. SHR was terrible to live with along with every other distribution

    • by oddtodd (125924)

      I tried the OpenMoko, too. Ended up getting an N900 and it's much better for an everyday phone.
      Wish I could get an N950, but I'm not that serious of a dev for that platform.

      • Believe me, you're better with the N900. Mainly because there's no Aegis(look it up). And the default browser won't have flash.
        N900's awesome. N950/N9 will take ages to be "usable", and, because of Aegis, will never be as open as the N900.

  • ...But can it run Linux?

  • by Ukab the Great (87152) on Saturday September 17, 2011 @10:06PM (#37431870)

    Because SNOBOL wouldn't have a chance in there.

  • working on nuclear bombs or some such at Sandia?

    Or is this going to be the new control interface for the bombs?

  • First, I just want to give a great kudos to the Inferno developers who made this new Inferno-based Android. I am really impressed by what you guys have accomplished. For those that critizise the UI: They even mention that in the youtube video that the UI at the moment is based on Tk which is outdated. An idea that I got was that perhaps an EFL ( http://www.enlightenment.org/ [enlightenment.org] ) port/binding to limbo would be the perfect match. 1) Language-wise: In contrast to its competitors GTK and QT, it is based on C ra
    • by polymeris (902231)

      1) Language-wise: In contrast to its competitors GTK and QT, it is based on C rather than C++.

      a) How is that an advantage?
      b) I believe GTK+ is written in C

      Otherwise, seems like a good suggestion, as far as I can tell. (But I don't know a thing about distributed computing and that limbo/dis thing.)

  • I think what amazes me even more than getting Inferno running are the responses here and other place. How few people ( outside of the Plan 9 community ) actually seem to understand what is going on here. Even when you explain it to them.

    I really thought 'geeks' were supposed to be smarter than this, but it they look more like regular users that are just wearing a pocket protector to look cool.

    Rather disappointing.

    • I understand exactly how cool it is. There's just not much more to say about it. It would be cool to have easy scripting of core capabilities and a very sane environment on my phone. There. I only said it to make you happy. Otherwise, it's just a really damn cool thing that there's not much to chat about if you already comprehend what it is. So the remaining discussion is from people who don't know what it is.

  • Inferno. Gotta like it.

    Brings new meaning to "blazingly fast performance" Or the latest 'hot thing.'

    And firewall...

    And daemons...

    Of course an OS that supports migrating processes from one machine to another will need some form of checking out the imported process for malware. Purgatory?

    Is code 'blessed' or 'damned'

  • Hurray! Now the UI can be the state of the art in UI design for 1994!

    Great that they got it running in some form, whether as an app overlay or something significantly more low-level, but it doesn't really interest me from a technical level, and from a practical level it's like taking the powertrain and drive train from a Model T (complete with totally different controls) to a 2007 Honda Civic.

    Actually, THAT would be kind of cool =) This is "we put Who Cares? in a Who Cares?"

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