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Microsoft's Barrelfish operating system is an experimental OS looking to bring improved multicore performance to Microsoft's OS's  (Source: Network World)

"Barrelfish hackers and hangers-on, Zurich, August 2009 "  (Source: Microsoft/ETH Zurich)
Microsoft tests out multi-core improvements that will eventually be rolled into Windows

Microsoft has long cooked up new and experimental operating systems whose features eventually got rolled into its central Windows offerings.  Most recently it's been dabbling with Singularity, an experimental OS designed for increased reliability thanks to kernel, device drivers, and applications being written in managed SING# (an extension of C#) code.  Another test OS is Midori (not to be confused with the web browser), an OS that sandboxes applications for security and is designed for running concurrent applications, a feature geared towards cloud computing schemes.

Other recent efforts include its Windows Azure OS, a cloud computing OS currently offered for free to developers.

Now Microsoft has unveiled another new OS prototype codenamed "Barrelfish".  Barrelfish is an OS optimized to run on multi-core machines.  Namely, Barrelfish uses message passing and a database like system to pass information between cores.  Typically OS's use share memory schemes, which become very inefficient when resource demands are high.

The new OS was jointly created by ETH Zurich, a technology university, and Microsoft Research, located in Cambridge, Mass. 

Interestingly, it uses some open source BSD third-part libraries, which are "covered by various BSD-like open source licenses."  This has led to speculation that the new OS may be free and open source, not terms you typically would associate with Microsoft.

According to developers who have attended conferences on the new OS, it reportedly brings some of the Midori/Singularity sandboxing protections onboard.  Additionally, applications reportedly have an alternate route of accessing information from devices like graphics or sound cards.  A large deal of device information is reportedly stored in a central database that can be queried.

Writes developer "AudriUSA", "... instead of fully isolating program from device via driver, Barrelfish has a kind of database where lots of low level information about the hardware can be found. The kernel is single threaded and non preemptive. Scheduling is coupled with the message passing, an arrival of the message simply activates the waiting thread. It also uses a little bit of the microkernel concepts, running drivers in protected space, like L4 and in general pushing a lot into application domains."

As Intel and AMD expand their 4, 6, and 8-core lineups and approach even higher core counts, using these resources efficiently will be a crucial operating system responsibility.  It will be exciting to see what kind of improvements that Microsoft can accomplish with Barrelfish, as these improvements will surely be rolled into successors to Windows 7.

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RE: A little late...
By ElderTech on 9/28/2009 2:17:17 PM , Rating: 2
Granted, the driver issue is valid, as there is likely much more support coming in this area. However, even with the potential drivers support, there are definite advantages to XP over Win7, depending on the specifics of your applications and usage. To that effect, here's another recent comparison on mobile computing platforms from AnandTech utilizing two different processors in otherwise identical laptops:

Although it's obvious the battery results favor Win7, there are a number of other results that clearly favor XP, particularly in the detailed PCMark05 breakdown results, and the OS Benchmarks.

That said, Win7 has specific advantages that are relevant to my usage, including 64bit and SSD support, particularly with the upcoming TRIM feature. But for others, particularly more casual users like students who need mobility with quick and easy OS access, XP is still the defacto choice, and will probably remain so for some time. That's why many colleges and universities, even the more tech savy ones, provide official support only for XP, and not even Vista.

An example is Carnegie Mellon University, where their campus-wide computer tech support conforms to the above. That's a school with a recently completed new computer science building almost entirely funded by the Gates. That may speak to the difficulties with the Vista implementation, and hopefully with Win7 it will be a different story.

RE: A little late...
By omnicronx on 9/28/2009 3:35:43 PM , Rating: 2
I don't mean to bash PCMark, but unless I see vantage results I'm not going to take these results seriously. Manuafacturers are not idiots, they know how to get the most out of the mainstream benchmark apps, and with PCMark 05, they've had a heck of a long time to do so..

Truth be told I don't trust it one bit, there were tests a year or two back changing the CPUID of a Via nano to Intel / AMD which showed discrepancies in their results where it should not have.

Now I am not saying these results are not true, I am just saying I will not trust any result until 7 is released and release drivers are used.

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