Monday, November 23, 2009

iBOS - the Internet Browsing Operating System

Oh well! Sometimes, when some smart people come up with an idea that you've already had, and sort of done something... It's a nice feeling. That's what I felt when I first read about the Chrome OS. It was practically the same idea that we (Anuj, Amit and me) had back in college. We wanted to do an operating system that's a web browser - for low-end machines - the likes of kiosks in a library, etc. We did it.. sort of.. We started out writing a new kernel... and ended up (mostly feeling stupid) writing a text-based web browser (that's right, we only had about 3 months and we didn't even know how to write Makefiles :D). But yes, we wrote a browser that read some HTML, filtered out the rest (and the Javascript), and we made it the default shell of a stripped-down RedHat 8 distribution. It was extremely basic (meaning crude, I even remember putting in a SIGSEGV handler towards the end of the term) with a vim-like dual mode (edit and browse) interface. But it was fast. Coupled with a filtering proxy which we mostly used to filter out unwanted (spelled unhandled) HTML markup and JS code, and to make the actual HTTP calls to the servers, we had a couple of systems running as kiosks in our lab. And guess which page we used to demo.. that's right :D Oh! and the search worked, because we added support for GET/POST form submission in the last month of our term.

I guess, it does take a bunch of really smart people to do it on a really usable scale. But it does feel nice to boast about these things once in a while - that you were once nearly right there amongst the smart ones. Now I'd have wanted to put a link to the documentation and source code, but alas... Yahoo shut down their geocities (philanthropy) where we'd put it. So, all that remains of it now is on my machine, and a thick volume of documentation that my friend Anuj made me write (I still curse him for it).

I hope someday we all get together again as a team and maybe write something to compete with Chrome OS (Day dreaming... well it's night time around here anyway.)


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A soul possessed forever...