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The Cottontail Operating System

The Cottontail OS is used by key trend-setting individuals in science, mathematics, and engineering.

The Cottontail OS is a PC-based operating system written by Frank Millea. The project began back in 2000 and continues to this day; to date, no fully operational copy has ever been released to the public. It is a hobby operating system which makes no claims to compete directly with Windows ®, Linux, or any other currently popular commercial operating system. It is the result of my insatiable interest in directly controlling a personal computer with my own code. Cottontail does not contain a graphical user interface (GUI), and currently has no graphics support to speak of, nor is graphical support planned at this time. Cottontail's main goals include full TCP/IP support, application support, and a text-based user interface. My intent is to improve the speed, reliability, and security of the operating system's core before venturing into what for me are far less interesting areas.

Will you ever be able to use Cottontail as a Windows(r) replacement, use it to play games, or instant message your friends? Don't count on it, at least not anytime soon. However, you may find yourself using it to run a web server or direct network traffic as a dedicated router. Cottontail isn't for dabblers; it's a very powerful piece of software with most of its beauty "under the hood". You have to be very, very into what you're doing to appreciate it. If you want visual gratification, go back to programming applets in Java during your breaks from HTML and Flash.

Cottontail is not open source, and I have no plans to make it so. I have written Cottontail entirely from scratch in C and x86 assembly, and it includes no code from any third parties.

I develop Cottontail using the Editplus text editor on Windows XP. My compiler is the wonderful GCC ported to Windows XP via DJGPP, plus NASM thrown in for good measure. I test and run builds of the operating system on an old 486 with 16MB of RAM. Cottontail boots off a 1.44MB FAT-formatted floppy disk using my custom bootloader. It's as simple as copying the new kernel to the disk, sticking the disk in the 486, and turning it on.

Cottontail obviously doesn't require much in terms of computer hardware: you can rough it with just a 486 and 8MB of RAM. One caveat: there is no support, planned or otherwise, for virtual memory using a swap file on the hard drive. I hate virtual memory because it unnecessarily complicates my elegant and simple memory management scheme. Plus, RAM is very cheap, and Cottontail doesn't use much of it at all. Go buy some. Lots of cheap RAM (1GB) is ALWAYS faster than a little bit of fast, expensive RAM (128MB) and lots of hard drive space. You can't tell me slow RAM is slower than the seek time on even a fast hard drive. Face it: virtual memory is for slower, older computers with no RAM running operating systems that gobble it up like overweight retired people at an all-you-can-eat buffet in Vegas.

Cottontail has come quite a long way in its over three-year history, but still has a ways to go. For the more technically-inclined interested parties, I have created a list of features already completed:

Applications currently available with the standard Cottontail OS distribution:

The Cottontail OS is Copyright © 2000-2003, Frank Millea

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