Jenny’s Daily Drivers: SerenityOS, And In Particular, Ladybird

As we continue on with the series in which I take a different OS for a spin every month I am afraid, dear reader, that this month I have a confession to make. Our subject here isn’t a Daily Driver at all, and it’s not the fault of the operating system in question. Instead I’m taking a look at a subject that’s not quite ready for the big time but is interesting for another reason. The OS is SerenityOS, which describes itself as “a love letter to ’90s user interfaces with a custom Unix-like core“, and the reason I’m interested in it comes from its web browser. I know that the OS is very much a work in progress and I’ll have to forgo my usual real hardware and run it in QEMU, but I’ve heard good things about it and I want to try it. The browser in question is called Ladybird, and it’s interesting because it has the aim of creating a modern fully capable cross-platform browser from scratch, rather than being yet another WebKit-based appliance.

A Pleasant Trip Into The 1990s

Part of a Linux desktop with the SerenityOS build instructions in the background, a terminal having built the OS, and the OS itself in a QEMU window.
My first look at SerenityOS after building it.

SerenityOS isn’t ready to be installed on real hardware, and there’s no handy ISO to download. Instead I had to clone the repository to my Linux machine and run the build script to compile the whole thing, something I was very pleased to observe only took about 40 minutes. It creates a hard disk image and opens QEMU for you, and you’re straight into a desktop.

When they mention ’90s user interfaces they definitely weren’t hiding anything, because what I found myself in could have easily been a Windows 9x desktop from the middle of that decade. There are  a bunch of themes including some Mac-like ones, but should you select the “Redmond” one, you’re on very familiar ground if you had a Microsoft environment back then. It’s only skin-deep though, because as soon as you venture into a command line shell there’s no DOS to be found. This is a UNIX-like operating system, so backslashes are not allowed and it’s familiarly similar to an equivalent on my Linux box. The purpose of this review is not to dive too far into the workings of the OS, but suffice it to say that both the underpinnings and the desktop feel stable and as polished as a Windows 95 lookalike can be. The various bundled utilities and other small programs seem to work well, and without any hint of the instabilities I’ve become used to when I’ve experimented with other esoteric operating systems. Continue reading “Jenny’s Daily Drivers: SerenityOS, And In Particular, Ladybird”

Reaching Serenity: Porting Git To A Homebrew Operating System

Life is all about the little joys — such as waking up in the morning and realizing there’s still plenty of time before you have to actually get up. Or getting up anyway to watch a delightful sunrise as the city slowly wakes up, or as [Andreas Kling] chose, porting your favorite development tool to the operating system you wrote.

With the aesthetics of ’90s UI design and the functionality of a simpler 2000s Unix-style system core in mind, and personal reasons to keep himself busy, [Andreas] started SerenityOS a little while back. Of course, writing your own operating system is always a great educational exercise, but it takes a certain amount of commitment to push it beyond an experimental playground phase. So ideally, you’d eventually want to use it as your actual main system, however, as software developer, [Andreas] was missing one crucial component for that: git. Well, he decided to change that and just port it — and as someone who likes to record his hacking sessions, you can watch him along the way.

Admittedly, watching someone tweaking some build tools and compiler settings would normally sound anything but overly exciting, but it adds a few more layers to it when doing so for a work-in-progress OS written from scratch — from digging into libc implementations to an almost reverse engineering approach to the build environment. If you take pleasure in people’s thought process in problem solving and (spoiler alert) their success, you will enjoy watching [Andreas]. On the other hand, if you’re more curious about a fresh approach at a desktop operating system, SerenityOS itself might be worth looking into. Of course, there are other options for that as well.

Continue reading “Reaching Serenity: Porting Git To A Homebrew Operating System”