back to article Russian rides Phantom to OS immortality

It's nine degrees Fahrenheit in Moscow right now. That's the kind of cold that makes a man concentrate on his work so he can keep from remembering that the tears the wind blows out of his eyes will freeze on the side of his face before they hit the ground. In the middle of this icebox, Dmitry Zavalishin is cooking up a new …


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  1. Christian Berger Silver badge

    Question of availiability

    The big question is, is this availiable or just some vapor ware like windows, which you can only get if you pay huge sums of money?

    Appart from what, what's so different about his approach to, let's say the LISP-Machine machine one? There you don't have any user visible RAM, but insteadt everything is done on disk. RAM is only a cache for disk.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    EROS did it

    It's a tiny bit harder than you think. But it's been done.

  3. Dave

    Too Late

    If it ever goes mainstream and makes money, you can bet that some troll in the US will sue based on a vague patent from a couple of years ago. Or worse, a patent that hasn't yet been filed.

  4. Kanhef


    9° F is a bit cold, but not all that bad. -9° is unpleasant but bearable. For tears to freeze on your face it has to be at least twenty below. *That's* cold.

    @Christian Berger

    This takes the opposite approach: everything is done in RAM, and the disk is only used for memory snapshots (and probably virtual memory).

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    So *all* memory is virtual?

    Yeah, I bet that isn't a big performance hit (chuckle). This is frickin stupid, the disk responds in milliseconds. DRAM responds in nanoseconds. That is a 1,000,000 X performance hit. Why even bother anyway, with new solid state storage we might not even have disks anymore.

    Unless that is the point. If this guy is anticipating RAM-like non-volatile storage, than maybe there is a point, but without even being able to anticipate what the hardware will look like, performance tuning would probably make whatever architecture he has come up with irrelevant.

    Sorry, but unless there is some hugely important fact that the writer left out out of the story, then I call BS on this one.

    (I would like to see a serious challenger to WIndows though! BTW, a Russian condescendingly talking about "communist" Linux is some hilarious irony!)

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    nobody will need this ...

    when RAM is replaced by/merged with a solid state disk.

  7. Henry Wertz Gold badge


    I'm not really saying "it's been done before" because the goals of the Cray were far different. But, from my understanding.. Cray 1 had no memory management hardware, Cray insisted because an MMU would slow the machine down. My understanding is later Crays DID have an MMU; since they had memory management anyway, they went full-tilt and treated EVERYTHING as flat storage -- as in this article, no files* , everything just appeared as system memory.. the portion that WAS in system memory just happened to be faster. I have no particular insight or suggestion from this, but he may want to look into that just so he isn't doomed to repeat any mistakes the Cray may have made.

    *Well, just like this Russian OS, I think the Cray OS had some concept of files after-the-fact, to make apps that require files happy.

  8. Anton Ivanov

    Os level serialisation instead of file?

    Os level serialisation and memory persistence instead of file? Fantastic idea? Not so sure.

    First of all, The computer is the network. Try to move data around without the concepts of file, stream or message. End of the day, they will have to be added to his wonderful contraption so that the computer can communicate effectively with other systems.

    This will also be the day when his "elegant" "better than Windows" system will understand why Linux and Unixes have came back from the brink of extinction and have continued to gain inroads in the market at the expense of Windows - they make network programming indistinguishable from file programming. I agree, the file paradigm sucks, however we are yet to find anything better for network communications.

    Second, I have had to work with people who carried this idea (nailed onto an Agile Java Buzzword Compliance banner). Their project was wonderful (at power point level). It also failed miserably in the field. The moment the serialised data size went above a certain threshold it went belly up and stayed belly up destroying all data in the process.

  9. Dion

    Hardly New

    This concept is hardly new or revolutionary. Even as recently as 2005, the Unununium project designed their OS around the Orthogonal Persistence concept. Admittedly uuu's website has gone dark, so good luck to the frosty Russian.


  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "creating a functionally weaker system, such as Linux."

    Cue Linux fantard whining in 3. 2. 1.....

  11. Anonymous Coward

    @Christian Berger / Kanhef

    @Christian Berger

    Windows isn't vapourware, I've got a copy right here! I think you need to consult a dictionary :-)

  12. Robin

    @Christian Berger: Vaporware???

    With a name like Phantom? Surely not...

  13. Anonymous Coward

    I wish...

    ... I could find some more information or a contact for this. I would like to investigate a useful application...

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Personnally, I preferred the swearing to ...

    ... this sort of melodrama:

    "It's nine degrees Fahrenheit in Moscow right now. That's the kind of cold that makes a man concentrate on his work so he can keep from remembering that the tears the wind blows out of his eyes will freeze on the side of his face before they hit the ground."

    But surely only if he insists on coding outdoors? I expect he'll just turn up the heating or put on a sweater.

  15. Steve
    Thumb Down

    how do you recover from a crash

    If the state is by default persisted then how do you get rid of a program that's crashed.

    Some sort of program manager I'd guess. But since you don't do manual saves to disk and it just persists it's current state, you'll not be recovering whatever you were working on, or even any configuration changes you made.

  16. Mage Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Good Idea

    Actually I started work on a multiprocessor distributed concept like this in 1987. It's definitely the way forward.

    Linux is a copy of a 1976 OS trying to Mimic OS X and Windows.

    OS X (it's self based on BSD, a free copy of a 1976 OS) and Windows can only get more bloated, more unreliable and poorer performance.

  17. Anonymous Coward

    but how many measure temperature in Fahrenheit? Not the Russian anyhow

    Last time that I checked the Russian, like the rest of the civilized world,

    were using °C... seriously, statistically the world population who measure

    in F instead of °C is, how much, less than 10%? maybe 5% ?

  18. Shonko Kid

    Move along, nothing to see.

    Nothing really new here as far as I can see. Many of the old PDA OSs of yore spent a lot of time ensuring that state was preserved, at the very least ensuring the system was consistent in case of a sudden loss of power.

    These days the easiest way to achieve this sort of thing is just by using virtual memory, and using the swap file as your memory snapshot.

    It'll be interesting to see how well it fares on power limited devices such as a mobile, as all that writing state to flash will kill battery and reduce the lifespan of the flash. I'd also be interested in seeing how well it copes with code that isn't expecting to 'run forever' and contains memory leaks, and other common bugs that don't surface for short lived exectution spans.

    I'm sure he's thought of all this, of course! ;-)

    >"... and it is difficult to surpass it [iPhone] technologically"

    Indeed /:-|

  19. Anonymous Coward


    "We have efficient virtual machines now, with write-once-run-anywhere functionality. Java, C#, Ruby, and even..."

    Sorry, did you say C#. Ha ha ha ha ha.

    Mine is the one without MS Windows XP or Vista in the pocket.

  20. Richard Kay

    Prior art ?

    I've developed a few simple database classes in Python for my web application development which means my applications don't have to open/read/write/close files directly in order to persist data. This gives the benefit of managed concurrent access too, in case more than one user wants to update the same record at the same time. Any web application developer who uses a back end database and a reasonably useful database API does something similar.

    Interesting idea to develop a full OS around the concept possibly for mobile/embedded use, though the concept isn't a new one.

  21. Viet

    back to the 90's

    Those that can't learn from history are doomed to re-create it.

    And I'm not even sure Raskin didn't picked his ideas somewhere. See, those big irons of the 60's were neat beacause the core memory that was used in those days was by design impervious to power on-off cycles, being magnetism based. No need to compute ? Turn the beast off. Something to do ? Restart it, execution can resume at the point the operator left. I believe the space shuttle's computers work like this too.

    So it's not really a novelty ; it's a mere routing around current amnesiac memory technology, to restore a long forgotten functionnality our predecessors could have taken for granted 5 decades ago.

  22. Matthew Harris


    So what happens if a program crashes? In a traditional system, as long as the file(s) you were working on aren't actually being written to at that exact moment, they should be safe from corruption (most of the time anyway!)... but if these snapshots are more-or-less continuous, a crash or even a rather sudden application close would presumably damage the file being worked on.

    Apart from that, it sounds like an interesting idea... especially for mobile devices or hardware like routers (which mostly seem to run linux at the moment if they have an OS).

  23. Mark

    Sometimes it's good to wipe the slate

    Not sure I'd want an OS where any third-party program errors / memory leaks are preserved for all eternity - unless it's open source it benefits from the occasional forced reboot.

  24. John

    too different

    i might be wrong, with the VM porting going on, developers might like it enough to really use it, but what about porting the snapshotting to other systems?

    could it be implemented in Linux or BSD/Darwin (and hence OS X) with a custom file-system?

    or maybe I read too much into last night's top gear best of where they said the FCX Clarity was the most important car of the future because it is the same as the cars of today.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Combine this with the upcoming N97...

    ...and I might finally be able to replace my 10 year old Psion 5.

  26. This post has been deleted by its author

  27. N Silver badge


    If its as reliable as an AK47, it'll be brilliant!

  28. xjy
    Paris Hilton

    +9 F -- cold?

    As Kanhef says: "Pish-Tosh!"

    It's a mere 23F below freezing point, roughly -12C. Here in Stockholm today it's a mere -5C and we're practically walking around in our t-shirts - you should see the girls in miniskirts and tights and bosom-baring tops. Everyone's longing for -12C so we can have a decent winter for a change with crunchy snow, nice durable ice and air that gives your lungs a good scouring.

    Also a freezer worth its salt (heh) is at least -18C. Which is normal up north, where they hate the raw damp namby-pamby winter here in the south. But then, they've got saunas and distill their own poteen and keep each other warm, and build hotels made of ice. And where they're going to move a whole town a ways from where it now to avoid subsidence.

    Now if it gets down to -30C *and* the wind is blowing, you start wrapping up. Around -40 you start thinking about keeping the kids home from school. In Vietnam they do that at +10C (+18F).

    (-18C = -65F... -30C = -88F... -40C = -106F... )

    And the Sami and Inuit snigger at this and laugh at the soft southern immigrants...

    (Paris cos she knows all about keeping in heat...)

    Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention Siberia... ;-)

  29. Eddie Edwards
    Dead Vulture


    I can't believe Ted the Sweartard is so credulous about this bullshit.

    Storing data to disc ready to go again is one thing. Yay! 30 seconds saved each day! This is clearly much better than the "suspend" mode my machine already has. And it's not like I ever *want* to reset everything's state by rebooting, because all the software I use has zero defects.

    But wait! Then there's this huge leap of imagination - suddenly you don't need "files" any more. w00t! No more serialization code! You don't need it!

    Oh, unless you want to send stuff over a network.

    Fail and you, Ted, fail and you.

  30. Paul Clark

    Continuous writing to Flash?

    Hang on a minute... Disk on an iPhone (any phone, netbook...) is Flash, which has limited write capacity, and Phantom is going to continuously snapshot memory?

    I'm not convinced this is needed at the OS level, but it would be nice if more languages supported proper persistent objects.

  31. Ru
    Thumb Down

    Curious notion of "competing"

    Why is it that everyone seems to paint linux as a single unified entity that is endlessly struggling against windows, and doomed to failure? It seems to me that it is doing pretty well on everything except the "average computer user's" desktop where they have come to expect windows and won't settle for anything else. Any new OS will be in the same position... it doesn't matter that its creator think it is going to be better than windows: the market simply will not care, because it is not windows.

    Now, any other system competing with the iPhone... that's a totally different matter. It combines some very nice hardware engineering with a very slick UI. You can't beat that without some serious, skilled hardware and UI engineers, but if you do have access to those sorts of people, the underlying OS is utterly irrelevant so long as it does its job. The GPhone looks like a nasty plasticy prototype running partially finished beta-like software. How on earth did anyone ever expect it to fight the iPhone?

  32. Ivan Headache

    Don't know if this is relevant but

    Clive Sinclair had a laptop called the Z88 in 1988. That would remember what you were doing when you switched it back on. You could be mid-word in the middle of a letter, switch it off, switch it back on next day and the cursor would be flashing, waiting for the next letter in the word.

    It also allowed you to change its batteries (4 AA cells if I remember) while in the middle of typing.

    Anyway , I don't know if that was a function of the OS or of the machine.

  33. Anonymous Coward

    @ Weaklings

    9° F, not that bad?!? -13° C?!?

    Given that some places in Blighty can barely handle a few drops of snow, and reduces the countries driving ability to that of an old woman on a narrow country lane...

    I say we welcome our Russian, frost beating, programming overlords...

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "persistent state" vs "persistent externally-visible state"

    Have a look at what used to be NonStop Services for (spit) SCO UNIX (or UNIXware).

    You don't save everything every time it is updated (unlike the toy here).

    You do save a sufficient subset, eg externally visible externally relevant state on a periodic or event driven basis (such as a process and its associated PCBs etc when it finishes its timeslice or whatever).

    Part of the same setup also offered single system image clusters, again for SCO Unix.

    Shame it was for SCO Unix.

  35. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Psst ..... If anyone asks, ... You didn't hear it from here

    "The moment the serialised data size went above a certain threshold it went belly up and stayed belly up destroying all data in the process." ... By Anton Ivanov Posted Tuesday 3rd February 2009 07:00 GMT

    The same problem as experienced by the Junkie, overwhelmed by something over which/to which they have seeded/ceded Control. It is though, but a Natural Weakness Barrier which most efficiently sorts out the Weeds from the Flowers, relegating some to Compost and Slurry and others to Harvest and Future Resistant to Useless Junk Strains.

    Has anyone here, any real Idea of what is being developed Eastwards for Westwards transmission/BroadBandCasting ...... or is IT all Guesswork and Spooky Speculation?

    Windows Kernel Control would give you Stealthy Proxy Power Points/Virtual Nodes all over the Place in Space.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "Not sure I'd want an OS where any third-party program errors / memory leaks are preserved for all eternity - unless it's open source it benefits from the occasional forced reboot."

    Oh yeah cause open source software NEVER needs restarting as its perfect in every way.

    how are people reading this considered high level users with comments like that coming out?

  37. Anonymous Coward

    Different from hibernation how exactly?

    How is this really any different to the hibernation mode Windows now comes with? I never shut my computer down anymore, I always select "Hibernate" which writes the state of memory (and probably some other things it needs to re-init) to disk and then shuts the computer down fully - not just suspend, but a full shutdown.

    All this seems to do is offer an automated snapshot system at the expense of requiring substantial rewrites of software.

  38. tony


    just think of when you get a virus, it is permanent even if you switch off !

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Deg C to Deg F

    Hmm seems some people, xjf I'm looking at you here, can't convert right

    0 C = 32 F

    0 F = -18 C

    C to F = (1.8 *C)+32

    F to C = (F-32)/1.8

    So (-18C = -65F... -30C = -88F... -40C = -106F... ) isn't that it

    -18C = 0F ; -30C = -22F ; -40C = -40F

    -18F = -27.77C ; -30F = -34.44C ; -40F = -40C

    So I've no idea what calculations you were using!

    Back on topic

    Good idea but can you get it to work in practice and SELL it, can see uses for militry kit for sure.

  40. Toastan Buttar

    Don't feed the trolls

    "Oh yeah cause open source software NEVER needs restarting as its perfect in every way.

    how are people reading this considered high level users with comments like that coming out?"

    Poster 'Mark' is well known for,....ahem...., 'stimulating debate'. Don't bite.

  41. Turgut Kalfaoglu
    Gates Horns


    And how long until Microsoft buys it and kills it?

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Core memory anyone?

    Load from paper tape, run. No disk required. Turn off power, turn on again, everything still there. Hell, in Russia they probably still have some systems like that running :) and the only temperature core memory is frightened of is the Curie point

  43. Peter Mc Aulay

    Interesting idea...

    But for many programs I *want* state to be volatile, written by the crazed crack monkeys that they are. Perhaps this OS's time has not yet come.

  44. myxiplx

    Huge potential

    Ok, this needs to hit slashdot because people here just aren't getting it. This isn't about saving '30 seconds' of boot up time, nor just taking snapshots so it's "just like hibernation". If the OS can save a consistent *incremental* memory snapshot to disk in a usable fashion, you have many benefits over current systems:

    This automatically applies to all applications, with no danger of some driver or program preventing your machine hibernating or resuming properly.

    Hibernating and resuming will be near instant, making it perfect for hand held devices, DVR's, games consoles. Heck, even thin clients would benefit from instant boot.

    Instant boot times also have huge benefits when it comes to power saving, which is a huge topic these days. Imagine a rack of servers where their boot time is fast enough that you can afford to simply power off unneeded machines under low load conditions.

    The idea has a massive amount of potential. The only question is whether he's got the ability to pull it off.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Small problem

    If this ever succeeds and all those Windows apps get ported, you're going to need a big "Re-Boot" button somewhere. Guess you could do that in software, or maybe run multiple VMs, but then you've sort of defeated the whole object of the OS (pun intended).

    Yep, error recovery is going to be the real problem. It'll be just like having a wife next to you all the time to remind you forever of all your little mistakes.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    In concept, it sounds a bit like SqueakNOS, a smalltalk VM designed to operate without an underlying OS.

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    And KeyKOS before EROS or COYOTOS in ~1987.

  48. Random Coolzip


    Sounds like if you could couple this with ZFS, you'd have a complete history of everything you do on your computer. Phantom to snapshot the changes to program state, ZFS to snapshot the disk changes, all that's missing is a big timeline with a pointer on it so you can roll your machine state back to last Friday (as in "Damnit, I know this was working when I left on Friday!...")

  49. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

    Yawn -- very old ideas reinvented

    Sorry mate, but both the core ideas in Phantom were first implemented over 35 years ago and remain in production use today:

    NO FILES: first implemented around 1970 by IBM's Future Series. FS was canned, to reappear in the late '80s as System/38 and its descendants the AS/400 and System i. These machines have no filing system, only virtual memory. File-type objects are in reality persistent in-memory tables.

    PROGRAM STATE PRESERVATION: first implemented in 1975 in the Tandem Non-Stop series of fault tolerant computers. HP's Integrity series are linear descendants. The internal state of all programs is saved and replicated every time an externally recognisable event occurs to a program, so the program can always be restarted from that point. This is better than Phantom since the replication is to another copy of the program in a separate CPU - if the active program's CPU fails the backup copy takes over seamlessly a millisecond or so later.

    Both systems maintain separation between program and data so recovery from programming errors is never more of a problem that it would be on a conventional *NIX or Windows box.

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    >just think of when you get a virus, it is permanent even if you switch off !

    Glad I'm not in Russia, would have serious frostbite from the tears right now.


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