Boot Linux in Your Browser

One of my co-workers sent me the link to this story at Slashdot even before I had a chance to come across it in my feeds. Linux, or at least some subset, has been directly ported to JavaScript but this story is a bit different. The author is the original initiator of the QEMU project and brings that expertise to this effort.

Fabrice Bellard, the initiator of the QEMU emulator, wrote a PC emulator in JavaScript. You can now boot Linux in your browser, provided it is recent enough (Firefox 4 and Google Chrome 11 are reported to work).

Reading through the comments, Fabrice’s other accomplishments are equally astounding.

Given that this is an emulator, the possibilities are quite a bit more interesting than a direct port. Other less resource intensive operating systems could likely be made to work. I’ve been having a lively discussion with @codeshaman and @choochus on Twitter about the possibilities of coupling this with some sort of JavaScript accessible storage to make a lightweight working environment. I especially like the idea of doing so with a portable version of Firefox on a thumb drive.

The H Open has quite a few more details on the project.

French hacker Fabrice Bellard has demonstrated how JavaScript can do much more than simply animate web sites and process server data by creating a PC emulator written in the scripting language. JS/Linux emulates a 32-bit x86 compatible CPU, a programmable interrupt controller, a programmable interrupt timer and a serial port – taking just over 90 KB to do so. It lacks a mathematical co-processor and MMX commands, making it roughly on a par with a 486-compatible x86 CPU without FPU. It can, however, be used to run older Linux kernels (2.6.20), as they include an FPU emulator.

They also list more of Bellard’s considerable litany of clever hacks.

Boot Linux In Your Browser, Slashdot

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