SE Radio 88: The Singularity Research OS with Galen Hunt

Recording Venue:
Guest(s): Galen Hunt
Host(s): Markus
In this episode we talk to Galen Hunt about the Singularity research OS. Galen is the head of Microsoft’s OS Research Group and, together with a team of about 30 other researches, has built Singularity.

We started our discussion by covering the basics of Singularity: why it was designed, what the goals of the project are as well as some of the architectural foundations of Singularity: software isolated processes, contract-based channels and manifest-based programs. In this context we also looked at the role of the Spec# and Sing# programming languages and the role of static analysis tools to statically verify important properties of a singularity application.

We then looked a little bit more closely at the role of the kernel and how it is different from kernels in traditional OSes.

In a second part of the discussion we looked at some of the experiments the group did based on the OS. These include compile-time reflection, using hardware protection domains, heterogenerous multiprocessing as well as the typed assembly language

We closed the conversation with a look at some of the performance characteristics of Singularity, compatibility with traditional operating systems and a brief look at how the findings from Singularity influence product development at Microsoft.

Show Notes


Join the discussion
  • You missed your chance to ask your guest why Microsoft chose to hitch its wagon to the neo-AI-term “Singularity.” And, not a single mention of Ray Kurzweil.

    As I get old, I grow tired of re-definitions of existing terms and creations of new terms where existing ones suffice, esp. to create a false impression of originality in the minds of the uninitiated.

  • I agree, I could have asked about the history of the name.

    However, I don’t think Kurzweil is the first to use the term “singularity” (I am aware of his stuff!). I would guess physicists have used it before to describe the state of the universe right at the big bang.

    As a side note, if you google the term, the MS project shows up before Kurzweil’s Homepage 🙂

  • This was a really nice episode. It really ties together a lot of the topics that you’ve covered in an interesting way.

    By the way, Kurzweil has no ownership rights to “singularity”… I think the mathematicians have precedence there (e.g., 1/x has a singularity at x=0).

  • Singularity seems an odd name for an OS that contrives to prevent things coalescing.

    Listening to this episode (and to the one about components) brings to mind objects being held in a kind of suspension.

    Fascinating though -and make me wonder what roadblocks Sun has hit doing something similar. I downloaded JNode the other day just for the fun of seeing it boot up -but is is obviously a long way from being were Singularity appears to be

    The comments about the role of research (feeding ideas to the product inventing people rather than trying to *be* the product inventing people) fitted well with Dave Thomas’s I thought.

  • This interview reminded me a bit of the pypy project – those guys sort of come from the other side, trying to derive static information from dynamic languages.

    To my knowledge pypy has not tried to build an OS core, but they have achieved quite an impressive degree of flexibility as far as the compilation process is concerned – the same code can be deployed on a JVM, CLR, natively etc.

    check out

    — Robert Lauer.

More from this show