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Making an Operating System from basic using C++

Posted by SkHacker, 01 May 2013 · 15,156 views

od operating system c++ basic from boot time
Making an Operating System from basic using C++ Introduction

Warning: Writing an Operating System can be a long and frustrating challenge - even for experienced programmers. You will find yourself trying to debug errors for hours, and then see the error right in front of your face. Writing an Operating System is a hard and worthy challenge, but don't be frightened off.

You may think that making an OS kernel is easy if you've ever programmed before. Think again. You don't have an established API or library to program with; You have to start from scratch. In this tutorial, we are going to learn about bootloaders and linkers and the basics of programming a simple Operating System. If you have never programmed before, I suggest you read some tutorials and try a few smaller projects first.
The programming language that I prefer is C. C is very portable and can be compiled to run on almost any platform, and is easy to compile and run. I am going to cut to the chase and jump right into development. Our very first step will be printing to screen. You may think you're over your head, but trust me, this isn't too painful =). Open up your favorite text editor or IDE, and create a new file called video.c. This file will contain all of our functions for writing to the screen; at least for now.
Our first function will be the classic putc. Putc is an abbreviation for put-char or character. Before you start actually writing the code, there are a few things you should keep in mind: Video memory is located at 0xB8000, and there are 16 foreground and 16 background colors. We are going to be using gray text on a black background for now, so that is 0x7. The code for each character is always stored in an even array vidmem[0]and the color fr each character is stored directly after the character vidmem[1].
/* Simple putc */
int x, y; /* Our global 'x' and 'y' */
char color; /* Our global color attribute */
void putc( unsigned char c )
  char *vidmem = (char*)0xB8000; /* pointer to video memory */
  int pos = ( y * 2 ) + x; /* Get the position */
  vidmem[pos]   = c; /* print the character */
  vidmem[pos++] = color; /* Set the color attribute */
  if (c == '\n') // newline
    x = 0;
    x += 2; // 2 bytes per char
Our next function will be puts. This function writes a message to the screen, and relies on the putc function to print each character.
int puts( char *message )
  int length;
  return length;
Next we must make a new file: main.c. No, not even operating systems can escape a main() function. This will be the startup function that will be called by the loader.
int main( void )
  puts("Hello, world!"); /* Print our welcome message */
  for(;;); /* Keep the OS running */
Down & Dirty with Assembly
If you thought any of that was hard, wait 'til you see whats next... Assembly. Ah, yes that dreaded thing that pulled itself out of the abyss. -- Wait, assembly is not that bad. It just takes time to adjust to. Create a new file, loader.asm, or whatever you want to call it.
; Loader.asm
bits 32
extern main
global start

  call main  ; Call our kernel's main() function
  cli        ; Stop interrupts (thats another article?)
  hlt        ; Stop all instructions

That certainly wasn't too bad, but that code is for a custom bootloader that's not multiboot compliant. But enough for now.
Compiling & Running
If you don't already have gcc , ld or nasm, now is the time to get them. You can either get the djgpp package or the cygwin package if you are using Windows. Here are the commands you need to use to compile you homebrew OS:

gcc -ffreestanding -fno-builtin -nostdlib -c *.c (thats main.c and video.c)
nasm -f aout loader.asm -o loader.o
ld -Ttext 0x1000 -o kernel.bin loader.o main.o video.o
And you're done! Wait, I lied. How do you intend to test it? I would recommend virtual machine software, such as Bochs or Qemu. They allow you to test your OS inside of you host operating system, be it linux or Windows. Still, I'm getting ahead of myself, we need something that will actually interface with the BIOS (Basic Input Output System) and load our kernel (BIOS->Bootloader->Loader->Kernel). Here is the code, and comments for my simple bootloader:
; tutorial bootloader based off of: http://osdever.net/tutorials/brunmar/tutorial_03.php

[BITS 16]       ; 16 bit instructions

[ORG 0x7C00]

jmp word load

                db "ONYXDISK"           ; OEM Label String
                dw 512                  ; Bytes per sector
                db 1                    ; Sectors per FAT cluster
                dw 36                   ; Resered sector count
                db 2                    ; number of FATs
                dw 224                  ; Root dir entries
                dw 2880                 ; Total Sectors
                db 240                  ; Double sided, 18 sectors per track
                dw 9                    ; Sectors per FAT
                dw 18                   ; Sectors per track
                dw 2                    ; Head count (double sided)
                dd 0                    ; Hidden sector count
        mov ah, 0               ; floppy drive reset command
        int 13h                 ; bios floppy interrupt
        or ah, ah               ; check for error code
        jnz load                ; repeat if error

        mov ax, 0
        mov es, ax
        mov bx, 0x1000          ; destination address of kernel = 0000:1000

        mov ah, 02h             ; floppy read sector command
        mov al, 02h             ; number of sectors to read
        mov ch, 0               ; cylinder
        mov cl, 02h             ; sector
        mov dh, 0               ; head
        int 13h                 ; bios floppy interrupt
        or ah, ah               ; check for error code
        jnz load                ; repeat if error

        cli                     ; Disable interrupts

        xor ax, ax
        mov ds, ax              ; Set DS-register to 0 - used by lgdt

        lgdt [gdt_desc]         ; Load the GDT descriptor

        mov eax, cr0            ; Copy the contents of CR0 into EAX
        or eax, 1               ; Set bit 0
        mov cr0, eax            ; Copy the contents of EAX into CR0

        jmp 08h:kernel_seg      ; Jump to code segment, offset clear_pipe

[BITS 32]
        mov ax, 10h             ; save data segment
        mov ds, ax              ; setup data segment
        mov ss, ax              ; setup stack segment
        mov esp, 090000h        ; move the stack pointer to 090000h

        jmp 08h:01000h          ; jump to our kernel

gdt:                    ; address for the GDT

gdt_null:               ; null Segment
        dd 0
        dd 0

gdt_code:               ; code segment, read/execute, nonconforming
        dw 0FFFFh
        dw 0
        db 0
        db 10011010b
        db 11001111b
        db 0

gdt_data:               ; data segment, read/write, expand down
        dw 0FFFFh
        dw 0
        db 0
        db 10010010b
        db 11001111b
        db 0


        dw gdt_end - gdt - 1    ; limit (size)
        dd gdt                  ; address of the GDT

times 510-($-$) db 0           ; fill up the file with zeros

        dw 0AA55h               ; boot sector identifier

Yes I'm sure that is confusing, but here is a short wrap up. When you turn on you computer, it automatically starts into real mode (16 bit mode), where you can use the BIOS to carry out certain functions like printing to the screen and reading files. Real mode has several limitations: you can only access the first 1MB of memory, and there is no protection for data. We (as OS-developers) want to switch to protected mode (32 bit mode), where you have 4GB of memory, and the aforementioned data protection. In protect mode though, you do not have access to the BIOS. Therefore, since we can't rely on the BIOS, we need to write functions for our OS to use. But back to the bootloader. The BIOS will look for a bootsector that is exactly 512 bytes (1 sector) and has 0xAA55 as the boot checksum. Then the BIOS will load our bootsector, which in turn loads our loader, which loads our OS.

Now compile our bootloader using
nasm -f bin boot.asm -o boot.bin
You should now have the files kernel.bin and boot.bin. If you are using Windows use this command:
copy /b boot.bin + kernel.bin os.img
Or on linux:
dd if=boot.bin of=os.img bs=512 count=1
dd if=kernel.bin of=os.img bs=512 seek=1
Then tell your emulator (bochs, qemu) to use that file (os.img) as a floppy disk to boot from, and you're on your way to OS Development.

  • 8

This is a lot of useful information, thanks a lot!
    • 0

Great tutorial! I acctually looked into making my own OS a while back (for fun and learning) but didn't get very far. Thanks a ton for this.

    • 0

the cygwin package is absent gcc, ld, and nasm with the advent of installation.

My understanding according to your stipulations, was that these were included.

    • 1

when carrying out "ld -Ttext 0x1000 -o kernel.bin loader.o main.o video.o"

it reports an error: loader.o file not recognized: File format not recognized.


What do you suppose could be the issue?

    • 0


you should check your code "nasm -f aout loader.asm -o loader.o" is  working properly or not

this code is used to generate the "loader.o" files.

if this code does not works properly then please check the nasm compiler.

    • 0

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