Pop Open a Kernel

Short Form


Ever wanted to build a simple kernel for a small computer? Curious how an OS starts and how it communicates with your keyboard and screen? Together, we'll build a simple arm kernel from scratch. No experience in assembly language or knowledge about CPU architecture is required, just some basic knowledge of C/C++ and curiosity about how things work under the hood.


A kernel is such a fundamental, and much hyped, part of an operating system, but most people don’t know how one works.
In this talk we’ll cover both the theory of kernel architecture design, and get our hands dirty tearing apart a simple one.
We’ll start by describing the jobs of a kernel, then well talk about different architectures and ways of achieving these goals.
Then we’ll look at the code from the bottom up, and describe how a kernel is compiled and linked.
Next is the boot process. We’ll get in to the gritty details of what happens once the power button is pushed, describe the boot loader, how the kernel is loaded into memory, executed, and how the first user process starts.
We’ll discuss hardware interrupts and protection rings. We’ll even have to learn a little bit of x86 assembly, but don’t be scared!
Finally we’ll take a look at multitasking, paging, and maybe file systems, and system calls if we have time.
This session will be hands on – we get to take a look at a toy kernel, boot it, watch it work and watch it fail. We’ll learn about hardware, low-level software, and algorithms for multitasking and paging.
Attendees are encouraged to have a laptop and an i486 cross compiler, but a linux VM with the necessary tools will be provided.

Speaking experience

I regularly speak at DevOps BootCamp, an OSU Open Source Lab program dedicated to teaching core software development and systems operation skills to interested OSU students and community members.
I will also be presenting this talk at Beaver BarCamp and LinuxFest Northwest in April.


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    Ian Kronquist

    OSU Open Source Lab


    an is a student at OSU and a developer at the Open Source Lab. In addition to contributing to open source he enjoys reading, cooking, and playing guitar.