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Hurd/L4 Developer Marcus Brinkmann Interviewed

CowboyNeal posted more than 9 years ago | from the papa-on-brand-new-bag dept.

GNU is Not Unix 327

wikinerd writes "A few years ago when the GNU OS was almost complete, the kernel was the last missing piece, and most distributors combined GNU with the Linux kernel. But the GNU developers continued their efforts and unveiled the Hurd in 1990s, which is currently a functioning prototype. After the Mach microkernel was considered insufficient, some developers decided to start a new project porting the Hurd on the more advanced L4 microkernel using cutting-edge operating system design, thus creating the Hurd/L4. Last February one of the main developers, Marcus Brinkmann, completed the process initialization code and showed a screenshot of the first program executed on Hurd/L4 saying 'The dinner is prepared!' Now he has granted an interview about Hurd/L4, explaining the advantages of microkernels, the Hurd/L4 architecture, the project's goals and how he started the Debian port to Hurd."

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DNF (3, Funny)

Poromenos1 (830658) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984100)

Now they can begin porting Duke Nukem: Forever!

Re:DNF (2, Funny)

ndogg (158021) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984283)

GNU is hoping to release this opposite the release of Longhorn, and 3d Realms has a deal with both GNU and Microsoft to have a port ready for both operating systems.

I can't wait!

Re:DNF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11984369)

With Perl6, Python3000 and Arc!

Re:DNF (2, Insightful)

pbranes (565105) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984428)

Fire up your Project Xanadu browser and check out the link on Hurd and DNF!!

Re:DNF (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11984461)

Who cares if a baboon is unable to administer firefox remotely? Fire the baboon, and hire a competent admin instead! Moron!

hurd is wank though (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11984101)

Seriously folks - hurd is for nerds; serious cock nonsence.

The continued splintering of OSS (4, Insightful)

spaeschke (774948) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984119)

And no, I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing. One reality of open source OSes, though, is that there are always going to be people developing The Next Big Thing, and it dilutes effort over the wider spectrum. Some of the best minds in the scene get spread far too thin under this model.

That's the difference between OSS and proprietary companies. They can focus like a laser on what they want to develop and leave a lot of the infrastructural heavy lifting to those hippy anarchists in the open source scene.

It's win-win for them, because they get the benefit of a lot of what these groups produce, and often can improve upon it (BSD --> OSX). It's like having an unpaid R&D dept. working for you 24/7.

Re:The continued splintering of OSS (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11984145)

So your theory is that Microsoft, Apple and Sun are all united together behind a single vision? Sorry to break it to you, but they're "fragmented" too. There's no more reason for all free software developers to be working on the same project than there is for all proprietary software developers to do so.

MirrorDot Mirror of Interview (0, Redundant)

tabkey12 (851759) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984159)

http://www.mirrordot.org/stories/ab33baa0ec2390357 863935709927f7e/index.html

Continued splintering of proprietary software (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11984177)

And no, I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing. One reality of proprietary OSes, though, is that there are always going to be people developing The Next Big Thing, and it dilutes effort over the wider spectrum. Some of the best minds in the scene get spread far too thin under this model e.g. Microsoft are working on Longhorn, while Apple are working on Tigger.

That's the difference between OSS and proprietary companies. They can focus like a laser on what they want to develop and leave a lot of the infrastructural heavy lifting to those conformist suits in the proprietary scene.

It's win-win for them, because they get the benefit of a lot of what these groups produce, and often can improve upon it (e.g. copying user interface design). It's like having an unpaid R&D dept. working for you 24/7.

Re:The continued splintering of OSS (3, Insightful)

spaeschke (774948) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984190)

No, not at all. You misunderstand what I'm saying. I don't think this tendency in OSS is necessarily a bad thing, either. However, look at how splintered just one branch of open source is, Linux. That's just one sect of the OSS movement, and the infighting there is legendary. Now toss in all the other Unix variants and their own subsets.

You just don't see this in the proprietary companies. Sure, they compete with each other, but within the companies themselves there's much tighter integration.

I think this has the tendency to make OSS be sort of the breeding ground for the real innovations in tech, but largely unable to provide the sort of polish that proprietary companies can. I also think it's a large part of what keeps projects like Linux, Unix, etc. from really breaking through in areas like the desktop.

It's not necessarily a bad thing, but I think to dismiss it is a mistake.

Re:The continued splintering of OSS (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11984219)

You just don't see this in the proprietary companies. Sure, they compete with each other, but within the companies themselves there's much tighter integration.

Rubbish. A proprietary company with the number of employees equal to the number of OSS developers doesn't exist, but there are smaller but still huge ones, such as IBM and Microsoft, in which the infighting is, uh, legendary.

Re:The continued splintering of OSS (3, Insightful)

Taladar (717494) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984230)

I think what "keeps Linux from breaking through in the Desktop" is mostly the fact that the people who primarily want it to break through are the ones only talking about software and the people who develop it and have the power to change it in a way to break through don't want to sacrifice their vision of a good operating system, application, ... (depending on what they develop) for mass-acceptance.

Re:The continued splintering of OSS (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11984232)

So if I start a new p[roprietary software company you won't say I'm "splintering" but if I start a new free software project then you will.

I'm not suggesting that you've said it's a bad thing. I just think that what you're saying makes no sense.

Re:The continued splintering of OSS (5, Informative)

benjcurry (754899) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984208)

This has been and always will be the essence of the OSS development structure. The illusion is that the OSS world is somehow united. The Hurd project has NOTHING to do with Linux. Or any BSD. Or Arch Linux. Or the GIMP. Just as Macromedia Dreamweaver has NOTHING to do with Frontpage. It's not splintering...they're completely different things.

Re:Focus (2, Interesting)

gr8_phk (621180) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984307)

"They can focus like a laser on what they want to develop"

Actually, the free developers are the one who focus like a laser on what they want to develop. At a Big Dumb Company(tm) the developers may not focus as sharply as the "decision makers". Here, the decisions are made by the developers and hence there is better focus on the goals. If it were universally agreed what the goal should be, everyone would focus. Since it's not a given, people will latch onto things others may think are unnecessary. My own experience shows that most people will not be convinced that an alternative is better until you show them. That means those interested in the Hurd must build it and show the rest of you. Only then should we decide.

Focus-Academia. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11984365)

"My own experience shows that most people will not be convinced that an alternative is better until you show them."

And hence academic research. Like Xerox Parc.

Re:The continued splintering of OSS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11984407)

The GNU Hurd was well underway, doing everything a little bit different from UNIX (remember: GNU's not UNIX), when the Linux kernel came along, doing everything in the traditional UNIX way. So I'd say that Linux splintered free software - and I'm glad it dit, because it completed GNU long before it would have been completed by the Hurd, and by its success made many coders interested in free software that would not have been otherwise.

Re:The continued splintering of OSS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11984417)

> That's the difference between OSS and
> proprietary companies. They can focus like a laser
> on what they want to develop and leave a lot of
> the infrastructural heavy lifting to those hippy
> anarchists in the open source scene.

Yea, and they focus on their next best thing instead of fixing the bugs in the release work.

Question for Marcus (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11984124)

Hi Marcus,

How many people do you think will submit questions thinking that this is a Slashdot interview?

Ho ho (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11984126)

I'm sorry, but I find this funny.

1. "the GNU OS was almost complete, the kernel was the last missing piece" -- what?! The operating system is almost complete, oh, apart from the whole thing that does the operating of your computer of course.

2. "unveiled the Hurd in 1990s, which is currently a functioning prototype" -- so, ~15 years (fifteen years!) later, it's still a "functioning" prototype!?

I really hope that they have the last laugh.

But Unix is 30+ years old. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11984416)

2. "unveiled the Hurd in 1990s, which is currently a functioning prototype" -- so, ~15 years (fifteen years!) later, it's still a "functioning" prototype!?

Operating systems develop slowly in their core design and philosophy, and that's no bad thing.

Linux literally exploded into existence, but its design is 80% identical to that of original Unixes so it enjoyed the immense benefits of inherent architectural stability. Linux knows where it's going, but the horizons surrounding the Hurd are very fuzzy indeed. It will take time.

GNU (5, Interesting)

bcmm (768152) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984166)

GNU made most of the core programs that Linux normally uses, and they are universally considered excellent. So why is it so hard for them to make a kernel?

Is it just loss of interest after Linux became popular?

Re:GNU (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11984199)

Is it just loss of interest after Linux became popular?

Partly, yes. Also the HURD project tried to explore new ground, Linux just copied what already worked. Not criticizing either there, that's just the way it was.

Re:GNU (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11984231)

Is it just loss of interest after Linux became popular?

That, and I also seem to recall that they faced a choice: write a quick and dirty monolithic kernel, or write a much more complex (but theoretically more advanced, secure, robust, etc.) set of servers running on top of a microkernel. Linux came onto the scene and provided the former, so the GNU kernel folks decided to work on the latter. The latter, of course, being HURD.

That's my simplistic take on things from what I've read in the past, anyway.

Re:GNU (1)

Vlad_the_Inhaler (32958) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984303)

According to that other posting [slashdot.org] to this story, Hurd was already in development when Linus first asked for help developing his new OS.

Re:GNU (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11984469)

Have you read the great debate? [oreilly.com] I don't think Linus would agree that the decision to use a monolithic kernel was driven by scarcity of development resources and time to market type thinking.

Re:GNU (4, Informative)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984239)

I dont think so, because the Hurd was under development for quite a few years before Linux became popular. Personally, I think the GNU philosophy works excellently for individual programmers working on their own individual projects (as the gnu toolchain shows) but a lot of the larger projects that Gnu has been involved in have stagnated sooner or later. It took a complete fork to kickstart GCC into version 3, the Hurd has had its core architecture changed multiple times so personally I think that the 'group' is more at fault than lack of interest etc.

Oh boy, is this comment going down to -1 or what.

Re:GNU (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11984293)

I think it's down to three things.

Firstly, Linux gained critical mass and became the "defacto" kernel for GNU. The network effect is not to be sneezed at.

Secondly, they started off with the Mach microkernel and then switched to the L4 microkernel, which meant lots of rewriting.

Thirdly, they seem to suffer from second-system effect [catb.org] - with the user-space utilities, they had to duplicate the workings exactly, but they had more freedom to do what they liked in the kernel internals.

Re:GNU (1, Redundant)

pr0nbot (313417) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984319)

GNU made most of the core programs that Linux normally uses, and they are universally considered excellent. So why is it so hard for them to make a kernel?

Most of the team left in the mid-90s to work on Duke Nukem Forever.

Re:GNU (2, Interesting)

CondeZer0 (158969) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984403)

> GNU made most of the core programs that Linux normally uses, and they are universally considered excellent
In my universe [bell-labs.com] they are considered junk; that BTW, is the same "universe" of the inventors of Unix and C(and many other things).

RMS and GNU never understood Unix and the Unix philosophy, and it shows; they can't code in C either, take a look at the source of gnu-core-utils some day... I did it, and I'm still recovering from the trauma. And gcc and other gnu "tools" are not better.

The only original "contribution" GNU did to Unix was info, a documentation system so hideous that even most GNU zealots don't use it.

Re:GNU (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11984454)

Well, the GNU people were mainly lispers at heart. See the unix haters's handbook for lisper opinion of unix...

If only Plan 9 were true, DFSG-Free open source and GPL compatible, eh?

Re:GNU (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11984531)

Yes, plan 9 people don't seem to realise it, but
this http://plan9.bell-labs.com/plan9dist/license.html [bell-labs.com] remains the single largest barrier to wider plan 9 adoption, not any technical issue.

Re:GNU (1)

dodell (83471) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984677)

Bullshit. People don't use plan 9 for a variety of reasons, and the license is not one of them. Some reasons why:

Plan 9 is not advertised in thousands of magazines, websites, movies, tv shows, etc.

Plan 9 is not UNIX and it's not very UNIX-like either. If you're familiar with UNIX concepts, you'll probably have to ditch most of them to figure out how Plan 9 works.

The Web is not Plan 9 compatible.

Plan 9 isn't made for everyday desktop use, ``surfing the net'' or really most things that you /.ers do.

People are adverse to the UI.

People try to change Plan 9 and do not like the adverse reactions they get from the user base.

People try to change Plan 9 and get lost without a standard C library.

People try to change Plan 9 and then it's not Plan 9 anymore.

I can keep going, but I think this covers some of the larger reasons. Who cares about the license?

Re:GNU (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11984650)

You, are aware the plan9 license has changed, FSF has withdrawn theit
objectives to the license ?

(of course you are not , this is /. after all. Long live FUD)

Re:GNU (2, Insightful)

CondeZer0 (158969) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984693)

The Plan 9 license is "OSI approved(Open Source), and accepted by FSF and RMS as Free Software [fsf.org] ; what more do you want?

If that is not enough, complain to Lucent [mailto] with a clear explanation of why the LPL is not good enough for you.

Re:GNU (2, Insightful)

say (191220) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984561)

take a look at the source of gnu-core-utils some day... I did it, and I'm still recovering from the trauma. And gcc and other gnu "tools" are not better.

Uhm... you're saying that the gnu tools and projects should be assessed by their coding style? Who cares what the "unix philosophy" of coding style is? The tools should obviously be assessed by how they work and mimic the original tools - and as far as I know, they are "up there" with the commercial unices. Gcc is far better than any compiler from the old days of unix.

And how do you know, by the way, how the commercial unices are coded?

Remember: GNU's not unix. It's GNU. It works. Pretty up the source if you'd like to, no-one cares.

Re:GNU (2, Interesting)

anothy (83176) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984664)

in my experience, both in Bell Labs and elsewhere, anyone with experience on "real" unixes thinks the GNU tools are second-rate at best. their coding ability isn't the primary issue (although there are certainly questions there); it is, as you said, their lack of understanding of the philosophy. at least the BSD folks, who got many things wrong in their own derivative works, understood the fundamental philosophy (mostly) of Unix.

to be fair, GNU and Linux have made some very significant, very positive contributions. but with one or two exceptions, they are not in code. GNU and LInux are interesting for sociological/political reasons. they are not scientifically interesting.

HURD does, at least, have some interesting ideas in it. of course, most of them got there because Plan 9 [bell-labs.com] had them, wasn't open source, and RMS wanted access to them. now that it is just use the real thing [bell-labs.com] .

Re:GNU (1)

Hard_Code (49548) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984476)

Because GNU tools were largely a copy of existing unix software? Operating systems involve lots of very uninteresting work like driver development and debugging, so unless you reach a critical mass of acceptance, you can't get very far. Plus, Linux and other free operating systems have poached a lot of the talent I presume. Who wants to write a driver for Hurd when a driver for Linux will make you rich and famous and get girls (haha).

Re:GNU (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11984556)

a driver for Linux will make you rich and famous and get girls

Dunno about rich and famous, but many of the linux developers (including Linus) are married (married with kids even, like Linus).

It's gamer weenies and microsoft VB monkeys I've met that most usually fit the stereotypical "smelly geek in mother's basement" image.

Re:GNU (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11984667)

They chose to build a pure microkernel based OS. That's non-trivial.

Linus Torvalds (4, Funny)

rbarreira (836272) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984170)

Does anyone remember this quote from Linus Torvald's first announcement [google.com] of his pet project "Linux"?

I can (well, almost) hear you asking yourselves "why?". Hurd will be out in a year (or two, or next month, who knows), and I've already got minix. This is a program for hackers by a hacker. I've enjouyed doing it, and somebody might enjoy looking at it and even modifying it for their own needs. It is still small enough to understand, use and modify, and I'm looking forward to any comments you might have.

This was in 1991...

Re:Linus Torvalds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11984382)

All very funny, but Debian/HURD has been out for years
now. It is a bit crappy due to a Mach/HURD braindead
"let's map the entire filesystem into memory space" design decision (a stupid "nobody will every have a harddrive bigger than 1Gig" sort of thing, back in the 80s/90s), but it is and has been for some time a fully functional and usable OS compared to most flash-in-the-pan OS kernel projects that aren't slagged off so much.

i.e. You can download and install it now, if you want.

Yes but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11984409)

> This was in 1991...
> > Hurd will be out in a year

Yes, but they didn't specify what kind of years.
Here on Uranus, one year is 17.9 earth years, so HURD should be out Real Soon Now on earth.

Of course, if they counted in dog years on Uranus, you'd have to wait a bit longer....

Re:Yes but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11984420)

> Of course, if they counted in dog years on Uranus,
> you'd have to wait a bit longer....

You let dogs near Uranus? That stinks!;-)

Re:Linus Torvalds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11984538)

I don't know about junk (trying to keep from getting modded down on GNU/Slashdot) but the GNU "swiss army chainsaw" approach to UNIX utilities certainly
is different from the class (and elegant) UNIX approach of one program for one function.

Having said that, the GNU folks did do one thing right -- they lifted the arbitrary limits found in some classic UNIX programs on the amount of data/number of lines you could process.

Doesn't matter, either way GNU/Hurd is going to see about as much adoption as Plan 9 (a lovely OS) or Inferno. So you guys are closer than you think, but for very different reasons.

Hell, I'd take a Plan 9 media center setup over this mix of Linux (oh GNU/Excuse GNU/me, GNU/Linux) or Mickeysoft stuff any day. Lighterweight, faster, etc, etc.

Missing piece? (5, Funny)

Jovian_Storm (862763) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984179)

The kernel is the last missing piece? What's the first piece, an integrated browser?

Re:Missing piece? (5, Funny)

rhymesmith (528299) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984206)

The kernel is the last missing piece? What's the first piece, an integrated browser?

Yes, they named it emacs

Re:Missing piece? (4, Funny)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984393)

nah, Emacs was a pretty good operating system, it would have taken over the world faster than Linux, if only it had a decent text editor...

Mirror (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11984220)

No ppp for Hurd? Why not? (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11984222)

How come Hurd doesn't offer ppp? Seems a little arrogant of them. I installed Hurd on an old laptop just for kicks, but when I discovered no ppp, I said this is really useless to me.

Zot. Buh-bye Hurd.

And how long have they been working on this? (0, Flamebait)

Noose For A Neck (610324) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984226)

What a waste of time. What are they trying to accomplish by still working on the HURD? Linux has already far surpassed it in every catagory (hardware support, software support, usability, performance, etc.) and is just as Free as the HURD, so what gives?

On the other hand, I guess I'm not the only one of this mind, as it obviously wouldn't have taken 20 years to get to the point where a program can finally run on it if everybody else with development skills didn't also believe it a total waste of their time.

Re:And how long have they been working on this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11984271)

Noose writes:
"Linux has already far surpassed it in every catagory"
No kidding. I always wondered how Hurd does with MP systems. You know, Mach and all that. Well, well, well ... it turns out that the version of Mach chosen by the Hurd crew CAN'T DO MP. What a frigging laugh. So I guess Linux wins this category by default.

Idiot. Hurd's now on L4. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11984367)

If you don't want to RTFA, you could at least read the Slashdot intro.

Re:And how long have they been working on this? (5, Funny)

Ralph Yarro (704772) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984290)

What a waste of time. What are they trying to accomplish by still working on the HURD?

Be fair: let us all know what you do in your spare time so we can sneer at you too.

Re:And how long have they been working on this? (4, Insightful)

m50d (797211) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984337)

It's theoretically going to be much better. Revolutionarily so in fact. This is a deliberate design decision since the rise of linux: loads of experimental, potential "next big thing" ideas are going into hurd. Linux works, so hurd is trying to make something that's much better, rather than slapping together a working kernel and worrying about the architecture later which is what linux does.

Re:And how long have they been working on this? (4, Insightful)

marvin2k (685952) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984400)

"It's theoretically going to be much better."

This is why so many projects fail. They try too hard to create a mythical overdesigned piece of software that "works in theory" rather than create something that works and then improve it from there.

Re:And how long have they been working on this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11984421)

Amen, brother. I get the feeling that it will be another 20 years before we get a new progress report from the Hurd.

Re:And how long have they been working on this? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11984626)

Reminds me of the joke about the new bride who's thinking about getting an annulment for her marriage to a computer engineer.... "Every night he just sits on the edge of the bed telling me how great it's going to be."

Re:And how long have they been working on this? (4, Insightful)

say (191220) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984643)

This is why so many projects fail. They try too hard to create a mythical overdesigned piece of software that "works in theory" rather than create something that works and then improve it from there.

Ah, the grand old dispute between academics and business people. Linux wouldn't have existed without some quite theoretic early approaches (Babbage, Turing, von Neumann). After all - who cared about the early computers like Babbage's analytical engine? An abacus would be much faster for all relevant computations!

Without theoretic deep-dives like HURD, we would never know if microkernels are a possibility or not. Because it hasn't been proved to work yet. The HURD theorists suggest that microkernels are better than monolithic kernels. Let them explore it, make prototypes, and then someone will make a working kernel to play Duke Nukem Forever on.

Remember: a lot of research just discovers uselessness. It is important to know what's useless, so no-one have to take that path.

Re:And how long have they been working on this? (1)

benjcurry (754899) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984695)

Well..it's important to have people out there trying to apply these theories...even if they fail. Otherwise, progress wouldn't happen.

Re:And how long have they been working on this? (3, Insightful)

bani (467531) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984362)

Think of it more like OS research. Lessons learned from HURD can be applied to *BSD and Linux. Some already have.

Almost everyone who has started with a "pure" microkernel design has eventually moved away from it for performance and other reasons.

Many of the problems HURD was trying to address have either become irrelevant, determined to be non-issues, or have been solved. (The same can be said of things like IA64 or SPARC).

There are still interesting ideas in HURD that deserve research. However if they intend to challenge the enormous momentum behind *BSD and Linux, HURD is going to have to offer some truly astounding functionality / killer app or few people are going to use it.

Re:And how long have they been working on this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11984415)

Think of it as a university project for people who are old to go back for a PhD. And its probably better than most of the projects being handed out at the big labs like Microsoft Research.

I also think of Mono the same way. Actually, I'm a bit jealous... what a great idea for that!

Re:And how long have they been working on this? (5, Informative)

xbsd (814561) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984388)

What a waste of time. What are they trying to accomplish by still working on the HURD? Linux has already far surpassed it in every catagory (hardware support, software support, usability, performance, etc.) and is just as Free as the HURD, so what gives?

On the other hand, I guess I'm not the only one of this mind, as it obviously wouldn't have taken 20 years to get to the point where a program can finally run on it if everybody else with development skills didn't also believe it a total waste of their time.


From the interview:

Security and stability are tightly related issues, and they are major motivations for any microkernel based system. However, we feel that security does not need to translate to loss of freedom. With a bit of extra trouble, you can be secure and even increase the freedom of the user. This is what we want to do.

In the Hurd, the operating system is implemented as a set of servers, and each runs in its own address space. Of course there are some essential system services which better not crash, or the system will reboot immediately as a last attempt to salvage the situation. But for many other services, a crash is not fatal. If a filesystem server crashes (except for the root filesystem), you can just restart it (or it is restarted automatically by the system). Dead-locks require manual interaction, and you will have to kill the hanging server to remove it from the system and release associated resources.

The Hurd achieves its stability and security by protocols between components that require no mutual trust. So, although a user can add their own filesystem to the filesystem hierarchy, and the parent filesystem will redirect accesses through such a mount point to the user's filesystem, there is nothing the user's filesystem can do that can affect the rest of the system in a bad way. The Hurd servers are written in a way to assume the worst from a communication partner, namely that it is malicious, as an implication you get fault-tolerance for free.

Re:And how long have they been working on this? (1)

Vhata (530820) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984410)

It's not about making a kernel that works - if it was, then, yes, Linux has done that. This is about the benefits of microkernel architectures, as opposed to monolithic kernels.

If nothing else, the HURD development will pave the way for other microkernels in the future. And they will come - you don't think we'll be running the Linux kernel for ever, do you?

Re:And how long have they been working on this? (0, Offtopic)

HawkingMattress (588824) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984419)

I for one tend to think that Unix needs a major revamp if it wants to stay there in the years to come. It still works, it's clearly stuck in the past, and will die if it doesn't evolve. And as it is, it can hardly evolve... A microkernel is one step in the good direction.
But imho what is highly needed is to totally rethink Unix, remake it with the knowledge and insights we've gained in all those years. For example, it needs a real OO paradigm at the bottom of it. You can say what you want about OOP, but it's totally crazy to think having an OS today which isn't based on it. It is so much needed that C programmers reinvent it to make their software extensible, without realizing it. Anf of course, each one reinvent his own wheel. Then they go out and bitch about OOP...

Let's keep Unix simplicity, but have the simplicity be a layer on top of an extensible OOP paradigm. Or just let it die while others easily evolve...

Genera. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11984739)

Been there, done that. [tu-harburg.de]

Hurd: DOA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11984738)

Ahh... The sounds of trolls grumbling from deep in their caves.

Hurd is not DOA.

This can be said definitively for two reasons:

First, after whatever interminably long length of time, it's still under development and still being discussed. The project has not flat-lined yet. There's still tremendous interest in it; evidenced by two stories about it here, on Slashdot, in the past two months.

Second, everyone saying it's dead on arrival miss the point entirely. Universally, they scream, "Why bother, Linux is here and it works!" They talk of it, casting it as another David & Goliath fight, pitting Hurd against Linux. People, that's not the point of it at all.

The current interest in it is as a _research_ project. The FSF goal of implementing a free alternative to licensed software has been proven possible. Has it all been done under the banner of GNU? No, but it has been done under the banner of Debian, Red Hat, Mandrake, Gentoo, etc, etc, etc. Stallman's dream is alive and well; to say that his gift has to live and operate under three specific letters in the name is a restrictive triviality. The point is his dream lives and operates under a license colloquially known by three specific letters: GPL.

--jlm

When are they gonna let this go (0, Flamebait)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984249)

A project started in 1983 and only now starting to show any signs of deliverables! Just let it go. It might be a cool idea but it should be pretty obvious by now there is little or no intrest in it if 20 years of development have only gotten this far.

Re:When are they gonna let this go (0, Flamebait)

mattyrobinson69 (751521) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984280)

not far off now! if they can make a program run for more than 5 minutes, they've far suppassed windows 98.

Re:When are they gonna let this go (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11984427)

Debian/HURD was "delivered" years ago, but due to limitations of Mach, was underwhelming. It was and is a fully functional OS, though. This new article is "We've gotten rid of our ancient Mach stuff and have ported to L4 which sucks less".

Theoretically, HURD servers could be ported to a cut down and modified for efficient message passing linux, even, though I don't think anyone has bothered to date.

But lessons from HURD design have been applied to various aspects of linux. The project is not a waste of time. Linux still doesn't have comparably powerful filesystems to HURD (or Plan9 or even AmigaOS...), though unionfs is slowly getting there. Without those that went before, linux would likely have made all the mistakes they made.

And hey, GRUB was written to suppot HURD needs, primarily. If it hadn't been for that, we'd all still be stuck with LILO :-)

My advice to the Hurd herd. (1, Insightful)

theolein (316044) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984250)

It's the device drivers, stupid!*

*The Hurd will go the way of other exotic and unused operating systems if these people continue to sit in their little dream castles and plan for world domination. It's like trying to row a Viking longboat without oars, trying to grill meat without a fork, or more to the taste of our slashdot crowd, trying to masturbate with one's hands tied behind one's back.

Re:My advice to the Hurd herd. (0)

spaeschke (774948) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984274)

trying to masturbate with one's hands tied behind one's back.
Ah, the dream of all mankind. I think this is why guys take up yoga.

Re:My advice to the Hurd herd. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11984315)

My advice to you would be to learn a little about what it is you are criticising. A layer that uses Linux device drivers is being developed. STFU about "little dream castles", ignoramus.

Re:My advice to the Hurd herd. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11984321)

It's like . . . trying to masturbate with one's hands tied behind one's back.

You do that too?!

Re:My advice to the Hurd herd. (0)

Keruo (771880) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984445)

Only reason why I'm using linux on my desktop instead windows or solaris is that it's the only system that currently has working drivers and software for my tv-tuner card.
Device drivers matter alot, atleast to me.

My opinion on this whole thing... (1)

agraupe (769778) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984302)

I have no idea why Linux became more popular in the first place, considering that there was already BSD and the HURD, but it's current popularity has pretty much killed any chance HURD had. BSD still has enough adherants that it can be continuously developed, but HURD never did. All the programmers who a) have the expertise required and b) are willing to work for free, are working on either Linux or BSD. I think HURD offers interesting possibilities, but I don't think a stable HURD will ever see the light of day. The fact is, Linux is a free kernel, it works well, has reasonable driver support, and is here now. That will be a big obstacle for HURD to overcome.

Re:My opinion on this whole thing... (1)

tommasz (36259) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984354)

BSD has at least the tradition and mindset of the Berkley distributions behind it and carries a different approach to security than Linux does (out of the box). But the various BSDs have always been behind in hardware support. Not a big deal for those seeking a stable server platform, but almost totally fatal for most desktop users. HURD is likely to be as behind or moreso than BSD, couple that with the lack of anything compelling about it other than the philosophy and you've got nothing more than a curiosity.

Re:My opinion on this whole thing... (1)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984571)

I have no idea why Linux became more popular in the first place, considering that there was already BSD and the HURD,

Linux became more popular than the HURD because it was ready and it worked. Linux became more popular than BSD because of combination of factors, including the distaste of some people for the BSD licence (the commercial-forks allowance in particular), and uncertainty about its copyright status while the AT&T suit was still pending.

Re:My opinion on this whole thing... (1)

say (191220) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984585)

but it's current popularity has pretty much killed any chance HURD had

I really doubt it. If linux hadn't been such a success in '91, my guess is that the GNU project as a whole would have been dead. HURD might have been in a more "finished" state, but it would still have fewer users than it will get when it eventually is released.

I think F/OSS would be marginal without linux. Now it's mainstream. That benefits all F/OSS projects.

Re:My opinion on this whole thing... (1)

nagora (177841) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984631)

I have no idea why Linux became more popular in the first place, considering that there was already BSD

The license. If I'm going to do work for Apple and Microsoft, they can damn well pay me or at least give me a copy of the end product.

As to HURD: who ever cared?

TWW

Does anyone else think it's funny... (0, Offtopic)

xanatos367 (301885) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984330)

Does anyone else think its funny that every time he mentions linux he says "GNU/Linux", but he never once says "GNU/Hurd"?

Re:Does anyone else think it's funny... (1)

quamaretto (666270) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984372)

There is a pretty simple reason for that... The idea behind this naming scheme is credit given where credit is due. Linus and co. created Linux, GNU created the GNU stuff (gcc/bash/utils). Thus, GNU/Linux.


But the HURD is by GNU people, so you don't need to have any other credit given when you're mainly packaging it with the GNU tools.


Not that I call it GNU/Linux anyway. It cleaerly ought to be "GNUlix".

Re:Does anyone else think it's funny... (1)

xanatos367 (301885) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984516)

Yeah, though I don't really agree with it, I understand the arguement to call linux "GNU/Linux", but... To the uninformed reader, if you saw an article refering to "Hurd" (or Hurd/L4) and "GNU/Linux", how many people do you think would come to the conclusion that Hurd WAS a GNU project and Linux was NOT a GNU project?

Re:Does anyone else think it's funny... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11984655)

Actually, I think GNU+Linux is now preferred even by RMS over GNU/Linux.

Problem is, RMS started using /. However, he (and I) grew up in a time when "/" had not "won" as a separator for super directories and sub directories in hierarchical filesystems (even microsoft utilities apart from some legacy DOS command line ones tend to accept / instead of \ for web-compatibility). In his day, if the file system was hierarchical* at all, it was just as likely to use a>b>c or a;b;c for paths as a/b/c .

So, with his usual asperger-style naivete, I don't think he intended the "master/slave" BDSM relationship that the younger generation read into "GNU/Linux" based on hierarchical filsystem path syntax and took as some sort of insult. When it was pointed out to him, he switched to GNU+Linux.

After all, in natural english, it's still quite common to write "Must go to gym tuesday/thursday/saturday" - this means go on tuesday AND thursday AND saturday (or sometimes OR, depending on the person), not that tuesday is somehow more important than thursday.

* which I think is an evolutionary dead end, but that's another story

Re:Does anyone else think it's funny... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11984690)

It cleaerly ought to be "GNUlix".

How about liGNUx?

Re:Does anyone else think it's funny... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11984378)

Does anyone else think its funny that every time he mentions linux he says "GNU/Linux", but he never once says "GNU/Hurd"?
Not really, seeing as Linux isn't GNU, while Hurd is GNU.

Good thing (2, Interesting)

Skiron (735617) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984331)

You can't get 'too many' open source kernels. All right, the HURD is old, and development is slow. But at least it is another choice.

Consider the alternative if GNU project wasn't started by RMS... even Linux wouldn't have been around...

Good thing-Linus, I'm not your father. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11984404)

"Consider the alternative if GNU project wasn't started by RMS... even Linux wouldn't have been around..."

His parents will be surprised to hear that.

Re:Good thing-Linus, I'm not your father. (1)

Skiron (735617) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984430)

You may mock - but GCC was the only *free* compiler around that Linus could use, plus the GNU tools (bash, grep etc. etc.).

Re:Good thing-Linus, I'm not your father. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11984480)

Well, technically, there were other free-as-in-beer
compilers around at the time, at least. Though mostly
on the Amiga in europe (e.g. DICE C by Matt Dillon now of Dragonfly BSD - Dragonfly is basically an attempt to merge the good bits of AmigaOS and BSD), but Linus was in europe at the time, with
just had a crappy PC instead of an Amiga (this was before amiga stagnated and PC leapt ahead through brute force)

If he'd had an amiga OTOH, he probably wouldn't have felt an urge to write a better OS.

A day late, a dollar short... (0, Troll)

flajann (658201) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984342)

What a wasted effort. Hurd is not likely to go anywhere, and what would be the point? I'd much rather see that effort used to enhance Linux with more drivers and applications.

Oh well, some people are born to lose.

Re:A day late, a dollar short... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11984352)

What a wasted effort. Hurd is not likely to go anywhere, and what would be the point? I'd much rather see that effort used to enhance Linux with more drivers and applications.

Now I've seen everything. Flajann accusing other people of wasted effort. Like Flajann has ever done anything worth while.

Re:A day late, a dollar short... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11984386)

So by your reasoning, Linux was a waste of effort as he already had Minix!

Grow up child. Linux sucks.

L4 on Linux (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11984396)

There's a link on the L4Ka [l4ka.org] site to a port [l4ka.org] of the linux kernel to the L4Ka architecture, with a pleasingly higher ratio of the frequency of the words "cvs" to "advanced".

(and what's with "now he has granted an interview..."? is he the pope?)

Mirokernel Linux? (3, Interesting)

Jovian_Storm (862763) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984525)

While we're on the topic of microkernels, wouldn't it be a good idea to gradually make the linux kernel less monolithic, finally turning it into a nifty microkernel based OS? Is there anything going on in this direction?

Special Request to the Tech Press (2, Funny)

Ohreally_factor (593551) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984610)

Could you please stop interviewing him and let Marcus get back to work? If you keep interviewing him, we're never going to see Hurd in a usable state.

the killer feature of HURD (4, Interesting)

cies (318343) | more than 9 years ago | (#11984742)

i see many opst here and i wonder if y'all know that HURD has a key feature, namely:

>>it should become possible to replace a running kernel

in other words NEVER REBOOT AGAIN!

in practise this is still hard to accomplish: but at least people are working on it. and yes, to implement this takes time.

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