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Re: Gentoo GNU/Hurd thread in Gentoo Forums

From: olafBuddenhagen
Subject: Re: Gentoo GNU/Hurd thread in Gentoo Forums
Date: Sun, 23 Nov 2008 09:25:05 +0100
User-agent: Mutt/1.5.18 (2008-05-17)


On Sat, Nov 22, 2008 at 09:25:58AM +0200, Sergiu Ivanov wrote:

> BTW, after some pondering, I came to the conclusion that translators
> on NetBSD are not a very good sign for the Hurd community, because
> almost all PR actions Arne Babenhauserheide is undertaking are based
> on translators. If a similar technology is fully implemented on
> NetBSD, the Hurd will hardly have any other easily noted advantage
> compared to other OS. Especially taking into consideration the fact
> that NetBSD is easier to set up on a great variety of platforms.

On the contrary, I believe it would be a great benefit to the Hurd from
a PR viewpoint... But let's start at the beginning.

I think Marek's work is interesting on several levels. For one, Mach was
originally created by taking a BSD kernel, throwing out the UNIX stuff,
and implementing some generic primitives (IPC, external pager interface)
instead. Doing the same with a modern BSD kernel actually seems the most
pragmatic approach to getting a modern Mach...

Adding the Mach functionality while leaving in the UNIX stuff in place,
also seems an interesting option: It would allow playing with Hurd
stuff, while still running a mature system at the same time. In fact, we
pondered the idea of running Hurd on Linux in the past...

There are two somewhat distinct use cases for that: For one, a complete
Hurd could be run on top of some other system, as a stable base for
experimentation, without having to care about the microkernel stuff.

The other is related to the hurdish application stuff I have been
repeatedly talking about. Having a partial Hurd environment running on
top of other systems would be very helpful here I believe: It opens the
possibily of writing hurdish applications, and yet making them available
to a wider audience, by offering a way to run them on other systems as

I am deeply convinced that this would help spreading the Hurd. People
could easily test the hurdish stuff on their normal system. They could
see that these concepts really make sense -- and eventually grow a
desire to use The Real Thing, to get even more benefits.

The issue you are raising here is really a generic one. People are often
debating whether it's a good thing or a bad thing to port free software
to non-free systems for example. IHMO it's decidedly a good thing:
Inertia is the main obstacle for people to migrate to another system --
they don't want to give up their familiar environment. Being able to use
free applications while staying in the familiar environment, allows
people to get familiar with the free software by and by, and the final
move to an entirely free system will be considerably less painful.

Note that the initial success of the GNU software stemmed mostly from
the fact that GNU programs were running on all kinds of UNIX systems...

I briefly covered some of these aspects in:


One thing to note is that there are two possible approaches to running
Hurd environments on other systems: Either implement Mach facilities
right into the foreign kernels; or try to emulate the lower system
layers on top of POSIX. Especially for the second use case I mentioned
(running hurdish applications), the latter might be more convenient...


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