Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn


A few weeks ago, I mentioned that one of the would-be successors to Unix, GNU HURD, reached some milestones tied to involvement by the Debian project: they decided to make a Debian HURD distro. This is not unusual for the Debian project, and they similarly have a distro combining the Debian/Linux userland with the FreeBSD kernel. Debian HURD is more important, in that HURD has not, to this date, had a particularly usable or polished release, and it's been installable in the same way Plan9 is installable: requiring moderate geekery and willingness to rough it. I installed HURD into VirtualBox, and here are my experiences with it over the last few weeks:

The installer was pretty much the standard Debian installer. The package selection was more narrow than Debian normally offers; this is because Debian has only ported about half of their normal packages over to HURD. Partition names are different than what I'd expect under Linux (/dev/hd0s5 is my swap partition), but nothing unreasonable.

There are some systems things that don't work (no dmesg, and df can't read /etc/vfstab so it won't work in summary mode). I suspect many of these will be fixed or are things that Unix people will just need to get used to.

On the GUI front, X11 works (once one changes some permissions things to let users start X), but firefox is broken and libnotify is absent (so no GNOME). WindowMaker is fine.

The compiler works, and things generally look and feel like Unix. The filesystem layer is capable of neat tricks (nothing FUSE couldn't do though, as far as I can see). There are some other, more fundamental changes to the environment under which HURD programs operate (adding/removing privileges at runtime without making arrangements beforehand, running under multiple UIDs, etc), but I haven't yet learned enough to do anything useful with them (I suspect some of this might be handlable by exotic things like AFS+Kerberos in a normal Unix environment, but awkwardly).

I would not install Debian HURD onto a desktop until a browser works, but once that's fixed, it'd probably be usable as a general Unix distro.

(one thing I've noticed which may be a VirtualBox-HURD interaction: it spends a minute or two looking for SCSI devices every time it boots, and it's not clear that it has not hung while doing this)

For the brave or virtual, here is a link to where you c get a CD-ISO of HURD.

There's a hurricane coming. So far, it's not been remarkable except it's been raining for hours without end, although I understand more exciting times are theoretically ahead.

I'll be in Pittsburgh from Tuesday to Friday of next week!


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