GPL not encouraging new technology

Niall Douglas ned at
Sun Dec 1 19:48:44 UTC 2002

On 1 Dec 2002 at 20:20, Marcus Brinkmann wrote:

> > Daemons no but plugins yes. The NT kernel is quite extensible eg; it
> > uses a unified namespace of which parts are provided by plugins eg;
> > pipe manager, file system etc. Technically one could do much of what
> > GNU Hurd can in NT - it's just Microsoft have chosen not to and
> > indeed seem to actively have prevented anyone knowing much about it.
> So there is your misunderstanding.  The innovation in the Hurd lies in
> the fact that users can do this extension, without asking Microsoft,
> or even the system administrator, and without compromising the
> security of the rest of the system. 

But that's not innovation - that's merely a consequence of the Hurd 
being "free" software. On a technical level, the two are capable of 
similar functionality.

> The Hurd is user extensible and
> replacable.  And that is also why it doesn't matter that the default
> personality of the Hurd is the POSIX API (it matters so far as it
> makes it possible to reuse a lot of existing software) - users who
> like another API better can just write that API and add it to the
> system, reusing as much of the existing base as possible and adding
> whatever is missing.

And indeed they'll have to in order to make serious use of the Hurd's 
facilities. In fact, you could criticise Microsoft of the same 
shortcoming because they chose to make the Win3.1 compatibility API 
the default. From what I've seen of the NT internal API's, you could 
expose a massive amount of power through them.

I agree the Hurd will eventually, in some years more from now, be an 
excellent kernel. It will however be ten years later than it could 
and perhaps should have been. It'll also be saddled with all this 
existing software using the POSIX API just as Windows is saddled with 
an ancient API. If they'd got the Hurd out five years ago, so much 
less software would be crippled this way and thus making GNU the most 
technically superior OS on the planet.

However, the whole thread of this point from me is why this didn't 
happen and I feel there are fundamental sustainability flaws in the 
"free" software ideology.

> > Very few people know that file points in NTFS can hold multiple
> > streams or run through a translator eg; reparse points which work
> > like symbolic links, or zip files appear as directories etc. I agree
> > that GNU Hurd is somewhat innovative, but it's been overtaken by
> > time and history and the fault for that, in my opinion, lies
> > squarely with the psychological consequences of free software.
> Whatever that means, I disagree ;)


Well, let me write up my views and solution a bit like 
and then we'll have a centerpiece for venting of spleen!


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