What do to about BitKeeper and the Linux Kernel (was: BitKeeper licence critic)

Jeroen Dekkers jeroen at dekkers.cx
Fri Mar 8 23:14:18 UTC 2002

On Fri, Mar 08, 2002 at 10:44:50PM +0000, MJ Ray wrote:
> Jeroen Dekkers <jeroen at dekkers.cx> wrote:
> > IMHO Linux is already a high-profile snub for Free Software and GNU.
> Why?  Without it, GNU softwares would not have as many users as they do.
> > The whole BK thing is just another reason to dislike Linux for
> > me. (Most of the other reasons are technical)
> If you're talking general about the microkernel vs hybrid-monolithic, isn't
> that debate still open?  In *theory* micro should win, but in practice, most
> of the successful ones are hybrids at the moment.

If you mean with "hybrid" a monolithic kernel with modules, that's
still monolithic. Even a single server running on a microkernel is
monolithic. The Hurd is a multi-server system, giving each server its
own process. This gives you stability, security and makes it easier to
debug it.

> If you're talking about general crap in some of the code, then I'm sure
> certain pieces of GNU software can be found to have the same...

Oh yes, GNU tar for example. Also gnumach is very old and ugly code in
a lot of places. But the Hurd itself is really clean, as is glibc.
> > I would also like to warn you that the current version of the Hurd
> > isn't really useful in a production environment. There are going to
> > happen big changes in the near future which would really improve the
> > system.
> I guess this is why there aren't more users.  Can you point me to a good
> starting point for finding out more, warts and all?

It's a chicken-and-egg problem. We don't have enough manpower to
really get the Hurd in a good state and people aren't going to
use/develop it because of the problems.
I suggest you start with http://hurd.gnu.org and if you want to
install the Hurd you should read http://www.debian.org/ports/hurd
(note however that we are going to recompile the whole archive because
of a libc ABI change, we haven't build packages for months). There is
not very much documentation, but at least the code is well commented.

> > Our biggest problem is manpower [...]
> Well, it is difficult to help without a system to help on.  Does there exist
> something similar to Xnest or User Mode Linux to test on?  Can any of the
> virtual machine solutions host it?  Are there people in experience in
> running it like that?

Yes, we already had that from the beginning, it's part of the Hurd's
design. Because the Hurd runs in user-space on a microkernel, you can
just start a subhurd using the boot program. You can debug the Hurd
servers with gdb just like any other program. You also don't need any
special rights to start a Hurd server, you can just do it as a normal

The Hurd also runs in bochs. The last time I tried it didn't work on
plex86, I will try to get it working as soon as I've time to do it.

Jeroen Dekkers
Jabber supporter - http://www.jabber.org Jabber ID: jdekkers at jabber.org
Debian GNU supporter - http://www.debian.org http://www.gnu.org
IRC: jeroen at openprojects
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