The Hurd

phil hunt philh at
Tue Mar 19 13:35:56 UTC 2002

On Monday 18 March 2002 11:54 pm, Marcus Brinkmann wrote:
> On Mon, Mar 18, 2002 at 07:38:57PM +0100, Eneko Lacunza wrote:
> > 	Don't you see that the GNU system has been greatly helped by Linux?
> > Linux helped it with more testing, more popularity, more developers...
> This remains to be seen.  The FSF almost was diminished to irrelevance
> by the growth rate of "Linux" (actually GNU/Linux), and although many
> people started to use the system 

Indeed; therefore more users for GNU software. Thanks almost entirely
to the popularity of GNU/Linux distributions, the GNU GPL is now the
mnost-copied dopcument in the world -- more copies of it exist than 
the Bible and Koran put together.

>(and some contributed back to it),

The number of people contributing to free software has greatly increased
in the last 5 years, due to the popularity of Linux, and the ease of
collaborating over the net.

> > 	And what? This is (maybe) a sad thing, but I think that Linux has
> > done an excelent work.
> I think he could have done a much better job. 

You are welcome to write a better kernel yourself :-)

> Don't get me wrong, this
> is not to diminish the job Linux developers have done.  But maybe this
> gives you some ideas:  Linux has poor code reusage. 

Yes, Linux isn't perfect. What large piece of software in production
use, and hacked on by many people, is?

Linux is "good enough".

> Heck, they can't
> even reuse their own code from one kernel version to the next (even
> between minor versions).  This would be all dandy if it would only be
> their problem, but it effects other projects just as well, like the C
> library, and all kernel specific software that relies on the exposed
> interfaces.  This is actually a two-fold problem.  On the one hand,
> external interfaces change in an incompatible way, and on the other
> hand, internal interfaces change dramatically.  And this without proper
> documentation of the changes, of the internals, and the lack of revision
> control (now bitkeeper has appeared, which is not free software, and I
> don't even know if it allows me to track changes in the kernel).  This
> is particularly bad because Linux is _the_ free software repository for
> hardware drivers, there are drivers for every exotic device.  But there
> is an utter lack of a clean driver framework, particularly for non-(IDE,
> SCSI, NIC) drivers.  The interfaces improve from version to version, so
> there is hope, but it remains to be seen.

You obviously know more about it than I do; have you made suggestions to
the kernel developers about how it could be improved?

> The other issue is more at the root of the overall design as a UNIX
> clone: It can discourage development of code.  Just look at the KGI/GGI
> saga. I have not participated in GGI, but from the outside look at it it
> seems that the fact that Linus ruled out inclusion of graphic drivers
> into the kernel has hurt them a lot. 

Why would you want a graphics driver in the kernel? Doesn't it 
traditionally (in the Unix world) go outside?

> Also, Linus could have done a better job of encouraging only free
> software, for example by disallowing non-free binary drivers. 

I think they are iffy too. Linus however takes what he would probably 
describe as a pragmatic approach to free software.

> Instead
> concurrenting with projects like GGI, he could have tried to encourage
> them, were it not for the problematic monolithical design of the kernel
> itself.  My gut feeling is that for the Linux kernel, squeezing out the
> last bit of performance might be considered more important by its
> developers than adding compatibility or abstraction layers

I get that impression too. That's why Linus isn't a fan of microkernels.

> Things like free software, user freedom, cooperation, code reuse, and
> compatibility are very important for the Hurd system. 

Then I hope Hurd is successful. If Hurd and Linux are both successful, there
will hopefully be some friendly competition between them.

<"><"><"> Philip Hunt <philh at> <"><"><">
"I would guess that he really believes whatever is politically 
advantageous for him to believe." 
                        -- Alison Brooks, referring to Michael
                              Portillo, on soc.history.what-if

More information about the Discussion mailing list