Linked by David Adams on Thu 1st Jul 2010 08:52 UTC
GNU, GPL, Open Source The HURD was meant to be the true kernel at the heart of the GNU operating system. The promise behind the HURD was revolutionary -- a set of daemons on top of a microkernel that was intended to surpass the performance of the monolithic kernels of traditional Unix systems and in doing so, give greater security, freedom and flexibility to the users -- but it has yet to come down to earth.
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Lesson zero: working software, now
by wirespot on Thu 1st Jul 2010 13:56 UTC
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This is one of the best ways I've heard it put about why GNU/Linux was such a good match, and why FOSS continues to grow exponentially to this day:

The model that grew around Linux gave everybody the chance to take part and make a difference. You could do anything with GNU/Linux. If you couldn't write code you could write documentation, host web sites, make friends or sell t-shirts. Linux was different because everyone and anyone could become involved, and "the most important design issue is that Linux is supposed to be fun" - Linus Torvalds.

(As a side note, here's an idea for an image evoked by that quote, an image I wish I could draw: a huge and horrible hacked together machine, yet functional, with FOSS written on it and people all over it, hammering and working on it, and a guy filling the tank from a canister labeled "Fun". Linus really nailed it. FOSS has and will always have fun as a core design principle and will be powered by it.)

Back to the topic: In 1997, Eric S. Raymond said: "Release early, release often. And listen to your customers." Linus did that (instinctively, years before ESR said it.). The result is above. The FSF did not.

They had a chance, with BSD 4.4-Lite, but didn't take it (granted, Mach seemed like the best choice at the time; it is only in hindsight that the choice appears wrong). Then again, they tried so many microkernels across the years and none of them worked as well as they'd have hoped. That says something about the microkernel vs monolithic debate; microkernels may be, in theory, more advanced in some aspects, but in real life their developments poses problems which cannot be handled by the HURD team's limited resources.

And so it has come to pass that HURD is nowadays a classical example of a software project that always chases moving targets. "Perfect design"? There's no such thing.

Research is fine and all, but at some point you have to come out of the lab with something that (1) works and (2) is needed. HURD doesn't fulfill either of these requirements.

Edited 2010-07-01 14:04 UTC

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