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Bits from the Debian GNU/Hurd porters


This is a status update for the Debian GNU/Hurd port[1] (for general
information about the GNU Hurd, see [2]).  While the port was limping
along for a couple of years, it has picked up speed again.  The current
state is still far from being on par with Debian's established Linux
ports, but it is mostly up to date and reasonably usable.  Improvements
over the last year and a half include:

 * For quite a while now, we have a mostly uptodate (as in, at most a
   couple of Debian revisions behind) toolchain and most of the core
   Debian packages are in good shape.

 * A buildd is up and ready to go, pending its addition to the
   wanna-build database.  In the meantime, Santiago Vila and Michael
   Banck have been semi-automatically building and uploading hurd-i386

 * Several major packages have been ported, though some of them are not
   in the official archive as they need patches which have not been
   applied yet.  Ported packages include Apache, Qt and much of KDE and
   GNOME.  Further, several important missing features have recently
   been implemented upstream, like POSIX semaphores and SysV Shared

 * Jeff Bailey wrote the crosshurd[3] method of installing Debian
   GNU/Hurd (as well as other Debian ports) from a Debian system into a
   new partition which makes the installation of Debian GNU/Hurd much

 * The packaging of the GNU/Hurd core components (hurd, gnumach, mig)
   has been switched to team-maintenance using svn.debian.org (pkg-hurd
   project).  Michael Banck, Jeff Bailey and Guillem Jover have been
   added to the list of uploaders, which has resulted in more frequent
   releases.  The Debian packages are also taking a lead in GNU Hurd
   development: many of the recent Hurd patches have been incorporated
   into the Hurd package first to provide a wider testing audience.

 * Similarly, the coordination of porting has been centralized in an
   Alioth project, debian-hurd, where patches, tasks and bugs are being
   tracked.  This has considerably increased the productivity of the
   porting team.

 * The above was necessary as several more people have stepped in to
   porting Debian packages to GNU/Hurd and some duplications of effort
   became apparent.  Members of the french HurdFR organization have done
   much work in this regard, as have individuals including Christoper
   Bodenstein and Barry deFreese.

As stated initially, GNU/Hurd is still far from being comparable to
GNU/Linux systems, but at this point, the stability is sufficient such
that interested developers should be able to use it with little trouble
provided their hardware is supported by GNU Mach (GNU Mach has been
basically unmaintained for several years now: it has few drivers, but
IDE and many network drivers work reliably).  A convenient way to try
the Hurd is to check out the GNU/Hurd Live CD provided by Ben

There a still a lot of things to do and help is needed.  Please contact
us at debian-hurd@lists.debian.org if you want to help:

 * More packages need to be ported.  Currently, only around 40% of all
   Debian packages are built for the Hurd.  A lot of the others have
   portability issues which needs to be addressed, but the current
   porting team is lacking manpower to do so.  People already familiar
   with Debian development are especially sought after, as we are too
   few to mentor many people along the way.

 * Debian-installer needs to be ported.  Colin Watson started some work
   on this a while ago, but other basic things like debootstrap or
   base-config still need porting as well.

 * Upstream development of the GNU Hurd is carried out by only a few
   people in their spare time; help from experienced programmers is
   always appreciated, especially for enhancing important applications
   with Hurd-specific features or writing new ones exploiting the Hurd.

 * Possibly get an official GNU/Hurd debian.org box up and keep it
   running.  Several people are currently running internet-accessible
   Hurd machines though, so if somebody wants an account in order to do
   some serious work, please contact us.

 * An NMU policy for unreleased ports might have to be established in
   coordination with the release team and other ports, in order to
   faciliate further development by fixing central Build-Dependencies or
   otherwise important packages after some time.

To summarize, the Debian GNU/Hurd is alive and kicking, though it could
need some more help.  Other GNU/Hurd ports like Gentoo GNU/Hurd and Bee
GNU/Hurd seem to be mostly stalled, so Debian is currently the only
distribution actively developing the GNU/Hurd system, thus providing an
invaluable service to the Hurd community.


The Debian GNU/Hurd porters

[1] http://www.debian.org/ports/hurd
[2] http://hurd.gnu.org and http://kerneltrap.org/forums/hurd/kernel
[3] http://packages.debian.org/crosshurd
[4] http://people.debian.org/~neal/hurd-live-cd/

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