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RE: Hurd Advocacy?

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Hurd Advocate [mailto:hurd_advocate@yahoo.com]
> Sent: Friday, August 15, 2003 1:55 PM
> To: debian-hurd@lists.debian.org
> Subject: Hurd Advocacy?
>     What can the Hurd community do to promote their favorite OS?
>     It seems like the Hurd doesn't really have a critical mass of
> users to spur the growth we'd all like to see.  So I was 
> wondering what
> everyone thought was the best way to attract more developers/users to
> the Hurd.  The reason I initially looked into the hurd is the 
> BitKeeper
> fiasco.  I found it unpalatable for free software to be beholden to a
> proprietary master.  I thought it would't hurt to look at the
> alternatives.  And I came across the Hurd.  From what I could 
> initially
> find out, it seemed like it had interesting and modern architecture,
> one
> which could solve the "Linus doesn't scale" problem more cleanly than
> the BitKeeper solution.  (And here I'm assuming that things like
> userspace device drivers and the fact that any part of the system can
> theoretically be replaced on the fly really does solve that problem). 
> I
> was, of course, also attracted just because it was something new and
> different.  So I wonder what attracts everyone else to the Hurd.  To
> that end here are a couple of questions I have.
> - Is there any killer-app for the Hurd (available now or in 
> the future)
>   that we think will bring the masses in?  Or phrased a different way,
>   is there any one feature that people would be willing to think about
>   converting over for.
>      translators?
>      distributed OS?
>      better security model?
>      more customizable? (is that a word?)
> - Are hardware compatibility problems more of a problem for 
> newbies, or
>   is it the lack of software which stifles adoption. (And for the
>   record, I think the killer-app would be Linux and the Hurd running
>   side by side on top of the same micro-kernel.  That would make
>   migration easier, since you could still have access to your 
> important
>   hardware and software that hadn't been ported over yet)
> - Is it hard to attract developers because the project is too complex.
>   Instead of just learning one system, you have to learn 
> about two: the
>   hurd and mach.  And who would want to learn about mach when it's
>   scheduled for removal whenever the L4 kernel gets traction 
> (3-5 years
>   out?)?  Or is it the "multi- threaded servers are hard to debug"
>   problem still.
> - Is a lack of documentation the real hard thing for new developers to
>   overcome?
> - Are we nice enough to newbs?  (I tend to think so, but there was a
>   little hissy-fit about change-log colon-placement for hello.c on
>   bug-hurd last month)
> - Do we suffer from a lack of charasmatic leadership and direction?
> - Is there any one thing which could be fixed to attact a lot more
> users?
>     PPP?
>     sound?
>     USB?
>     GNOME?
>     journaled file system?
>     OpenOffice?
> - Is advertising our problem?  Do we not get enough exposure to
>   potential developers?  (And here I'm thinking CS undergrads) I'm
>   thinking that a new developer could have a lot more influence on the
>   design of the Hurd (since it's still in flux) than say a more mature
>   project like Linux or FreeBSD.
> - Does anyone think that companies like RedHat or IBM might 
> think about
>   funding some summer college internships to work on 
> something like the
>   Hurd?
> - Is there any future development that might drive people to the Hurd?
>   Like the SCO garbage or DRM binaries/signatures in the Linux kernel?
> - Is our installation proceedure/Debian system overly obtuse?
> - Are we always destined to play catch up with Linux? (eventhough we
> had
>   a headstart?)
> Anyways, I'd like to hear your thoughts.
> The Hurd Advocate

Here is my worthless 2 cents:

1.  One of the biggest problems is probably the < 2Gb limit for ext2fs.  I
think many people see that as a sign of antiquation even if the size doesn't
necessarily bother them.

2.  Another is somewhat of a chicken and egg problem.  The current user base
is too small to advocate/assist new users.  Most of the most knowledgeable
people are busy with their real lives and Hurd development that they don't
have much time to spend with n00bs like me.

3.  From a purely user standpoint, I think lack of good X support, desktop
environments, and the X type apps. (Mozilla for example).  Most of the
purist/hardcore users and developers don't care about this but most "users"

4.  The lack of Marcus's console being the default.  I think most users
expect multiple virtual terminals these days.

5.  Stability.

6.  Kernel issues.  GNUMach 1.x is antiquated, slow, and has issues.  Very
few (if any) are working on GNUMach 2.x (oskit-mach) and it has issues, and
L4 isn't ready and probably won't be for quite some time.

7.  Hardware support.  This could be somewhat alleviated from item 6 with
oskit but as I said, not many if any are working with it.

8.  Direction. (And I am probably going to get blasted for this).  This
somewhat ties into number 6 also.  There seems to be lacking clear direction
from the on high of where Hurd needs to be.  I realize that there are few
developers in the upper echelon of the Hurd but I don't see a clear figure
head.  Linux had Linus as the spokesperson/figurehead.  Hell even if Linus
never contributed a line of code after kicking it off there was
someone/something to rally around.  I don't hear a voice for the Hurd.  I
realize that this is an open source project and you cannot "make" anyone do
specific tasks.  However, I believe that if there were some clear directions
laid out for the Hurd, it may gain some developers.  That is merely
speculation on my part.  Maybe the thing to do at the moment is somewhat
freeze development to a degree.  Concentrate what few resources you have on
getting to L4 and then state some clear direction.  Fix ext2fs next, work on
X, etc. etc.

Finally please just take these as my opinions.  They are not meant to
criticize anyone and may not even be valid as I am predominanty a n00b user.
I hang out on #hurd a lot and I know that many people are doing a lot of
hard work for the Hurd so it isn't meant as a slam, just my thoughts on some


Oh, I forgot one.  Good documentation.  I hear many complaints about n00b
developers not being able to find good documentation on how/where to get
started.  I know some of that again stems from the smaller user/developer
base but much of what is out there is either old or incorrect.

Barry deFreese
Technology Services Manager
Nike Team Sports

"Technology doesn't make you less stupid; it just makes you stupid faster."
Jerry Gregoire - Former CIO at Dell

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