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Re: Hurd Advocacy?

On Sat, Aug 16, 2003 at 03:07:27AM -0400, Mark L. Kahnt wrote:
> "- I'll leave you to assess whether what you get now constitutes "works
> Right Now". I wouldn't use it for a production system yet, or even as
> the system on which I did development work, but testing code being
> targeted to or ported to it, it seems to be "getting by".

That is a fair assessment.

> I know that I
> wouldn't use it on a headless server, as I honestly don't know if it is
> reliable enough to be able to log in via telnet whenever desired. I know
> that while ssh is *somewhat* on the system, it isn't secure because the
> key used isn't built with random numbers drawn from entropy."

You could set up egd to provide secure random on the system via a fifo.

> A similar consideration, as I mentioned in the 1 June email, and later
> in discussions via email with Kent West was Kent's encounter with
> mounting partitions. I understand that there is a mount script, but it
> reportedly hangs the system. The write-ups from various Hurd sites,
> however, imply that to the user, the common system usage should "seem"
> like a common POSIX interface (the parts dealing with command line
> utilities.)

Mounting and unmounting is not part of POSIX.

> It is past being a research project, but it isn't
> quite what I understand to be ready for a beta release candidate of a
> distribution. From the perspective of a codebase to work on and a vision
> being reached to, it exists. From a user-ready distribution perspective,
> not this week.

Definitely not.  Beside the fact that large scale fixes and redesigns are
not happening timely enough (or don't happen at all), I believe it is not
possible to work out the tiny quirks and buglets like those in "mount" with
a small core team of developers.  Beside actually finding these problems,
fixing them is very time consuming.  This is something that can so easily done
by contributors even if they are not core developers (and the bug finding
can be done by users), and even if they don't want to make a long term

Savannah at sv.gnu.org/projects/hurd has a bug database and a patch
database.  There have been 7 bugs files, some by me as a reminder.  This is
ridiculous.  Someone (hi bdd) is working on gathering bug reports from the
mailing list and put them into the database.  There have been filed 32 patches,
a third by me, and then the rest by a small handful of people who are already
long term contributors.  Only 15 patches (including most I filed) are not
yet applied, 17 have been applied.  It could be 18 if there had been a patch
for mount.

How hard is it for someone like you who can C and knows Unix to fix mount
and submit a patch, or at least submit a bug report?  Probably as hard as
it is for me.  Maybe 5 minutes more to figure out some of the specific
Hurd aspects.  If nobody except the core people are willing to put up this
effort, then why should the core people do it?  Apparently it is not at all
urgent, and time is better spent elsewhere (ie, on the hard problems, which
are also there).

A volunteer based free software project of this scale can not be successful
with only core developers and end users waiting in the line.  There needs to
be a solid middle ground.  This didn't exist at all before 1998.  It got
somewhat better, and now we have a middle which is quite productive, at
least more productive than any of the core developers with regards to short
term fixes etc. ;)

> This fits with the entry before it on the list - "its stable". It's
> conceptual design is stable, but the binaries aren't necessarily
> resulting in a system that runs with the level of stability comparable
> to the BSDs or Linux in comparable breadths of configurations. With some
> attention to core aspects, both of those could change - essentially
> focussing on getting a kernel, a core set of translators and servers,
> and the appropriate aspects of the GNU software suite to provide a
> functional system that can host its own development and administration
> (most of which I understand now exists,) a viable base for assembling a
> distribution, or at least a reliably operational, installable o/s on
> which the distribution can be ported as necessary.

Well, that's the idea.  The problem is that of the people who did the
outstanding work of implementing the Hurd as it is today (mainly Thomas,
Roland and Miles), only one (Roland) is somewhat active at all still, while
Thomas only jumps in with a crazy idea or two from time to time.

People like me and Neal (and some other folks who have jumped in since then)
are targetting the big rewrite of the Hurd.  But we are "new" in the OS
writing business, and have to learn a lot of things, and solve problems for
which cookbooks do not exist.

So while we are trying to do that, who is fixing mount?


`Rhubarb is no Egyptian god.' GNU      http://www.gnu.org    marcus@gnu.org
Marcus Brinkmann              The Hurd http://www.gnu.org/software/hurd/

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