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Re: Future Direction of GNU Hurd?

From: Paul Boddie
Subject: Re: Future Direction of GNU Hurd?
Date: Sat, 12 Sep 2020 16:51:24 +0200

On Saturday, 12 September 2020 15:34:12 CEST Dr. Arne Babenhauserheide wrote:
> Paul Boddie <paul@boddie.org.uk> writes:
> > After all, despite the almost singular emphasis in advocacy around the
> > project of translators being the Hurd's most compelling feature which
> > seems like a hard sell to most people these days
> Where did you get that from?

The various talks that seem to get given every year.

> And more importantly: Where did you see advocacy? I have not seen much
> advocacy for the past 10 years. There’s the odd article or talk now and
> then, but that’s it.

See above. If there is no new advocacy, one can only speculate as to why that 
might be.

> Translators are a building block to make other features easier.

They probably are, yes. The problem for the purposes of advocacy and 
communication might be the examples that are used. Accessing a CD image or a 
FTP or Web site, which seemed to be most prominent ones, are not particularly 
compelling to many people these days.

> The past years have seen the pains people go through to club together
> features in Linux that are much easier to realize in the Hurd.

I don't disagree that Linux has been bolting features on in an incoherent way 
and that things might be easier for a lot of people if they didn't need to 
follow all the "hot" "new" technologies from a bunch of people (many of whom 
seem to have something to do with a fairly well-known IBM subsidiary) who are 
entirely wedded to Linux.

> If anything, the past decade has shown that the features the Hurd
> provides make it much easier to implement very compelling features.

So why are more such compelling features not being implemented? This is a 
genuine question.

> Also did you catch subhurds becoming usable without root?
> And adding permissions at runtime, which is the clean way of doing what
> flatpak gets into GNU Linux in a way that makes many programs much less
> convenient to work with?
> Or Guix adding a hurd-vm as system-service?
> https://guix.gnu.org/blog/2020/a-hello-world-virtual-machine-running-the-hur
> d/

My impression was that things like Plan 9 and Inferno already allow subhurd-
like namespace configuration, hence my remarks about Bell Labs (and my 
observations about how people will dismiss such efforts, not necessarily with 
the more valid arguments for doing so). Other systems have also done this 
previously: I suspect that Spring does so, too.

So, even though those systems are also somewhat neglected (or abandoned in the 
case of Spring), people do have the option of trying them out (where still 
available) or improving them to see if they like the ideas as much as they 
think they do. Certainly, Inferno is fairly easy to get running in its 
"virtualised" form on a number of architectures, even though it has its own 

Of course, the features mentioned are beneficial and very much preferable to 
the container culture that pervades Linux-based deployment where whole systems 
are deployed on top of whole other systems because that ends up being "easier" 
(and probably sells more hardware and services). But how is the Hurd and its 
features going to get into the hands of people who might benefit?

And that takes me back to my observations about broadening the appeal of the 
project and actively embracing the broad range of contributions that might 


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