Group: Hurd

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Welcome in the GNU Hurd Group - Every One is Free to Join!


What is GNU Hurd?

The Hurd is the GNU project's replacement for UNIX, a popular operating system kernel.

The Hurd is firstly a collection of protocols formalizing how different components may interact. The protocols are designed to reduce the mutual trust requirements of the actors thereby permitting a more extensible system. These include interface definitions to manipulate files and directories and to resolve path names. This allows any process to implement a file system. The only requirement is that it have access to its backing store and that the principal that started it own the file system node to which it connects.

The Hurd is also a set of servers that implement these protocols. They include file systems, network protocols and authentication. The servers run on top of the Mach microkernel and use Mach's IPC mechanism to transfer information.

The Hurd provides a compatibility layer such that compiling higher level programs is essentially transparent; that is, by means of the glibc, it provides the same standard interfaces known from other UNIX-like systems. Thus, for a typical user, the Hurd is intended to silently work in the background providing the services and infrastructure which the microkernel itself has no business implementing, but that are required for higher level programs and libraries to operate.

The Hurd supplies the last major software component needed for a complete GNU operating system as originally conceived by Richard M. Stallman (RMS) in 1983. The GNU vision directly drove the creation and has guided the evolution of the Free Software Foundation, the organization that is the home of the GNU project.


For a while I have been thinking about the lack of a roadmap for the Hurd; but now I realized that we lack something even more fundamental: a simple mission statement -- i.e. saying where we want to go, rather than how we want to get there. I think many of the problems we have are directly or indirectly related to that.

As we didn't have such a mission statement so far, the people currently involved have vastly different ideas about the mission, which of course makes it a bit hard to come up with a suitable one now. However, I managed to come up with something that I believe is generic enough so all contributors can subscribe to it:

   The mission of the Hurd project is: to create a general-purpose kernel suitable for the GNU operating system, which is viable for everyday use, and gives users and programs as much control over their computing environment as possible.

"Suitable for GNU" in the first part implies a number of things. I explicitely mentioned "general-purpose", because this an important feature that sets the Hurd apart from many other microkernel projects, but isn't immediately obvious.

I didn't mention that it must be entirely free software, as this should be obvious to anyone familiar with GNU.

Another thing I did not mention, because it's too controversial: how much UNIX do we need? I think that being suitable for GNU requires a pretty high degree of UNIX compatibility, and also that the default environment looks to the user more or less like UNIX. However, some people claimed in the past that GNU could do without UNIX -- the wording used here doesn't totally preclude such views.

The second part also leaves a lot of slack: I for my part still believe that a Mach-based Hurd can be viable for everyday use; but those who think that a microkernel change is required, should be happy with this wording as well.

The third part tries to express the major idea behind the Hurd design in the most compact and generic way possible.

Join us!

You can add a user box supporting GNU Hurd by putting
{{user Hurd}}
on your user page.
Note GNU Hurd Group
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Description The GNU Hurd group!
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Gnu-hurd.png This user support the evolution of the GNU Hurd Kernel.