Bits from the Debian GNU/Hurd porters

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Michael Banck

Sep 15, 2008, 6:10:11 AM9/15/08


it has been more than three years since the last "Bits from the Debian
GNU/Hurd porters"[1], high time for an update on the port.

* Snapshot releases

Three new snapshot releases have been done by Philip Charles, K14, K15
(which was only done as an updated mini CD-ISO, not a full snapshot),
and K16. K16 has been released[2] on December 18th, 2007 featuring four
CDs or two DVDs. Additionally, it also features a ready-to-go
qemu-image[3] for the first time. K16 was also the first snapshot which
included TLS (Thread Local Storage), a requirement for modern glibcs.
New ported packages include Qt3, Qt4, SDL and Emacs22.

* Base and toolchain status

Currently, most base packages are current, with the notable exception of
util-linux, which has been a big problem over the last years. However,
Samuel Thibault got all outstanding issues of util-linux applied
upstream so the version in experimental is mostly working. The
toolchain is in pretty good shape as well since TLS support got
implemented; we are using the current glibc, binutils and gcc Debian
packages unmodified.

* Xen support

Besides qemu, which can be very slow to run, a Xen DomU port for GNU
Mach has been made available by Samuel Thibault. It requires a non-PAE
hypervisor and some minor manual tweaking, but is otherwise quite
functional and stable already, see its wiki page[4] for further
information. This will make people running the Hurd less dependent on
specific hardware, as a lot of newer computers do not work with the
underlying GNU Mach kernel anymore.

* Autobuilder availability and archive coverage improved

The percentage of packages built for Debian GNU/Hurd has improved from
40% to now nearly 60%[5] since the last Bits from the porters. Further,
the backlog of outdated packages has been greatly reduced. This is due
to the addition of two[6][7] Xen autobuilders earlier this year, which
made the hurd-i386 autobuilders far more robust and fault-tolerant as
they not need local admin attention anymore in case of problems with the
GNU/Hurd guests.

The remaining 40% of packages are either waiting for other packages to
become available (see [8] for a (big) graph of those relationships) or
are failing for some reason[9]; a complete list of build failures can be
found at [10].

* Developer machine

We are currently working on getting a general DD-accessible porter box
setup. In the meantime, interested people can contact to get an account on one of the publically
accessible (Debian) GNU/Hurd developer machines. For further details,
see [11].

* Summer of Code 2008

This year, the GNU Hurd participated as its own organization at Google's
Summer of Code, thanks to the coordination done by Olaf Buddenhagen[12].
All of the 5 projects were carried out quite successfully. The most
practically relevant project for Debian GNU/Hurd was the implementation
of a procfs translator[13] by Madhusudan C.S., which provides a
traditional Unix-style /proc file system and the subsequent porting of
the procps package, so utilities like pgrep etc. will be available after
lenny, and procps Build-Depends no longer need to be special-cased on

Other GSoC projects were lisp bindings by Flavio Cruz, better system
debugging and tracing by Andrei Barbu, namespace-based translator
selection by Sergiu Ivanov and network virtualization by Zheng Da. More
information on the details and outcome of those projects can be found on
the wiki[14].

* Still no debian-installer

Unfortunately, the Debian GNU/Hurd port still lacks d-i support. On the
other hand, debootstrap now mostly works, even to cross-debootstrap a
hurd-i386 installation from GNU/Linux, if one works around bug #498731.
A relatively easy solution could be to use the GNU/Linux d-i to
cross-install and setup a Debian GNU/Hurd system. People who have
experience in d-i and possibly Debian GNU/Hurd are more than welcome to
contact us at

for the Debian GNU/Hurd porters,

Michael Banck


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