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GNU Hurd Is Enjoying User-Space Device Drivers

Free Software

Published on 10 February 2014 10:42 AM EST
Written by Michael Larabel in Free Software
7 Comments

In the name of freedom, GNU Hurd has the ability to run device drivers from user-space via the project's DDE layer. DDE is an interesting feature and does allow for some interesting possibilities although conventional wisdom advises against accessing and controlling your GPU, network, and disk drivers, along with other components, from user-space. This also includes running Linux kernel drivers in Hurd's user-space.

At FOSDEM was a presentation by Samuel Thibault of the GNU Hurd project entitled "GNU/Hurd DDE userland device drivers." The DDE layer exists in the name of "freedom from [the system administrator]", "freedom to innovate", and other capabilities in allowing hardware drivers to run from user-space rather than just kernel-space.

Among the mentioned use-cases for the GNU Hurd DDE were for allowing VPN traffic to just one application, mounting one's own files, redirecting a user's audio, and more flexible hardware support. The GNU Hurd DDE currently supports the i686 architecture but support for 64-bit in Hurd is ongoing with now having a kernel that can boot. Using the DDE, GNU Hurd developers have made to work the Linux 2.6.32 kernel drivers for network boards that run in Hurd's user-space. Hurd developers also have working IDE support, X.Org / graphics support, an AHCI driver for Serial ATA, and a Xen PV DomU. Besides the 64-bit support not being in a usable state, USB and sound support is still missing.

As some other good news for GNU Hurd, around 79% of the Debian archive is now building for GNU Hurd, including the Xfce desktop and Firefox web-browser. Future work planned for this GNU project is Xen PVH support, working x86_64 support, language bindings for translators, read-ahead, HDD/Sound/USB DDE support, and having a full GNU system with Hurd.

The FOSDEM 2014 update on GNU Hurd is available via PDF slides. More information on the DDE element to Hurd can be found via this GNU.org page. It's been almost three years since last benchmarking GNU Hurd so maybe soon it's time to do so again using Debian GNU/Hurd.

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