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Test Driving GNU Hurd, With Benchmarks Against Linux
Last week there was a GNU Hurd status update, which generated a fair amount of attention as it stated there are plans for a Debian GNU/Hurd release in conjunction with Debian "Wheezy" when it's out in late 2012 or early 2013. After being in development for more than 20 years, the Hurd is finally taking some shape. The Debian GNU/Hurd installer for Wheezy is even now working, which I tried out and ended up porting the Phoronix Test Suite to GNU Hurd. In this article is a brief look at Debian GNU/Hurd along with the first-ever benchmarks of Debian GNU/Hurd against Debian GNU/Linux.
The Wheezy development snapshots for GNU Hurd are just available for i386, since that's the only architecture Hurd supports at the moment. Debian GNU/Hurd is available in the usual variety of spins like the other Debian variants: a net installer, DVD installer, or as three CD ISOs.
Installing Debian GNU/Hurd is just like installing Debian GNU/Linux or Debian GNU/kFreeBSD. Launching the graphical installer had failed using the 2011-07-01 build, but the text installer worked fine. The file-system used by Debian GNU/Hurd at present is EXT2. All testing was done in a KVM/QEMU virtual machine instance. The GNU Hurd hardware support right now is quite poor -- it's basically what you'd expect hardware support wise from around the Linux 2.0 kernel or earlier. None of the hardware at Phoronix is capable of running Debian GNU/Hurd. Even if it could run on modern hardware, the Hurd does not yet have SMP support meaning it would only take advantage of a single core/thread. The hardware support is lagging behind by about a decade or longer.
A fair amount of the Debian user-land is available to Debian GNU/Hurd at this point. In fact, it was surprising the amount of software that was available and working. GCC 4.6.1 and the rest of the build-essential components were also working fine under Debian GNU/Hurd, which made it easy to build additional software and for the benchmarks.