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Hurd Traffic #99 For 16 Jul 2001

By Paul Emsley

Mach 4 | Hurd Servers | Debian Hurd Home | Debian Hurd FAQ | debian-hurd List Archives | bug-hurd List Archives | help-hurd List Archive | Hurd Reference Manual | Hurd Installation Guide | Cross-Compiling GNUMach | Hurd Hardware Compatibility Guide

Table Of Contents


1. Update-menu Problem Fixed
5 Jul 2001 - 8 Jul 2001 (2 posts) Archive Link: "twm and xfree 4.1.0"
People: Fabian SturmMarcus Brinkmann

Fabian Sturm was investigating the menu problem in twm. "If I execute update-menus it crashes with
krypton:/etc/menu-methods# update-menus
Update-menus[241]: Script /etc/menu-methods//twm recieved signal 13."

Marcus Brinkmann said "It's a long-outstanding bug. Someone really needs to take a closer look at update-menu."

Elsewhere (under the subject package menu possible fix) Fabian reported that he had investigated the package menu and posted a fix.

Marcus thanked him for his work and suggested that he collaborate with the author of update-menu.


2. F3 CD Progress
6 Jul 2001 - 9 Jul 2001 (3 posts) Archive Link: "F3 CDs - final stages"
Topics: Apt
People: Robert Bihlmeyer

Reports on the progress of the F3 CDs have been spread over several threads (Hurd F3 CDs, F3 CDs, F3 CDs - problematical packages,, F3 CDs Correction, F3 CDs - report., F3 CDs - final stages, apt-cdrom and dselect works together!, apt-cdrom patch -- testers wanted ). The major issue since last week was getting one on Phil's bug-bears, apt-cdrom, to work nicely with dselect. Robert Bihlmeyer said that he now has "I now have a hopefully clean patch for the apt-cdrom/umount issue. It is now in " and requested testers.


3. Subject: "liblockfile and libpaper fixes in BTS"
7 Jul 2001 - 8 Jul 2001 (3 posts) Archive Link: "liblockfile and libpaper fixes in BTS"
People: Marcus BrinkmannIgor KhavkineNick Rusnov

Nick Rusnov submitted bug-fixes for libpaper and liblockfile to the bug tracking system. Marcus Brinkmann reviewed the fix and said "note that bugs which lead to build failures can be submitted with Severity: important" .

Marcus went on to say: "I would also suggest that in such easy cases, no conditional treatment should be done, as the !MAXPATHLEN case works on the MAXPATHLEN case as well. Please consider to resend your patches with only the Hurd part going in, as this makes them shorter and cleaner (and this way maintainers are more willing to apply them quickly). "

Igor Khavkine also reviewed the patch and suggested improving his usage of string functions.


4. Robert Chassell Stirs The Hurders
9 Jul 2001 - 12 Jul 2001 (7 posts) Archive Link: "Anyone has read the FSF Usenix speech ?"
People: Paul EmsleyMarcus BrinkmannSasha ShipkaPhilip CharlesRobert BihlmeyerThierry LarondeRichard M. Stallman

Thierry Laronde had been to the Debian Conference (actually Thierry opened the meeting) and heard about the Hurd from Marcus Brinkman. He asked if anyone had read the press release/speech by Robert Chassell accepting the USENIX Lifetime Achievement Award. Thierry was perturbed about the paragraph about the kernels:

The first GNU kernel, TRIX, died for lack of development. Work on the second kernel, the Hurd, crept on so slowly you might think it froze. Finally, and fortunately, the third kernel, Linux, took off, even in spite of some complaints that the free software BSD projects were better, or that the Hurd has a cool design.

(ed. [Paul Emsley] There is a clarifying statement from the FSF about Linux which is omitted.)

This prompted several replies, Paul Emsley said "The 2 or 3 years before July 98 were slow moving, that's no secret."

Marcus Brinkman was less concise:

The GNU Project was started in 1984 by Richard M. Stallman, taking up the challenge of developing a UNIX-like operating system that is completely Free Software -- freely redistributable, and modifiable by all of its users. Today, the GNU system is widely used as part of the GNU/Linux system. GNU/Linux is the integrated combination of the GNU operating system with the kernel, Linux, written by Linus Torvalds in 1991. Now that the core operating system is completed, the GNU Project continues to develop user-space software for GNU/Linux users.

The Hurd is there, and it will rock on. At the LSM in Bordeaux, I had the chance to talk with Bradley Kuhn (the vice president of the FSF) and to show him where we are right now and where we are going. I received a great deal of support from him and many other people.

I think the person who wrote the article [Robert Chassell] meant that a complete and functional free operating system is available right now, and that is GNU/Linux. This does not mean that the Hurd is not a GNU project anymore, or not needed any longer. Note how it is careful to differentiate between "the GNU operating system and it's GNU/Linux variants" (at the end of the article). The paragraph above is not so clear. You are probably taking grief at "now that the core operating system is completed", which seems to imply that Linux is a part of the GNU system, which it isn't. But please keep in mind that this is a press release, and there is only so and so much you can include in a press release if you don't want to be confusing or unclear for people from the press. Maybe it was just something that slipped through all reviews.

True, most people in GNU are focussing on GNU/Linux rather than the Hurd right now. This makes perfectly sense, as Linux receives a lot of attention from everywhere. It certainly will stay this way for the near future. One reason why we don't get the attention we feel we deserve is certainly that we don't do a good job at marketing the Hurd. But then, we also need more documentation and more people trained at the Hurd's design before inviting people to try out the Hurd and write applications for it at a large scale.

In the meantime, let's do the right thing and bring the Hurd to the next release. It will be worth it! And then we might even get our own press release ;)

The conversation turned to how to raise the (low) profile of the Hurd and encourage developers. There was a general feeling of "this is a great system - if only there were more developers!" The post from Sasha Shipka typified the responses. He said "I heard about the Hurd a month ago from my prof. at the university. I'm in the linux world, and the Hurd for me just was another of the thousands unknown project. But after I found docs about it, I know the Hurd is something I want to focus on. I'm sure if more people heard about it there would be more developers."

There was a "funny" from the Phil and Marcus Show. Phil has been having difficulties preparing the new ISO images, he said "Right now I feel like quitting the installation CD business and becoming a publicist" .

This got Marcus worried: "Argh, not yet, Phil! ;)"

Marcus added to his previous comments, saying:

I didn't mean that we should go undercover and not ask interested developers to help us out. But we should be honest and say that people who come in right now have to figure out a lot of things themselve that is probably unrelated to the things they want work on. For example, there are bugs which prevent them from doing what they want. There are undocumented areas of the source code they might need to build on.

In my opinion, it would be quite important to enable the developer of user applications to make use of the special features on the Hurd. Like, for example, adding support for translators in tar etc.

We need a list of such features and some documentation on how they are implemented and how support for them can be integrated in programs.

(ed. [Paul Emsley] Now, if only we had Alan Cox on board, that would both raise the profile and considerably increase the rate of kernel development *sigh* :) )

Robert Bihlmeyer though the Hurd could do with a bit of boasting material:

I'd also like more examples of real-world applications that simply run better on the Hurd. Bragging is essential.

Most people would simply shurg if I tell them that you can have a directory hierarchy a million levels deep. But showing them, say, a lsh daemon that runs without uids (and gets them when needed via the passwd server, or a yet-to-be-written pubkey server) would certainly raise a few eyebrows.


5. Reference to __errno_location
11 Jul 2001 (4 posts) Archive Link: "errno strageness (in lpr)"
People: Paul EmsleyRobert Bihlmeyer

Paul Emsley was trying to get lpr to compile, but the compilation failed because ld found an undefined reference to `__errno_location'. After help from Robert Bihlmeyer, he wrote back saying "I'd left objects behind from the Linux-based build." Foolish person.


6. Where Is ltconfig?
11 Jul 2001 - 12 Jul 2001 (4 posts) Archive Link: "Problem with libgtop"
People: Marcus BrinkmannThomas Poindessous

Thomas Poindessous needed ltconfig to compile gkrellm. Marcus Brinkmann replied "libtool 1.4 doesn't come with ltconfig anymore. The debian/rules file [which symlinks /usr/share/libtool/ltconfig] is incorrect. "


7. Consider The Meaning Of The GNU Acronym
12 Jul 2001 - 13 Jul 2001 (4 posts) Archive Link: "Bug#104186: apt-cdrom: u/mount equivalents for the Hurd"
Topics: POSIX
People: Adam HeathRobert BihlmeyerMarcus Brinkmann

Adam Heath asked "why can't there be a umount compatiblity shell script?" . Robert Bihlmeyer replied that there certainly could be, but it was not needed. "But without it, it changes the way all Unix admins expect Unix to work" , said Adam. "Think about what the GNU acronym stands for" , replied Robert.

Marcus Brinkmann replied more extensively:

Please understand that we are trying to improve the quality of your software. Instead bending backwards and forwards trying to make the Hurd look like any other Unix even where there is little sense to do so, we point out where you make assumptions about the system which are not defined in any standard whatsoever.[1] We do this for your benefit also.

For umount, this holds anyway, even if we would provide a wrapper. A wrapper would only be a very poor copy of the real thing on Unix. For example, it would only work with the path name, not with the device file. In fact, the whole notion of mounting and unmounting devices with a certain filesystem (implemented in the kernel) is not carrying over to the Hurd.

Not only would the hypothetical umount wrapper do a poor job for Unix enthusiasts, it would also do a poor job for the Hurd, as there is no way it could be as flexible as our current tools (settrans, fsysopts, showtrans) already are. People would rightly complain what a useless thing this umount is on the Hurd, and probably miss out on the exciting flexibility of the real thing.

I am sorry if this is not the answer you expected. I invite you to become more familiar with the Hurd translator concept ( and with the Hurd in general. Hopefully you will then realize why the lack of umount is just a logical conclusion from a deep and original design decision, which lies at the heart of the Hurd system.

[1] We claim that the Hurd is POSIX compliant. I checked, and neither the current draft 6 of POSIX as used by the Austin group, nor the current Single Unix Specification defines umount or even mount. For mount, we have a wrapper because it was easy to do so. It is merely an example for the more generic settrans utility.


8. Lincity And Packaging Issues
12 Jul 2001 - 13 Jul 2001 (2 posts) Archive Link: "Playing with Lincity"
People: Dios Del TiempoRobert Bihlmeyer

Dios Del Tiempo compiled Lincity for GNU/Hurd and said "it seems to work fine (slow but fine)"

Robert Bihlmeyer approved and discussed the packaging:

The -x and -svga binary packages are two alternative versions of the same game, that are built from the same source (but with different configuration options). So there is only one source package. The third binary (lincity) would be the parts of the game common to the two alternatives (graphics data, etc).

Usually Debian source packages closely resemble the upstream source packages (e.g. as distributed by lincity's authors). But one source pkg may produce many binary packages, if there is significant use in having smaller modules. Look at the X packages: xfree86 is distributed as a huge source package, but there are people that want an X server, but do not need twm, others may want the xlibs, but no X server, etc. So the X source produces a plethoria of smaller binary packages.


9. Slowness
12 Jul 2001 - 13 Jul 2001 (4 posts) Archive Link: "Slowness during installation"
People: Ryan GolbeckMarcus Brinkmann

Ryan Golbeck has a slow GNU/Hurd. "I installed the tarball and booted into Hurd, but everything seems to take a LONG time to load. Even when the shell comes up, I might be able to get in a couple 'ls' commands before I have to wait to even see my typing come up on the screen. "

Marcus Brinkmann asked him "What does long mean?" , explaining that it took a few seconds to get a response from his first keypress, which was normal.

Ryan replied "By long, I mean long. I can completely type in the command "./native-install" but it takes anywhere from 30 seconds to 3 or so minutes for me to actually see the completion of the command."

Now that's slow. Unfortunately for Ryan there is not yet a solution.







Sharon And Joy

Kernel Traffic is grateful to be developed on a computer donated by Professor Greg Benson and Professor Allan Cruse in the Department of Computer Science at the University of San Francisco. This is the same department that invented FlashMob Computing. Kernel Traffic is hosted by the generous folks at All pages on this site are copyright their original authors, and distributed under the terms of the GNU General Public License, version 2.0.