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Inside Debian Hurd [Dr. Dobbs]

Nov 28, 2000 — by Rick Lehrbaum — from the LinuxDevices Archive

Writing in Dr. Dobbs Journal, author Jerry Epplin provides an excellent overview of the purpose, history, uniqueness, and current status of a GNU project known as “the Hurd.” The Hurd (not Linux) was developed as part of the GNU project's efforts to replace Unix with an open source equivalent. Work on the Hurd has continued despite the availability of Linux, and the Hurd offers significant architectural differences — including a number of advantages for some applications — relative to Linux. Epplin writes . . .

“For all its virtues as an open operating system, however, Linux — or specifically the Linux kernel — throws significant obstacles in the way of developers wishing to modify it. The first thing you encounter when studying it is its sheer size, consisting of thousands of source files . . .”

” . . . the Linux kernel can be considered a rather old-fashioned design. It is what is known as a 'monolithic' kernel; that is, one in which all or most operating-system functionality is placed in the kernel proper.”

“One possible approach to managing OS complexity is the use of an OS based on a 'microkernel' architecture, of which the Hurd is a promising example. Originally a project of the Free Software Foundation, the Hurd has caught the interest of a number of other groups . . .”

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