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Retrospect: GNU/Hurd at LinuxTag 2003

From: Wolfgang Jaehrling
Subject: Retrospect: GNU/Hurd at LinuxTag 2003
Date: Tue, 15 Jul 2003 21:00:36 +0200
User-agent: Mutt/1.3.28i

GNU/Hurd at LinuxTag 2003 in Karlsruhe

We had a machine running Debian GNU/Hurd at the FSF Europe booth
(where one could meet me most of the time) and another one at the
Debian booth.  There have been surprisingly many people asking about
the Hurd.  Usually I was giving a short demonstration of the new
console, adding and removing user-ids to tell what that is good for,
showing the process list to explain a few of the servers (especially
file systems and the password server) and telling them about file
change notifications, often also mentioning ftpfs and the `run'

The system crashed a few times during my demonstrations (it was not a
very recent GNU/Hurd system), but usually all went fine and people
were quite impressed.  People asked many questions, but the typical
ones were ``How well does it work?'', ``What about driver support?'',
``What about other hardware architectures?'', ``What about L4?'' and
``Does X11 work?''; of course I answered the latter question just by
smiling and entering `startx'.

On sunday afternoon, I was giving a presentation about the Hurd, which
was scheduled to take one hour, of which I used only 35 minutes (plus
a few for answering questions from people coming to me after the
talk), This time, I decided to not go much into the details, but
explaining what makes the Hurd cool and how it differs from POSIX-only
systems, not forgetting to mention that the biggest advantage of
GNU/Hurd is that it combines high compatiblity with a lot of
additional flexibility.  For obvious reasons I tried to focus on
saying what we already have achieved, rather than what we might do in
the future.  Three people told me that the talk was great (and one
said it was ``exciting''), and I hope there is some truth in that. ;-)
However, since the talk was not in the official program, but merely in
the (somewhat hidden) ``free workshop'' track, less than twenty people
have been there.  We almost managed to have me give the presentation
on a GNU/Hurd system itself, but unfortunatly we had a problem with
the fonts in X11, and we failed to get it working before the talk, so
I had to use GNU/Linux.

Two minor t-shirt-related points: 1. During the presentation, I was
wearing a nice OpenBSD t-shirt, and I made clear that the goal of
GNU/Hurd is not to replace GNU/Linux or other free operating systems;
instead, all free systems should aim at replacing proprietary systems
together.  2. Like last year, we sold Hurd t-shirts at the FSF Europe
booth, which again sold well; Hans Reiser (developer of ReiserFS) also
bought one (well, actually two) and I had the opportunity to speak
with him a bit about our projects - It seems he likes the Hurd, but I
guess it is now important for him to finish ReiserFS version 4, so
don't even ask when ReiserFS will be ported to the Hurd.

In conclusion, the LinuxTag was certainly a success for us.  Many
thanks to Volker Dormeyer for providing a GNU/Hurd machine and for
helping in explaining the Hurd to visitors; just as many thanks to
Michael Banck for supporting me with various aspects of the talk and
also for bringing a GNU/Hurd machine.


PS: You can find the slides of my talk (only in german, sorry) at

"A good programming language should have features that make the kind
of people who use the phrase `software engineering' shake their heads
disapprovingly." -- Paul Graham

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