Stallman: Disk, I/O issues delay GNU OS
By John Ribeiro
November 6, 2002 2:54 pm PT
BANGALORE, INDIA -- The release of a production version of the free GNU
operating system (OS) has been delayed beyond the end of the year, as the
current development version of the system does not support large disk
partitions and high speed serial I/O (input-output), according to Richard
Stallman, president of the Boston-based Free Software Foundation (FSF).
"I would say that when two features that are that essential are still
missing, we are not at version 1.0 of the system yet," Stallman told IDG
News Service in an interview this week in Bangalore. Stallman was however
noncommittal on a new release date.
In an interview in March, Stallman said that the production version of the
GNU OS was likely to be ready by the end of this year.
Developers working on the current development version of the GNU system,
also called the GNU/Hurd to distinguish it from GNU/Linux, have found
limitations in the Hurd kernel and the GNU Mach microkernel, according to
"There are two problems that have to be solved," Stallman said. "One of
is the lack of high-speed, serial-line handling, and the other is the limit
on the size of a file system which is at somewhere between one to two
gigabytes, which means that if you get a moderate size disk you have to
divide it into smaller partitions, which is a nuisance."
To solve the serial port problem, the GNU project is switching from the GNU
Mach to the OSKit Mach, a Mach based on the OSKit for OS development from
the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah. "That version of Mach is
supposed to get high speed serial line support, although it apparently isn't
there in yet," Stallman said. Before the GNU project could switch to the
OSKit Mach, it had to rewrite the [Image]terminal support in the Hurd to
support virtual consoles.
The GNU project has also got developers to work on the problem of the limit
on the size of the current Hurd file system.
"There are many other things that we want to do that will make the Hurd
better, but resolving this issue (of the limit on the size of the file
system) is absolutely essential," added Stallman. "I don't think it was
realized how bad it is practically speaking not to be able to use whatever
your disk partitioning is. Clearly most people are not going to repartition
their disks to be able to try out our Hurd based system."
Currently some users work with a development version of the GNU/Hurd system
distributed by the open source Debian Project.
The FSF is also modifying the GNU General Public License (GPL), though the
fundamental principles will remain unchanged, according to Stallman.
"We have looked at, for example, adding a clause that explicitly states that
you give a patent license when you redistribute the software," Stallman
added. FSF also plans to incorporate into the GNU GPL a section covering use
of software on a computer network. This new section is likely to be on a
similar section in the Affero GPL adopted by San Francisco-based Affero Inc.
The Affero GPL requires anyone modifying a software program to give
immediate access by HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) to the complete
source code of the modified software to other users interacting with the
software on the network, if the original program had a provision for this
kind of access.
John Ribeiro is an India-based correspondent for the IDG News Service, an