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A VERY Brief History:

Since 1984 it has been the intention of the GNU Project to develop an entire GNU system based exclusively on Free Software. Up to around 1990 an entire series of GNU software came to existence, including the GNU Compiler Collection (gcc), Emacs, the GNU Debugger (gdb), and much more.

The following quote taken from

The GNU Hurd

By 1990, the GNU system was almost complete; the only major missing component was the kernel. We had decided to implement our kernel as a collection of server processes running on top of Mach. Mach is a microkernel developed at Carnegie Mellon University and then at the University of Utah; the GNU HURD is a collection of servers (or ``herd of gnus'') that run on top of Mach, and do the various jobs of the Unix kernel. The start of development was delayed as we waited for Mach to be released as free software, as had been promised.

One reason for choosing this design was to avoid what seemed to be the hardest part of the job: debugging a kernel program without a source-level debugger to do it with. This part of the job had been done already, in Mach, and we expected to debug the HURD servers as user programs, with GDB. But it took a long time to make that possible, and the multi-threaded servers that send messages to each other have turned out to be very hard to debug. Making the HURD work solidly has stretched on for many years.

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So where are we now?

While continuing to be virtual unknown outside of the Free Software world, work has continued on the GNU System. A small team of both skilled and dedicated developers have continued to prove the viability of a micro-kernel based system. Although we do not have the plethora of packages enjoyed by GNU/Linux or BSD systems we have overcome many important obstacles. Hence we have started this new project to begin the push for a releasable GNU System encompassing the GNU Mach microkernel, the Hurd servers, GNU C Library (glibc), GNU userland applications, and other Free Software packages.

What is currently being focused on?

A GNU system creator is being developed alongside a filesystem which transparently manages these native packages. Such a filesystem is possible courtesy of the flexible design of the Hurd itself, and will ease the use of a truly advanced package system greatly. Furthermore a number of people are working on updating programs to work with all the features that the GNU system provides.

Though still in the planning phase, an installer is also being developed. The installer will run from a LiveCD, which itself will be running GNU, and will feature an easy to use GUI interface.

Taking GNU for a spin!

Would you like to test the GNU system? What follows is a list of sites that provide shell accounts on machines running the GNU system snapshots.

Getting more information:

IRC: ##hurd on

Mailing list:

Savannah Project:

Please send FSF & GNU inquiries & questions to There are also other ways to contact the FSF.

Copyright (C) 2005 Free Software Foundation, Inc. 51 Franklin St, Fifth Floor, Boston, MA 02110-1301 USA

Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium, provided this notice is preserved.

Updated: $Date: 2006/10/04 21:44:17 $ $Author: ams $