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The GNU Hurd is the GNU project's replacement for the Unix kernel. The Hurd is a collection of servers that run on the Mach microkernel to implement file systems, network protocols, file access control, and other features that are implemented by the Unix kernel or similar kernels (such as Linux).
Currently, the Hurd runs on IA32 machines. The Hurd should, and probably will, be ported to other hardware architectures or other microkernels in the future.
`Hurd' stands for `Hird of Unix-Replacing Daemons'. And, then, `Hird' stands for `Hurd of Interfaces Representing Depth'. We have here, to my knowledge, the first software to be named by a pair of mutually recursive acronyms.
The Hurd, together with the GNU Mach microkernel, the GNU C Library and the other GNU and non-GNU programs in the GNU system, provide a rather complete and usable operating system today. It is not ready for production use, as there are still many bugs and missing features. However, it should be a good base for further development and non-critical application usage.
The GNU system (also called GNU/Hurd) is completely self-contained (you can compile all parts of it using GNU itself). You can run several instances of the Hurd in parallel, and debug even critical servers in one Hurd instance with gdb running on another Hurd instance. You can run the X window system, applications that use it, and advanced server applications like the Apache webserver.
On the negative side, the support for character devices (like sound cards) and other hardware is mostly missing. Although the POSIX interface is provided, some additional interfaces like POSIX shared memory or semaphores are still under development.
All this applies to the current development version, and not to the last release (0.2). We encourage everybody who is interested to try out the latest development version, and send feedback to the Hurd developers.
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Updated: $Date: 2005/10/02 11:27:11 $ $Author: ams $