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[20091107] NetBSD vs. Microkernels - From Kernel to Userspace and Abroad
A few weeks ago I made a comment about NetBSD not being a "microkernel" despite it's move to kernel modules. Antti Kantee wrote back to me (Hi Antti!) reminding me of his work on RUMP, PUFFS and the like, which I think does definitely deserve mentioning in that context:

With RUMP, PUFFS and the like, Antti is set on a mission to define interfaces between kernel components, and move those kernel components from inside the kernel to the userland. As a result, the (once) kernel-code is now running as "simple" userland processes that have all the benefits like memory protection and not taking down the whole system in case of an error. Examples that Antti has been bashing on started with moving file systems to the userland, which resulted in PUFFS and ReFUSE, an implementation of the Linux inferface of File systems in USErland (FUSE). Not stopping at file systems (which are traditionally used for accessing data on storage media, like e.g. for ntfs-3g), Antti went further and moved into getting network services like SSHFS going - in userland, based on FUSE.

Not stopping there, more recent works include:

Remember when NetBSD got (re)FUSE? All of a sudden we got a bazillion of filesystems back then. So why not turn this development around, and make RUMP available as an interface for all sort of drivers to other operating systems. That way, they can get our file systems, usb stack and drivers, etc., and run them in userspace as well. Developing a driver on one operating system, and using it on many - a wet dream would come true!

Sounds impossible? Ye fear not, it's been done! Arnaud 'stacktic' Ysmal already has ported RUMP to FreeBSD and Linux, the work is available via pkgsrc/misc/rump, and there is also Arnaud's page on Rump on non-NetBSD Operating Systems for more information.

Whew... lots of research and development going on in this area, and - getting back to the initial topic - we may well see an operating system in the future that moves from the monolithic to a microkernel approach, and it may or may not be called NetBSD. Fact is, that a lot of research is going on in that area, on NetBSD, here and now. Hats off, Antti!

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[20080721] Google and NetBSD Summer of Code Projects in 2008 - Midterm status reports (Updated)
Google's Summer of Code has passed the midterm date. With it, students and their mentors were asked to give internal status reports of thei works. While the internal reports themselves are not public, many of our students have sent mail to NetBSD's public lists, giving details on their status. Let's give a summary of the state of affairs. Projects were students have posted reports come first:
  • wscons: Expansion for wstablet in NetBSD
    Student: Jason W. Beaudoin

    To support tables for the wscons console driver, a number of changes to the wscons API have been proposed in the student's status report. While there are a number of similarities with the wsmouse interface, there are also a number of differences that need to be worked around, e.g. absolute vs. relative coordinates. Many of the proposed changes are implemented, and we're looking forward to complete this project successfully within time.

    Status report, project page, project proposal

  • subfiles: Subfile Support for NetBSD
    Student: Adam Burkepile

    Subfile allow to associate data with a regular file, just like regular allow to associate data with a directory. New internal data structures were defined to identify subfiles within the file system, and tools like newfs and dumpfs were adjusted. An API is being designed to access subfiles, and work to realize the assorted functions is being approached.

    Status report part 1 / 2, project page, project proposal

  • hurdt: Hurd translators
    Student: Marek Dopiera

    Translators are programs which provide filesystems in user space functionality. This is provided via NetBSD's RUMP interface, and additional system calls and file system operations have been defined to activate the server processes when access to such a "translator" is made. Currently, the translators are only implemented in NetBSD's ext2 file system, as this allows testing of interaction with Hurd - Hurd's support for FFS seems non-working, unfortunately. The project's under busy development, and we're looking forward to see the final results.

    Status report, project page, project proposal

  • lvm: Write and improve NetBSD LVM driver
    Student: Adam Hamsik

    This project implements the Linux LVM API (libdevmapper) on NetBSD, to allow using Linux' lvm2tools for logical volume management. The project's making excellent progress, there is an ISO image (see URL in status report) as well as a qemu image available for testing, and latest reports show that linear volumes can be configured and mounted already.

    Status report, project page, project proposal

  • uvc: Add support for UVC devices (USB web-cams)
    Student: Patrick Mahoney

    A kernel driver was developed to read data from webcams using a custom API, work to implement the video2linux API is under way. Current challenges lie in NetBSD's USB stack, which lacks support for isochronous transfers, which is used by many (but not all) webcams. The project has made excellent progress so far, and we're positive that the project will be a success.

    Status report, project page, project proposal

  • dvb: DVB drivers and kernel framework
    Student: Jeremy Morse

    This project implements a driver for Digital Video Broadcasting to supplement bktr(4)'s TV card support. So far, a driver and an API to transport data from the kernel to userland was implemented, matching LinuxTV. The project's making good progress, even due to conflicts with the academic schedule.

    Status report, project page, project proposal

  • install-tool: Customizable install tool for NetBSD
    Student: Zachary Wegner

    NetBSD's current installer, sysinst, is being split into frontend and backend parts, with a configuration file building the interface between the two parts. Untangling the current mix of user interaction and install operation are ongoing, with challenges like request of install media (think floppy #42) and network configuration. Also, a parser for the configuration file was written, and work not started yet is the frontend creating the configuration file for the backend.

    Status report, project page, project proposal

  • fs-utils: File system access utilities
    Student: Ysmal Arnaud

    This project is using NetBSD's RUMP and the ukfs library to access a file system image from userland. So far, makefs(1) can generate a file system image, and it can now be manipulated as well. Both a "file system console" as shell to operate on the image as well as separate tools for single operations have been designed. Many of the "normal" userland tools' functionality like ls(1), cp(1) and rm(1) were implemented. This project has made excellent progress so far, see the status report and project page.

    Status report, project page, project proposal

  • cwrapper: pkgsrc: rewrite wrapper framework in C
    Student: Amitai Schlair

    The student was distracted by travel obligations for some time, but work has started in pkgsrc now. Current work includes a set of ATF tests to cover the usage of the existing pkgsrc wrapper framework and a design plan for the new wrapper implementation. The actual wrapper implementation remains to be written, and we're looking forward to see the it happen, including integration into pkgsrc plus benchmarks on the increase in speed.

    Status report, project page, project proposal

  • atfify: Converting remaining regression tests to the Automatic Testing Framework
    Student: Lukasz Strzygowski

    The Automated Testing Framework was added to NetBSD as a result of last year's Summer of Code. This year, all the remaining regression tests from src/regress are being converted to ATF. Test suites for tools (awk, grep, make, ...) and libraries (libm, libpthread, ...) were converted so far. Tests for libc are currently being converted, and kernel tests are next. We're looking forward to get all of src/regress changed to ATF!

    Status report, project page, project proposal

No status report was sent by the following students (or at least I haven't seem one). Data given here is from the project pages, mostly:
  • ext3: Implement Ext3 file system support
    Student: Rus-Rebreanu Alin-Florin

    This project intends to implement journaling in the file system by reusing Wasbi's wapbl code. Unfortunately, little has happend to reach this goal (to say the least), and the student got AWOL. Interested parties are welcome to try out ext2fuse (which also does ext3, despite the name) for now.

    Project page, project proposal

  • packet-classes: Create an in-kernel API for "packet classes"
    Student: Anish Babu

    Nothing has happened in this project as well. I hear about communication problems, and it remains to see if things move forward here. :-(

    Project page, project proposal

  • teredo: Implementation of RFC4380 (Teredo) in NetBSD
    Student: Arnaud Lacombe

    The project aims at creating a Teredo client, server and relay via a kernel pseudo device and assorted userland tools. The project is currently still in the analysis and design phase, which will give it little time for completion -- as for other students, this is due to a clash with the academic schedule of the student. We're holding up hopes that the set goals can be met at least partially.

    Project page, project proposal

  • syslogd: Improve syslogd
    Student: Martin Schütte

    The project aims at implementing the upcoming IETF standards for syslog transport over TLS (instead of UDP), a more formal format of the messages themselv for easier automatic parsing, and signing of messages to assert authentication, integrity and correct sequencing of syslog messages. The first part of this is already working, the second part is development. We're looking forward to see this project succeed, as it will be of benefit not only to NetBSD.

    Project page, project proposal

So much for now. We wish all our students good luck in the second part of this year's Google Summer of Code, and are looking forward to see your final results, which are due in 3-4 weeks from now. Keep on hacking!

Update: Fixed a typo (thanks tron!), got an update on the ext3 project, and added a link to the status report of the cwrapper project, which I've missed (sorry!).

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[20070806] RUMP - Userspace kernel file system framework
One of this year's summer-of-Code projects is Antti Kantee's Userspace Kernel File System framework, which has the goal of creating an interface to run file system code in userspace. Antti did a lot of work in his previous Userspace filesystem hooks which also resulted in puffs and (re)fuse.

This year's project goes one step further as not only the VFS operations are passed from kernel to userspace, but the full filesystem code is ran in userspace, including memory management (buffer cache!). This allows developing filesystem code in userland with the "normal" kernel interfaces, but no panics if something goes wrong -- a simple core dump, and that's it. To cite from Antti's mail: ``If you want to give it a whirl, upgrade, go to sys/rump, type "make", go to fs/bin/$foofs and run the file system. It should work to a certain degree provided your system comes with puffs. Does it do anything a kernel file system wouldn't do? No .. except the core dump may be smaller and faster and less intrusive. Oh, actually it does one cool trick: you can run it on non-block devices, so you don't need to vnconfig the file system image first (provided, of course, that the file system starts right from the beginning of the image and that you wouldn't need a disklabel).''

For more information, see Antti's first and second email and his Summer-of-Code project page.

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