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[20081114] Catching up - what happened in NetBSD-land between mid-August and mid-November
OK, I've been slacking^Wbusy for the past weeks, but I hope things will get a bit better now. For a start, here's a catch-up of the things that accumulated in my inbox in the past ~two months:
  • Google Summer of Code is over for some time, but apparantly no final report has emerged so far (shame!). Still, a number of individual status reports came by on the official lists:

    I know of at least one other project (uvc) that has completed but that I didn't see a report here - maybe I've missed it. Anyways, GSoC was another big success this year. Thanks, Google!

  • Speaking of Adam Hamsik and Logical Volume Management (LVM), Adam has continued his work in that are, and he has written a device mapping library that interacts with his kernel driver. This allows to interact with his GSoC project without using any GPL code! See Adam's posting for more details.

  • Force 10 Networks, producer of 10gbit switches that use an operating system based on NetBSD, have added a new feature as part of their FTOS operating system: VirtualView, which provides virtualization of Force 10 based equipment. From the xchange article: ``Force10 Networks Inc. this week introduced VirtualView software for benchmaking, troubleshooting and managing virtualized environments based on Force10 gear.''

    More information is available from the Force 10 Networks homepage, plus in articles by fibresystems.org, light reading, Zycko, and SmartBrief.

  • Following the latest hype in portable computers, NetBSD has created a netbook page that intends to list models and the extent to which they are supported. Your contributions are most welcome here! (Contact me for sending updates and hardware :-)

  • Zafer Aydogan has made RSS feeds available for CVS commits to single files - see his mail to netbsd-users for more details.

  • New security advisory were released that I've missed in my last update:

  • A project that's been ongoing for quite some time is the move from "old-school" loadable kernel modules (LKMs) to new-style kernel modules. Important changes include the fact that modules can be either linked into the kernel at build time, or loaded into the kernel at runtime from the same file. Also, the bootloader was modified to load modules after the kernel, e.g. for a RAM-disk like the one that is used by the INSTALL kernel.

    In the same line, some parts are starting to be moved out of the GENERIC kernel, and installed as modules that can be loaded by the new framework then. The start is made by POSIX semaphores as a first step and proof-of concept, even if some details are still under hot debate, e.g. what the file system layout for modules is, and if the belong to the kernel and its build process, or to the userland.

  • While talking about splitting the kernel into modules, Antti Kantee has continued his work to move parts of the kernel into userspace, in particular running file system code as userland in his RUMP, and puffs and (Re)FUSE works. The idea is to provide the interfaces that file systems need in the userland, and the result is that you can run code that used to run inside the kernel in userland now.

    Another subsystem running in the kernel that could be moved to userland by providing appropriate interfaces with the rest of the kernel is the network stack, and Antti has moved just that to the userland. See Antti's mail to tech-net@ for more information on this impressive work.

  • NetBSD has shipped XFree in previous releases, and people who wanted to use X.org had to install it from pkgsrc. That's all fine, but to get a modern X, one had to compile things, as no precompiled binary packages are made available for many platforms. This is changing now, and NetBSD is getting X.org integrated via a reachover infrastructure which is also enabled for crosscompiling.

    The "user interface" for this is still in flux, but after some detour ("build.sh -V MKXORG=yes", without -x), "build.sh -x" now builds whatever X is considered the default for the platform. Some platforms already default to use X.org as X, and more will come, as changes that were made to NetBSD's copy of XFree are adopted to X.org.

    Platforms that use X.org by default now are macppc (see here and here), sparc sparc64, shark, amd64 and i386.

    As X.org is at Revision 7 now, it's installed in /usr/X11R7, which will lead to a lot of interesting effects. pkgsrc is already prepared for the new layout, but there are still many minor details that will need adjusting to the new directory. If you find one, post your patches to tech-x11.

  • Besides the GNU C compiler, there's the BSD-licensed Portable C Compiler around for some time now. It doesn't offer the same support as its GNU cousin yet, but this may change now: The BSD Fund is currently doing a fund drive to get money to enhance PCC. The goal is to raise $12,000US to improve support for core compiler functionality as well as support for C99, gcc compatibility and the amd64 architecture. See the project page for further details.

  • The NetBSD 5.0 release cycle has started! There's a netbsd-5 branch in CVS, daily binaries are available for testing, and some of the highlights of the upcoming release include file system journalling for FFS via WAPBL, and X.org.

    To help testing of NetBSD on Cobalt machines, Izumi Tsutsui has made a NetBSD 5.0_BETA based version of the Cobalt restore CD available. Enjoy!

  • As the final point today, a word on NUMA support from Christoph Egger. Non-Uniform Memory Access is needed in massive parallel systems where some nodes have RAM more tightly associated than others, where the RAM is further away, resulting in different access times for different regions of memory. In order to support this, Christop Egger has made first steps.

    His example implementation uses information from ACPI, and shows some heavy dmesg-pr0n from a 16-core machine with four sockets. Yumm!

So much for today. With the NetBSD 5.0 release cycle started, I'd like to encourage everyone to test the release branch, report errors, send patches as well as beer and choccolate to make this the best release that we've ever had.

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[20051222] Quo vadis, X11?
The news yesterday was from the X consortium that they have released X11R7, which moves away from a "monolithic" system using Imake into a more modularized one using autoconf etc. - Definitely bears some fingerprint of a GNU generation, which is also reflected by the list of supported platforms: while previous X releases supported a wide range of commercial and free Unix systems, X11R7 only lists Linux and Solaris as supported at this time.

As the XFree distribution (a spinoff of MIT's X == X.org from many years ago) is likely being superseded by the newer X.org releases, the question about NetBSD switching to X.org or not is one coming up on and off. As an answer, NetBSD core member Valeriy 'uwe' E. Ushakov has given an outline of NetBSD's plans regarding XFree86 vs. X.org. If someone wants to help merging patches and feeding them upstream, feel free to do so! :)

For those that want to use X.org today, they can find it in pkgsrc/meta-pkgs/xorg.

Maybe let me express my personal concerns that X(.org) is moving towards a Linux-centric system with no backward compatibility for systems not running Linux and all the fancy PC-centric, nVidia-equipped hardware and software. Which would not be the system that we all used to use for the past XX years.

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[20050605] Direct Render Interface support
It seems "Tonnerre" has done work to support the Direct Render Interface, which is needed to do hardware-accellerated 3D graphics, on NetBSD. See the project's page and the discussion that started on tech-kern. The available code seems to be for X.org only, and needs some more work to be usable on non-PC platforms (sparc64, macppc), but it's definitely a good first step.

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[20040915] X.org with NetBSD
Jeremy C. Reed has posted a link to his instructions on how to use the latest X.org X release, including all those funny things like windows dropping shadows and transparent windows. Beware, will be dog slow (until someone comes up with hardware acceleration...).

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[20040726] 3D Hardware Accelleration: DRI for ATI Radeon
Jonathan Perkin got the X Direct Render Interface going on NetBSD with his ATI Radeon Mobility 9000. It's a bunch of patches right now, but I guess it won't take long until this is in mainline NetBSD xsrc. The question whether this will be in NetBSD 2.1 (the next patch release) or 3.0 (the next major release) is unclear yet. Now if my ATI Rage Pro would be supported, or anyone 'd drop me a ATI Radeon card...? :)

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