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[20080331] Catching up: portability, mult, Freescale i.mx31, fortunes, growfs, SMP, IIJ SEIL/X
I've had a bunch of things sit here, some a bit dated, some brand new. I'll put them all into one item here due to lazyness:
  • Following Wikipedia, Portability is ``the general characteristic of being readily transportable from one location to another'', and it's also a major goal of NetBSD. Things start to get interesting when looking into details, e.g. Wikipedia also states that ``Software is portable when the cost of porting it to a new platform is less than the cost of writing it from scratch. The lower the cost of porting software, relative to its implementation cost, the more portable it is said to be.'' So there's some room for interpretation when defining what is portable and what is not, and to what extent.

    Besides my essay on What makes an operating system portable, there was a posting to the netbsd-advocacy mailing-list that goes into a few details on NetBSD's current state of portability. The posting lists a number of reasons why the author considers NetBSD to be portable, including the low effort to start new projects, central maintenance in one source tree, and the efforts from machine-independent changes to all ports.

    After reading about people doing research on how to assess "security" of operating systems by counting number of exploits and how quick they are patched, I wonder if there are some metrics out there to also put "portability" into numbers.

  • I've mentioned the mult project some time ago. In one of their latest recordings, there's also a interview with its creator, Kristaps Dzonsons, on it on BSDtalk, available in mp3 and ogg formats. Thanks to Mark Weinem for the hint!

  • Following some discussion on NetBSD on the Freescale i.mx31 board, Matt Thomas has posted a dmesg output. Mentioned here for all the fans of dmesg pr0n. :-)

  • To give new users hints on how to use NetBSD, Jeremy C. Reed has started a netbsd-tips fortune database. It's part of NetBSD-current and can be run from .login/.profile by running "fortune netbsd-tips". There's also a wiki page that allows easy submitting of new entries. Feel free to contribute your special NetBSD gems!

  • NetBSD's handling of harddisks and file systems is pretty static right now - while one can add additional disks to a system, and even span them using RAIDframe and ccd(4), extending the filesystem on top of it is a problem. This is being mitigated by Juan Romero Pardines' port of growfs(8): ``I've just adapted growfs(8) from OpenBSD (they adapted the FreeBSD code), which is able to grow FFSv1 and FFSv2 filesystems.

    I tested growing a partition in FFSv1 and FFSv2 from 1GB to 4GB and the process was smooth (and fast); after this I ran 'fsck_ffs -yf /fs' and it found one error that was fixed correctly.'' For more information, including where to get the code and what to test, see Juan's posting.

    There were a few attempts to get logical volume management (LVM) onto NetBSD, which were not successful so far. This may change in the future, and when flexible handling of storage volumes, with growfs(8) will be useful to manage FFS/UFS file system sitting on top of them.

  • Andrew Doran has continued his hacking to improve NetBSD on SMP machines, and he has posted about making the socket code and the Unix domain communication running fine-grained, and about speeding up device detection during booting by running device configuration in a number of concurrent kernel threads. If someone has actual numbers on boot time before/after that patch, please post them to the list!

  • When needing sources for some Open Source package, I've used "make extract NO_DEPENDS=1" with pkgsrc in the past. It seems that was removed without further notice, and Obata Akio was kind enough to point out that this can be done now by using SKIP_DEPENDS=yes. Mmm, interface stability...

  • Last but not least a note from the "products based on NetBSD" department: Saitoh Masanobu from IIJ, Japan, has notified us that the SEIL/X series that IIJ unveils at AsiaBSDCon 2008 is based on NetBSD. There's a brochure on SEIL/X that mentions a long list of features supported by the machine, including all state of chw art in routing, bridging, VPN, firewalling, quality of service and more. This is made possible by the "SEIL Engine", a software architecture that's based on NetBSD that allows porting the application stack to a number of hardware platforms easily, while offering flexibility to add support for custom hardware and software modules:

    For more information on the SEIL Engine, see IIJ/SEIL's homepage (Japanese). and PDF brochude (English).

    Also, for some impression of the SEIL/X machine on the geek level, there's dmesg output of the machine available.

That's all for today. To get your very latest copy of NetBSD, use our daily builds and anoncvs.

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[20050807] Of course it runs NetBSD?
This slogan isn't probably no longer as true as it used to be, but in his article about the current state of the Linux kernel, Geoff Broadwell writes ``Linux now supports more devices on more platforms than any other operating system ever (Linux passed NetBSD last year, an impressive achievement)''. My question in that context is: What is that "Linux" that's supporting all these devices? Is it what everyone can grab on Or is it just a term for a set of operating system kernels that behave roughly the same on all platforms they run? Or do they really all run kernels from the same sources? Reminds me of my musing about portability some time ago... is Linux (the kernel) really there were NetBSD is today? (serious question!)

Of course things look even more different in the userland, I guess, with NetBSD's crosscompiling framework for userland and X...

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[20050726] Article: Best practices for portable patches
An article at NewsForge describes how to keep software portable across various operating systems. Good to see some "not all the world is Linux" propaganda!

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[20050402] Article: Making Packager-Friendly Software
In this OnLAMP article, Julio M. Merino Vidal describes many traps and pitfalls that authors of Free/Open Source Software can make. Assuming their software is good, it will be included in various packages collections (like pkgsrc) sooner or later. The software author can make the package creater's job a lot easier following the guidelines given here. Topics covered include what to include into and how to handle distribution files (tar archives, ...), documentation, offer hooks for easy configuration as well as discussing several ways for automating and tunig that process.

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[20050320] Making NetBSD's (a)sh pass regression test with 0 errors
David Laight has changed NetBSD's (a)sh to pass all the IFS tests in this regression test. For comparison, here are a few numbers from various sh(compatible) shells (sorted best to worst):

 sh NetBSD-current:       # tests 6856 passed 6856 failed 0   
 bash 2.05b.0(1):         # tests 6856 passed 5408 failed 1448
 bash 3.00.16(1):         # tests 6856 passed 5408 failed 1448
 ksh Solaris 9/x86:       # tests 6856 passed 4456 failed 2400
 ksh NetBSD 2.0_STABLE:   # tests 6856 passed 2584 failed 4272    
 sh NetBSD 2.0_STABLE:    # tests 6856 passed 1176 failed 5680 ordered 1336   
 sh Solaris 9/x86:        aborts with "bad substitution" 

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