Taking a look at ArchHurd

Just as promised, this post will deal with ArchHurd a project aiming to bring what makes ArchLinux great to another kernel: GNUMach/GNUHurd.

edit: Sorry for making this long finished article public so late (same for the next one)… WordPress was giving me a hard time with my screenshots for some reason. But now I got things fixed.

Booting the live CD

So… Let’s take a look at the ArchHurd, shall we? However… Things are a bit.. messy right now. Let me make that absolutely clear before you might decide to give it a try, too. Don’t expect everything simply work like a charm. It won’t.

First it’s necessary to get the iso from the project’s download page. Don’t try to open the Installation Guide which the page links to. It points to the old wiki – which is gone. There are plans to re-add the old pages in the new wiki but this has not happened, yet. Fortunately there’s the Internet Archive which has archived the old wiki so that we can still access it here.

The bootloader: It has written “experimental” all over it.

The iso boots in a new VM set up for it. Despite the “hit ‘e’ and edit hd2 …” stuff things work if you have a standard VB configuration – and you wouldn’t be trying out ArchHurd on real hardware, would you?!

Booting the GNUMach micro-kernel.

Just be patient while the kernel probes the hardware – the rather old version which is used in ArchHurd contains a few glitches which make it take a long time to complete when used with Virtual Box.

Login – it’s not done automatically, yet.


Alright! ArchHurd has started up and we can move on to installing it. Just one more warning: There’s some kind of error in the kernel which makes the system freeze if doing nothing for a while. So keep it busy or pause your VM if you don’t want to reboot often!

Package selection in the installer.

I won’t cover the installation here – just follow the Installation Guide. The installation program is quite self-explanatory and the guide covers the rest you might need to know.

System configuration in the installer.

If you’re a long-time Archer, you’ll remember the “Arch Installation Framework”. If not, you’ll find out ArchHurd is also an OS without systemd and you have to take a look at rc.conf, the central configuration file which Arch Linux was famous for in the past.


After installing the bootloader according to the guide, we’re left with a working system. And after setting up network, it’s even actually usable. 😉 However the first time trying to update the repos, pacman crashed for me, so I had to remove the lock and try again. But from that moment on, network works fine. If you’re having trouble, selecting an older network card to emulate in VirtualBox (like PCnet-FAST III) might help with the Hurd.

Now let’s see how many new packages have been uploaded to the repos since the creation of the (now rather old live cd)!

Update the system?

Right, 31 packages is not really much… Especially if you’re used to ArchLinux’s rate of updating! So it might be a good idea to edit /etc/pacman.conf and uncomment the “testing” repo.

Updating with “testing” repo enabled

That’s not really up to date either, but at least a little more up to date. Ok, all nice and well… It’s a funny system – a little slow perhaps, rather old and pretty unstable. But what now? That just can’t be all.

Xorg running on ArchHurd

Of course not. X11 anyone? Yes, it does actually work. However I failed to get mouse support working in VirtualBox. If the xf86 driver for it is installed, Xorg won’t start anymore. Since I’m not an X guru, this is where I stopped and that’s also why I skipped showing you that ArchHurd is capable of running Openbox, too (which does in fact work – but is quite useless without a mouse…).

Anything else? Yes, a lot. The Arch Build System is working which means that you could build your own packages if you’re missing anything (which is rather likely ;)). That is: If you are lucky and the package will just work on Hurd – and if not you need some deeper knowledge about porting things over.

Building a package on ArchHurd

As an example I tried to build FLTK – and that proved to be one of the packages that simply worked. However I had trouble building with an ordinary user. The problem is known among ArchHurd developers and it’s not happening if you’re building as root (appending –asroot so that makepkg accepts this). I know that this is usually considered bad practice and should never be used on a productive system. But we’re playing around with the Hurd here, aren’t we?

Alright. This concludes our little examination of ArchHurd. If you liked what you just saw and are feeling brave enough – why not help the project a little? While it’s officially being worked on, it would certainly be nice if some visible progress was to be achived.

What’s next?

Next I intend to take a look at ArchBSD. Edit: You can count on it. I’ll do a little revision of the article and then set it to “public” in a few days.

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