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I was quite surprised to learn that the GNU project has an independent kernel of their own called Hurd. And there are mainstream distributions like Arch Hurd and Debian GNU/Hurd which uses it. Is there any significant advantage for Hurd over Linux?

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The distribution of Debian which runs the FreeBSD kernel is a more significant player. People are actually using that for production work, unlike the Hurd. –  Faheem Mitha Oct 29 '11 at 16:54
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4 Answers 4

up vote 7 down vote accepted

At this point in time, considering there is no "stable" distribution of GNU/Hurd, the major advantages seem to lie with Linux.

A good place to start understanding the differences between a Mach microkernel, and a traditional monolithic unix kernel is the Wikipedia page on Mach (Kernel).

As an interesting note, Mac OS X, uses a Mach Kernel, called XNU. Though based on Mach 3.0, it's not a microkernel, like Hurd is. It makes sense, since Jobs brought the Mach kernel from NeXT to Apple when Apple bought NeXT.

Happy Reading.

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You might want to update your answer now. As of 2013 the hurd is a remarkable piece of software that is moving forward nicely, and is now in the position to stay online for quite some time before needing to be taken down (there are still some memory leaks). You can find more information here and here –  NlightNFotis Feb 17 '13 at 8:55
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@NlightNFotis Suggest you post your own answer. –  derobert Aug 22 '13 at 15:27
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Hurd was the original 'anticipated' kernel BEFORE Linux existed. It has been under development, seemingly for years. During that time, Linus Torvalds along with volunteers worldwide, developed and implemented a kernel that is large, but worked. It was enhanced with programmers from many software firms including Redhat, HP and IBM. It is reliable and works. Mach adhere to the Minix philosophy of having a simple microkernel. I would suggest you take a look at the work of Minix if you would like to see the differences in philosophy. Though the microkernel may have some theoretical advantages, all of the literature I have read, seems to favor the kernel strategy taken by Linux.

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There are cases where the separation a microkernel offers is worth the costs - usually systems that have to be highly reliable and able to cope with as many errors as possible. Typically anything running on an aircraft (apart from on-board entertainment systems) or in automotive industry. Generally places where less is more, since lives are at risk. –  peterph Jan 30 at 21:34
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Here are some further thoughts on the OS differences that arise from different kernel architectures (monolithic kernel vs microkernel).

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You can consider Two points of view of with "Free software".

The point of view of Linus Torvalds: Free, but try to integrate other type of software (proprietary driver, proprietary software...)

The Point of view of Richard Stallman: If you make free software it's not to integrate private software which can spy on you and make money with your data. Richard Stallman develop is project with minority compare of Linus Torvalds' community.

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