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Google Chrome Operating Systems Software Hardware Technology

Google's Mysterious Fuchsia OS Can Now Run On the Pixelbook (theverge.com) 60

Google's mysterious operating system, dubbed Fuchsia, has been in the works for more than a year now with very few details about the OS made public. According to a new report from Chrome Unboxed, we have learned that Google has released documentation to allow developers to load Fuchsia onto the company's Pixelbook. The Verge reports: This isn't your typical developer operating system, and you'll need two machines to host and target a Pixelbook to load the OS. It's very much a work in progress, with early hints at a user interface and functions. It's still interesting that Google has chosen its own Pixelbook to experiment with, though. Fuchsia has mostly been linked to embedded systems like wearables and Internet of Things devices in the past, but testing was expanded to Intel's NUC and Acer's Switch Alpha 12 Chromebooks. Fuchsia has been created from the Google-built Zircon microkernel, and not the typical Linux kernels that hold Android and Chrome OS together. It's not immediately clear exactly why Google is building a new operating system, nor what devices it will run on. As testing spreads to more Chromebooks, some are now speculating this could be a successor to the "Andromeda" project that never materialized.
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Google's Mysterious Fuchsia OS Can Now Run On the Pixelbook

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  • Quidquid id est... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by demon driver ( 1046738 ) on Tuesday January 02, 2018 @06:17PM (#55851567) Journal

    ..., timeo Danaos et dona ferentes. And no, I don't mean the Greek, and in case of Google or any such entity, it actually shouldn't be "even when they bear gifts", but "especially when they bear gifts".

  • NIH Syndrome (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rahvin112 ( 446269 ) on Tuesday January 02, 2018 @06:30PM (#55851665)

    Google has always suffered from NIH syndrome. They will develop and abandon their own kernel rather than use the Linux kernel with billions of development hours because Google engineers didn't write linux.

    It really is that simple.

    • Re:NIH Syndrome (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jareth-0205 ( 525594 ) on Tuesday January 02, 2018 @06:59PM (#55851889) Homepage

      Google has always suffered from NIH syndrome. They will develop and abandon their own kernel rather than use the Linux kernel with billions of development hours because Google engineers didn't write linux.

      It really is that simple.

      What? They have been using a modified Linux kernel in Android and ChromeOS for nearly a decade now. They use a modified version of the kernel in their server farms. Clearly they are using Linux. Or is that not enough? They have to use it forevermore - Linux is the be-all-and-end-all of kernels, and can never be improved upon.

      I thought this was a tech site?

    • They are probably hitting a wall with low-power performance that can really only be solved by such extensive modification that a new kernel is easier at this point.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Google don't reinvent the wheel for its own sake, they used the Linux kernel for both Android and Chrome OS. They develop tools where they think they can improve server efficiency, web development and user devices to keep the advertising revenue flowing to Google.

      Google obviously seem room for improvement over a Linux based system. Linux was designed as a Posix/Unix replacement and the kernel is now approaching 25m lines of code and contains binary code for hardware support, it's hardly the end point of OS

    • This may come as a shock to you, but not everyone in the world thinks GNU/Linux is a perfect operating system, or even that Unix is the pinnacle of operating system design. If Google wants to try to create something better, that deserves applause. Even if they fail, we learn one more way how not to do it.
    • by Dwedit ( 232252 )

      According to Wikipedia, Fuchsia is supposed to be a Real Time OS, and that alone would distinguish it from any other posix-compatible OS.

  • I am at a complete loss to understand how a project that is completely open source (https://fuchsia.googlesource.com/) can be considered in any way "mysterious."
    • Re:"Mysterious?" (Score:4, Insightful)

      by slack_justyb ( 862874 ) on Tuesday January 02, 2018 @07:22PM (#55852015)

      That's a fair statement. Strictly speaking code-wise, there's no mystery. However, I'm pretty sure that a very limited number of folks have commit access to the code on the main branch, so if those individuals are being awfully quiet about what goals they're trying to reach with their code, it can be "mysterious" as to the purpose of the code (like what problem is it trying to solve or is this just some kind of wack-a-hack project, etc...). Not knowing what the point of the code is, makes it a bit difficult to know what the next move is. Maybe they want to add POSIX compatibility, maybe not, no one knows if POSIX compatibility missing is a bug or on purpose (and yes, I'm just pulling an example out of thin air, it really could be anything). However, not knowing the point makes it hard for a new coder to jump in with the main branch. Now if they wanted to start their own derived project, totes cool there. However, imagine if their some issue with libc compatibility that someone spots, they develop a patch for it and the devs with commit access are like, "nope we did that on purpose because the goal isn't to be compat with libc" or something like that (again, just random example pulling out of thin air here). The best we can do is guess at what the devs are ultimately trying to get at here or even if there is a point to all of this or if this is just some academic dumping ground project for them.

      That's a critical thing with projects. You might have amazingly well written code, but if the communication between the programmers is crap, you're going to end up with crap. A project is more than just the codebase. A project is a multitude of things, of which, the codebase, the communication, and the leadership, among others, are major players in.

  • by MAXOMENOS ( 9802 ) <maxomai@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Tuesday January 02, 2018 @06:32PM (#55851679) Homepage

    It's not immediately clear exactly why Google is building a new operating system...

    Possibly to un-encumber themselves from the GPL? I note that Fuchsia's licenses are a mix of MIT, BSD, and Apache. This would potentially allow them to adapt the OS to just about any environment without having to release the source code.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      If that is the case, it probably wouldn't be the first time. I wouldn't be surprised if a huge part of Apple's motivation behind supporting LLVM and Clang was to free itself of the onerous and limiting restraints that the GPL family of licenses imposes on users (modifiers and derivers are users, too). Despite so many claims to the opposite from its supporters, the fact remains that the GPL family of licenses is very restrictive, and they do deprived users of many critical rights, including the right to modi

      • Despite so many claims to the opposite from its supporters, the fact remains that the GPL family of licenses is very restrictive, and they do deprived users of many critical rights, including the right to modify and to distribute software without releasing the source code changes.

        As is also mentioned by those supporters, this is the exact point. It restricts the rights of the immediate developers, to protect the rights of all developers down the line, who would not be able to further develop the code if it was closed.

        The GPL restricts your rights in a similar way to laws preventing you from murdering people. It restricts your freedom to stab me, but it is rather a good thing for me and everybody around you that you aren't allowed to do that.

      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

        I wouldn't be surprised if a huge part of Apple's motivation behind supporting LLVM and Clang was to free itself of the onerous and limiting restraints that the GPL family of licenses imposes on users (modifiers and derivers are users, too).

        That WAS the motivator for it - Apple pushed LLVM because it wasn't GPL. More specifically, it was GPLv3. Apple saw what was in the draft GPLv3 proposals, didn't like what they saw, and expended about 4-5 years of effort to bring LLVM to usability, including writing th

    • It's not immediately clear exactly why Google is building a new operating system...

      Possibly to un-encumber themselves from the GPL? I note that Fuchsia's licenses are a mix of MIT, BSD, and Apache. This would potentially allow them to adapt the OS to just about any environment without having to release the source code.

      Note that those are the same FOSS licenses Google uses on all of its open source projects. I wouldn't read anything into those choices.

    • by Misagon ( 1135 ) on Tuesday January 02, 2018 @10:53PM (#55853085)

      There are technical reasons also. Android under the Linux kernel does sandboxing by giving each app its own user, which I find to be a bit of a kludge.

      Fuchsia's microkernel Zircon (nee Magenta) instead uses capability-based security [wikipedia.org], in a model where Processes live in Jobs and Jobs can be nested, allowing the ones that are deeper nested having lesser privileges.
      However, Zircon has a major flaw: capabilities can not be revoked, other than by killing the whole process, or jobs.
      If I had been in charge, I would have instead chosen seL4 [sel4.systems], which has revocation, is stable on ARM and which has a formal proof of correctness (was it ten or twenty man-years of work just for the proof? I forget).
      But, yeah... seL4 is licensed under GPL. ;-P

  • by jenningsthecat ( 1525947 ) on Tuesday January 02, 2018 @06:51PM (#55851795)

    It's not immediately clear exactly why Google is building a new operating system ...

    All the better to spy on you, my dear!

  • âoeIt's not immediately clear exactly why Google is building a new operating system...â

    Unix is more than 40 years old. Granted, it works well on computers of different size levels and below the hood on both android and iOS devices.
    But still, it is conceptually old, certainly by IT evolution standards.
    I can imagine that a company with the funds and intellectual workforce like Google would be capable of innovating operating system principles taking into account the advances in academic research
  • I can tell you it takes a very short time to port a simple kernel/microkernel/nanokernel to a new architecture. Some of the kernels we deal with in the industry have been brought over to entirely new CPU architectures as a proof of concept over a weekend. So that someone at Google got a hankering for some porting work is not surprising, but it's not likely a terrible amount of effort either. (still cool work though)

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