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Norman Feske avatar

New Challenges ahead

We maintain a collection of future project ideas on a dedicated website. Today, I reviewed and updated the topics. Let me present the ideas.

Native Open-Street-Maps (OSM) client

When using Sculpt OS, we regularly need to spawn a fully fledged web browser in a virtual machine for using OSM or Google maps. The goal of this project would be a native component that makes maps functionality directly available on Genode, alleviating the urge to reach for a SaaS product. The work would include a review of existing OSM clients regarding their feature sets and the feasibility of porting them to Genode. Depending on the outcome of this review, an existing application could be ported or a new component could be developed, e.g., leveraging Genode's Qt support.

OpenJDK (updated)

OpenJDK is the reference implementation of the Java programming language and hosts an enormous ecosystem of application software.

Since version 19.02, Genode features a port of OpenJDK that allows the use of Java for networking applications.

The next step would be the creation of Genode-specific native classes that bridge the gap between the Java world and Genode, in particular the glue code to run graphical applications as clients of Genode's GUI server. Since OpenJDK has been ported to numerous platforms (such as Haiku), there exists a comforting number of implementations that can be taken as reference.

Genode on the Librem5 phone hardware

Even though there exists a great variety of ARM-based SoCs, Genode primarily focuses on the NXP i.MX family because it is - in contrast to most SoCs in the consumer space - very liberal in terms of good-quality public documentation and reference code, and it scales from industrial to end-user-facing use cases (multi-media).

The Librem5 project - with its mission to build a trustworthy mobile phone - has chosen the i.MX family as the basis for their product for likely the same reasons that attract us.

To goal of this work is bringing Genode to the Librem5 hardware. For the Librem5 project, Genode could pave the ground towards new use cases like high-security markets where a regular Linux-based OS would not be accepted. For the Genode community, the Librem5 hardware could become an attractive mobile platform for everyday use, similar to how we developers use our Genode-based Sculpt OS on our laptops.

Xlib compatibility

Developments like Wayland notwithstanding, most application software on GNU/Linux systems is built on top of the Xlib programming interface. However, only a few parts of this wide interface are actually used today. I.e., modern applications generally deal with pixel buffers instead of relying on graphical drawing primitives of the X protocol. Hence, it seems feasible to reimplement the most important parts of the Xlib interface to target Genode's native GUI interfaces (nitpicker) directly. This would allow us to port popular application software to Sculpt OS without changing the application code.

Bump-in-the-wire components for visualizing session interfaces

Genode's session interfaces bear the potential for monitoring and visualizing their use by plugging a graphical application in-between any two components. For example, by intercepting block requests issued by a block-session client to a block-device driver, such a bump-in-the-wire component could visualize the access patterns of a block device. Similar ideas could be pursued for other session interfaces, like the audio-out (sound visualization) or NIC session (live visualization of network communication).

The visualization of system behavior would offer valuable insights, e.g., new opportunities for optimization. But more importantly, they would be extremely fun to play with.

Hardware-accelerated graphics for virtual machines

In Genode 17.08, we introduced a GPU multiplexer for Intel Broadwell along with support for Mesa-based 3D-accelerated applications. While designing Genode's GPU-session interface, we also aimed at supporting the hardware-accelerated graphics for Genode's virtual machine monitors like VirtualBox or Seoul, but until now, we did not took the practical steps of implementing a virtual GPU device model.

The goal of this project is the offering of a virtual GPU to a Linux guest OS running on top of Genode's existing virtualization and driver infrastructure.

Microkernelizing Linux (updated)

Thanks to Genode's generic interfaces for I/O access as provided by core, all Genode device drivers including drivers ported from Linux and gPXE can be executed as user-level components on all supported microkernels. However, so far, we have not enabled the use of these device drivers on Linux as base platform. The goal of this project is the systematic replacement of in-kernel Linux device drivers by Genode processes running in user space, effectively reducing the Linux kernel to a runtime for Genode's core process. But moving drivers to Genode processes is just the beginning. By employing further Genode functionality such as its native GUI, lwIP, and Noux, many protocol stacks can effectively be removed from the Linux kernel.

In 2018, Johannes Kliemann pursued this topic to a state where Genode could be used as init process atop a customized Linux kernel. His work included the execution of Genode's regular device drivers for VESA and PS/2 as regular Genode components so that Genode's interactive demo scenario ran happily on a laptop. At this time, however, only parts of his results were merged into Genode's mainline.

The goal of this project is to follow up on Johannes' work, bring the remaining parts into shape for the inclusion into Genode, and address outstanding topics, in particular the handling of DMA by user-level device drivers. Further down the road, it would be tempting to explore the use of seccomp as sandboxing mechanism for Genode on Linux and the improvement of the Linux-specific implementation of Genode's object-capability model.

Further ideas?

Do you have further ideas about future research or development topics around Genode that you like to see listed? Please don't hesitate to get in touch by commenting on Reddit at /r/genode or posting to Genode's mailing list.