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Norman Feske avatar

A couple of new challenges

An update to Genode's official list of future challenges has been long overdue.

The Genode website features a collection of topics that we find interesting to pursue. Those topics may draw connections to other projects, or leverage a certain aspect of Genode's architecture in an interesting way, or may just be pursued out of curiosity.

While reviewing the challenges page earlier this week, I realized that several of the listed topics have become stale. The list also misses to take the recent opportunities of Sculpt OS into account. Before introducing those new topics, let's first briefly revisit those that I crossed off the list:

COMPLETED VNC server implementing Genode's framebuffer session interface

Johannes has taken this idea to Sculpt OS by now.

COMPLETED Interactive sound switchbox based on Genode's Audio_out session interface

This topic is covered by the audio infrastructure introduced in Genode 24.02. Audio play and record clients can dynamically appear and disappear at any time while the routing and mixing of audio streams can be changed on the fly. So the idea of the topic has become a regular feature by now.

COMPLETED Go language runtime

In the meantime, a Go runtime has become available at the world repository. Thanks to tor-m6 for the contribution!

COMPLETED Hardware-accelerated graphics for virtual machines

Genode's port of VirtualBox6 is able use hardware-accelerated graphics via Mesa and Genode's custom GPU multiplexer for Intel GPUs.

DROPPED VirtualBox on top of KVM on Linux

This idea has been realized elsewhere.

DROPPED Data Plane Development Kit (DPDK)

By now, Genode uses the network drivers of the Linux kernel.

DROPPED Sound on the Raspberry Pi

The personal motivation behind this topic - playing SDL-based games - has vanished in the meantime. The kids have outgrown Tuxpaint.

DROPPED Genode on the Librem5 phone hardware

The time window for embracing this hardware as a new Genode target has closed. Given the price and specs of the hardware, this would be too much work for too little gain.

DROPPED Genode on platform Xen/CAmkES/SPARTAN/XNU

The appeal of combining Genode with kernels other than the already supported ones has somewhat diminished with the advent of our custom kernel.

DROPPED Microkernelizing Linux

This novelty has run its course. Even though we are routinely using Genode on Linux as part of our development work flow, it seems wasteful to bend and twist Linux into a microkernel instead of using a microkernel.

DROPPED De-privileging the VESA graphics driver

The VESA driver is playing merely a niche role today.

DROPPED Using Haskell as systems-development language

Whereas the argument holds that a component-based system like Genode may ease the application of higher-level languages for OS-level problems, there is no inherent interest in Haskell among Genode's core developers. In order to not discriminate against other languages like OCamL or Factor, it is probably best to drop the overly specific topic.

New topics

ADDED Port of the Ladybird web browser

Ladybird is a new web browser developed independently from the large browser-engine vendors. It is designed to be light-weight and portable. Among the supported platforms is Qt, which is available for Genode. This makes the porting of Ladybird a tempting application of the Goa SDK.

ADDED Goa SDK running on Sculpt OS

Genode's Goa SDK is currently used in Linux-based development environments, facilitating cross-compilation to Genode. The goal of this project is the ability to use Goa directly on Sculpt OS without the need for a Linux VM. This entails a number of challenges, ranging from running the Goa tool itself by porting the expect interpreter, over running the Genode tool chain, adjusting the network-facing Goa commands to Genode's environment, to crafting custom support for executing goa run as a sandboxed Genode subsystem.

ADDED Ports of popular software

The Goa SDK streamlines the process of developing, porting, packaging, and publishing software for Genode, and Sculpt OS in particular. Thanks to the C runtime, the flexible per-component VFS, the standard C++ library, and a variety of supported 3rd-party libraries, porting software to Genode is relatively straight forward. A wish list of software that we'd like to have available on Genode is available at


Genode supports Qt as a native toolkit. But many popular applications are built upon GTK. A port of GTK to Genode would allow for the use of these applications on Sculpt OS without the need of a Linux VM. A tangible goal for this line of work could be the port of mtPaint to Sculpt OS.

ADDED Support for additional ARM SoCs

Genode's ARM support has been focused on NXP's i.MX family, Allwinner A64 (used by the PinePhone), and to a lesser degree the Raspberry Pi. To make Genode compatible with a larger variety of devices, the support for further chip families calls for exploration. For example, Rockchip SoCs are getting popular in products by open-source hardware vendors such as Pine64 and MNT. The first steps have been already taken by Michael Grunditz! Another example is the Mediatek SoC family, which is popular in affordable consumer smartphones.

The process of bringing an OS like Genode to a new SoC is full of technical challenges and labor-intensive, yet extremely gratifying. As a guide through this process, the Genode Platforms book breaks the challenge down to a sequence of manageable steps, where each step can be celebrated as a success.

ADDED Virtual network-boot infrastructure as Sculpt component

Network-based development work flows for PCs require a variety of tools and network-configuration peculiarities. Think of a development network with a custom configured DHCP server, a TFTP or HTTP server on the development machine, the provisioning of a PXE boot loader, tooling for obtaining serial output over AMT, or tooling for remote power control via AMT.

The goal of this project would be the hosting of all those functions in a Sculpt OS component "devnet" that is exclusively in charge of a dedicated LAN port of the developer's Sculpt machine. By connecting a test machine to this LAN port, the test machine becomes immediately available as development target without any manual installation or configuration steps needed. The devnet component would interface with the rest of the Sculpt system as a client of a file-system session (containing the boot payloads) and a terminal session (for the virtual serial connection).

ADDED Statistical profiler using Sculpt's GDB monitor

Starting with version 24.04, Sculpt OS provides the ability to supervise selected components using the GDB protocol. The underlying mechanism and infrastructure could be leveraged for implementing a statistical profiler that monitors components live. Using the on-target information obtained via Sculpt's "download debug info" option, the tool could display a sorted list of the most executed functions, facilitating interactive on-target analysis and experimentation.

In addition to the topics discussed above, the challenges page features quite a few topics that remained unchanged. To get a complete picture, it is best to skim over the complete page.