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Genode 16.05 features revised API, Rust, and huge driver update
By Thom Holwerda, submitted by Norman Feske on 2016-06-01 20:54:38

The Genode project has released the version 16.05 of the operating-system framework. The new version comes with a fundamentally reworked component API, basic support for the Rust programming language, new ACPI infrastructure, and upgraded device drivers for Intel wireless, Intel graphics, audio, and USB.

The Genode API and the programming styles for developing components evolved over the years. Being born out of the L4 community, the sole reliance on synchronous inter-component communication was deeply ingrained in the developer's mindset when the project was started ten years ago. It took the project a few years to overcome this misconception and embrace asynchronous communication primitives. Most modern Genode components use a mix of both synchronous and asynchronous inter-component interactions. At the API level, however, the two forms of communication remained to exist side by side instead of being integrated in one holistic design. With respect to programming styles, the project underwent a similar evolution. Coming from C-programming background, many parts of the original API resembled a C-ish programming style such as the prominent use of pointers, format strings, side effects via global function calls, or integer error codes. Over the years, however, the expressiveness of the C++ language got fully embraced and the programming style evolved towards functional programming.

Today, most modern Genode components are designed as single-threaded state machines, triggered only by signals and RPC requests originating from other components. There are almost no dynamic memory allocations. If so, allocations are not anonymous but accounted to a specific allocator. State is explicitly passed as arguments, not captured in the form of globally accessible objects. Thanks to this style, certain classes of bugs such as race conditions or memory leaks are greatly alleviated by design. Genode 16.05 cultivates the modern style of Genode components in the form of a fundamentally revised API. The new API is less complex, much safer, and easier to reason about. To account for this profound change, the release documentation is accompanied by a new edition of the "Genode Foundations" book (PDF).

The second major focus of the current release is the updated arsenal of device drivers. All drivers ported from Linux were upgraded to the Linux kernel 4.4.3. Specifically, the drivers are the Intel wireless stack, the Intel graphics driver, the USB driver, and the TCP/IP stack. Thereby, Genode users are able to leverage the same drivers as up-to-date Linux distributions but with each driver being encapsulated in a dedicated protection domain. The audio driver, which originates from OpenBSD, received an update to OpenBSD 5.9. The device drivers are complemented with new infrastructure that makes ACPI platform controlling and monitoring features available to Genode users.

Further highlights are the added ability to use the Rust programming language in Genode components and the enhanced support for using the GNU debugger on top of the NOVA microhypervisor. Details about all improvements and API changes are provided by the extensive release documentation of version 16.05.

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