Genode OS Framework release 20.11 Nov 27, 2020

Genode 20.11 brings Sculpt OS to 64-bit ARM hardware, introduces dynamic CPU-load balancing, and enables multicore virtualization on ARM. Driver-wise, the release improves audio on PC hardware, and adds VirtIO networking support.

ARM 64-bit has been a recurring theme of the Genode releases this year and the just released version 20.11 is no exception. We are proud to announce that our Genode-based custom general-purpose OS called Sculpt has come to life on 64-bit ARM hardware, namely the NXP i.MX8 EVK board. This is the result of intensive work on the framework's driver architecture for ARM and several SoC-specific device drivers. Closely related to this line of work is the new ability to run multicore virtual machines on ARM.

Another highlight of version 20.11 is a new CPU balancing mechanism, which automates the dynamic assignment of threads to CPU cores for complex workloads. With traditional operating systems, such policies are normally part of the OS kernel. Thanks to Genode's component architecture, we are able to implement such potentially complex policies in the form of an optional component, which offers ultimate flexibility while keeping the kernel untainted by complex heuristics.

Further topics of the current release are improved power management and audio support on PC hardware, a new OSS API emulation that allows for the reuse of popular audio applications on Genode, and new support for VirtIO networking. The full picture is given by the release documentation of version 20.11...

Sculpt OS release 20.08 Sep 17, 2020

Version 20.08 of the Sculpt operating system refines the user experience and becomes able to host the Chromium-based Falkon web browser.

The new version of Sculpt OS is based on the latest Genode release 20.08. In particular, it incorporates the redesigned GUI stack to the benefit of quicker boot times, improved interactive responsiveness, and better pixel output quality. It also removes the last traces of the noux runtime. Fortunately, these massive under-the-hood changes do not disrupt the user-visible surface of Sculpt. Most users will feel right at home.

Upon closer inspection, there are couple of new features to appreciate. The CPU-affinity of each component can now be restricted interactively by the user, components can be easily restarted via a click on a button, font-size changes have an immediate effect now, and the VESA driver (used when running Sculpt in a virtual machine) can dynamically change the screen resolution.

Thanks to our continuous efforts of strengthening of the base system, Sculpt OS has become able to host a first version of the Chromium-based Falkon web browser from an installable package. Even though this version is still rough around the edges and unoptimized, it already enables Sculpt users to casually browse the modern web without the need for a virtual machine.

The updated manual goes into detail about the use of the new system.

The ready-to-use system image for version 20.08 is available at the Sculpt download page.

Genode OS Framework release 20.08 Aug 28, 2020

With Genode 20.08, the low-level GUI stack underwent a profound redesign, the Chromium web engine comes to life, the i.MX8 support covers clock and power management, and the CBE block encrypter becomes highly modular.

The most stunning feature of Genode 20.08 is most certainly the new ability to host the Chromium web engine as native component in the form of the Falkon web browser. This long-time project involved overcoming countless road blocks along the way to the great benefit of Genode's users at large: building bridges between 3rd-party build systems and Genode, covering seemingly obscure corner cases of POSIX, solving instruction-cache invalidation issues on ARM - just to name a few.

Under the hood, we took the release cycle as opportunity to tackle a major surgery of the low-level GUI stack that we planned for more than two years. The architectural change lays the groundwork for swapping out graphics and input drivers on the fly without reboot. It also paves the ground for features like screen capturing and remote desktop scenarios in a privacy-protecting way.

On our mission of bringing the driver support for the 64-bit ARM-based i.MX8 SoC on par with our driver coverage on Intel PCs, the release introduces a platform driver specifically for this SoC that covers clock and power management. One step closer to using Sculpt OS on the MNT Reform laptop.

Furthermore, Genode's custom block encrypter called CBE received continuous development. In particular, the cryptographic algorithm and trust anchor have become pluggable modules. This will allow for tailoring the CBE to custom products - like hardware trust anchors - without changing its implementation.

These and many more improvements are covered in detail in the release documentation of version 20.08...

Genode OS Framework release 20.05 May 28, 2020

Version 20.05 wraps up the consolidation of Noux with the C runtime, advances the device-driver infrastructure and virtualization support on ARM, reaches feature-completion of our block encryptor, and leverages seccomp for sandboxing components on top of Linux.

It has become almost a tradition to dedicate the spring release to topics under the hood of the Genode OS framework, taking the time for careful consolidation, and architectural improvements.

On the latter account, the Linux version gained an architectural revamp of its inter-component communication model, leveraging the combination of the seccomp and epoll kernel mechanisms to enable Genode's capability-based security concept on this kernel. The new version applies strict sandboxing to each component individually. In particular, the host file system is shielded from Genode components and Genode's least-privilege access-control scheme comes into effect.

As the second prominent architectural topic, the release features new device-driver infrastructure for the ARM universe along with a unified version of the formerly distinct virtual machine monitors for ARMv7 and ARMv8. These are important steps to bring Genode on ARM to parity with the x86 version.

Further highlights of the release are the first feature-complete version of our custom block-encryption component, the improved management of CPU affinities on x86, and new tracing utilities. Last but not least, the release is accompanied with an updated version of the Genode Foundations book, reflecting the changes of the framework since one year ago.

Read the details of the new release in the release documentation of version 20.05...

Sculpt OS release 20.02 Mar 10, 2020

Version 20.02 of the Sculpt operating system revisits the administrative user interface for a more intuitive and logical user experience.

With the release of Sculpt version 20.02, we follow our roadmap's mission to make Sculpt OS easier to approach. In particular, we identified the reliance on a command-line interface as a potential barrier of entry. As Sculpt OS is not a Unix-like system, it should not require any Unix know-how from the user. To relieve users from this burden, Sculpt 20.02 introduces a custom graphical file browser and editor that can be used for interactively inspecting and tweaking the state of the system. The traditional command-line interface is still present as a fallback for advanced tasks though. The updated manual goes into detail about the use of the new system.

Thanks to the work of seasoned Genode developers, many software packages are already available for the new version. These include virtual machine monitors like VirtualBox, performance-monitoring tools, GUI components, Genode's custom Unix runtime, and several applications and games. In particular, the software depots offered by alex-ab, cnuke, skalk are worth exploring. The ready-to-use system image for version 20.02 can be obtained from the Sculpt download page and is accompanied by matching documentation.

Genode OS Framework release 20.02 Feb 28, 2020

With version 20.02, Genode makes Sculpt OS fit for running on i.MX 64-bit ARM hardware, optimizes the performance throughout the entire software stack, and takes the next evolutionary step of the user-facing side of Sculpt OS.

Without any doubt, Sculpt OS has been the driving motivation behind most working topics featured by the new release. One particularly exciting line of work is the enabling of Sculpt on i.MX-based 64-bit ARM hardware, which touched the framework on all levels, from the boot loader, over the kernel, device drivers, libraries, system management, up to the application level. The work goes as far as supporting Sculpt OS as a hypervisor platform for hosting Linux in a virtual machine.

As a second Sculpt-related development, we strive to make the user-visible side of the operating system better approachable and more logical. With this background, the current release comes with a profound redesign of the administrative user interface of Sculpt OS. An updated downloadable system image will follow soon.

Also related to Sculpt are an updated audio driver based on OpenBSD 6.6, the support of virtual desktops, and performance optimization of the Seoul virtual machine monitor on x86 hardware.

Regarding the framework API, the release introduces a new library for building multi-component applications. It aims to bring the benefits of Genode's unique security architecture from the operating-system level to the application level.

These topics are only the tip of the iceberg. For the complete picture, please consult the release documentation of version 20.02...

Road Map for 2020 Jan 20, 2020

In 2020, we will be concerned about dwarfing the barrier of entry into the Genode world.

Following the last year's leitmotif of "bridging worlds", we turn our attention to the removal of the hurdles faced by aspiring developers and users. During the annual road-map discussion on our mailing list, we identified four tangible approaches towards that goal. First, making Sculpt OS more user friendly. Second, reinforcing trust in Genode by fostering the framework's high quality. Third, making the tooling around Genode a joy to use. And finally, the illustration of Genode's versatility in the form practical use cases.

Besides this overall theme, we plan to continue our commitment to the NXP i.MX SoC family, revisit Genode's low-latency audio support, and extend the cultivation of Ada/SPARK within (and on top of) Genode.

More background information about the new road map and a rough schedule are presented at our official road-map page.