Version 106 (modified by Jakub Jermář, 6 years ago) ( diff )

Release Notes for HelenOS mainline

Note: This document is a draft describing a future HelenOS release and is subject to change. The software described here has not been released yet. To get these latest and greatest features now, check out our Git master. (But you will also get the latest bugs).

HelenOS 0.8.0 (Speranza) was released on December 19, 2018.

This document contains a summary of changes made to HelenOS since release 0.7.2.

Special Notes for this Release

Features Introduced in This Release


  • We partially revived the Doxygen reference documentation and plan to further improve it.
  • HelenOS abandoned the *-linux-gnu and *-unknown-elf toolchain targets in favor of its own -helenos target. Utilizing the compiler-provided headers and libraries avoids a number of problems and reduces the amount of architecture-support code that otherwise needs to be provided directly in HelenOS.


  • Kernel is now stored in standard ELF format
  • Ordered dictionary (odict.h) now available in kernel
    • Container based on red-black trees
    • Replaced AVL trees and B+trees
    • Unlike the B+tree implementation, which was also used in HelenOS address space management, the ordered dictionary comes with an API which does not allocate memory itself and is thus more favorable from the point of view of resource management.
  • The kernel used to pass kernel addresses of IPC phone objects (a.k.a. phone hashes) as connection identifiers to userspace. This intentional but unfortunate information leak was replaced in this release by purely user-defined labels negotiated during IPC connection setup handshake. Each connected phone now has a user-defined label and imprints this label on each IPC call which is routed through it.
  • In 2014 HelenOS got its own implementation of RCU (Read-Copy-Update) synchronization primitive along with a CHT (Concurrent Hash Table) data type based on RCU. Although sophisticated and interesting from the technological point of view, the RCU and CHT were mostly unused and unmaintained. We therefore decided to remove these very complex features.
  • The kernel waitq synchronization primitive was made available to userspace via capabilities. Consequently the userspace implementation of futexes was rewritten to use waitq's as the underlying synchronization mechanism. The custom support for futexes was removed from the kernel. One ramification of this change is that the underlying kernel object is no longer allocated lazily. This increases startup times of components that use futexes, but provides better failure modes, and better resource management possibilities in the future.

Services and Drivers

  • Fixed support for ISA-only PCs
    • Was broken since 0.5.0/0.6.0 since DDF could not enumerate ISA-only PC
    • With custom build (ia32 + CPU=486) you can run in qemu-system-i386 -M isapc
  • Added standard PC parallel port driver
  • Running HelenOS on the Ski IA-64 simulator will show console output also before the userspace driver takes over.
  • Naming service improvements
    • Services now register individual interfaces with the naming service. This adds a degree of type safety, potentially allows the individual interfaces to be implemented by independent tasks and moves the code slightly closer to the full-fledged ports design.
    • Broker services (e.g. the location service) can still register a fallback port for receiving connections to all interface types explicitly using service_register_broker().
  • Intel HD Audio
    • Added PCI IDs for Wildcat Point-LP and Broadwell-U audio controllers


  • Fix some display issues related to a bug in the alpha blending implementation

File Systems

  • fdisk can now configure mount point for a volume
  • We can now create Ext4 (Ext2, actually) file systems
  • Support volume labels with Ext4
  • Ext4(2) is the default new file system type for fdisk
  • Sysinst now creates Ext4(2) to install HelenOS to
  • vol insert can be used to re-insert a previously ejected volume
  • Persistent storage / system volume
    • Sysinst will now configure a persistent /w directory
      • As a reminder, this can only be used to install on some ia32/amd64 configurations
    • Tetris will now store high-score table under /w
      • Allowing it to persist across reboots - on a system installed by sysinst


  • GZX, a ZX Spectrum emulator
    • Experimental HelenOS support in upstream since January 2018
    • Now available via a harbour/package (pkg install gzx)
  • Ccheck, C-style checker used to check HelenOS code ported to HelenOS
    • Available via harbour/package (pkg install sycek)
  • perf is a new tool collecting several simple benchmarks
    • perf ns_ping moved from tester ping_pong now computes average and standard deviation across multiple runs
    • perf ping_pong IPC ping-pong benchmark using new dedicated IPC test server
    • perf malloc1, perf malloc2 two simple user-space memory allocator benchmarks
  • contacts is a trivial interactive utility to demonstrate the use of SIF
  • wavplay and modplay now accept -t <target> option to select non-default audio target
  • lprint utility can be used to print a file or a short message


  • libc
    • Clean separation of fibrils and async framework
    • The async framework defines the label stored in connected IPC phones to be the userspace address of the connection structure. Because of this, the connection lookup hash table could have been dropped entirely as each incoming call already knows the connection from the label
    • added strtold
    • replaced <atomic.h> with standard <stdatomic.h>
    • replaced <sys/time.h> with standard <time.h>
    • 'x' fopen file mode modifier from C11
  • SIF an API for managing structured data


  • Prevent endless loops when printing userspace stack traces
  • Eliminate use of custom linker scripts for user space code
  • Init data is now stored as a tar archive of gzip-compressed files
  • Server binaries under /srv are now in sub-directories (and /srv is no longer a search directory for commands)
  • Init data can now be configured to be uncompressed (used by default on GTA02 and ski) for faster boot
  • Can compile with undefined behavior sanitizer in either kernel, user space or both
  • XCW tools used to cross-compile out-of-tree HelenOS applications received fixes and enhancements
    • Fixed compilation on some ARM platforms
    • Use of export dir for better integration with Coastline
    • helenos-bld-config --install-dir useful when installing application into HelenOS workspace
    • helenos-test rebuilds HelenOS workspace and starts emulation

Regressions in This Release

We have found the following regressions that prevent releasing the image for the respective platform:

  • #782 HelenOS does not boot on Raspberry Pi
  • #783 HelenOS does not boot on GTA02
  • #784 HelenOS does not boot on Dell PowerEdge 3250

Fixed Logged Bugs & Enhancements

  • For the list of all logged defects fixed in this release, see this report.
  • For the list of all logged enhancements integrated in this release, see this report.

Known Bugs

  • For the list of known bugs still not fixed in this release, see this report.
  • For the list of all open tickets, see this report.

Attachments (2)

  • edit.png (4.0 KB ) - added by Jiri Svoboda 3 years ago. Text Editor ported to UI library (with menu bar and dialog window)
  • nav.png (13.9 KB ) - added by Jiri Svoboda 3 years ago. Navigator (HelenOS file manager)

Download all attachments as: .zip

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