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Theme fund: NGI Assure
Start: 2023-04
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Operating Systems

RISC-V bootstrapping effort via GNU Mes

Allow bootstrapping Guix on RISC-V via GNU Mes

RISC-V is a relatively new instruction set architecture (ISA) for computer chips, and because it obviously has its own variant of the very lowest level of instructions, adopting this new hardware platform for practical use cases requires porting of some software and tools that were already available in other architectures. Such "chip agility" makes the overall technology ecosystem more robust, creating more diversity and consumer choice.

One aspect of working towards chip agility in a trustworthy manner is aiming for a "full source bootstrap", as pioneered by GNU Mes and others on other architectures. This addresses the security concerns associated with bootstrapping an operating system using large, unauditable binary blobs, which until recently was common practice for all software distributions. Mes is a Scheme interpreter written in a simple subset of C and a C compiler written in Scheme that comes with a small, bootstrappable C library.

The goal of this project is complete the port of Mes to RISC-V, and achieve the first full source bootstrap - which is then available to use for any interested UNIX-like operating system. As a first major step towards universal adoption, the project will subsequently package the whole process and include it in Guix's commencement module.

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This project was funded through the NGI Assure Fund, a fund established by NLnet with financial support from the European Commission's Next Generation Internet programme, under the aegis of DG Communications Networks, Content and Technology under grant agreement No 957073.