Posted on Di 09 November 2010

Linux Plumbers Conference/Gnome Summit Recap

Last week LPC and GS 2010 took place in Cambridge, MA. Like the last years, LPC showed again that -- at least for me -- it is one of the most relevant Linux conferences in existence, if not the single most relevant one.

Here's a terse, incomprehensive report of the different discussions I took part in with various folks at the conference, in no particular order:

The Boot and Init track led by Kay Sievers (Suse) was a great success. We had exciting talks which I think helped quite a bit in clearing a few things up, and hopefully helps us in consolidating the full Linux boot process among all the components involved. We had talks covering everything from the BIOS boot, to initrds, graphical boot splashes and systemd. Kay Sievers and I spoke about systemd, also covering the state of it in the Fedora and openSUSE distributions. Gustavo Barbieri (ProFUSION, Gentoo) and Michael Biebl (Debian) gave interesting talks about systemd adoption in their respective distributions. I was particularly interested in the various statistics Michael showed about SysV/LSB init script usage in Debian, because this gives an idea how much work we have in front of us in the long run. A longer discussion about the future of initrds and the logic necessary to find the root file system on boot was quite enlightening. I think this track was helpful to increase the unification and consolidation of the way Linux systems boot up and are maintained during runtime.

Kay and I and some other folks sat down with Arjan van de Ven (Intel), to talk about the prospects of systemd in Meego. The discussions were very positive. In particular Arjan hat some great suggestions regarding use of the Simple Boot Flag in systemd (expect this in one of the next versions) and readahead. Before systemd can find adoption in Meego we'd have to add a short number of features to systemd first, most of them should be easy to add.

Similarly, I sat down with Martin Pitt and James Hunt (both Canonical) and discussed systemd in relation to Ubuntu. I think we managed to clear a lot of things up, and have a good chance to improve cooperation between Ubuntu and systemd in relation to APIs and maybe even more.

We talked to Thomas Gleixner regarding userspace notifications when the wallclock time jumps relative to the monotonic clock. This is important to systemd so that we can schedule calendar jobs similar to cron, but without having to wake up periodically to check whether the wallclock time changed relatively to the monotonic clock so that we can recalculate the next point in time a calendar event is triggered. There has been previous work in this area in the kernel world, but nothing got merged. Thomas' suggestion how to add this facility should be much easier than anything proposed so far.

I also tried to talk Andreas Grünbacher into supporting file system user extended attributes in various virtual file systems such as procfs, cgroupfs, sysfs and tmpfs. I hope I convinced him that this would be a good idea, since this would allow setting externally accessible attributes to all kinds of kernel objects, such as processes and devices. This would not only have uses in systemd (where we could easily store all meta information systemd needs to know about a service in the cgroupfs via xattrs, so that systemd could even crash or go away at any time and we still can read all runtime information necessary beyond mere cgrouping from the file system when systemd comes to live again) but also in the desktop environments, so that we could for example attach the human readable application name, an icon or a desktop file to the processes currently running, in a simple way where the data we attach follows the lifecycle of the process itself.

The Audio track went really well, too. I was particularly excited about Pierre-Louis Bossart's (Intel) plans regarding AC3 (and other codecs) support in PulseAudio, and the simplicity of his approach. Also great was hearing about Laurent Pinchart's project to expose audio and video device routing to userspace. Finally, I really enjoyed David Henningsson's and Luke Yelavich's (both Canonical) talk regarding tracking down audio bugs on Ubuntu. I was really impressed by the elaborate tools they created to test audio drivers on users machines. Pretty cool stuff. Maybe this can be extended into a test suite for driver writers, because the current approach for driver writers (i.e. "If PulseAudio works correctly, your driver is correct") doesn't really scale (although I like the idea and take it as a compliment...). I also liked the timechart profiling results Pierre showed me that he generated for PulseAudio. Seems PulseAudio is behaving quite nicely these days.

Together with Harald Hoyer I got a demo of David Zeuthen's disk assembly daemon (stc), which makes RAID/MD/LVM assembly more dynamic. Great stuff, and I think we convinced him to leave actual mounting of file systems to systemd instead of doing it himself.

Harald and I also hashed out a few things to make integration between dracut and systemd nicer (i.e. passing along profiling information between the two, and information regarding the root fsck).

I also hope I convinced Ray Strode to make Plymouth actively listen to udev for notifications about DRM devices, so that further synchronization between udev and plymouth won't be necessary, which both makes things more robust and a little bit faster.

Kay and I talked to Greg Kroah-Hartman regarding the brokeness of VT_WAITEVENT in kernel TTY layer, and discussed what to do about this. After returning from the US Kay now did the necessary hacking work to provide a minimal sysfs based solution that allows userspace query to which TTYs /dev/console and /dev/tty0 currently point, and get notifications when this changes. This should allow us to greatly simplify ConsoleKit and make it possible to add console-triggered activation to systemd (think: getty gets started the moment you switch to its virtual terminal, not already at boot).

I also spent some time discussing the upcoming deadline scheduling kernel logic with Dario, Dhaval and Tommaso regarding its possible use in PulseAudio. I believe deadline schedule is a useful tool to hand out real-time scheduling to applications securely. As an easy path to supporting deadline scheduling in PulseAudio I suggested patching RealtimeKit to optionally use deadline scheduling for its clients. This would magically teach PA (and other clients) to use deadline scheduling without further patching in the clients.

At GNOME Summit I sat down with Ryan Lortie and Will Thompson to discuss the the future of the D-Bus session bus and how we can move to a machine/user bus instead in a nice way. We managed to come to a nice agreement here, and this should enable us to introduce systemd for session management soonishly. Now we only need to convince the other folks having stakes in D-Bus that what we discussed is actually a good idea, expect more about this soon on dbus-devel. Ryan and I also hashed out our remaining differences regarding the exact semantics of XDG_RUNTIME_DIR, the result of which you can already see on the XDG mailing list. Ryan already did the GLib work to introduce XDG_RUNTIME_DIR and systemd already supports this inofficially since a few versions.

I quite appreciate how Michael Meeks quoted me in his final keynote. ;-)

There was a lot of other stuff going on at the conference, and what I wrote above is in no way complete. And of course, besides all the technical stuff, it was great meeting all the good Linux folks again, especially my colleagues from Red Hat.

I am still amazed how systemd is received so positively and with open arms all across the board. It's particularly amazing that systemd at this point in time has already been adopted by various companies in the automotive and aviation industry.

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