Zack's Kernel News

Zack's Kernel News

© Linux Magazine Exclusive

© Linux Magazine Exclusive

Article from Issue 101/2009



The Linux kernel mailing list comprises the core of Linux development activities. Traffic volumes are immense, often reaching ten thousand messages in a given week, and keeping up to date with the entire scope of development is a virtually impossible task for one person. One of the few brave souls to take on this task is Zack Brown.

Our regular monthly column keeps you abreast of the latest discussions and decisions, selected and summarized by Zack. Zack has been publishing a weekly online digest, the Kernel Traffic newsletter for over five years now. Even reading Kernel Traffic alone can be a time consuming task.

Linux Magazine now provides you with the quintessence of Linux Kernel activities, straight from the horse's mouth.

Tracking Kernel Contributions

Wang Chen created a web page for kernel contribution stats. The page breaks down information by person and employer, as well as by change sets and number of lines of code affected. Also, it's possible to search for a given person or employer and see a graph of only their contributions. According to Wang's stats, for example, Yahoo employees have contri-buted much more to version 2.6.25 than to other recent kernels, whereas Microsoft employees are not listed as contributing anything at all.

There are still some problems with the engine. For example, if a person has contributed to the kernel using multiple email addresses, it still doesn't seem possible to see a graph representing the total contributions from all those addresses. During the course of discussion, a number of folks pointed out this and other related issues to Wang, so presumably the problem will be addressed.

Duck And Cover!

Matt Mackall was a bit shaken to discover a kernel error message that began "Treason uncloaked!" The message went on to say that the TCP code had detected a broken peer. Matt thought the message was alarming, so he posted a patch to change it. Herbert Xu's reply was, "What's next, you're going to remove 'printer on fire' as well? This message has been there for eons and is part of Linux lore." But Alan Cox said, "It was changed. The printer on fire bit was adjusted to make it clear because the original message did confuse and worry a few people." He felt Matt's patch was a good idea.

However, it turned out that Alan was not quite right. As Herbert pointed out via grep, the printer on fire message was still in the code. Alan remarked, "Interesting. It got changed and then the change got lost between 2.2 and 2.4 somewhere. It was changed to report 'lp0 reported invalid error status (on fire, eh?)' and it looks like that needs re-fixing." But David S. Miller said this just showed how much it didn't matter, and that having fun with kernel development was one of the best parts. And Matt said that because no one had printer ports anymore, this particular message probably wasn't so dangerous. But he added, the "Treason uncloaked" message was filling the bulk of his system messages.

Event Tracking

Alessandro Di Marco has added some activity counters to the Linux kernel input drivers, which will be useful for a variety of event notifications, including intrusion detection. His code is in part a re-envisioning of SIN, a kernel module he'd written a couple years ago to provide similar behavior. On the mailing list, there was no discussion about these patches or about any differences between them and SIN. Alessandro did say that the SIN design had fundamental weaknesses that made it wiser to redo the whole project, in spite of the fact that he's kept SIN up-to-date and actively maintained all this time.

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