Want to help with the Linux kernel?

Greg Kroah-Hartman, the maintainer of the stable releases of the Linux kernel (the point releases after a 3.x release, e.g. 3.6.5, etc) is looking for help for about 6 months as he’s getting overwhelmed.

I’m looking for someone to help me out with the stable Linux kernel release process. Right now I’m drowning in trees and patches, and could use some one to help me sanity-check the releases I’m doing.

Specifically, I’m looking for someone to help with:

  • test boot the -rc stable kernels to make sure I didn’t do anything foolish.
  • dig through the Linux kernel distro trees and send me the git commit ids, or the backported patches, of things they are shipping that are not in the stable and longterm kernel releases.
  • do code review of the patches going into the stable releases.

If you can help out with this, I’d really appreciate it.

You’ll need to show you’ve had kernel patches accepted, are running the latest stable release candidate kernel and can find distro patches (details at his website). You’ve got until November 7th to apply!

Paying for Freedom (Updated)

There has been much furore over the Microsoft Windows 8 Logo requirements, and how they require UEFI Secure Boot to be enabled, requiring the user to reconfigure their UEFI firmare (on x86 platforms) to be able to boot non-Windows 8 operating systems. People are concerned about the fact that this may be a slippery slope to systems that are locked down completely (as ARM powered Windows 8 systems already will be) with Secure Boot not being allowed to be disabled in order to get the MS Windows logo tick and thus the valuable marketing dollars from Redmond.

Now to me the solution seems obvious – don’t buy systems from people who sell such systems, but instead buy from vendors who believe in making systems that are under your control, and agree that it is you who gets to decide whether or not you want to turn Secure Boot on, or not. Go to companies like ZaReason (who sell around the world and have an Asia Pacific setup in New Zealand now) and System 76 (who used to be US only, but now apparently ship internationally).

The problem seems to be though that people complain that their systems tend to be a bit more expensive than the Dell’s of the world, companies who ship millions of PCs and have huge economies of scale (and power over their OEMs). Because ZaReason and System 76 work on much smaller volumes they don’t get the same deals and so of course their hardware will be more expensive – but that extra cost is actually an investment, a small downpayment on having vendors around in the future who will care about our freedoms to do with our computers as we see fit.

If we don’t make that investment in these companies then we will have no right to complain should we suddenly wake up one morning and find we have a choice between a beige PC that will only boot Windows 8 or later (and the ability to get your own code blessed so it will boot has gone away) and a shiny white Apple iProduct that will allow you to install any of the applications from the App store, but nothing outside of that walled garden.

So I have made my choices, when my desktop PC came a cropper and cooked itself due to the Linux leap second bug I bought a ZaReason Valta desktop and I then replaced my 9 year old laptop with a shiny new UltraLap 430 ultrabook which, I have to say, absolutely rocks with 8GB of RAM and an i5 Ivy Bridge CPU. 🙂

I believe freedom is worth investing in.


As spufidoo mentions in the comments the situation for desktops is not too bad at present whilst you can build your own, though there is always the chance that you end up with motherboards shipping with Secure Boot enabled and only Microsofts key installed (“why would you want anything else?”).

More of an issue are laptops and tablets where you can’t really build your own and you rely on companies to sell you the finished product. This was really the issue I had in mind when I wrote the article but failed to articulate it. We’ve already seen examples of the issues around tablets being locked down with the Nook Tablet from Barnes and Noble (though as the linked article reports people have worked around that now) so unless we support projects like the ZaTab where the package includes the source code we are purely relying on the munificence of companies for whom freedom is not the first thing they are thinking about.

Problems getting stack traces from a Python program (Kubuntu 12.10 development version)

I’m trying to get to the bottom of this bug on Launchpad which completely breaks Synaptic touchpad configuration under KDE:


The tl;dr version is that the Python interpreter is somehow emitting two calls to the Xorg libXi function XIQueryVersion(), the first call sends a client XInput version number of 2.1 and then the second one sends 2.0 (seen using xtrace).

The second call causes a BadValue error, because you’re not meant to send a lower value on any later calls (as can be seen from this Xorg libXi git commit).

This causes the comical error:

The version of the XInput extension installed on your system is too old. Version 2.0 was found, but at least version 2.0 is required

The problem is that the Python code only has the second call sending the 2.0 version number, there is no other call in the package that will send anything else, let alone the 2.1 value.

So I want to generate a call trace every time the XIQueryVersion() function is called, but I’m struggling to get it to work.

The killer at the moment is that both ltrace and gdb (when told to trace children) hang when python runs dash to run ldconfig.real and that blocks – so I never get to the point where the function gets called the first time.

With GDB I’m using:

set detach-on-fork off
set follow-fork-mode child
set follow-exec-mode new
catch load /libXi/
break XIQueryVersion

…and this is what happens:

chris@chris-ultralap:~/Code/Ubuntu$ gdb /usr/bin/python
GNU gdb (GDB) 7.5-ubuntu
Copyright (C) 2012 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
License GPLv3+: GNU GPL version 3 or later
This is free software: you are free to change and redistribute it.
There is NO WARRANTY, to the extent permitted by law. Type "show copying"
and "show warranty" for details.
This GDB was configured as "x86_64-linux-gnu".
For bug reporting instructions, please see:
Reading symbols from /usr/bin/python...Reading symbols from /usr/lib/debug/usr/bin/python2.7...done.
(gdb) set detach-on-fork off
(gdb) set follow-fork-mode child
(gdb) set follow-exec-mode new
(gdb) catch load /libXi/
Catchpoint 1 (load)
(gdb) break XIQueryVersion
Function "XIQueryVersion" not defined.
Make breakpoint pending on future shared library load? (y or [n]) y
Breakpoint 2 (XIQueryVersion) pending.
(gdb) run /usr/bin/synaptiks
Starting program: /usr/bin/python /usr/bin/synaptiks
[Thread debugging using libthread_db enabled]
Using host libthread_db library "/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libthread_db.so.1".
[New process 3788]
[Thread debugging using libthread_db enabled]
Using host libthread_db library "/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libthread_db.so.1".
Thread 0x7ffff6ccc700 (LWP 3788) is executing new program: /bin/dash
[New process 3789]
process 3789 is executing new program: /bin/dash
process 3789 is executing new program: /sbin/ldconfig.real

…and there it hangs, forever. We never even get to the point where the Python interpreter loads libXi.so, let alone calls the function. 🙁

Any ideas?

Upgraded to Twitter Tools 3.0 and Social plugin

The latest Twitter Tools upgrade (v3.0) now has a dependency on the Social plugin from MailChimp to take advantage of the open source “don’t reinvent the wheel” philosophy.

Having now installed Social and upgraded Twitter Tools you should be able to now login with your Twitter account (should you so wish) to leave comments. It also claims comments get tweeted too, but no idea how that works yet so I’ll use this post as a test.. 🙂