At some point in time, I decided it was a good idea to attend three conferences in September. This was a busy but fairly productive month.

Early September was Open Source Summit and Linux Plumbers Conference. Open Source Summit is the renamed LinuxCon. Matthew Garrett gave a talk about signing binaries with the Integrity Measurment Architecture (IMA) subsystem. This is a subsystem that ties hashes to the TPM module available on many modern systems. Two of the kernel Outreachy interns gave a talk on their projects involving the radix trees. I always enjoy listening to Outreachy interns talk about their projects and it sounded like they made good progress on improving the radix tree. Dawn Foster gave a talk on collaboration in kernel mailing lists. This was focusing on how kernel developers collaborate via e-mail. There were graphs showing the network via e-mail, which mostly showed that there are a handful of people who tend to e-mail each other frequently. This work was part of a PhD program so I look forward to seeing future work. Sarah Sharp gave a talk on code of conducts and enforcement. My favorite take away from this talk was thinking of code of conduct violations in terms of a threat model and what they mean for the well-being of your participants. I was also on the kernel panel with several other developers. This is usually a chance for people to come and ask questions about whatever kernel stuff. I didn’t put my foot in my mouth so I consider it a success.

I was on the planning committee for Linux Plumbers so I ended up doing a bunch of behinds the scenes work in addition to the hallway track and going to the occasional session. Jon Corbet gave a talk about the kernel’s limits to growth. He gave a version of this talk at Linaro Connect and I gave some thoughts about this previously. Most of my opinions there still stand. Grant Likely held a BoF about the upcoming ARM EBBR. If you’ve been following the arm64 server space, you may have heard of SBBR which is a boot specification for arm64 servers. The EBBR is something similar for embedded devices. As a Fedora maintainer, I’m happy to see this moving forward to make booting arm64 SBCs easier. There was a discussion about contiguous memory allocation for DMA. Some hardware vendors have discovered they get better performance if they use a contiguous block of memory despite possibly having an IOMMU. The proposal was to use the MAP_CONTIG with mmap to get appropriate memory. There wasn’t a conclusion and discussion is ongoing on the mailing list.

The next week was XDC. This is nominally a graphics conference and was out of my typical scope. My primary purpose was to present on Ion. This was a one-track conference so it was nice to not have to make hard choices. Since I’m not a graphics developer, many of the details of some talks went over my head. The discussion about the Intel Graphics CI was useful to hear. Intel has put a lot of effort in terms of machines and tests to graphics testing. A big takeaway from me was the need to add tests slowly to make sure that bugs can actually be fixed when they are found. This sounds obvious but without doing this, CI becomes noisy and is worthless.

The final week was Linaro Connect. My primary reason for attending was (again) to talk about Ion but as always I attended some talks in between doing my regular work. I went to session about Secure Boot on ARM with an update of “not much has changed”. There was a session about the Linaro common kernels and how those are maintained. The Linaro kernels once contained a large number of backports but there’s been a lot of progress made towards getting code upstream. These days, there’s more focus on testing and validating stable kernels upstream. Linaro should be providing automated testing to stable updates in the near future. There was a cross distro BoF which mostly touched on some discussion with toolchains because everything is pretty okay in distro land! Illyan Malchev from Google gave a keynote about Project Treble and announced that LTS kernels are now 6 years instead of 2. I talked recently about some of these Android announcements and the move to a 6 year cycle is a very good thing. This will make it easier to give updates without having to rebase to a brand new kernel.

During these several weeks, I talked a lot about Ion. There’s been some good progress this past year towards moving Ion out of mainline. I removed a bunch of code and greatly simplified the ABI. The biggest issue keeping Ion in staging is making sure the ABI is stable. There was agreement that we could look to move to a split ion (/dev/ion0, /dev/ion1 etc.) to better restrict heap access. I got some feedback that the existing 32-bit flags field may not be enough for expanding use cases so I’m going to look to utilize some of the existing fields we have for padding. There was a session on Ion integration challenges which was very useful to me. One of the hardest parts of doing Ion work has been finding a direction. Hearing what problems people are actually having makes this easier. Some of the problems are because I took the obvious (read slow) approach at things like cache maintenance. I tried to encourage people to submit patches for the features that are mission so hopefully I’ll see those coming in the near future.

This past weekend was SeaGL, a local Seattle conference. Because I’m local, it was easy for me to attend. Unfortunately three weeks of conferencing caught up with me so I didn’t attend as many parts of it as I would have liked. I attended the keynotes Friday and Saturday. Both Nithya Ruff and Rikki Endsley gave fantastic talks which were recorded. I gave a talk on Saturday afternoon called “Creating Fresh Kernels”. This was a variation of the talk I gave at DevConf last year, focusing more on the choices distributions might make with their kernels instead of just why Fedora is awesome. I was fairly happy with how it went; the room was full and everyone asked good questions. I’d like to present again next year if I can come up with a good topic.

I have a little bit of downtime before Open Source Summit Europe/Kernel Summit in a few weeks. We’ll see if I can follow up on some of the discussions in the meantime.