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SubjectRe: Devlinks. Code. (Dcache abuse?)
On Friday November 16, wrote:
> Neil,
> I'm just a user (not a kernel hacker), but I strongly support this
> idea. It is unix-ish yet addresses the problem space aptly. One of
> the best parts in my view is that it allows devfs to expose multiple
> views of the hardware (eg, organized by bus, by function, by uuid),
> and the admin can then choose the most appropriate. Another is that
> it puts to rest claims that devfs is policy in the kernel, because
> devlinks would give the admin the same flexibility he has with a
> traditional /dev.


> In fact, I have brought the same concept up in private mail with
> Richard Gooch and at least once on this list:
> .
> Albert Cahalan replied with a brief proposal that differs a bit from
> yours:
> .

Substantial similarities, yes.
The idea of "setuid symlinks" is cute, and I have toyed with it. But
implementing a general "setuid symlink" that could point anywhere
would require very intrusive changes to the VFS layer.
That doesn't necessarily mean that it is a bad thing, but you would
have to weight the cost/benefit carefully.

> I also have a few comments on your implementation.
> > To create a devlink, you use mknod on a pre-existing symlink. The
> > mknod must request a device (block or char) with device number 0,0.
> > e.g.
> > ln -s tty /dev/TTY
> > mknod /dev/TTY b 0 0
> >
> > This will create a devlink called "/dev/TTY" which points to the name
> > "tty" in devfs space.
> I think it would be a mistake to have the symlink implicitly rooted
> in the devfs name space. One, it breaks the principle of least
> surprise. Two, it means that the target of the symlink suddenly
> changes (from /dev/tty to tty in the devfs namespace) when you do
> the mknod. Three, it precludes the possibility of extending
> "devlinks" to point to normal files (in which case, devlink isn't
> the right name), which I don't think should be dismissed.

Well, the value of the symlink is simply interpreted by devfs.
You could use
and get the same result as

I would probably recommend people use "/devices/tty", and then if they
boot with a non-devlink kernel they can mount devfs at /devices and
get a working system, and if they boot with a non-devfs kernel they
can make some devices under /devices and have a working system.

> I also think that lchmod might be a more elegant system call
> interface.

Except that "lchmod" doesn't exist. I didn't want to add any new
system calls.

> > ls -l /dev/TTY
> >
> > will show the devlink.
> >
> > ls -lL /dev/TTY
> >
> > will show the traditional device special file.
> But this would require a patch to ls or libc, no? I think this can
> be done such that old tools still show something reasonable.

no. To userspace, devlinks look a lot like symlink. Try it and see.
Actually they look more like those magic symlinks in /proc. You
follow them and you get somewhere, but it isn't necessarily the same
place that you get if you did a readlink, and then followed that.

> > Then
> > cd /dev/ide
> > will work and allow you to move around the directory tree. Everything
> > in the directory tree will have the same ownership and permissions as
> > the devlink has, except for the execute bits. For directories, the
> > execute bits are copied from the read bits. For non-directories, the
> > execute bits are cleared.
> I haven't thought this through carefully, but I think applying too
> much "devfs magic" to devlinks is a mistake. I think the results
> should be what a unix user would intuitively expect from a "symlink
> with permissions". So, I don't like the idea of a devlink giving
> access recursively. Some of the later ideas (eg, the pwd magic)
> strike me as questionable as well.

Devices can appear in the devfs namespace spontaneously (hotplug). If
devlinks could only point to devices, then you would *have* to have a
daemon just to be able to see the things.
This way, you only need a daemon (or user user-space helper) if you
want to do clever things with permissions or other configuration.

> > You cannot do
> >
> > ln -s '' /devices
> > mknod /devices b 0 0
> >
> > and get the full devfs namespace under /devices, but only because
> > of a shortcoming the the devfs code (that normally would never be
> > asked to do this anyway). It could fairly easily be fixed but it
> > didn't seem worth the effort for this proof-of-concept.
> This would be ugly and inconsistent anyway. Nowhere else in unix
> does an empty path make sense. The only sane interpretation would
> be an entry in the devfs root whose name is the empty string.

The Emtpy string *should* and *used-to* mean "the current
directory(*). But some standards body somewhere broke that about 15
years ago.

As I mention above, it is the same as
ln -s /dev /devices
mknod /devices b 0 0


The correct syntax for filenames is:

directoryname: slash # means root
| empty # means current directory
| filename slash # means directory stored in the file

filename : directory member # means that member of the directory.

slash == "/+" # one or more slashes
empty == "" # no characters
member == "[^/]+" # one or more non-slash characters.

Most (all) directories contain "." as a name for themselves. Thus
".", which is <empty> followed by "." is a name for the file that
contains the current directory.

That worked fine in 4.4BSD and Edition 7 Unix. But SysV broke it.
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