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SubjectRe: [RFC PATCH v2 00/15] tracing: of: Boot time tracing using devicetree
Hi Frank,

On Mon, 15 Jul 2019 07:21:27 -0700
Frank Rowand <> wrote:

> Hi Masami,
> After receiving this email, I replied to one email on the v1 thread,
> so there will be a little bit of overlap in the ordering of the two
> threads. Feel free to reply to my comments in the v1 thread in this
> thread instead.

OK, thanks for the notice :)

> More comments below.
> On 7/14/19 10:11 PM, Masami Hiramatsu wrote:> Hello,
> >
> > Discussion
> > =====
> > On the previous thread, we discussed that the this devicetree usage
> > itself was acceptable or not. Fortunately, I had a chance to discuss
> > it in a F2F meeting with Frank and Tim last week.
> Thanks for writing up some of what we discussed.
> Let me add a problem statement and use case. I'll probably get it at least
> a little bit wrong, so please update as needed.
> (1) You feel the ftrace kernel command line syntax is not sufficiently user
> friendly.
> (2) The kernel command line is too small to contain the full set of desired
> ftrace commands and options.
> (3) There is a desire to change the boot time ftrace commands and options
> without re-compiling or re-linking the Linux kernel.

Thank you for covering these items :) Yes, these are what I'm thinking.

> >
> > I think the advantages of using devicetree are,
> >
> > - reuse devicetree's structured syntax for complicated tracefs settings
> > - reuse OF-APIs in linux kernel to accept and parse it
> > - reuse dtc complier to compile it and validate syntax. (with yaml schema,
> > we can enhance it)
> > - reuse current bootloader (and qemu) to load it
> Devicetree is not a universal data structure and communication channel.
> Devicetree is a description of the hardware and also conveys bootloader
> specific information that is need by the kernel to boot.

Yes, I see. But I think there is a room to contain a small communication
channel under /chosen, from bootloader.

> > And we talked about some other ideas to avoid using devicetree.
> >
> > - expand kernel command line (ascii command strings)
> > - expand kernel command line with base64 encoded comressed ascii command
> > strings
> Base64 being one of possibly many ways to convert arbitrary binary data to
> ascii safe data _if_ you want to transfer the ftrace options and commands
> in a binary format.

I actually don't want it :( but if the ascii commands can be compressed
(maybe not so efficient), it is a possible way.

> > - load (compressed) ascii command strings to somewhere on memory and pass
> > the address via kernel cmdline
> Similar to the way initrd is handled, if I understand correctly. (I am not
> up to date on how initrd location is passed to the kernel for a non-devicetree
> kernel.)

Initrd is not passed via kernel cmdline, it is loaded and passed via architecture
dependent way. As far as I know, x86 and arm (without DT) uses own data structure,
arm64 (and arm with DT) uses devicetree /chosen node.

> Compressed or not compressed would be an ftrace design choice.
> > - load (compressed) ascii command strings to somewhere on memory and pass
> > the address via /chosen node (as same as initrd)
> Compressed or not compressed would be an ftrace design choice.

Yes, it is optional.

> > - load binary C data and point it from kernel cmdline
> > - load binary C data and point it from /chosen node (as same as initrd)
> > - load binary C data as a section of kernel image
> For the three options above:
> Binary data if ftrace prefers structured data.
> A list of strings if ftrace wants to use the existing kernel command line
> syntax.

Yes, any data which doesn't need complex parser is OK.

> For the third of the above three options, the linker would provide the start
> and end address of the ftrace options and commands section.

But that means we need to fill the data structure when we build the kernel,
isn't it?

> > The first 2 ideas expand the kernel's cmdline to pass some "magic" command
> > to setup ftrace. In both case, the problems are the maximal size of cmdline
> > and the issues related to the complexity of commands.
> Not a "magic" command. Either continue using the existing ftrace syntax or
> add something like: ftrace_cmd="whatever format ftrace desires".
> Why can the maximum size of the cmdline not be increased?

We can, but we also has to change bootloaders.

> > My example showed that the ftrace settings becomes long even if making one
> > histogram, which can be longer than 256 bytes. The long and complex data
> > can easily lead mis-typing, but cmdline has no syntax validator, it just
> > ignores the mis-typed commands.
> Hand typing a kernel command line is already not a fun exercise, even
> before adding ftrace commands. If you are hand typing kernel command
> lines then I suggest you improve your tools (eg bootloader or whatever
> is not allowing you to edit and store command lines).

Indeed, if we extend kernel cmdline to support it, such tool we have to
introduce (like dtc)

> > (Of course even with the devicetree, it must be smaller than 2 pages)
> >
> > Next 2 ideas are similar, but load the commands on some other memory area
> > and pass only address via cmdline. This solves the size limitation issue,
> > but still no syntax validation. Of course we can make a new structured
> > syntax validator similar to (or just forked from) dt-validate.
> > The problem (or disadvantage) of these (and following) ideas, is to change
> > the kernel and boot loaders to load another binary blobs on memory.
> >
> > Maybe if we introduce a generic structured kernel boot arguments, which is
> > a kind of /chosen node of devicetree. (But if there is already such hook,
> > why we make another one...?)
> I got lost in the next sentence, so for my benefit:
> GSKBA == generic structured kernel boot arguments

Oh, sorry, that's my bad.

> > Also, this "GSKBA" may introduce a parser and access APIs which will be
> > very similar to OF-APIs. This also seems redundant to me.
> > So the last 3 ideas will avoid introducing new parser and APIs, we just
> > compile the data as C data and point it from cmdline or somewhere else.
> Or if in a kernel data section then the linker can provide the begin and
> end address of the blob. This is already implemented for some other data
> structures.

Yeah, but does that mean we have to rebuild kernel image?
In some cases, (e.g. debugging distro kernel) we can not modify kernel image
also, I don't like to replace entire image. I would like to choose a tracing
command file from boot loader.

> > With these ideas, we still need to expand boot loaders to support
> > loading new binary blobs. (And the last one requires to add elf header
> > parser/modifier to boot loader too)
> Why would the boot loader need to access the elf header? The linker
> can provide the location of the new kernel data section via kernel
> variables.

Oh, I thought you meant that the new data was added boot time by
boot loader.

> >>From the above reasons, I think using devicetree's /chosen node is
> > the least intrusive way to introduce this boot-time tracing feature.
> This is still mis-use of the devicetree data structure. This data
> does not belong in the devicetree.

I think if the boot loader supports overlay file, we can choose
the overlay file when booting for /chosen node. That can be a
part of boot loader choice, isn't it? :)

Thank you,

Masami Hiramatsu <>

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