Live Embedded Event: a new online conference

Live Embedded EventIn these times of COVID19, pretty much all of the existing conferences have moved to an online format. For example, the Embedded Linux Conference Europe is going to take place next week, online, and Bootlin will significantly contribute to the event with no less than 7 talks on a wide range of topics.

But this trend for online conferences has also spurred the creation of new events. And specifically, we’re happy to announce the creation of a new conference oriented towards our favorite topic of embedded systems: Live Embedded Event. It will take place online on December 3 and will have a broader range of topics covered than ELC typically has, as Live Embedded Event is open to non-Linux embedded topics, hardware platform and interfaces discussions, and more.

The event is mainly organized by four French companies specialized in embedded systems, and we expect the contents to be a mix of talks in English and in French. Speaking of contents, the Call For Papers is open until November 10, so you can have the chance to share your knowledge about embedded topics, show your expertise, and meet new users and customers. And of course, you can also simply register as an attendee: the event is free !

Important links:

Bootlin at the Embedded Linux Conference Europe 2020

Embedded Linux Conference Europe 2020The schedule for the next Embedded Linux Conference Europe has been recently published, and Bootlin will once again be strongly present at this (virtual) event by giving a number of presentations. The registration for ELC-E is open, and due to the virtual nature of the event, the registration cost is only $50, which makes is accessible to pretty much everybody.

  • From the Camera Sensor to the User, the Journey of a Video Frame. In this talk, Bootlin engineer Maxime Chevallier will share his experience working in the Video4Linux subsystem, implementing support for the Rockchip camera interface controller, and a PAL/NTSC decoder used as the input source. Talk on Monday October 26 at 18:30 GMT.
  • Yocto Project and OpenEmbedded: A Collection of Best Practices. In this talk, Bootlin engineer, and Yocto Project expert and trainer Alexandre Belloni will share his experience of using Yocto Project and OpenEmbedded through a collection of best practices. There are indeed numerous ways of using OpenEmbedded and the Yocto Project, but some ways and solutions are better than others! Talk on Tuesday October 27 at 13:00 GMT.
  • Building Embedded Debian and Ubuntu Systems with ELBE. In this talk, Köry Maincent will share his experience using the ELBE build system, which can be used to automate the process of creating embedded Linux systems based on Debian or Ubuntu. Köry has contributed to ELBE the support for building Ubuntu systems, and has used ELBE on two different projects. This is an interesting alternative to the traditional cross-compilation approach taken by Yocto Project, OpenEmbedded or Buildroot. Talk on Tuesday October 27 at 15:15 GMT.
  • Using Visual Studio Code for Embedded Development. In this talk, Michael Opdenacker will share his experiments of using VS Code for embedded Linux development, which extensions are available to help navigate in the code, build and debug code, from kernel-space and user-space. Talk on Tuesday October 27 at 17:15 GMT.
  • Precision Time Protocol (PTP) and Packet Timestamping in Linux. Antoine Ténart has implemented PTP support in both an Ethernet switch driver, and an Ethernet PHY driver, both in the upstream Linux kernel. He will share his experience about PTP, its support in Linux, and its offloading at the MAC and PHY level. Talk on Tuesday October 27 at 19:30 GMT.
  • Supporting Hardware-Accelerated Video Encoding with Mainline. After working on the HW-accelerated video decoding on Allwinner platforms as part of our crowdfunded effort, Paul Kocialkowski recently worked on HW-accelerated video encoding on Rockchip platforms. In this talk, he will share the issues encountered, and what needs to be resolved to create a useful kernel to userspace interface to properly support stateless video encoders. Talk on Wednesday October 28 at 16:15 GMT.
  • Understand ECC Support for NAND Flash Devices in Linux. Miquèl Raynal, the Linux kernel NAND subsystem maintainer, has recently worked on improving support for various strategies to handle ECC for NAND flash devices. He will share some background information on ECC, why they are needed, how and where ECC are typically handled, and how the Linux kernel deals with the different possibilities. Talk on Wednesday October 28 at 18:30 GMT.

In addition to contributing talks, Bootlin CTO Thomas Petazzoni is also a member of the ELC-E program committee: he reviewed, ranked all talk submitted for the conference and participated with the rest of the committee to the selection of the talks that are now scheduled for the event.

Even though we once again won’t have the chance to meet our fellow members of the embedded Linux community in person, we look forward to attending a set of great talks, and have interesting discussions during the Q&A and through the instant messaging platform that will be available around the conference.

Bootlin at the Embedded Linux Conference 2020

Bootlin has been a participant at the Embedded Linux Conference for many years, and despite the special conditions this year, we will again be participating to this online event, from June 29 to July 1.

More specifically:

  • Bootlin engineer Alexandre Belloni and Bootlin’s audio expert will give a talk ASoC: supporting Audio on an Embedded Board, which presents how audio complex in embedded devices are typically supported by the Linux kernel ALSA System-on-Chip framework. This talk takes place on June 29 at 2:05 PM UTC-5.
  • Bootlin engineer and CTO Thomas Petazzoni will give his usual Buildroot: what’s new ? talk, giving an update on the latest developments and improvements of the Buildroot project. This talk takes place on July 1 at 11:15 AM UTC-5.
  • The vast majority of the Bootlin engineering team will be attending many of talks proposed during the event. Bootlin has been offering to all its engineers the participation to two conferences a year: with the Embedded Linux Conference going virtual, we’ve simply allowed all our engineers to participate, with no restriction. This is part of Bootlin’s policy to ensure our engineers stay as up to date as possible with embedded Linux technologies.
  • Bootlin CTO Thomas Petazzoni was once again part of the program committee for this edition of the Embedded Linux Conference, as part of this committee he reviewed and selected the different talks that were submitted.

We are interested in seeing how this virtual version of the Embedded Linux Conference will compare to the traditional physical event. For many old timers to these conferences, the most useful part of a conference is the hallway track and all the side discussions, meetings and dinners with members of the embedded Linux community, and a virtual version makes such interactions more challenging.

In any case, we hope you’ll enjoy the conference! Don’t hesitate to join us in the Q&A session after our talks, or on the 2-track-embedded-linux room of the Slack workspace set up for the event by the Linux Foundation.

Bootlin at FOSDEM and Buildroot Developers Meeting

FOSDEM 2020This week-end takes place one of the biggest and most important free and open-source software conference in Europe: FOSDEM. It will once again feature a very large number of talks, organized in several main tracks and developer rooms.

Bootlin CTO Thomas Petazzoni will participate to the FOSDEM conference, of course attending many of the talks from the Embedded, Mobile and Automative Devroom, to which he participated to the talk review and selection. Do not hesitate to get in touch with Thomas if you want to discuss career or business opportunities with Bootlin.

In addition, Thomas will also participate to the 3-day Buildroot Developers meeting which takes place in Brussels right after the FOSDEM conference, kindly hosted by Google. During 3 days, some of the core Buildroot developers will work together to discuss the future of Buildroot, as well as review and discuss pending patches and proposals.

Back from ELCE 2019: our selection of talks

The Embedded Linux Conference Europe edition 2019 took place a few weeks ago in Lyon, France, and no less than 7 engineers from Bootlin attended the conference. We would like to highlight a selection of talks that Bootlin engineers found interesting. We asked each of the 7 engineers who attended the event to pick one talk they liked, and make a small write-up about it. Of course, many other talks were interesting and what makes a talk interesting is very subjective!

Introduction to HyperBus Memory Devices, by Vignesh Raghavendra

Talk selected by Gregory Clement

Vignesh started his talk by presenting the HyperBus from the hardware point of view. It is a bus using 8 data lines, using either a single or a differential clock as well as a bi-directional data strobe. These last two features clearly indicate that the designers of this bus seek high bandwidth. Two types of memory are available: HyperRAM and HyperFlash and the talk focused on the second one.

The read throughput of the HyperFlash can reach 400MB/s, it is compatible with SPI flash and is an alternative to the octal SPI NOR flashes. Then Vignesh presented the transactions done on the bus for the flash, which is very similar to what is done on SPI bus. He also compares the traditional parallel CFI flashes to the HyperFlash. And finally he describes the 2 types of controllers: Dedicated HyperBus Controllers and Multi IO Serial controllers.

In the last part of the talk, Vignesh presented the recently add kernel features, and future improvements.

This talk was a good introduction to this new bus, covering the hardware parts as well as software support in the Linux kernel.




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Open Source Graphics 101: Getting Started, by Boris Brezillon

Talk selected by Paul Kocialkowski

During this talk, Boris provides a comprehensive and accessible overview of the graphics stack that supports GPUs in systems based on the Linux kernel. He also provides insight about the inner workings and architecture of GPUs. Although Boris defines himself as a not (yet) experienced Graphics developer, his talk contains all the elements needed to get a clear first idea on the topic as he covers hardware, kernel and userspace aspects.

To begin with, he explains how the GPU pipeline is split into multiple stages that are needed one after the other to generate a final image from a set of 3D models. The first stage is geometry and involves operations on the vertices that compose the 3D models, followed by rasterization where the view of the 3D scene is materialized on a 2D viewport, producing the end image. He also presents the concept of shaders: they are small dedicated programs that run on the GPU to make each stage configurable and flexible in order to produce the exact wanted result.

He then provides details about how GPU architectures implement massive parallelization to provide efficient results and also details some of the pitfalls that can occur with this approach. After that, Boris presents how the main CPU interacts with the GPU, introducing the concept of a command stream to submit jobs to the GPU.

With all these concepts laid out comes the time for him to present how the software stack is organized to support GPUs. After a general overview, specific aspects are presented. This includes graphics APIs such as OpenGL and Vulkan (and how they follow distinct paradigms) but also covers topics related to Mesa internals such as intermediate representations or windowing system integration. Kernel aspects are not forgotten either and a rationale regarding the (unusual) kernel/userspace separation in place for GPUs is also provided to clarify prominent design choices.

This talk succeeds at providing an introduction to GPUs and 3D rendering that can be understood without specific graphics knowledge while also giving a good idea of how the supporting software stack is organized. It is highly recommended for anyone interested in learning more on these topics!




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Learning the Linux Kernel Configuration Space: Results and Challenges, Matthieu Acher

Talk selected by Michael Opdenacker

TuxML (Linux and Machine Learning) is an open-source research project aiming at exploring the Linux kernel configuration space through machine learning. With more than 15,000 configuration parameters, the Linux kernel now has up to 106000 possible configurations. Compare this figure to 1080, the approximate number of atoms in the universe.

As it is not possible to test all such configurations (all the more as each takes about 10 minutes to compile), the goal of the project is to predict “interesting” configurations, that could expose distinct bugs.

Starting from random configurations (from make randconfig), they use statistical learning to eventually pinpoint sets of parameters causing build failures, and avoid testing configurations that are expected to fail. This way, TUXML can be more efficient in exploring the configuration space and find bugs.

That’s typically where researchers can help us engineers and Linux kernel contributors. You need a solid theoretical background in machine learning to process data efficiently.

On Linux 4.13, the research team has managed to explore more than 15,000 different configurations through more than 95,000 hours of computing, eventually to find (and fix) 16 bugs in Linux. Some of these bugs may not come as a surprise for experienced kernel developers, but some others could expose unexpected issues that a human user may not find spontaneously.

They are also trying to use their data to predict the impact of configuration parameters on kernel size, but it turns out that size is hard to predict. At least, they managed to find “influential” options, some expected ones, and some less expected ones, deserving further investigation.

This project looks definitely useful for improving the test coverage of the Linux kernel, by working smarter than trying to compile purely random configurations. Your help is needed for testing, investigating and fixing kernel bugs, and giving your feedback.




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Going beyond printk messages, Sergio Prado

Talk selected by Miquèl Raynal

Sergio gave a talk about debugging with an interesting approach: he started by acknowledging that today, printk is very widely used to do serious debugging but that in some cases it would be much more efficient to use other tools. Indeed there are plenty of open source tools available out there so why don’t we use them?

He presented a table indicating, from his point of view, which tool would best fit a given problem and then enumerated a few tips and commands that everybody can use to understand what went wrong in their kernel, for instance after a panic.

Is addr2line the best way to avoid printk messages right after a panic? or maybe the Linux script faddr2line? or even GDB? Maybe you don’t have access to the panic trace yet, in this case you could be interested in looking at pstore or kdump?

Or maybe an issue will more efficiently be hunted with tracing, in this case Sergio shown several static and dynamic options: using tracepoints, kprobes, ftrace, and proposed many others.

Lock-ups and memory leaks are also covered in the slides (see below), but not in the video because unfortunately the 35 minutes slot allowed was not enough for Sergio to detail all these interesting debugging methods. We wish he had more time to give all his feedback around these underused -while powerful- tools!




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Supporting Video (de)serializers in Linux: Challenges and Works in Progress

Talk selected by Thomas Petazzoni

Luca Ceresoli’s talk at this ELCE is a good example of an interesting talk, as it combines an introduction to new hardware, what is the status of the support for this hardware in Linux, and what are the challenges to overcome to complete the integration of the hardware support in the kernel, with some open discussion.

Luca’s talk was about the support for video serializers and deserializers, with a focus on camera support. Cameras are usually connected to a system-on-chip using a parallel interface, a MIPI CSI interface or some LVDS interface. However, these interfaces only work for very short distances between the system-on-chip and the camera, and may not work well in electromagnetically noisy environments. For such situations, there are some technical solutions that consists in serializing the camera stream in a fast robust link (typically a coax cable) and then deserialize it before it is captured by the SoC through a standard camera interface. This fast robust link of course transports the stream data itself, but can also transport control information (GPIO status, I2C bus to talk to the remote camera sensor).

There are two main technologies today implementing this: the GMSL technology from Maxim and the FDP-LinkIII technology from Texas Instruments. Luca’s focus is on the latter technology, since that’s what he has been working on for the past months.

After this hardware introduction, Luca gave a status of the different patch series that have been posted by various contributors (himself included) on the Linux kernel mailing lists: some preliminary support for GMSL has been posted by Kieran Bingham, and some preliminary support for FDP-LinkIII has been posted by Luca.

Luca then presented the ideal implementation to support these interfaces, but then quickly dived into the troubles and tribulations: there is no support for stream multiplexing in Video4Linux currently, there is no support for parts of a V4L pipeline going faulty, and there is no support for hotplugging in V4L.

Then, there are some challenges with how to handle the remote I2C bus offered by those serializers/deserializers. Since camera sensors often have the same I2C address, the serializers/deserializers often have some sort of “solution” to this: an I2C switch in the GMSL (de)serializers, and a translation table for I2C addresses in FDP-LinkIII (de)serializers. Luca discussed how these are currently supported in Linux.

At the end of the talk, quite a bit of discussion took place, both about the V4L issues and the I2C issues raised in Luca’s talk. Overall, it was a useful talk if you’re interested in this specific topic.




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V4L2: A Status Update

Talk selected by Maxime Chevallier

As someone not very familiar with the V4L2 Framework, I was pleasantly surprised that Hans’ talk was done in such a way that both experienced and beginner developers were able to follow.

Hans started with a quick introduction to the various concepts of video encoding and decoding that needs to be understood to follow the highly technical explanations of the current status of stateless and stateful codecs support.

Besides describing the technical challenge of implementing such support, Hans gave a good overview of the challenges that are faced by the community, focusing on the necessity of having good testing tools, such as the new vicodec driver.

He described the complexity of implementing support for Stateless decoders (where the hardware decoder doesn’t keep track of the state, this has to be done in software), and explained that the new Request API is a good step towards achieving such support, with 2 decoders already supported in the staging area.

Hans then explained the userspace APIs that are to be used when dealing with Stateless decoders, starting some interesting discussions along the way.

All in all, such a talk is a good example of how we can use events such as ELCE to both give good technical insight on existing frameworks, but also to trigger discussions about the ongoing and future work amongst the active developers and maintainers that are brought together by the event.




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One Build to Rule Them All: Building FreeRTOS & Linux Using Yocto

Talk selected by Alexandre Belloni

In this talk, Alejandro Hernandez explains how to build FreeRTOS using OpenEmbedded.

He starts by explaining the use case for building both FreeRTOS and a Linux system using the same build system, in this case OpenEmbedded.

He then shows the meta-freertos layer he developped to get OpenEmbedded to build FreeRTOS. The toolchain he used is fairly classic with GCC, binutils, gdb. The main difference is that newlib is used as the C library.
meta-freertos then depends on previous work that has been done, integrating a newlib and libgloss recipes in oe-core. The core of meta-freertos is then a class, freertos-app.bbclass, allowing to abstract many details allowing to build a FreeRTOS application and image for the target. A poky-freertos distribution configuration is also provided.

Alejandro then demoes multiple FreeRTOS applications.

Finally, he goes over multiconfig, the multiple configuration build dependencies, allowing OpenEmbedded to build an image using a configuration but depending on tasks using a different configuration. In other words, this allows to build a Linux system image after building a FreeRTOS application so it can be included in the image. This is very useful in the case Linux is running on the application processor and needs to load FreeRTOS on a smaller processor.




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Authenticate and Encrypted Storage on Embedded Linux

Talk selected by Kamel Bouhara

Jan’s talk is introducing us to the current authentication and encryption methods that go on top of the Linux storage stack.

He started reminding us some basic crypto terminologies and then depicted all the existing technologies by the storage they fit into.

For block device storage dm-verity is a good choice to verify integrity of read-only filesystems and the verification is done on each node of a hash tree. For a file or application based verification fsverity is a more relevant tool as it allows on-demand verification.

On raw NAND devices, the integrity should be checked using the UBI filesystem associated to an HMAC or image signature authentication with a root key. This solution can be completed with fscrypt to encrypt specific data on the filesytem.

For the encryption stage, Jan mentioned the ecryptfs project, which is not maintained anymore and could be well replaced by fscrypt which allows to hold several keys in the same filesystem in a multi-user environment. It is therefore a good alternative to dm-crypt which is a block-based based encryption solution used on large block devices and it is not protected against replay attacks using old blocks.

For a TPM based authentication, he recommendeds using the kernel integrity subsystem called IMA/EVM, which is a layout on top of other filesystem, the project Keylime is good example for this: https://sched.co/TLCY.

Jan shared some good practices on how to manage the Master key storage like not using a password based key, if possible use hardware capabilities like ARM TrustZone and OPTEE and use of a verified boot and key wrapping for the master key.




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