Busybox 1.18.0, a few new applets

BusyBox logoBusybox, the embedded Linux swiss-army knife, has seen a new release recently: 1.18.0. As usual, it brings dozens of bug fixes, but it also includes a few new applets that are worth noting:

  • pmap, which shows the memory mappings for a particular process. It is just a formatted version of what you can find in /proc/PID/maps, but still nice to have. Knowing the mappings in a particular process is often useful for debugging purposes.
  • add-shell and remove-shell, that respectively add and remove a shell from /etc/shells. This file lists the shells that are acceptable for the chsh command, for example.
  • nandwrite and nanddump, that respectively write to NAND with bad block management, and dumps NAND flash contents. Those two commands expand the set of MTD-related commands in Busybox and are replacements for the version available in mtd-utils. There were already other MTD related utilities in Busybox: flashcp (write to a NOR flash), flash_eraseall (erase a NOR or NAND flash), flash_lock and flash_unlock to protect/unprotect sectors on flash storage. The main advantage is that these utilities relieve you from having to cross-compile mtd-utils, which is never as simple as cross-compiling BusyBox.
  • base64, a base64 encoder and decoder.
  • mpstat, iostat and powertop, three new statistics programs. mpstat (as in multiprocessor stat) reports interrupts and CPU usage on multiprocessor systems, on a per-CPU basis. iostat reports CPU and block device statistics. powertop is a lightweight variant of the popular tool used to diagnose sources of wake-ups, but is only limited to Intel-based machines at the moment.
  • nbd-client, a client for the Network Block Device protocol, so that an embedded system can mount volumes shared by NBD
  • blockdev, allows to perform some ioctl() on block devices such as get sector size, get/set block size, flush buffers, etc.

Have fun with Busybox!

How to find the root device?

How to find which device corresponds to your root filesystem

I recently found something I was looking for for quite a long time. If you use the mount command in Linux, you can see that the root device is not listed like the other mounted filesystems:

/dev/root on / type ext3 (rw)
/dev/mmcblk0p1 on /mmcboot type vfat (rw)
proc on /proc type proc (rw)
none on /sys type sysfs (rw,noexec,nosuid,nodev)
none on /dev type tmpfs (rw,mode=0755)

For the / mount point, you are just told that it corresponds to /dev/root, which is not the real device you are looking for.

Of course, you can look at the kernel command line and see on which initial root filesystem Linux was instructed to boot (root parameter):

$ cat /proc/cmdline
mem=512M console=ttyS2,115200n8 root=/dev/mmcblk0p2 rw rootwait

However, this doesn’t mean that what you see is the current root device. Many Linux systems boot on intermediate root filesystems (like initramdisks and initramfs), which are just used to access the final one.

I explored the contents of /proc, but didn’t find any file revealing what the root device is.

Fortunately, I eventually found a command to find the root device:

$ rdev
/dev/mmcblk0p2 /

But how does this work? How could we find such information by ourselves? Use the Source, Luke!

When you ask yourself questions like this one, the best is to look at the BusyBox sources which implement this command. These sources are usually simpler than the ones for the same GNU command.

Here is what BusyBox rdev does… It first runs the stat system call on the / directory. Let’s run the stat command that corresponds to it:

$ stat /
  File: `/'
  Size: 4096      	Blocks: 8          IO Block: 4096   directory
Device: b302h/45826d	Inode: 2           Links: 23
Access: (0755/drwxr-xr-x)  Uid: (    0/    root)   Gid: (    0/    root)
Access: 2010-07-21 22:00:01.000000000 +0200
Modify: 2010-06-13 15:04:37.000000000 +0200
Change: 2010-06-13 15:04:37.000000000 +0200

What’s interesting is the Device field. It means that the device corresponding to / has the major number b3 in hexadecimal (179 in decimal), and minor number 02. Bingo, this corresponds to /dev/mmcblk0p2:

$ ls -l /dev/mmcblk0p2 
brw-rw---- 1 root disk 179, 2 Jan  1  1970 /dev/mmcblk0p2

Therefore, what BusyBox rdev does is walk through /dev and its subdirectories to find a device file matching the major and minor numbers.

This is not a completely generic solution though. On some very simple embedded systems, you don’t even need to create device files for all existing devices. In particular, the device file for the root filesystem doesn’t have to exist. In such a case, rdev wouldn’t be able to find the root device.

A more generic solution could be to walk through /sys/block which enumerates all the block devices present on a system (even if not all of them have an entry in /dev/. This would allow to find the device with the matching major and minor numbers:

$ cat /sys/block/mmcblk0/mmcblk0p1/dev

Through this example, you can see how useful it can be to study the sources of system commands to understand how the system works. BusyBox sources, implementing simplified versions of GNU utilities, make this even easier.