Release notes for the Genode OS Framework 16.02
With version 16.02, we add RISC-V to Genode's supported CPU architectures, enable the secure pass-through of individual USB devices to virtual machines, and update the support for the Muen and seL4 kernels.
Trustworthy hardware becomes an increasingly pressing problem. With each new generation of today's commodity hardware comes a dramatic increase of complexity, the addition of proprietary companion processors, and opaque firmware blobs. Even with a perfectly secure operating system, the user's privacy and security remains at risk as there is no way to assess the trustworthiness of our underlying hardware. RISC-V is a new hardware architecture that tries to overcome this problem by the means of open source and transparency. It is designed to scale from micro controllers to general-purpose computers, and to be both synthesizable as FPGA softcores and implementable in ASICs. The prospect of a scalable and trustworthy open-source hardware platform motivated us to add RISC-V to Genode's supported CPU architectures. Section New support for the RISC-V CPU architecture gives a brief overview of this line of work.
Thanks to the growing number of our regular developers using Genode as day to day OS, we create a natural incentive to address typical desktop-OS work flows. In particular, the new version comes with the ability to assign individual USB devices to VirtualBox instances. Conceptually, this looks like a relatively straight-forward feature. But as discussed in Section Assignment of USB devices to virtual machines, we had to overcome a number of challenging problems caused by the inherently dynamic nature of USB-device hot-plugging. Also on the account of day-to-day computing, the GUI stack received welcomed usability improvements like keyboard shortcuts for certain window-management operations.
With respect to Genode's underlying base platforms, we are happy to announce the updates of the Muen and seL4 kernels. The Muen separation kernel received an update to version 0.7, which accommodates Genode's regular work flows (via run scripts) much better than the previous version. As described in Section Muen separation kernel, this change clears the way to subject Muen to Genode's regular automated tests. The seL4 kernel represents an exciting playground as a future base platform for Genode. We have updated the kernel to version 2.1, which prompted us to fundamentally revisit the low-level resource management of Genode on this kernel. A summary of this undertaking is presented in Section seL4 version 2.1.
According to the road map, we originally planned to revise the framework API in this release. Even though this topic is very actively pursued, we decided to not rush it. We find it important to provide a smooth migration path from the old API to the new one. Determining the best path is actually trickier than revising the API, though. To let our decisions settle a bit, we postpone the transition to the upcoming release.
Assignment of USB devices to virtual machines
As a migration strategy for running Genode on a daily basis, using VirtualBox to execute a feature-rich OS is vital. In release 15.05, we added USB pass-through support to VirtualBox by enabling its integrated USB proxy service. Since we use the open-source edition of VirtualBox, we were merely able to use the OHCI device model and were therefore limited to using USB 1.x devices in low and full speed mode only. To make matters worse, when using the OHCI controller model, it is difficult if not impossible to access USB mass-storage devices. Usually, VirtualBox facilitates the EHCI or xHCI device models for the pass-through of storage devices. Unfortunately, those models are only available as a proprietary extension, which cannot be used by our VirtualBox port.
Having support for the pass-through of high-speed and super-speed USB devices is a must in such controller models. Therefore, we either have to implement these models ourselves or port existing ones from another VMM or emulator to fill the gap. We went for porting existing models first because device-model development from scratch could end up being time consuming if we want to guarantee them to work with a variety of different OS drivers.
QEMU features a NEC xHCI (UPD720200) device model that works well with Windows guests. For this reason, we decided to give porting this device model a shot. We applied the DDE approach and started by creating a QEMU emulation environment so that only the bare minimum amount of source code needed to be taken from the QEMU sources. It came down to a handful of source files, mainly the USB core and the xHCI device model files. We iteratively extended the emulation environment until the QEMU sources compiled and linked fine. One particular cumbersome issue we had to overcome was the emulation of the QEMU Object Model. Since QEMU is written in C, it uses its own object model to implement inheritance. This object model is used throughout QEMU. We took the easy way out and just used a C++ wrapper class that contains all QEMU objects that are used in the USB subsystem.
The next step was to develop a USB host device model. This model connects a USB device attached to Genode's USB host-controller driver to the xHCI device model. Lucky for us, QEMU already contains a USB host device model that uses libusb, which we could use as blueprint. We implemented a USB host device that leverages Genode's custom USB session interface. This host device reacts to a USB device report coming from another component such as the host-controller driver. It tries to claim all devices it finds in that report and then creates a QEMU USB device for each of them that is attached to the xHCI device model.
The xHCI device model needs infrastructure that normally is provided by QEMU itself such as a timer queue and PCI device handling. We introduced a QEMU USB controller interface repos/libports/include/qemu/usb.h whose back-end library interface has to be implemented by a component, i.e. the VMM, that wants to use the library.
In the end, this work resulted in a small library that contains the xHCI device model and works in a standalone way. All required resources have to be provided by the component using the library. This makes it easy to integrate the library in different VMMs because the user of the library is not forced to employ the library in a certain way but free to use it any way he chooses.
We implemented an xHCI device model repos/port/src/virtualbox/devxhci.cc in VirtualBox that merely wraps the QEMU USB library and provides the back-end functionality required by the library to glue QEMU's xHCI device model to VirtualBox. For now, this device is always part of a VM because there is currently no way to disable it from within the VirtualBox configuration front end. Therefore, it is necessary to always give VirtualBox access to a usb_devices ROM module.
We removed the afore mentioned USB proxy service from our VirtualBox port because it became redundant with the advent of our xHCI device model.
With the xHCI support in VirtualBox in place, we had to come up with a mechanism to select, which USB devices it may access. Since USB devices are usually hot-plugged by the user of the system, we need to be able to configure the access permissions dynamically at run-time. On this account, we created a component that intercepts the report from the USB host-controller driver. On the one hand, this USB device report-filter component screens the device report coming from the USB host-controller driver by checking each reported device against a given white list of devices. Only approved devices are reported to a consumer of the report, i.e. VirtualBox. On the other hand, this component generates a new configuration for the USB host-controller driver. The configuration has to be changed each time the filter component finds a suitable device because the driver will hand out access to a given device to a client only if there is a valid policy. As we do not know in advance, which devices might be plugged in, this policy must be maintained dynamically. The report filter will send the device report only if the host-controller driver has changed its configuration. This ensures that a matching policy will be in effect at the time when the client component tries to access the device.
The configuration of the report-filter component can also be changed at run time.
See repos/os/src/app/usb_report_filter/README for more details on how the USB device report filter may be configured.
The following figure illustrates the interplay and configuration of the involved components:
When the user plugs in a USB device, the USB host-controller driver generates a device report that is consumed by the USB device report-filter component (1). The filter component then examines the report and checks if it contains a device it should report to its report consumer. It then reconfigures the host-controller driver (2). Afterwards it sends a report to its consumer (3). The consumer, in this case a VMM, then accesses the USB device (4).
New support for the RISC-V CPU architecture
We became aware of RISC-V when attending several talks about the project at FOSDEM in 2015. RISC-V aims to be an open-source hardware architecture and is now complemented by many projects that target the release of real hardware or ASICs (for example, the LowRISC project). We have experience with various major CPU architectures and many systems on a chip and, therefore, embrace a sharp eye on certain platform properties. Intel's ME and ARM's Trustzone practically lock out operating systems of certain hardware and firmware features. The true nature of these mechanisms becomes increasingly dubious, especially when trying to build a secure open-source operating system. Intel's AMT technology for instance comes with a complete TCP/IP stack that intercepts packets from the integrated NIC and a VNC server that can magically expose a mouse and a keyboard at the USB controller. If you are interested in more details about this topic Intel x86 considered harmful by Joanna Rutkowska is a very good read. We decided to have a deeper look at the RISC-V architecture as an alternative open hardware platform. Especially, since the LowRISC project promises a completely open system on chip, including the peripherals.
RISC-V comes with a lot of optional features, so it can cover a large field of applications reaching from simple I/O processors to general-purpose computing. For example, there are 64 and 32 bit ISA (instruction set architecture) versions, three page table formats with the option to omit paging at all, up to four privilege modes, and a minimal integer core ISA (I). Everything else, like multiplication and division (M), atomic instructions (A), and floating point support (F) are subject to ISA extensions and are completely optional for a specific hardware implementation.
For Genode, we chose to add the RISC-V support to our custom base-hw kernel. Since Genode may be used as a general purpose OS, we implemented the kernel using the 64 bit RISC-V version, the Sv39 three-level page table format, and the so-called general-purpose extension (G), which is the abbreviation for the IAMF extensions. The current implementation provides the kernel and the necessary adaptations of the user level part of core.
For testing, we used the RISC-V instruction emulator called Spike. There also exists a RISC-V implementation for various Zynq FPGAs. Genode's Zynq board support has kindly been added and contributed by Mark Vels.
In the current state, basic Genode applications including core, init, and components that use shared libraries can be executed on top of our RISC-V port. We did not enable the libc and postponed further activity as the platform currently does not specify the interaction with peripherals.
Building the instruction emulator
# download the front end server git clone https://github.com/ssumpf/riscv-fesvr.git # build the front end server cd riscv-fesvr mkdir build cd build export RISCV=<installation path> ../configure --prefix=$RISCV (sudo) make install # download the instruction emulator cd ../../ git clone https://github.com/ssumpf/riscv-isa-sim.git cd riscv-isa-sim # build the emulator mkdir build cd build ../configure --prefix=$RISCV --with-fesvr=$RISCV (sudo) make install # add $RISCV/bin to path export PATH=$RISCV/bin:$PATH
Building Genode and running a test scenario
# download Genode cd ../../ git clone https://github.com/genodelabs/genode.git # build the Genode tool chain cd genode ./tool/tool_chain riscv # create RISC-V build directory ./tool/create_builddir hw_riscv cd build/hw_riscv # build and execute the printf run script make run/printf
GUI stack usability improvements
Motivated by the daily use of Genode as desktop OS by an increasingly number of developers, the window-layouter component of the GUI stack received welcomed usability improvements.
The policy of the window layouter can be adjusted via its configuration. For a given window label, the window's initial position and its maximized state can be defined as follows:
<config> <policy label="mupdf" maximized="yes"/> <policy label="nit_fb" xpos="50" ypos="50"/> </config>
The window layouter has become able to respond to key sequences. However, normally, the layouter is not a regular nitpicker client but receives only those input events that refer to the window decorations. It never owns the keyboard focus. In order to propagate global key sequences to the layouter, nitpicker must be explicitly configured to direct key sequences initiated with certain keys to the decorator. For example, the following nitpicker configuration routes key sequences starting with the left windows key to the decorator. The window manager, in turn, forwards those events to the layouter.
<start name="nitpicker"> ... <config> ... <global-key name="KEY_LEFTMETA" label="wm -> decorator" /> ... </config> ... </start>
The response of the window layouter to key sequences can be expressed in the layouter configuration as follows:
<config> <press key="KEY_LEFTMETA"> <press key="KEY_TAB" action="next_window"> <release key="KEY_TAB"> <release key="KEY_LEFTMETA" action="raise_window"/> </release> </press> <press key="KEY_LEFTSHIFT"> <press key="KEY_TAB" action="prev_window"> <release key="KEY_TAB"> <release key="KEY_LEFTMETA" action="raise_window"/> </release> </press> </press> <press key="KEY_ENTER" action="toggle_fullscreen"/> </press> </config>
Each <press> node defines the policy when the specified key is pressed. It can be equipped with an action attribute that triggers a window action. The supported window actions are:
Focus the next window in the focus history.
Focus the previous window in the focus history.
Bring the focused window to the front.
Maximize/unmaximize the focused window.
By nesting <press> nodes, actions can be tied to key sequences. In the example above, the next_window action is executed only if TAB is pressed while the left windows-key is kept pressed. Furthermore, key sequences can contain specific release events. In the example above, the release of the left windows key brings the focused window to front, but only if TAB was pressed before.
The usb_drv component now solely uses a policy to grant other components access to USB devices exposed by its raw interface (USB session). On the basis of the label attribute, it will choose a pre-configured device that is identified by either the bus and dev or the vendor and product attribute tuple. To accommodate policy decisions made at run time, the USB driver is now able to reload its configuration on demand. The USB device report now contains a bus and a dev attribute as well in order to identify a USB device more precisely. In addition to that, there is also a generated label attribute in form of usb-<bus>-<dev> that may be used to form policies while configuring the system dynamically, e.g., when using the usb_report_filter component.
Up to now, access to USB storage devices was provided by the USB host-controller driver only. However, its ability to do so is limited. E.g., it only supports one storage device and the storage device cannot be changed at run-time. With this release we add a USB mass-storage driver that supports UMS bulk-only devices that use the SCSI Block Commands set (direct-access). This is still most common for USB sticks. Devices using different command sets, e.g SD/HC devices or some external disc drives, will not work properly if at all. The driver uses the USB session interface to access the USB device and provides its service as block session to its client.
This component is part of the first step providing the ability to mount and use USB sticks dynamically when using Genode as a general purpose OS. In the future, the usb_drv component should solely be the host-controller driver while other tasks are handled by dedicated USB driver components such as this one.
The audio-out driver for Linux was modernized by replacing its multi-threaded architecture by an event-driven architecture using Genode's server API. In addition, the playback is now driven by a timer. For now it is a periodic timer that triggers every 11 ms which is roughly the current audio-out period.
The driver now also behaves like the other BSD-based audio-out driver, i.e., it always advances the play pointer. That is vital for the audio-out stack above the driver to work properly (e.g., the mixer).
Libraries and applications
With a growing number of users and contributors comes the desire to bring more and more existing software to Genode. Most of such libraries and applications, however, are outside of the scope of Genode as an OS framework. In contrast to device drivers, protocol stacks, and low-level OS services, which we subject to our regular automated tests, most 3rd-party software is pretty independent from Genode. The attempt to integrate the growing pool of such diverse software into the main repository does not scale.
For this reason, we introduce the new Genode World repository, which is the designated place for hosting ported applications, libraries, and games.
To use it, you first need to obtain a clone of Genode:
git clone https://github.com/genodelabs/genode.git genode
Now, clone the genode-world.git repository to genode/repos/world:
git clone https://github.com/genodelabs/genode-world.git genode/repos/world
By placing the world repository under the repos/ directory, Genode's tools will automatically incorporate the ports provided by the world repository.
For building software of the world repository, the build-directory configuration etc/build.conf must be extended with the following line:
REPOSITORIES += $(GENODE_DIR)/repos/world
Word of caution
In contrast to the components found in the mainline Genode repository, the components within the world repository are not subjected to the regular quality-assurance measures of Genode Labs. Hence, problems are to be expected. If you encounter bugs, build problems, or stability issues, please report them to the issue tracker or the mailing list.
The following 3rd-party code packages of the ports and libports repositories have been ported or updated:
Lynx 2.8.8rel.2 (noux package)
OpenSSH 7.1p1 (noux package)
tar-1.27 (noux package)
Within the last months, the initialization code of our custom kernel got re-arranged to simplify the addition of new architectures, e.g., the RISC-V port (Section New support for the RISC-V CPU architecture) while also making its implementation leaner. A positive side effect of this work was the generalization of multi-processor and L2-cache support for ARM's Cortex-A9 CPUs. For instance, the Wandboard (Freescale i.MX6 SoC) is now driven with all four cores, and its memory can be accessed with full speed.
Besides those feature additions, we fixed an extremely rare and tricky race condition in the implementation of the kernel-protected capabilities, introduced in release 15.05. A capability's lifetime within a component is tracked by a reference-counting like mechanism that is under control of the component itself. When the kernel transfered a capability to a component, and the very same capability was deleted within the component simultaneously, the received capability was marked as invalid, which led to diverse, sporadic faults. This deficit in the capabilities reference-counting is solved with the current release.
Building Genode scenarios running on top of the Muen separation kernel has been greatly simplified by properly integrating the Muen system build process into the Genode build system. As described in the 15.08 release notes, the architecture with Muen is different since the entire hw_x86_64_muen Genode system runs as a guest VM on top of the separation kernel. This means that the Genode base-hw image must itself be packaged into the final Muen system image as an additional step after the Genode system build.
The packaging process of a Muen system image is performed by the new image/muen run-tool plugin, which processes the following RUN_OPT parameters.
Muen system is built automatically or externally
Muen system policy
Muen system components required for the given system policy
Muen target hardware platform
Path to GNAT toolchain
Path to SPARK toolchain
The options are automatically added to the etc/build.conf file for the hw_x86_64_muen base-hw platform. The documentation has been updated to reflect the new, simplified build process.
A port file was added to facilitate the download of the Muen sources v0.7 and to check the required dependencies.
Using the new image/muen script in combination with iPXE allows to run the Genode test suite via the autopilot tool.
Muen employs Intel VT-d interrupt remapping (IR) besides DMA remapping for secure device assignment. As a consequence, PCI devices using Message Signaled Interrupts (MSI) must be programmed to trigger requests in remappable format (see Intel VT-d specification, Section 188.8.131.52 for further details).
To enable the use of MSIs with the base-hw kernel, a platform-specific function has been introduced that returns the necessary MSI parameters for a given PCI device. If either the platform or the specific device does not support MSI, the function returns false.
On hw_x86_64_muen, the function consults the Muen subject info page to supply the appropriate information to the IRQ session. This allows Genode device drivers to transparently use MSIs for passed-through PCI devices.
By the end of 2015, the seL4 kernel version 2.0 was published. With the current release, we update Genode's preliminary support for this kernel from the experimental branch of one year ago to the master branch of version 2.1. Note that this line of work is still considered as an exploration. As of now, there is still a way to go until we can leverage seL4 as a fully featured base platform. Under the hood of Genode, the transition to the version 2.1 master branch had the following implications.
In contrast to the experimental branch, the seL4 master branch has no way to manually define the allocation of kernel objects within untyped memory ranges. Instead, the kernel maintains a built-in allocation policy. This policy rules out the deallocation of once-used parts of untyped memory. The only way to reuse memory is to revoke the entire untyped memory range. Consequently, we cannot share a large untyped memory range for kernel objects of different protection domains. In order to reuse memory at a reasonably fine granularity, we need to split the initial untyped memory ranges into small chunks that can be individually revoked. Those chunks are called "untyped pages". An untyped page is a 4 KiB untyped memory region.
The bootstrapping of core has to employ a two-stage allocation approach now. For creating the initial kernel objects for core, which remain static during the entire lifetime of the system, kernel objects are created directly out of the initial untyped memory regions as reported by the kernel. The so-called "initial untyped pool" keeps track of the consumption of those untyped memory ranges by mimicking the kernel's internal allocation policy. Kernel objects created this way can be of any size. For example the CNode, which is used to store page-frame capabilities is 16 MiB in size. Also, core's CSpace uses a relatively large CNode.
After the initial setup phase, all remaining untyped memory is turned into untyped pages. From this point on, newly created kernel objects cannot exceed 4 KiB in size because one kernel object cannot span multiple untyped memory regions. The capability selectors for untyped pages are organized similarly to those of page-frame capabilities. There is a new 2nd-level CNode (UNTYPED_CORE_CNODE) that is dimensioned according to the maximum amount of physical memory (1M entries, each entry representing 4 KiB). The CNode is organized such that an index into the CNode directly corresponds to the physical frame number of the underlying memory. This way, we can easily determine an untyped page selector for any physical addresses, i.e., for revoking the kernel objects allocated at a specific physical page. The downside is the need for another 16 MiB chunk of meta data. Also, we need to keep in mind that this approach won't scale to 64-bit systems. We will eventually need to replace the PHYS_CORE_CNODE and UNTYPED_CORE_CNODE by CNode hierarchies to model a sparsely populated CNode. The following figure illustrates the layout of core's capability space.
For each protection domain, core maintains a so-called VM CSpace that holds capability selectors for page frames and page tables. The size constraint of kernel objects has the immediate implication that the VM CSpaces of protection domains must be organized via several levels of CNodes. I.e., as the top-level CNode of core has a size of 2^12, the remaining 20 PD-specific CSpace address bits are organized as a 2nd-level 2^4 padding CNode, a 3rd-level 2^8 CNode, and several 4th-level 2^8 leaf CNodes. The latter contain the actual selectors for the page tables and page-table entries of the respective PD.
As another slight difference from the experimental branch, the master branch requires the explicit assignment of page directories to an ASID pool.
Functionality-wise the update to version 2.1 brings no changes. The preliminary support is still limited to Genode's most fundamental mechanisms like the bootstrapping, the creation of protection domains, the execution of threads, and inter-component communication. User-level device drivers are not supported yet. Such functional improvements are scheduled for Genode 16.08.
We started to experience crashes of our dynamic linker (ldso) when using Genode's base-linux platform on recent Linux kernels. Ldso is primarily a shared object, which is linked to dynamic binaries. But ldso is also an executable, which, once started loads the dynamically-linked binary along with all shared libraries required by the binary. Up to now, ldso had to be loaded at a link address defined at compilation time, which we enforced through linker-script magic. Unfortunately, this does not work any longer on recent Linux versions. The kernel notices that ldso is a shared object and loads it at an arbitrary (randomized) address, which ultimately results in a segmentation fault during ldso initialization. We found a fix for this issue by marking ldso as an executable in the ELF header. But since ldso is linked to all dynamic binaries (it contains Genode's base libraries) the GNU linker then refused to link because ldso was not marked as a shared object. Therefore, we decided to implement true self relocation within ldso. This feature only works on Genode's base-linux platform as it requires some symbol-address magic.