Release notes for the Genode OS Framework 16.11
In contrast to most parts of the framework, the fundamental low-level protocols, which define the interaction between parent and child components have remained unchanged since the very first Genode version. From this interplay, the entire architecture follows. That said, certain initial design choices were not perfect. They partially resulted from limitations of the kernels we used during Genode's early years and from our pre-occupation with a certain style of programming. Over the years, the drawbacks inherent in our original design became more and more clear and we drafted rough plans to overcome them. However, reworking the fundamental protocols of a system that already accommodates hundreds of component implementations cannot be taken lightly. Because of this discomfort, we repeatedly deferred the topic - until now. With the rapidly growing workloads carried by Genode, we deliberately decided to address long-standing deficiencies rather than adding the features we originally planned according to the road map.
Section Asynchronous parent-child interactions presents the reworking of Genode's component interplay at the lowest level. With this change in place, we feel much more comfortable to scale up our workloads in the upcoming releases.
Functionality-wise, the most prominent topic of the current release is the vastly improved NIC-routing component. Since we introduced the first version of the NIC router in the previous release, we took an iterative approach to shape the component according to its most prominent use cases. Section Further improved virtual networking summarizes the changes and the motivation behind them.
Even though we added support for seL4 in the previous release, the NOVA hypervisor is still our go-to kernel for x86-based hardware because of its feature set. For this reason, we continuously improve this kernel and the NOVA-specific components like VirtualBox. Section NOVA hypervisor covers the introduction of an asynchronous map operation to NOVA.
Further topics of the current release range from added smart-card support, over a new timeout API, to a VFS-based time-based password generator. With respect to the road map, we postponed most topics originally planned. In particular, we intended to enable the use of Genode on top of Xen by following the footsteps of the existing Muen support - using our custom base-hw kernel within a Xen DomU domain. However, before proceeding this route, we decided to modernize the kernel design, in particular with respect to bootstrapping and address-space management. Some parts of this line of work are already present in the current release, for example the unification of the boot-module handling as explained in Section Unified handling of boot modules.
Asynchronous parent-child interactions
When Genode was born in 2006, the L4 microkernels of the time universally lacked an asynchronous inter-process-communication (IPC) mechanism. Consequently, we designed the first version of Genode with the presumption that components had to interact solely synchronously. To us, this seemed to be the "right" way because the synchronous low-footprint IPC was presumably the key for L4's good performance. It felt natural to leverage this benefit to the maximum extent possible.
To illustrate the implications of this line of thinking for Genode, let's take a look at a simple scenario where a parent component hosts two children and one child provides a service to the other child.
During the creation of a session, the kernel's IPC mechanism serves three purposes. First, it is used to communicate information between different protection domains, in this case the parent, the client, and the server. Second, it implicitly dictates the flow of control between the involved parties because the caller blocks until the callee replies to the IPC call. Third, the IPC is the mechanism to delegate authority (like the authority to access the server's session object) between protection domains. The latter is realized with the kernel's ability to carry capabilities as IPC message payload. If this sounds a bit too abstract, please consider reviewing Section 3.1. "Capability-based security" of the Genode Foundations. Using solely a synchronous IPC mechanism, the sequence of establishing a session in the given scenario is as follows. In the context of Genode, we usually refer to synchronous IPC as RPC (remote procedure call).
The sequence looks straightforward:
The client issues an RPC call to its parent, requesting a session for a service of the given type while also passing a number of session-construction arguments along with the request.
Given the service name as provided with the session request, the parent determines the server to ask for a new session. It requests a session on behalf of the client by performing an RPC call to the server's prior registered "root" capability. This capability refers to an interface for creating and closing sessions.
The server responds to the invocation of its root interface by creating a new session object along with a session capability. Whereas the session object is local to the server, the corresponding session capability can be passed (delegated) to other components. Each component in possession of the session capability is able to interact with the server's corresponding session object via RPC calls. The server returns the session capability to the parent as the result of the parent's RPC call.
The parent forwards the session capability to the client as the result of the client's original RPC call.
Even though the simplicity of this protocol seems nice, it has inherent limitations:
First, as the parent performs a synchronous RPC call to the server on behalf of the client, it must trust the server to eventually respond to the RPC call. If the server doesn't, the parent may block forever. In contrast to the client that actually uses the service and thereby relies on the liveliness of the server, the parent should not need to trust the server to be responsive. To deal with the risk of an unresponsive server, Genode's existing runtime environments (like the init component), maintain a dedicated thread for each child. The session requests originating from a child are handled by the corresponding parent-local child thread. In the worst case - if the server fails to respond - only a single child thread stays blocked but the other parts of the runtime environment remain unaffected. Consequently, runtime environments have to be multi-threaded components. This, in turn, comes at the cost of added complexity, in particular the need for error-prone inter-thread synchronization.
Second, the approach keeps the parent's state implicitly stored in the stacks of the parent's threads. This becomes a problem in dynamic runtime environments that need to kill subsystems at arbitrary times. E.g., imagine the situation where the client component is to be destroyed while the parent's call to the server's root interface is still pending. The safe destruction of the child - including its associated parent-local child thread - requires the parent to abort the RPC call, which is a complex and - again - error-prone operation.
Third, even though not inherent to synchronous RPC, Genode's original design facilitated the use of a session capability as argument for requesting the parent to close a specific session. However, the use of capabilities as re-identifiable tokens is not well supported by most kernels, including seL4 (discussion on the seL4 mailing list).
In 2008, we acknowledged the sole reliance on synchronous RPC as too limiting and introduced an API for asynchronous notifications. On the traditional L4 kernels, we implemented the API by using Genode's core component as a proxy for signal delivery. The use of asynchronous notifications soon became natural and wide-spread throughout Genode. Today, most session interfaces combine three forms of inter-component communication, namely synchronous RPC calls, asynchronous notifications, and shared memory. The new Genode API introduced in version 16.05 further cultivated the modeling of Genode components as single-threaded state machines instead of multi-threaded programs.
Still, until now, the most fundamental mechanism of Genode - the protocol between parent and child components - has remained synchronous. The reasons are twofold. First, our workaround for realizing runtime environments in a multi-threaded way worked too well. So we were not constantly bothered by this design problem. Second and more importantly, redesigning the fundamental mechanism of the framework while not breaking the more than 300 existing components is quite scary. But in anticipation of the rapidly scaling workloads imposed on Genode, we had to take on the problem sooner or later. We figured that now - with the modernized framework API in place - it's the right time. From redesigning the interplay of parent and child components, we will become able to create single-threaded runtime environments that behave completely deterministically while consuming less resources than multi-threaded programs. By the explicit enumeration of possible states, we greatly ease the validation/evaluation of such crucial components.
Following the asynchronous approach, the sequence of creating a session now looks as follows:
The dotted lines are asynchronous notifications, which have fire-and-forget semantics. A component that triggers a signal does not block.
The following points are worth noting:
Sessions are identified via IDs, which are plain numbers as opposed to capabilities. The IDs as seen by the client and server belong to different ID name spaces. IDs of sessions requested by the client are allocated by the client. IDs of sessions requested at the server are allocated by the parent.
The parent does no longer need to perform RPC calls to any of its children. Hence, the need for multiple threads in runtime environments disappears.
Each activation of the parent merely applies a state change of the session's meta data structures maintained at the parent, which capture the entire state of session requests. There is no hidden state stored on the parent's stack.
The information about pending session requests is communicated from the parent to the server via a ROM session. At startup, the server requests a ROM session for the ROM module "session_requests" from its parent. The parent implements this ROM session locally. Since ROM sessions support versions, the parent can post version updates of the "session_requests" ROM with the regular mechanisms already present in Genode.
The involved parties can potentially run in parallel.
Intuitively, the sequence of steps required to establish a session has become more complicated. However, for the users of the framework, the entire procedure is completely transparent. With a few tricks, we were actually able to implement this fundamental change while keeping almost all existing components untouched. One trick is the introduction of a server-local proxy mechanism, which translates the requests obtained from the "session_requests" ROM to component-local RPC calls on the server's root interface. So from the perspective of an existing server component, a session request still looks like a synchronous RPC request from the outside. Of course, the proxy is meant as an intermediate solution until we have crafted a convenient front-end API for the asynchronous mode of operation.
Even though the biggest share of components remains unaffected by the change, this is not true for all components. In particular, runtime environments had to be reworked, in some cases quite fundamentally. These include core, init, noux, the loader, GDB monitor, launcher, CLI monitor, and the platform driver. The change does not only affect the interplay between components but also required a reconsideration of the child-creation procedure.
Besides the architectural improvement, this line of work had two welcome effects.
First, in contrast to the original design, which relied on capabilities as re-identifiable tokens, the new version greatly alleviates the need for re-identifying capabilities on seL4. So we are able to eliminate a long-standing problem with Genode on this kernel.
Second, the work called for new data structures for the safe interaction with ID spaces (base/id_space.h) and object registries (base/registry.h). Those data structures will possibly be useful in a lot of places that currently use plain (and fairly unsafe) AVL trees or lists.
At the API level, the change is almost transparent to regular components, except for two details. The upgrading of session quota is no longer possible by a mere RPC call to the parent. Instead, Connection objects received a new upgrade_ram method that must be used instead. Speaking of Connection objects, we had to remove the (fairly obscure) KEEP_OPEN feature, which is conceptually incompatible with the new design.
Further improved virtual networking
The previous release introduced the NIC router - a component that individually routes IP packets between multiple NIC sessions, translates between different IP subnets, and also supports port forwarding and NAT. For the first version of the NIC router, we focused on the technical realization. Now, besides some optimization and restructuring, we took the chance to polish the configuration interface of the component. The goal was to make the interface more intuitive and reduce pitfalls to a minimum. Roughly speaking, the handling of the NIC router became more tailored to its/our typical use cases.
Let's create a practical setup to explain the changes in detail. Assume that there are two virtual subnets 192.168.1.0/24 and 192.168.2.0/24 within our Genode system. They connect as Virtnet A and B to the router. The standard gateway of the virtual networks is the NIC router with IP 192.168.*.1 . The router's uplink, on the other hand, is connected to the NIC driver. It interfaces the machine with our real-world home network 10.0.2.0/24. The home network is connected to the internet through its standard gateway 10.0.2.1.
The basic router configuration for this setup without any routing rules would be as follows:
<policy label_prefix="virtnet_a" domain="virtnet_a" /> <policy label_prefix="virtnet_b" domain="virtnet_b" /> <domain name="uplink" interface="10.0.2.55/24" gateway="10.0.2.1" /> <domain name="virtnet_a" interface="192.168.1.1/24" /> <domain name="virtnet_b" interface="192.168.2.1/24" />
The first thing to notice is the changed usage of the policy tag. Previously, the policy label - normally solely designated to correlate sessions with configuration domains - was misused also as unique peer identifier in the routing rules. This approach disregarded advanced label-matching techniques such as the label_prefix used above. Now, the whole NIC-router-specific enhancement of the policy tag moved to the new <domain> tag, leaving the policy tag only with its original purpose to select policies. Note that even if this modification gives the impression, the router is not yet capable of handling multiple NIC sessions at one domain at a time.
In the domain tag, the interface attribute replaces the old policy attribute named src. That means, it tells the router which IP identity to use when talking as itself to the domain. But in addition to that, the interface attribute also defines which subnet this identity and the domain belong to. This reflects a basic decision we made during the reworking process: The new NIC router is aware of subnets. Sessions of the same subnet have the same configuration domain. We came to this conclusion as it solves some fundamental problems with the old version. First, the equivalence of domain and subnet enables us to link a default gateway to a subnet by adding the gateway attribute to the domain tag. In our example, this is done in the uplink domain. The gateway attribute is optional for a domain and replaces the former via attributes of the different routing rules. It is more efficient and natural to have this value set only once at the corresponding subnet than having it scattered all over the routing rules of the remote domains as done before. If a domain has no default gateway, it drops all packets with a foreign recipient.
The second advantage of a domain being equivalent to a subnet is that handling ARP broadcasts becomes easy. It can be excluded that such ARP broadcasts concern sessions outside the source domain anymore. And as sessions in the same domain are not distinguishable to the routing, the broadcast can be sent to all of them without breaking any rules.
Now, let's enhance our example by some routing rules. One pretty complicated thing to do with the old NIC router was port forwarding. You had to combine different routing rules, explicitly enable the back routing at the remote side, and take care that NAT was applied - a lot of opportunities for mistakes. With the new version, it became easier. Let's assume we have an HTTP server in Virtnet A and an NTP server in Virtnet B. We want the NIC router to act as proxy for their services in our home network.
In order to achieve this, the uplink domain must be enhanced by two rules:
<policy label_prefix="virtnet_a" domain="virtnet_a" /> <policy label_prefix="virtnet_b" domain="virtnet_b" /> <domain name="uplink" interface="10.0.2.55/24" gateway="10.0.2.1" /> <tcp-forward port="443" domain="virtnet_a" to="192.168.1.2" /> <udp-forward port="123" domain="virtnet_b" to="192.168.2.2" /> </domain> <domain name="virtnet_a" interface="192.168.1.1/24" /> <domain name="virtnet_b" interface="192.168.2.1/24" />
The TCP forwarding rule for port 443 (HTTP+TLS/SSL) redirects to IP address 192.168.1.2 in Virtnet A and the UDP forwarding rule for port 123 (NTP) redirects to IP address 192.168.2.2 in Virtnet B. The Virtnet domains remain empty as the router keeps track of the redirected transfers and routes back reply packets automatically. Also automatically, the router applies NAT for the server as it is in the nature of port forwarding.
Next, we add some clients to Virtnet B that like to talk to our home network and the internet. We want them to be hidden via NAT when they do so. For internet communication, they shall furthermore be limited to HTTP+TLS/SSL and IMAP+TLS/SSL.
This is what the router configuration looks now:
<policy label_prefix="virtnet_a" domain="virtnet_a" /> <policy label_prefix="virtnet_b" domain="virtnet_b" /> <domain name="uplink" interface="10.0.2.55/24" gateway="10.0.2.1" /> <tcp-forward port="443" domain="virtnet_a" to="192.168.1.2" /> <udp-forward port="123" domain="virtnet_b" to="192.168.2.2" /> <nat domain="virtnet_b" tcp-ports="1000" udp-ports="1000"> </domain> <domain name="virtnet_a" interface="192.168.1.1/24" /> <domain name="virtnet_b" interface="192.168.2.1/24" > <tcp dst="10.0.2.0/24"> <permit-any domain="uplink" /> </tcp> <udp dst="10.0.2.0/24"> <permit-any domain="uplink" /> </udp> <tcp dst="0.0.0.0/0"> <permit port="443" domain="uplink" /> <permit port="993" domain="uplink" /> </tcp> </domain>
There are several new tag types. One of them is the NAT configuration for Virtnet B in the uplink domain. In contrast to the former NIC-router version where NAT settings were part of the source domain, NAT is now configured in the target domain with a sub-tag for each source. This has the advantage of supporting heterogeneous NAT configurations for a packet source depending on which domain it talks to. Besides, it is more intuitive to read. Apart from that, the NAT settings haven't changed.
Furthermore, there are the new TCP and UDP tags in the Virtnet-B domain. The first two of them have a permit-any sub-tag. With this combination, we open all ports to IP addresses of the 10.0.2.0/24 subnet, our home network, and route them to the uplink domain. TCP packets that don't match these first two rules may fall back to the third. This TCP rule doesn't have all ports opened but only 443 (HTTP+TLS/SSL) and 993 (IMAP+TLS/SSL). Both ports are again bound to the uplink domain. As the IP filter 0.0.0.0/0 of the surrounding rule isn't restrictive, we now also route packets to a foreign destination. The NIC router redirects such packets to the default gateway of our home network.
Compared to the old router version where IP and UDP/TCP routing had to be combined for this purpose, the new TCP and UDP rules with their port-permission sub-rules have some notable advantages. Like port-forwarding rules, TCP and UDP rules always imply link-state tracking in order to route back reply packets automatically. This can be seen also in our example as no further routing rules had to be added to the uplink domain. This aspect is clear from the outermost rule and not dependent on sub-rules anymore. Furthermore, the strict separation of UDP and TCP routing prevents configuration faults and increases readability. Last but not least, the permit-any rule allows something new. Opening all ports for an address range was previously only possible without link-state tracking as it could be expressed only on the IP level.
At this point, we have thoroughly discussed the layer-3 routing abilities of the new NIC router and our focus has indeed moved more into this direction. Even though IP routing is still available, we found that it should be more clearly separated from the rest. To illustrate this feature, we enhance our example again. We want the Virtnets to be allowed to communicate to each other without any restrictions. For that purpose, we add two more rules to the router configuration:
<policy label_prefix="virtnet_a" domain="virtnet_a" /> <policy label_prefix="virtnet_b" domain="virtnet_b" /> <domain name="uplink" interface="10.0.2.55/24" gateway="10.0.2.1" /> <tcp-forward port="443" domain="virtnet_a" to="192.168.1.2" /> <udp-forward port="123" domain="virtnet_b" to="192.168.2.2" /> <nat domain="virtnet_b" tcp-ports="1000" udp-ports="1000"> </domain> <domain name="virtnet_a" interface="192.168.1.1/24" /> <ip dst="192.168.2.0/24" domain="virtnet_b"/> </domain> <domain name="virtnet_b" interface="192.168.2.1/24" > <tcp dst="10.0.2.0/24"> <permit-any domain="uplink" /> </tcp> <udp dst="10.0.2.0/24"> <permit-any domain="uplink" /> </udp> <tcp dst="0.0.0.0/0"> <permit port="443" domain="uplink" /> <permit port="993" domain="uplink" /> </tcp> <ip dst="192.168.1.0/24" domain="virtnet_a"/> </domain>
As you can see, each of the new IP rules in the Virtnet domains match the addresses of the opposite subnet and route to the corresponding domain. As mentioned, the new IP rules and UDP/TCP rules are not combined anymore to clearly distinguish IP routing from layer-3 routing because this decision has far-reaching effects. First, in contrast to UDP and TCP routing, IP routing is stateless. Thus, for each IP routing rule one has to be sure to have a back-routing rule at the remote domain or else bidirectional communication won't happen. And second, NAT does not apply to IP-routed packets. So, if you're not aware of such packets, you may unintentionally reveal information about a private network.
For more details on the new NIC router, you may refer to the comprehensive documentation in the repos/os/src/server/nic_router/README file and the basic NIC-router test at libports/run/nic_router.run .
Since we introduced Genode's current API for synchronous RPCs in version 11.05, inter-component communication within Genode has become almost a child's play. The RPC framework leverages the C++ type system and templates to a great effect. In contrast to the traditional use of IDL compilers, the interaction with RPC objects provided by other components is robust and natural because no language boundaries need to be crossed.
Still, a few differences between RPC calls and regular function calls remain. In particular, there exist a few restrictions with regard to the types of RPC function arguments. Those types did not just need to be POD (plain old data) types but they had to be default-constructible, too. Whereas the former restriction still applies (non-POD objects that include references or vtables cannot be used as arguments), the latter limitation has been lifted now. Generally, non-default-constructible types are a way to attain simpler code because the special case of an "invalid" object does not need to be considered. I.e., values of such types can be kept as constants as opposed to variables. If an object exists (as equivalent to successful instantiation), it is valid. With the improved RPC mechanism, the RPC framework does no longer stay in the way in this respect.
Thanks to Edgard Schmidt for this welcome contribution!
In Genode, each session requested by a client component is labeled according to the components that intermediate the session request. The client can optionally specify a label of choice along with the session request. Its parent prefixes the client-provided label by a label of its own. If the session request is further passed to the parent's parent, the grandparent prepends its own label. This works recursively. Consequently, the final label as seen by the server is the product of the labeling policies of all components on the route of the session request.
The label is used for two purposes. First, the server uses the label as a key for a server-side policy selection. E.g., depending on the session label received by the disk-partition server, the server decides which partition to hand out to the client. Second, the label is used by intermediate components to take session-routing decisions. E.g., based on the label of a file-system session request, a parent component may route the request to one of several file-system servers.
Originally, Genode did not impose a specific way of how labels are formed. It was up to each intermediate component to filter the label of a session request in any way desired. However, in practice, this freedom remained unused and the very simple successive prefixing of labels prevails in all our use cases. Each intermediate node concatenates its own label in front of the label supplied by the originator of the session request. The different parts of the label are separated with the character sequence " -> ". Some corner cases were handles specially for aesthetic reasons. For example, if a client provided no label, the parent would skip the pending separator. That said, since each intermediate component had to provide the labeling policy, not all components were consistent in these respects. Since we found no use for arbitrary labeling policies, we decided to make the only prominent way of session labeling mandatory for all intermediate components. We thereby removed the aesthetically motivated corner cases and possible ambiguities. I.e., with the original policy, it was not possible to distinguish a unlabeled session requested by a client from a labeled session requested by the client's parent.
As a consequence, the stricter labeling must now be considered wherever a precise label was specified as a key for a session route or a server-side policy selection. The simplest way to adapt those cases is to use a label_prefix instead of the label attribute. Alternatively, the label attribute may used by appending " -> " (note the whitespace).
Since we fundamentally revised Genode's API in version 16.05, we gradually adapt our existing components. Given that Genode comes with over 300 components, this is no small feat. But with 30 percent of the components converted, we already made substantial progress.
In some respects, the conversion is actually nearly complete. In particular, the move away from format-string-based text output to our new type-safe output facility has been applied to almost all components now. The former PDBG macro that is quite useful for temporary debug messages has been replaced with a new version that must be manually included via the base/debug.h header file. Like the regular log functions, the new PDBG facility uses the type-safe text-output facility.
While applying Genode's new API, we refined the API in the following respects:
We added a dedicated String constructor overload to better accommodate string literals. This overload covers the common case for initializing a string from a literal without employing the Output mechanism. This way, such strings can by constructed without calling virtual functions, which in turn makes the String usable during the self-relocation phase of the dynamic linker.
Up till now, several Genode components still rely on the use of snprintf whenever strings must be assembled out of smaller pieces. As we like to shun format strings from Genode altogether, we needed an alternative mechanism. Since we introduced the new type-safe text-output facilities in Genode 16.05, there is an obvious solution: Let the String constructor accept an arbitrary list of arguments, which are turned into their respective textual representation and appear concatenated in the resulting string. Consequently, strings can be assembled with the same flexibility as log output. For the construction of String objects from character buffers of a known size, the Cstring utility can be used, which takes a char const * and an optional length as arguments.
Several low-level types received support for the new output facilities, e.g., Xml_node or the network-related headers in os/net/.
In anticipation of the forthcoming package-management infrastructure, we try to unify Genode's executable binaries across kernels and architectures wherever reasonable. Of course, the latter is not possible with respect to the used instructions. But unifying symbol information is deemed worthwhile. For this reason, we changed the Genode::size_t type to be always defined as an unsigned long. This is in contrast to GCC's built-in __SIZE_TYPE__, which is defined as unsigned int on 32-bit architectures but unsigned long on 64-bit architectures.
OS-level infrastructure and device drivers
The new timeout API offers tools for easily multiplexing a single time source among different timeouts. In general, the time source can be implemented individually but we expect that the most prominent use case will be the multiplexing of timer sessions. Thus, the timeout library also provides a convenience tool for this use case. A library-usage example can be found under os/src/test/timeout. If you're interested in implementing your own time source, you can find an example at os/include/os/timer.h .
We ported the PC/SC Lite library to Genode, which provides a commonly used API for communicating with smart cards. It supports USB smart card readers, using the CCID library as driver. The CCID driver itself requires libusb to access the USB device.
Vanilla PC/SC Lite is structured as a client-server architecture, consisting of the pcscd daemon, which runs on a privileged user account and manages all card reader devices, and one or more non-privileged client applications, which communicate with pcscd to access the card readers. On Genode, pcscd's role as privileged device manager is not really needed, since the devices can also be managed using Genode's configuration mechanisms. For this reason, we merged the part of pcscd which implements the API with the pcsc-lite client library.
In the current state, a Genode application using PC/SC Lite can access a single card reader device, which is selected using its USB product ID and vendor ID in the application's configuration and in the policy of the USB driver.
More configuration details can be found in the README files of the PC/SC Lite, CCID, and libusb libraries in the libports repository and in the accompanying smartcard.run script.
Libraries and applications
A time-based one-time password authentication client that adheres to the Google Authenticator standard has been introduced into the world repository.
Single use, time-based passwords are commonly used as an additional authentication step for web-based services. In this scheme, a user generates and presents a six digit passcode to a service generated using a shared secret and a timestamp. This short passcode length makes manual entry convenient so that the shared secret may be stored on a separate device than the service client, such as a smartphone, layering the security properties of both devices.
The gtotp VFS plugin provides these passcodes by embedding the generator as a special file in the file-system layer of a component. This approach provides readily available passcodes for programmatic and manual use without enlarging the code base to encompass a GUI, command-line, or networked interface.
At the time of this release, the common use case is to manually retrieve codes for clients running in VirtualBox by reading special files with an isolated instance of the Noux runtime. Storing the shared secret on the same device contradicts the recommendations of the standard but the trade-off is that the software stack required to host the shared secret is significantly smaller than that found on a mobile device.
No random number generator can be proved to be good, but empirical statistical tests can prove that some are bad. A port of the TestU01 RNG test suite is provided in the world repository. The TestU01 batteries give independent assurance of the fitness of Genode's CPU jitter based RNG and are available for testing future physical and non-phyical RNGs.
VirtualBox on top on the NOVA hypervisor
Both VirtualBox-based virtual machine monitors on Genode got updated to the latest revision as provided by Oracle, namely 4.3.40 and 5.1.10 - mainly to stay close to the upstream versions.
Until now, the way of passing boot modules from the boot procedure to the core component, which core provides as ROM modules, varied from platform to platform. Either we used a multiboot-compliant bootloader that accepts multiple modules, or the platform provided some specific way of linking binary modules together with the kernel, e.g., the Elfweaver tool of OKL4. By unifying the boot-module handover, we further reduce platform specific core code. Thereby, maintenance costs are decreased, and code analysis becomes easier. With this new solution, when issuing to build the core component:
within the build system, only a core library gets built. Not until all binaries needed by a run-script are available, a final image is linked together using the core library and all additional binaries. The core component now can access its ROM modules directly via addresses contained in its binary. As a side effect of this change, there is no core binary in the bin or core directory of the corresponding build directory available anymore. Instead, you will find the core binary with no ROM modules, but including debug information under var/run/*.core within your build directory. The concrete name depends on the name of the run-script.
The new approach is used on all platforms except Linux where the ROM modules still need to be accessed via the file-system.
We extended the kernel to support the asynchronous delegation of kernel resources. Up to now, resources could only be delegated during RPC or during the initial protection-domain construction. With this extension, the construction and setup of new protection domains, threads, and especially virtual CPUs for the VirtualBox VMM became more straightforward and several quirks inside the core component could be dropped. The added kernel syscall expects the NOVA-kernel capabilities of the source and target protection domains, which effectively renders the operation solely available to core - as only holder of the NOVA protection domain capabilities.
Additionally, we changed the CPU ID enumeration in Genode/NOVA to a predictable order. The lower CPU IDs used via the Genode Cpu_session interface now correspond to the first hyper-thread of all physical CPU cores. For example, on a quad-core machine with hyper-threading enabled Genode's CPU IDs 0-3 refer to the first hyper-threads of all physical cores and IDs 4-7 to the second hyper-threads.