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Kernel: Rust, BPF, and Adaptive Scalable Texture Compression (ASTC) in Linux

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  • Paul E. Mc Kenney: Rusting the Linux Kernel: Summary and Conclusions

    We have taken a quick trip through history, through a number of the differences between the Linux kernel and the C/C++ memory models, sequence locks, RCU, ownership, zombie pointers, and KCSAN. I give a big "thank you" to everyone who has contributed to this discussion, both publicly and privately. It has been an excellent learning experience for me, and I hope that it has also been helpful to all of you.

    To date, Can Rust Code Own Sequence Locks? has proven the most popular by far. Porting Linux-kernel code using sequence locking to Rust turns out to be trickier than one might expect, in part due to the inherently data-racy nature of this synchronization primitive.

    So what are those advocating use of Rust within the Linux kernel to do?

  • Can the Kernel Concurrency Sanitizer Own Rust Code?

    Given the data-race-freedom guarantees of Rust's non-unsafe code, one might reasonably argue that there is no point is the Kernel Concurrency Sanitizer (KCSAN) analyzing such code. However, the Linux kernel is going to need unsafe Rust code. Furthermore, even given unanticipated universal acclamation of Rust within the Linux kernel community combined with equally unanticipated advances in C-to-Rust translation capabilities, a significant fraction of the existing tens of millions of lines of Linux-kernel C code will persist for some time to come. Both the unsafe Rust code and the C code can interfere with Rust non-unsafe code, and furthermore safe code can violate unsafe code's assumptions as long as it is in the same module. For all I know, this last caveat might also apply to unsafe code in other modules for kernels built with link-time optimizations (LTO) enabled.

  • Taming the BPF superpowers

    Work toward the signing of BPF programs has been finding its way into recent mainline kernel releases; it is intended to improve security by limiting the BPF programs that can be successfully loaded into the kernel. As John Fastabend described in his "Watching the super powers" session at the 2021 Linux Plumbers Conference, this new feature has the potential to completely break his tools. But rather than just complain, he decided to investigate solutions; the result is an outline for an auditing mechanism that brings greater flexibility to the problem of controlling which programs can be run.

    The kernel has had the ability to enforce signatures on loadable modules for years, so it makes sense to consider creating the same mechanism for BPF programs. But, while kernel modules and BPF programs look similar — both are code loaded into the kernel from user space, after all — there are some significant differences between them. The safety of kernel modules is entirely dependent on the diligence of developers. They are built and distributed via the usual channels, are tied to specific kernel versions, and can last for years; they present a stable API to user space. BPF programs, instead, benefit from safety built into (and enforced by) the loader. They are often dynamically built and optimized, they are patched at run time to avoid being tied to kernel versions, and they have a different lifetime; often, they are created on the fly and quickly thrown away. These differences suggest that the same signing mechanism might not work equally well for both types of program.

  • Intel Removes ASTC Hardware From Gen12.5+ Graphics - Phoronix

    Somewhat of a surprising change with Intel Gen12.5 graphics is that they have removed the hardware supporting Adaptive Scalable Texture Compression (ASTC). Intel's Linux graphics driver has now been updated to address Gen12.5+ foregoing hardware support for ASTC texture compression.

    Adaptive Scalable Texture Compression was much welcomed on the scene particularly by Linux/open-source folks when more than a decade ago S3TC texture compression was quite common but patent-encumbered and posed complications for open-source usage/adoption. ASTC support was added as official extensions to OpenGL and OpenGL ES nearly a decade ago for this lossy block-based algorithm. Since Intel Gen9/Skylake graphics there has been support for ASTC in the graphics hardware while now with Gen12.5 graphics that hardware is being removed.

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