Aug 24 – 28, 2020
US/Pacific timezone

Extensible Syscalls

Aug 27, 2020, 7:00 AM
Refereed Track/Virtual-Room (LPC Virtual)

Refereed Track/Virtual-Room

LPC Virtual

Kernel Summit Kernel Summit


Christian Brauner (Canonical) Aleksa Sarai (SUSE LLC)


Most Linux syscall design conventions have been established through trial and
error. One well-known example is the missing flag argument in a range of
syscalls that triggered the addition of a revised version of theses syscalls.
Nowadays, adding a flag argument to keep syscalls extensible is an accepted
convention recorded in our kernel docs.

In this session we'd like to propose and discuss a few simple conventions that
have proven useful over time and a few new ones that were just established
recently with the addition of new in-kernel apis. Ideally these conventions
would be added to the kernel docs and maintainers encouraged to use them as
guidance when new syscalls are added.
We believe that these conventions can lead to a more consistent (and possibly
more pleasant) uapi going forward making programming on Linux easier for
userspace. They hopefully also prevent new syscalls running into various
design pitfalls that have lead to quirky or cumbersome apis and (security) bugs.

Topics we'd like to discuss include the use of structs versioned by size in
syscalls such as openat2(), sched_{set,get}_attr(), and clone3() and the
associated api that we added last year, whether new syscalls should be allowed
to use nested pointers in general and specifically with an eye on being
conveniently filterable by seccomp, the convention to always use unsigned int
as the type for register-based flag arguments intstead of the current potpourri
of types, naming conventions when revised versions of syscalls are added, and -
ideally a uniform way - how to test whether a syscall supports a given feature.

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Primary authors

Christian Brauner (Canonical) Aleksa Sarai (SUSE LLC)

Presentation materials

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