lca2008 — tuesday wrapup

The nerdlinger portion of Tuesday concluded with me wandering back over to the kernel mini-conf to catch the lightning talks and the kernel panel.

Nothing super interesting at the lightning talks (not to detract from them, but they were basically plugs of upcoming LCA events or brief overviews of patch sets or upcoming changes, so nothing earth shattering).

The kernel panel was slightly better, with two very interesting problems and one very humorous moment.

First problem — is it reasonable to ask a user to perform a git-bisect to help a kernel hacker debug a problem? Lots of debate back and forth in the room here, and my personal take is, “probably not”. Joe Average doesn’t have multiple computers — he has his one machine that he wants to play Quake on, and your kernel bug is preventing his machine from booting and fragging or gibbing (or whatever the hell they call it) his opponents. Each git-bisect is going to take two reboots, and it usually takes, what, 7 tries on average to find out what commit broke his machine? Add on top of that the overhead of installing git, cloning a kernel, building said kernel, installing it and the initrd correctly, bla bla bla… man, that makes me tired just thinking about it.

Perhaps some work can be done in this space to write some tools to help automate this process. It would be a win-win, in my opinion, as kernel hackers are certainly going to save time since they’re doing bisects all day long, and Joe Average won’t be intimidated by the arduous process and will get back to his happy state of blowing up professional Korean Quake players all the sooner.

Second problem — how to track incoming bugs? A thousand bugzillas dot the landscape, and it’s difficult to get them to talk to each other. The fundamental problem is that the underlying database schemas are often different, so it’s not just a simple matter of forwarding bugs to one master bugzilla. I really believe that the distros need to show leadership here and work together to create some set of common schema that they can all agree on to solve this problem. It’s not a technical issue — it’s a human issue. Of course, other developers hate bugzilla, prefer to do everything out of email, and that’s fine too. But for those people using tools, let us, as a community, come to some agreement on the best way to use those tools.

Funny ha ha — question was raised about upstream acceptance of kernel debuggers. Some talk in the room ensued, and at one point, someone on the panel suggested slipping the patches in now, since Linus might not be paying so much attention. In a beautiful moment of comedic timing, willy says, “oh, hi there, we were, um, just talking about ice cream!” just as Linus himself had snuck in the back of the auditorium. Linus seemed to just wave and smile, but I think the “wave” was really that Darth Vader “use the dark side of the Force to mentally death choke” David Miller from across the auditorium. I saw davem twitch a little bit when Linus raised his hand, so it’s the only reasonable conclusion.