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Re: utmp

On Wednesday, June 29, 2016 9:05:02 AM CEST Albert ARIBAUD wrote:
> Le Tue, 28 Jun 2016 23:49:11 +0200, Arnd Bergmann <> a écrit :
> > On Tuesday, June 28, 2016 11:08:53 PM CEST Albert ARIBAUD wrote:
> > > 5. Upgrade path for a 'new' glibc where the 'old' and 'new' utmp file
> > >    formats are different in size, endianness or both: this would be best
> > >    handled by the packaging system, all the more since there may also be
> > >    dependency constraints involving some utilities which depend on the
> > >    utmp file structure, like utmpdump.  
> > 
> > Nothing wrong with this approach, just another idea from how we handle
> > upgrading on-disk structures elsewhere:
> > 
> > In ext4, we use the two upper bits of the 32-bit nanoseconds to
> > extend the seconds. This way a structure that stores signed
> > seconds as 32 bit and can normally represent the range between 1902
> > and 2038 gets extended by another 3*136 years, so we can go until
> > 2446 with a backwards-compatible extension. If we treat the on-disk
> > seconds as unsigned (we know that pre-1970 times are all guaranteed
> > to be invalid for utmp), we get another 68 years.
> > 
> > Obviously this is a trick that only works when you have full control
> > over all code that reads or writes the timestamps, and it doesn't
> > solve the endianess problem, but it avoids introducing an incompatible
> > format. Also, there is no reason for new architectures to do that,
> > they should just do what you describe above.
> As far as choosing between tricks, I would favor switching to an
> unsigned 32-bit timestamp, which would be much simpler to code and less
> run-time-error prone.
> But this only buys us more time beyond Y2038 just to make a clean
> transition to the full-64-bit solution, and we already have 22 years
> for that, and in my experience, pushing the 'doomsdate' further back
> just makes the issue more likely to be considered SEP and not be fixed
> in time.
> Plus, this transition would still be temporary, and we would still need
> a transition from the 'old' (now 'possibly extended') format to the
> 'new' one.

The idea would be that the transition can be done simply by
reinterpreting the current values. If we were to pick the
simplest method (using unsigned seconds unstead of signed),
the only changes we would see are:

- timestamps prevously written with an incorrect pre-1970 timestamp
  would become interpreted as incorrect post-2038 timestamps with
  a new glibc. They are incorrect either way, so we can choose to
  ignore this case

- correct post-2038 timestamps written by a new glibc would get
  interpreted as incorrect pre-1970 timestamps by an old glibc
  build. This is slightly more relevant than the first, but you
  could argue that it is no worse than not being able to read the
  file at all, which is what you get with an incompatible
  format change.

> Actually, the problem is only between a GLIBC upgrade and the next
> reboot, where utmp will be re-created, including the shutdown phase
> itself, where some code might want to access the ('old') utmp file but
> might accidentally use the new GLIBC.

What about the case of having multiple glibc installations on the
same machine: 

With a multiarch installation that has both 32-bit and 64-bit
binaries, both environments are accessing the same file, but
they might not be the same version.

> A solution could be to reserve utmp, wtmp and btmp for the 'old' format
> files and use utmpx, wtmpx and btmpx for the 'new' format files (which
> would better match the POSIX header and struct name btw), keep the
> 'old' API implementations alongside the 'new' ones, and choose 'old' or
> 'new' as follows:
> - (future) nominal case: if the utmp file does not exist, only use the
>   utmpx file.
> - transitioning: if the utmp file exists, use it for reading, and write
>   to both the utmp and utmpx files.
> Pros:
> - as long as the utmp file exists (and as long as we don't reach
>   Y2038...) the system remains (as) compatible (as it was before) with
>   any application code written to handle utmp records.
> - development versions of applications which read utmp can be tested
>   against the utmpx file while the system itself still runs on the utmp
>   file.
> - transitioning is under system control: remove utmp when the whole
>   system is ready for it.
> Cons:
> - this forces the GLIBC utmp code to keep the 'old' code for some
>   time, which is a code phrase for 'future bitrot'.
> - this doubles utmp-related file I/O. This might not be desirable on
>   systems where there is a high rate of logins and logouts.
> While we cannot avoid bitrot, we can at least make sure the whole
> compatible code is kept within conditionals so that it can be easily
> disabled, then removed; the trigger for disabling/removing should be
> explicitly stated (in code as well as in docs) as "make sure this
> is removed before Y2038 happens".
> Regarding the file I/O rise, it cannot be avoided, and will have to be
> contained by planning the system upgrade so that the transition is as
> short as possible.

I think this approach can work, but I find the utmpx naming really confusing
here: As you say, it uses the same naming as the POSIX utmpx structure,
but it really does something else, as we'd likely keep both struct utmp
and struct utmpx identical, except that we'd get a new version of both
for the library interface.


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