strace participation in the GSOC 2015
strace has been accepted as a GSOC mentor organization for 2015: https://www.google-melange.com/gsoc/org2/google/gsoc2015/strace
about strace and why you should submit your project to strace strace is a system call tracer, i.e. a debugging tool which prints out a trace of all the system calls made by another process/program.
strace is one of the longest running open source projects and started even before Linux started.
strace is an important tool for debugging and tracing deployed on all Linux distributions and most Unix distributions with a small community of active contributors.
While strace is a small project, the strace tool is essential for many developers, system administrators and open source projects. Its maintainers and contributors are experienced developers.
The project organization is simple: the community discusses proposed patches and a few core maintainers eventually accept or reject contributions. All contributions are submitted as git patches to the mailing list, which is the single point of communication, in a mode very similar to the ways of the Linux kernel.
strace is typically released once per year.
Note that we are pretty laid back and cool compared to larger and professional projects like the Linux Kernel but our standards are high and the people involved in strace are die hard system coders often contributing to or maintaining major C libraries such as Glibc, Glib or Bionic, contributing to the Linux Kernel and other major free and open source projects.
So we expect that you would be making the efforts to learn our mailing list and patch ways and ask good questions and do your home work for a most productive and efficient participation.
What to do as a prospective student
We want engage with students that are interested in system programming and want to help making strace a better tool. We hope to gain you as a new long term contributor and that you will contribute interesting and new features.
You need to grok C and have an interest in system programming and debugging. The codebase is not huge but the domain is not simple and requires a meticulous attention to many details.
All the communication is going through a single mailing list: https://lists.sourceforge.net/lists/listinfo/strace-devel
Subscribe to the list, introduce yourself and start the discussion!
Please prefix your email subjects with GSOC.
Check our list of projects ideas below or submit new ideas to the list for consideration.
The best way to demonstrate your capability could be to submit a small patch ahead of the project selection for a small issue you could have identified in the codebase or a bug that has been reported.
General Proposal Requirements
You will need to submit your official proposal via https://www.google-melange.com/gsoc/homepage/google/gsoc2015 and plain text is the way to go. Please subscribe to the strace-devel mailing list and post your proposal there too. We expect your application to be in the range of 1000 words. Anything less than that will probably not contain enough information for us to determine whether you are the right person for the job. Your proposal should contain at least the following information, plus anything you think is relevant:
- Your name
- Title of your proposal
- Abstract of your proposal
- Detailed description of your idea including explanation on why is it innovative and what it will contribute
- Description of previous work, existing solutions (links to prototypes, bibliography are more than welcome)
- Mention the details of your academic studies, any previous work, internships
- Any relevant skills that will help you to achieve the goal (programming languages, frameworks)?
- Any previous open-source projects (or even previous GSoC) you have contributed to?
- Any open-source code of yours that we can check out?
- Do you plan to have any other commitments during SoC that may affect you work? Any vacations/holidays planned? Will you be available full time to work on your project? (Hint: do not bother applying if this is not a serious full time commitment)
Beyond your proposal you need obviously to be familiar with C and Git (or willing to learn these two super quick).
List of project ideas for students
Comprehensive test suite Suggested by: Dmitry V. Levin
The test suite we have today is far from covering all branches of all parsers yet.
The most important thing that could be done as a student project is a test suite that covers every syscall.
The goal of this project would to improve the test suite and the test coverage to a level that makes strace more reliable.
On the one hand, it would be educational for any student who is interested in syscall internals because writing syscall parsers and tests for them is the second best way to find out how syscalls work.
On the other hand, a comprehensive test suite is a prerequisite for any major change in strace source code. This test suite project doesn't have to be a work from scratch, there are already existing tests (e.g. ltp/testcases/kernel/syscalls and sandbox/tests) that could be used as a starting point.
Reliable multiarchitecture support Suggested by: Dmitry V. Levin
The way multiarchitecture support (simultaneous tracing of processes with different personalities, e.g. x86-64/x32/x86) is implemented in strace for now is inherently unreliable.
Instead, parsers should be compiled natively for each supported personality.
An implementation idea is to separate all personality-specific parsers from universal ones, compile these parsers for each personality using gcc -E -m32/-mx32 and preprocessor tricks, and hook up appropriate parsers to syscall tables. This approach requires good understanding of strace internals and implies a lot of changes to already existing code, so it's a less likely candidate for a student project unless you have the skills for this.
The goal of this project would to improve the way multiarchitecture is handled by strace, to simplify the code and parsers.
Note: there has been a project on this topic during the GSOC 2014 and this is a tough area. This NOT something for the faint of heart.
Structured output Suggested by: Philippe Ombredanne
Even though not too complex, parsing a strace output can be almost as involved as the strace code that encodes the output itself.
The goal of this project would be to provide a new option for a structured output in JSON or similar. This output would have a well defined structure that would make it easier to parse, so that a strace user that wants to interpret the output can focus on the interpretation of the data rather that having to handle the interpretation of the strace output first. This should help trace users write less error prone code and make strace easier to adopt. This project also includes reaching out to known open source strace output parsers creators to ensure that the new output would work out for them.
Note: there has been a project on this topic during the GSOC 2014 but it did not go all the way through the codebase. Taking over the past project, updating, streamlining the code and breaking it down in small commits that could be pushed and acceptable in the trunk would be great start.
Multi-OS and multiarch continuous tests infrastructure Suggested by: Philippe Ombredanne
The nature of strace makes it difficult to have all the tests running on all supported architectures and versions of supported OSes on a regular basis.
The goal of this project would to be setup and configure an environment for continuous testing of strace on multiple OS and architectures using available open and free resources such as the OpenSuse build service or other similar services from *nix distros, Travis CI and others, including soliciting the community to provide support for more exotic architectures test environments. With this, strace could be continuously tested on each new commit or prospective patch submission and could be released more frequently in confidence that tests are all passing.
Downstream patches roundup and ushering Suggested by: Philippe Ombredanne
Strace is reused in several *nix distro. These downstream projects track patches and bugs and these may not be always visible to the strace community and maintainers.
The goal of this project would to review available patches and bugs from the key downstream maintainers and either contribute these as patches to strace when relevant or work with the downstream maintainers to contribute their patches back to strace. Ideally mini tools should be created to collect these bugs and patches automatically on a regular basis to inform the strace community of bugs and conversation happening elsewhere than on the strace mailing list.