Firmware debugging patches?

Emmanuel Grumbach egrumbach at
Mon Jun 2 12:29:03 PDT 2014

Emmanuel Grumbach
egrumbach at

On Mon, Jun 2, 2014 at 9:58 PM, Ben Greear <greearb at> wrote:
> On 06/02/2014 11:46 AM, Emmanuel Grumbach wrote:
>>> [Good stuff snipped, adding linux-wireless as this is a more
>>> general issue if we are going to consider general framework]
>>> Maybe we should start with goals before getting to implementation
>>> details.  Here's my wish list that is ath10k specific, but probably
>>> similar to other firmware users:
>>> 1)  We need the firmware crash text currently printed to
>>> /var/log/messages.
>>> 2)  It would be nice to get the firmware RAM and stack dumps at time of
>>> crash to debug more interesting crashes.
>> Right - but typically you'll have closed source / IP / whatever there..
> I mean that we need the raw data (ie, binary dump, something printed
> in ascii-hex, etc).  I understand it will take proprietary tools to
> decode it to something a developer can actually debug.
>>> 3)  It would be nice to know about firmware debug messages for
>>> the period of time directly before the crash (maybe 2-5 minutes?)
>>> 4)  It would be nice to have this interleaved with kernel, supplicant,
>>> and related logs.
>>> We need a solution for different types of users.  I suspect the number
>>> of crashes seen in the wild will be more for users nearer the top
>>> of this list.
>>> a) Normal Fedora/Ubuntu/etc default-installed distribution user
>>> with ath10k NIC has wifi issues, firmware crashes, they don't
>>> really know what firmware means or that it crashed, but some automated crash-log
>>> tool notices and gathers debug info for automated bug reporting.
>> I am working on that for our firmware. I recently added such capability relying on udev to notify the userspace that something bad happens. I gather all the data and prepare a binary file that is sent through debugfs (pulled by a script triggered by udev). I remember the first crash only.
> How is this binary blob encoded?

Different TLV based binary blobs concatenated. The actual encoding of
each of them is another story.

> At least for drivers that can recover from firmware crashes, I think
> we should continue to report crashes, not just the first.

I remember the first until udev kicks the script that will empty the
buffer. Then I take the second crash's log.

> Maybe could store another one after initial crash has been read
> and 1 minute has elapsed, or if initial crash has not been read
> in 1 day, or something like that.
> Also, if we use debugfs then we require upstream kernels to have this
> compiled in and mounted if we want to handle this class of user.

Agreed. I rely on debugfs. But this is "just" the way to reach the filesystem.
Give me another way and I am fine with it.
FWIW Ubuntu which is not exactly the distribution of the super
advanced users has it mounted by default.

> I am not sure this is really the case currently.  But, once the
> blob is generated and stored in RAM, it would be easily enough to
> add ethtool option to dump it w/out debugfs support.  This will
> still not really address my concerns because it may take a year
> or two for the latest ethtool binary to make it to normal-ish users.

I understand.

>>> b) Slightly more advanced user actually notices the problem at coffee shop
>>> earlier today, posts about it when they get home, and we ask for
>>> debug info.
>>> c) Experienced and determined user has similar issues, but is able to
>>> reproduce the problem and/or turn on more advanced debugging efforts.
>>> d)  Even more determined user that can and will recompile kernels and/or
>>> try patches.
>>> Anything that has to be enabled before-hand will not help a) and b) above.
>>> If support is not compiled into default kernels, c) will not help you either.
>>> If it is difficult or requires acquiring cutting edge tools not in their
>>> distribution by default, many of c) and some of d) will just ignore the problem or use
>>> different hardware.
>>> If we are storing crashes for something like ethtool to report, we need
>>> RAM and/or disk storage so the firmware RAM dumps and such can be stored until
>>> the user and/or automated tools ask for them.  We need some way to automatically
>>> clean up old crashes so disk/ram is not overly utilized.  For APs,
>>> they are low on both RAM and 'disk', so storing crash logs for any
>>> length of time may be problematic.
>> I did something simpler - but it works. I don't really know the ethtool infrastructure though.
> I think ethtool would not be overly hard to implement...basic framework is already
> in the wifi stack.
> Thanks,
> Ben
> --
> Ben Greear <greearb at>
> Candela Technologies Inc

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