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SubjectRe: [PATCH] arm64: defconfig: enable EFI_ARMSTUB_DTB_LOADER
Hi Grant,

Thanks for chiming in.

On 4 September 2018 at 12:13, Grant Likely <> wrote:
> Hey folks. More comments below, but the short answer is I really don't
> see what the problem is. Distros cannot easily support platforms that
> require a dtb= parameter, and so they probably won't. They may or may
> not disable 'dtb=', depending on whether they see it as valuable for
> debug.
> Vertically integrated platforms are a different beast. We may strongly
> recommend firmware provides the dtb for all the mentioned good
> reasons, but they still get to decide their deployment methodology,
> and it is not burdensome for the kernel to keep the dtb= feature that
> they are using.
> On Tue, Sep 4, 2018 at 7:24 AM Ard Biesheuvel <> wrote:
>> On 2 September 2018 at 04:54, Olof Johansson <> wrote:
>> > On Thu, Aug 30, 2018 at 9:23 AM, Ard Biesheuvel
>> > <> wrote:
>> >> On 30 August 2018 at 17:06, Olof Johansson <> wrote:
>> >>> On Wed, Aug 29, 2018 at 10:54 PM, Ard Biesheuvel
>> >>> <> wrote:
>> >>>> On 29 August 2018 at 20:59, Scott Branden <> wrote:
>> >>>>> Hi Olof,
>> >>>>>
>> >>>>>
>> >>>>> On 18-08-29 11:44 AM, Olof Johansson wrote:
>> >>>>>>
>> >>>>>> Hi,
>> >>>>>>
>> >>>>>> On Wed, Aug 29, 2018 at 10:21 AM, Scott Branden
>> >>>>>> <> wrote:
>> >>>>>>>
>> >>>>>>> Enable EFI_ARMSTUB_DTB_LOADER to add support for the dtb= command line
>> >>>>>>> parameter to function with efi loader.
>> >>>>>>>
>> >>>>>>> Required to boot on existing bootloaders that do not support devicetree
>> >>>>>>> provided by the platform or by the bootloader.
>> >>>>>>>
>> >>>>>>> Fixes: 3d7ee348aa41 ("efi/libstub/arm: Add opt-in Kconfig option for the
>> >>>>>>> DTB loader")
>> >>>>>>> Signed-off-by: Scott Branden <>
>> >>>>>>
>> >>>>>> Why did Ard create an option for this if it's just going be turned on
>> >>>>>> in default configs? Doesn't make sense to me.
>> >>>>>>
>> >>>>>> It would help to know what firmware still is crippled and how common
>> >>>>>> it is, since it's been a few years that this has been a requirement by
>> >>>>>> now.
>> >>>>>
>> >>>>> Broadcom NS2 and Stingray in current development and production need this
>> >>>>> option in the kernel enabled in order to boot.
>> >>>>
>> >>>> And these production systems run mainline kernels in a defconfig configuration?
>> >>>>
>> >>>> The simply reality is that the DTB loader has been deprecated for a
>> >>>> good reason: it was only ever intended as a development hack anyway,
>> >>>> and if we need to treat the EFI stub provided DTB as a first class
>> >>>> citizen, there are things we need to fix to make things works as
>> >>>> expected. For instance, GRUB will put a property in the /chosen node
>> >>>> for the initramfs which will get dropped if you boot with dtb=.
>> >>>>
>> >>>> Don't be surprised if some future enhancements of the EFI stub code
>> >>>> depend on !EFI_ARMSTUB_DTB_LOADER.
> That's an odd statement to make. The DTB loader code is well contained
> and with defined semantics... True, the semantics are "I DON'T BELIEVE
> FIRMWARE", but it is still well defined. What scenario are you
> envisioning where EFI_ARMSTUB_DTB_LOADER would be explicitly excluded?

Well, to be honest, I don't have a real-world example at hand, but my
concern is about cases where the firmware provided DTB and the
override DTB diverge in a way that leaves it up to the EFI stub to
reconcile them and/or to reason about which one it should prefer.

One example could be OP-TEE support: currently, we put a
/firmware/optee node in the DT to inform the OS that OP-TEE is running
in the secure world. If we allow a DT to be provided via dtb= that
provides such a node, we are blocking all future opportunities in
future kernels to do any kind of preparatory OP-TEE related
initialization in the EFI stub [while boot services are still
available] unless we decide to make it the EFI stub's problem to
reason about which version of the DT is the correct one to use. What
if the firmware's DT has /firmware/optee/status = disabled and the
dtb= one does not?

Another trivial example is GRUB: passing dtb= via the command line
will break initrds loaded via GRUB, since they are passed via the
/chosen node.

> Conversely, the dtb= argument is an invaluable debug tool during
> development. As Olof has already said, there are a lot of embedded
> deployments where there is no desire for grub or any other
> intermediary loader.


So perhaps the conclusion here is that dtb= should be supported fully
if no DTB is provided by the firmware in the first place, and only
marginally (perhaps with a taint) when the firmware provides one as

>> >>>> On UEFI systems, DTBs [or ACPI
>> >>>> tables] are used by the firmware to describe itself and the underlying
>> >>>> platform to the OS, and the practice of booting with DTB file images
>> >>>> (taken from the kernel build as well) conflicts with that view. Note
>> >>>> that GRUB still permits you to load DTBs from files (and supports more
>> >>>> sources than just the file system the kernel Image was loaded from).
>> >>>
>> >>> Ard,
>> >>>
>> >>> Maybe a WARN() splat would be more useful as a phasing-out method than
>> >>> removing functionality for them that needs to be reinstated through
>> >>> changing the config?
>> >>>
>> >>
>> >> We don't have any of that in the stub, and inventing new ways to pass
>> >> such information between the stub and the kernel proper seems like a
>> >> cart-before-horse kind of thing to me. The EFI stub diagnostic
>> >> messages you get on the serial console are not recorded in the kernel
>> >> log buffer, so they only appear if you actually look at the serial
>> >> output.
> As an aside, they probably should be recorded. That is probably a
> question for the UEFI USWG. Grub and the ARMSTUB could probably bodge
> something together, but that would be non-standard.
>> >
>> > Ah yeah. I suppose you could do it in the kernel later if you detect
>> > you've booted through EFI with dtb= on the command line though.
>> >
>> >>
>> >>> Once the stub and the boot method is there, it's hard to undo as we
>> >>> can see here. Being loud and warn might be more useful, and set a
>> >>> timeline for hard removal (12 months?).
>> >>>
>> >>
>> >> The dtb= handling is still there, it is just not enabled by default.
>> >> We can keep it around if people are still using it. But as I pointed
>> >> out, we may decide to make new functionality available only if it is
>> >> disabled, and at that point, we'll have to choose between one or the
>> >> other in defconfig, which is annoying.
>> >>
>> >>> Scott; an alternative for you is to do a boot wrapper that bundles a
>> >>> DT and kernel, and boot that instead of the kernel image (outside of
>> >>> the kernel tree). Some 32-bit platforms from Marvell use that. That
>> >>> way the kernel will just see it as a normally passed in DT.
>> >>>
>> >>
>> >> Or use GRUB. It comes wired up in all the distros, and let's you load
>> >> a DT binary from anywhere you can imagine, as opposed to the EFI stub
>> >> which can only load it if it happens to reside in the same file system
>> >> (or even directory - I can't remember) as the kernel image. Note that
>> >> the same reservations apply to doing that - the firmware is no longer
>> >> able to describe itself to the OS via the DT, which is really the only
>> >> conduit it has available on an arm64 system..
>> >
>> > So, I've looked at the history here a bit, and dtb= support was
>> > introduced in 2014. Nowhere does it say that it isn't a recommended
>> > way of booting.
>> >
>> > There are some firmware stacks today that modify and provide a
>> > runtime-updated devicetree to the kernel, but there are also a bunch
>> > who don't. Most "real" products will want a firmware that knows how to
>> > pass in things such as firmware environment variables, or MAC
>> > addresses, etc, to the kernel, but not all of them need it.
>> >
>> > In particular, in a world where you want EFI to be used on embedded
>> > platforms, requiring another bootloader step such as GRUB to be able
>> > to reasonably boot said platforms seems like a significant and
>> > unfortunate new limitation. Documentation/efi-stub.txt has absolutely
>> > no indication that it is a second-class option that isn't expected to
>> > be available everywhere. It doesn't really matter what _your_
>> > intention was around it, if those who use it never found out and now
>> > rely on it.
>> >
>> > Unfortunately the way forward here is to revert 3d7ee348aa4127a.
>> >
>> I agree with your analysis but not with your conclusion.
>> Whether or not the option is def_bool y and/or enabled in defconfig is
>> a matter of policy. ACPI-only distros such as RHEL are definitely
>> going to disable this option. But in general, supporting DTBs loaded
>> from files is a huge pain for the distros, so I expect most of them to
>> disable it as well.
> I support leaving 3d7ee348 in, and making it def_bool y
> g.
>> As for EFI on embedded systems: this will be mostly on U-boot's
>> bootefi implementation, which definitely does the right thing when it
>> comes to passing the DTB via a UEFI configuration table (regardless of
>> whether it makes any modifications to it)
>> In any case, I won't object to a patch that reenables the EFI stub DTB
>> loader in defconfig. Whether or not it should be def_bool y is
>> something we can discuss as well. I have added Leif and Alex to cc,
>> perhaps they have anything to add.

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