The fanotify subsystem (originally "TALPA") was designed as a hook allowing
anti-malware applications to intercept - and possibly block - file-oriented
system calls. Getting this code into the mainline has been a long process,
involving redefined requirements, reworking the low-level VFS notification
code, and redesigning the user-space interface. After all that work,
fanotify developer Eric Paris was able to get the code merged during the
2.6.36 merge window. Developers started using the interface to do
interesting things; Lennart Poettering has mentioned, for example, using it
to monitor file accesses to improve system bootstrap times.
This long story, it seemed, was near an end.
Along came Tvrtko Ursulin, who pointed out
a problem with the fanotify system calls; he then followed up with a second issue. It seems that the results of
permission decisions were not always being handled correctly, and that the
fanotify_init() system call had, somewhere along the way, lost the
intended priority argument. The second issue, in particular, is serious
because it affects the user-space ABI, which must be maintained
Eric acknowledged the problems and started to
ponder ways to get around them before the 2.6.36 release, but Alan Cox advised a more cautious approach:
Given two chunks of "oh dear" last minute stuff would it be safer
to simply punt and just pull the syscall/prototype itself (leaving
the rest) for the release. That can go into the first pass of the
next kernel tree, and if it the fixes and priority bits all work
out may well then be tiny enough for -stable.
Eric, not entirely pleased with the idea, carried on the discussion for a while.
Eventually, though, he sent in a patch
disabling the fanotify system calls:
This feature can be added in an ABI compatible way in the next
release (by using a number of bits in the flags field to carry the
info) but it was suggested by Alan that maybe we should just hold
off and do it in the next cycle, likely with an (new) explicit
argument to the syscall. I don't like this approach best as I know
people are already starting to use the current interface, but Alan
is all wise and noone on list backed me up with just using what we
have. I feel this is needlessly ripping the rug out from under
people at the last minute, but if others think it needs to be a new
argument it might be the best way forward.
Linus took the patch, so, while the fanotify code will be present in the
2.6.36 release, it will not be accessible from user space. Whether the
problems can be fixed in a way which is suitable for a 2.6.36.y stable
release remains to be seen.
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