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.. SPDX-License-Identifier: GPL-2.0
Printk Index
There are many ways how to monitor the state of the system. One important
source of information is the system log. It provides a lot of information,
including more or less important warnings and error messages.
There are monitoring tools that filter and take action based on messages
The kernel messages are evolving together with the code. As a result,
particular kernel messages are not KABI and never will be!
It is a huge challenge for maintaining the system log monitors. It requires
knowing what messages were updated in a particular kernel version and why.
Finding these changes in the sources would require non-trivial parsers.
Also it would require matching the sources with the binary kernel which
is not always trivial. Various changes might be backported. Various kernel
versions might be used on different monitored systems.
This is where the printk index feature might become useful. It provides
a dump of printk formats used all over the source code used for the kernel
and modules on the running system. It is accessible at runtime via debugfs.
The printk index helps to find changes in the message formats. Also it helps
to track the strings back to the kernel sources and the related commit.
User Interface
The index of printk formats are split in into separate files. The files are
named according to the binaries where the printk formats are built-in. There
is always "vmlinux" and optionally also modules, for example::
Note that only loaded modules are shown. Also printk formats from a module
might appear in "vmlinux" when the module is built-in.
The content is inspired by the dynamic debug interface and looks like::
$> head -1 /sys/kernel/debug/printk/index/vmlinux; shuf -n 5 vmlinux
# <level[,flags]> filename:line function "format"
<5> block/blk-settings.c:661 disk_stack_limits "%s: Warning: Device %s is misaligned\n"
<4> kernel/trace/trace.c:8296 trace_create_file "Could not create tracefs '%s' entry\n"
<6> arch/x86/kernel/hpet.c:144 _hpet_print_config "hpet: %s(%d):\n"
<6> init/do_mounts.c:605 prepare_namespace "Waiting for root device %s...\n"
<6> drivers/acpi/osl.c:1410 acpi_no_auto_serialize_setup "ACPI: auto-serialization disabled\n"
, where the meaning is:
- :level: log level value: 0-7 for particular severity, -1 as default,
'c' as continuous line without an explicit log level
- :flags: optional flags: currently only 'c' for KERN_CONT
- :filename\:line: source filename and line number of the related
printk() call. Note that there are many wrappers, for example,
pr_warn(), pr_warn_once(), dev_warn().
- :function: function name where the printk() call is used.
- :format: format string
The extra information makes it a bit harder to find differences
between various kernels. Especially the line number might change
very often. On the other hand, it helps a lot to confirm that
it is the same string or find the commit that is responsible
for eventual changes.
printk() Is Not a Stable KABI
Several developers are afraid that exporting all these implementation
details into the user space will transform particular printk() calls
into KABI.
But it is exactly the opposite. printk() calls must _not_ be KABI.
And the printk index helps user space tools to deal with this.
Subsystem specific printk wrappers
The printk index is generated using extra metadata that are stored in
a dedicated .elf section ".printk_index". It is achieved using macro
wrappers doing __printk_index_emit() together with the real printk()
call. The same technique is used also for the metadata used by
the dynamic debug feature.
The metadata are stored for a particular message only when it is printed
using these special wrappers. It is implemented for the commonly
used printk() calls, including, for example, pr_warn(), or pr_once().
Additional changes are necessary for various subsystem specific wrappers
that call the original printk() via a common helper function. These needs
their own wrappers adding __printk_index_emit().
Only few subsystem specific wrappers have been updated so far,
for example, dev_printk(). As a result, the printk formats from
some subsystes can be missing in the printk index.
Subsystem specific prefix
The macro pr_fmt() macro allows to define a prefix that is printed
before the string generated by the related printk() calls.
Subsystem specific wrappers usually add even more complicated
These prefixes can be stored into the printk index metadata
by an optional parameter of __printk_index_emit(). The debugfs
interface might then show the printk formats including these prefixes.
For example, drivers/acpi/osl.c contains::
#define pr_fmt(fmt) "ACPI: OSL: " fmt
static int __init acpi_no_auto_serialize_setup(char *str)
acpi_gbl_auto_serialize_methods = FALSE;
pr_info("Auto-serialization disabled\n");
return 1;
This results in the following printk index entry::
<6> drivers/acpi/osl.c:1410 acpi_no_auto_serialize_setup "ACPI: auto-serialization disabled\n"
It helps matching messages from the real log with printk index.
Then the source file name, line number, and function name can
be used to match the string with the source code.