Linux Kernel Developer: Julia Lawall

To find and report bugs, Linux kernel developers depend on a wide community of testers.

A kernel that has had nearly 83,000 patches applied will certainly have a few bugs introduced along with the new features, states the 2017 Linux Kernel Development Report, written by Jonathan Corbet and Greg Kroah-Hartman.Linux kernel

To find and report those bugs, Linux kernel developers depend on a wide community of testers. And, according to convention, when a bug-fixing patch is applied to the kernel, it should contain a “Reported-by” tag to credit the tester who found the problem. During the period covered by the most recent report, more than 4,100 patches carried such tags, and the top 21 bug reporters are shown in the table at right.

Julia Lawall, Senior Researcher at Inria, is one of the developers involved in the bug reporting process, as she works on the Coccinelle tool that is used to find bugs in the kernel. Here, Lawall answers a few questions about her contributions to the development process.

Linux kernel

Julia Lawall

The Linux Foundation: What role do you play in the community and what subsystem(s) do you work on?

Julia Lawall: I work on the tool Coccinelle that is used to find bugs in the Linux kernel and perform large-scale evolutions.

The Linux Foundation: What have you been working on this year?

Lawall: This year I have been working with Bhumika Goyal on making various kernel structures read-only. We have constified over 1500 structures this year. This work has also motivated various bug fixes and performance improvements in Coccinelle.

I have also been working on automatically identifying patches that should be considered for backporting to stable kernels, in collaboration with Greg K-H, Sasha Levin, and colleagues at Singapore Management University. Our approach is still work in progress, but several hundred commits that were not originally tagged for stable have been identified and applied to stable versions.

The Linux Foundation: What do you think the kernel community needs to work on in the upcoming year?

Lawall: Initial experiments suggest that the rate of propagation of commits to stable is rather uneven across the kernel. This can be due to the different properties of different subsystems, but there can also be room for maintainers to annotate commits for stable kernels more frequently and consistently.

The Linux Foundation: Why do you contribute to the Linux kernel?

Lawall: Many reasons: the potential impact, the challenge of understanding a huge code base of low-level code, the chance to interact with a community with a very high level of technical skill.

You can learn more about the Linux kernel development process and read more developer profiles in the full report. Download the 2017 Linux Kernel Development Report now.

Amber Ankerholz
Amber Ankerholz

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