Tag Archives: linux

Introducing the meta-webkit Yocto layer.

Lately, in my daily work at Igalia, I have been learning to use Yocto / OpenEmbedded to create custom distributions and products targeting different embedded hardware. One of the goals was to create a Kiosk-like browser that was based on a modern Web engine, light (specially regarding RAM requirements) and fast.

WebKit fits perfectly this requirements, so I started checking the available recipes on the different layers of Yocto to build WebKit, unfortunately the available recipes for WebKitGTK+ available were for ancient versions of the engine (no WebKit2 multi-process model). This has changed recently, as the WebKitGTK+ recipe available in the oe-core layer has been updated to a new version. In any case, we needed this for an older release of Yocto so I ended creating a new layer.

I have added also some recipes for WebKitForWayland and released it as meta-webkit. The idea is to collect here recipes for building browsers and web engines based on WebKit. For the moment it includes recipes for building the WebKitGTK+ and WebKitForWayland ports.

WebKitGTK+ vs WebKitForWayland

First a few words about the main differences between this two different ports of WebKit, so you have a better understanding on where to use one or the other.

Let’s start by defining both engines:

  • WebKit for Wayland port pairs the WebKit engine with the Wayland display protocol, allowing embedders to create simple and performant systems based on Web platform technologies. It is designed with hardware acceleration in mind, relying on EGL, the Wayland EGL platform, and OpenGL ES.
  • WebKitGTK+ is a full-featured port of the WebKit rendering engine, suitable for projects requiring any kind of web integration, from hybrid HTML/CSS applications to full-fledged web browsers. It offers WebKit’s full functionality and is useful in a wide range of systems from desktop computers to embedded systems like phones, tablets, and televisions.

From the definitions you may guess already some differences. WebKitForWayland focus on simple and performant Web-oriented systems, meanwhile WebKitGTK+ focus on any kind of product (complex or simple) that requires full Web integration.

WebKitForWayland is what you need when you want a very fast and light HTML5/js runtime, capable of squeeze the hardware acceleration of your platform (Wayland EGL platform) up to the maximum performance. But is not suitable if you are thinking in building a general purpose browser on top of it. It lacks some features that are not needed for a Web runtime but that are desirable for a more generic browser.

Here you can see a video of WebKitForWayland running on the weston ivi-shell and several instances of WebkitForWayland showing different demos (poster circle and several webgl demos) running on the Intel NUC (Intel Atom E3815 – 1 core). The OS is a custom image built with Yocto 1.8 and this meta-webkit layer.

On the Weston terminal you can appreciate the low resource usage (CPU and RAM) despite having several browser process running the demanding demos at full speed. Link to the video on YouTube here.

In case you want to try it, you might want to build an image for your device with meta-webkit and Yocto (see below), or you can test the image that I built for the demo on the above video. You can flash it to an usb stick memory device as follows, and boot it on any Intel x86_64 machine that has an Intel GPU:

# /dev/sdX is the device of your usb memory stick (for example /dev/sdc)
curl -s http://ftp.neutrino.es/webkitforwayland-yocto-ivi-demo/webkitforwayland-demo-ivi-weston-intel-corei7-64-20151019201929.hddimg.xz | xz -dc | dd bs=4k of=/dev/sdX

On the other hand WebKitGTK+ allows you to build a custom browser on top of it. It has a rich and stable API and many goodies like support for plugins, integrated web inspector, full toolkit support, etc. WebKitGTK+ also performs very good and consumes few resources, it can run both on top of Wayland and X11. But at the moment of writing this, the support for Wayland is still incomplete (we are working on it). So if possible we recommend that you base your product on the X11 backend. You could later migrate to Wayland without much effort once we complete the support for it.

Building a Yocto image with WebKitForWayland

The usual way to create an image with Yocto and WebKitForWayland is:

  • Setup the environment and source oe-init-build-env as usual.
  • Checkout the branch of meta-webkit that matches your Yocto/OE version (for example: fido).
    Note that fido (1.8) is the less recent version supported. If you are using the fido branch you will also need to add the meta-ruby layer that is available on meta-openembedded
  • Add the path to the meta-webkit layer in your conf/bblayers.conf file
  • Append the following lines to the conf/local.conf file
  • DISTRO_FEATURES_append = " opengl wayland"
    IMAGE_INSTALL_append = " webkitforwayland"
  • Then build the target image, for example
  • bitbake core-image-weston
  • Then boot the image on the target device and run the webkitforwayland engine from a weston terminal
  • WPELauncher http://postercircle.com

Building a Yocto image with WebKitGTK+

There are some things to take into account when building WebKitGTK+:

  • The package webkitgtk contains the shared libraries and the webkitgtk runtime.
  • The package webkitgtk-bin contains the MiniBrowser executable. This is very basic browser built on top of the webkitgtk runtime, mainly used for testing purposes.
  • On the recipe there are several packageconfig options that you can tune. For example, for enabling WebGL support you can add the following to your conf/local.conf file:
    PACKAGECONFIG_pn-webkitgtk = "x11 webgl"

    Check the recipe source code to see all the available options.

  • The name of the recipe is the same than the one available in oe-core (master), so you should select which version of webkitgtk you want to build. For example, to build 2.10.3 add on conf/local.conf:
    PREFERRED_VERSION_webkitgtk = "2.10.3"

So, the usual way to create an image with Yocto and WebKitGTK+ is:

  • Setup the environment and source oe-init-build-env as usual.
  • Checkout the branch of meta-webkit that matches your Yocto/OE version (for example: fido).
    Note that fido (1.8) is the less recent version supported. If you are using the fido branch you will also need to add the meta-ruby layer that is available on meta-openembedded
  • Add the following lines to your conf/local.conf file (for building the X11 backend of WebKitGTK+)
  • DISTRO_FEATURES_append = " opengl x11"
    IMAGE_INSTALL_append = " webkitgtk-bin"
  • Then build the X11 image:
  • bitbake core-image-sato
  • Then boot the image on the target device and run the included test browser from an X terminal (or any other browser that you have developed on top of the WebKitGTK+ API)
    MiniBrowser http://google.com

Further info

If you are new to Yocto / OpenEmbedded, a good starting point is to check out the documentation.

If you have any issue or doubt with the meta-webkit layer, please let me know about that (you can mail me at clopez@igalia.com or open an issue on github)

Finally, If you need help for integrating a Web engine on your product, you can also hire us. As maintainers of the GTK+ and WebKit For Wayland ports of WebKit we have considerable experience creating, maintaining and optimizing ports of WebKit.

How to properly activate TRIM for your SSD on Linux: fstrim, lvm and dm-crypt

Unlike hard disk drives (HDDs), NAND flash memory that make SSD cannot overwrite existing data. This means that you first have to delete the old data before writing new one. Flash memory is divided into blocks, which is further divided in pages. The minimum write unit is a page, but the smallest erase unit is a block.

Data can be written directly into an empty page, but only whole blocks can be erased. Therefore, to reclaim the space taken up by invalid data, all the valid data from one block must be first copied and written into the empty pages of a new block. Only then can the invalid data in the original block be erased, making it ready for new valid data to be written.

Do you see the problem? This means that as time goes on, the SSD will internally fragment the blocks among the different pages, until that it reaches a point where there won’t be available any empty page. Then every time the drive needs to write a block into any of the semi-full pages, it first needs to copy the current blocks from the page to a buffer, then it has to delete the whole page to finally rewrite the old blocks along with the new one. This means that as time goes on the SSD performance degrades more and more, because for every write it has to go through a cycle of read-erase-modify-write. This is known as “write amplification”.

Without TRIM the disk is unable to know which blocks are in use by a file or which ones are marked as free space. This is because when a file is deleted, the only thing the OS does is to mark the blocks that were used by the file as free inside the file system index. But the OS won’t tell the disk about this. This means that over time the performance of the SSD disk will degrade more and more, and it don’t matters how much space you free, because the SSD won’t know about it.

What is TRIM? TRIM was invented for solving this problem. TRIM is the name of a command that the operating system can send to tell the SSD which blocks are free in the filesystem.
The SSD uses this information to internally defragment the blocks and keep free pages available to be written quickly and efficiently.

How to active TRIM on Linux? The first thing to know is that TRIM should be enabled on all I/O abstraction layers. This means that if you have an ext4 partition on top of LVM, which in turn is on top of an encrypted volume with LUKS/dm-crypt, then you must enable support for TRIM in these three layers: The filesystem, LVM and dm-crypt. There is no point in enabling it at the filesystem level if you don’t enable it also on the other layers. The TRIM command should be translated from one layer to another until reaching the SSD.

  1. Enabling TRIM support on dm-crypt

  2. We simply have to add the option discard inside our crypttab

    • $ cat /etc/crypttab

      # <target name>    <source device>    <key file>       <options>
      sda2_crypt         /dev/sda2          none             luks,discard

    Note: The usage of TRIM on dm-crypt could cause some security issues like the revelation of which sectors of your disk are unused.

  3. Enabling TRIM support on LVM

  4. We have to enable the option issue_discards in the LVM configuration.

    • $ cat /etc/lvm/lvm.conf

      # [...]
      devices {
         # [...]
         issue_discards = 1
         # [...]
      # [...]
  5. Enabling TRIM support on the file system

  6. This is the most interesting part. Most people simply add the option “discard” in the mounting options at /etc/fstab. However, this means that every time you delete a file, the OS will be reporting in real-time to the SSD which blocks were occupied by that file and are not longer in use, and then the SSD will have to perform a defragmentation and deletion of those internal blocks, operation which will take an amount of time higher than desired.

    In order to optimize the performance of the SSD, I strongly advise you to avoid doing the TRIM operation in real time (whenever a file is deleted) because you would be putting an unnecessary extra amount of work over the SSD. In other words: You should not enable the discard option in fstab.

    Instead, what I recommend is to run a script periodically to tell the SSD which blocks are free with the command fstrim. Doing this operation daily or weekly is more than enough. This way we do not lose any performance due to TRIM when deleting files and we periodically keep informed the SSD about the free blocks.

    Other advantages of the fstrim way are:

    • If you didn’t enabled correctly the TRIM support in the above layers of your setup, you will receive an error when executing fstrim. On the other hand, if you were using the discard option at fstab you wouldn’t have received any error and you would end thinking that you managed to get TRIM working properly when you didn’t.
    • If you delete a file by mistake (you know it happens), you can recover it before anacron runs your script fstrim. On the other hand, if you were using the discard-at-fstab option you wouldn’t have any chance of recovering the file, because the OS would have told the SSD to TRIM that blocks as soon as you deleted the file, and consequently the SSD has irreversibly destroyed such blocks.

    Here you have simple script to run fstrim on the /, /boot and /home partitions, which can be programmed to be executed periodically by anacron

    • $ cat /etc/cron.weekly/dofstrim

      #! /bin/sh
      for mount in / /boot /home; do
      	fstrim $mount

    It’s worth mentioning that both fstrim and discard-at-fstab options only work on filesystems that implement the ioctl FITRIM. Today, such filesystems are:

    ~/kernel/linux (v3.8) $ grep -lr FITRIM fs/ | cut -d/ -f2 | sort | uniq | xargs echo
    btrfs ext3 ext4 gfs2 jfs ocfs2 xfs

Note: On most setups you will have to rebuild your initramfs with update-initramfs -u (Debian and derivatives) or dracut -f (Redhat and derivatives) and reboot the machine after touching the configuration options of LVM or dm-crypt.

Update 25-Feb-2013: Seems that Fedora users with a dm-crypt volume will be affected by this problem: https://bugzilla.redhat.com/890533

Update 14-Aug-2014: The following script can be used to automatically detect and fstrim all filesystems that have TRIM support enabled.

  • #!/bin/sh
    # To find which FS support trim, we check that DISC-MAX (discard max bytes)
    # is great than zero. Check discard_max_bytes documentation at
    # https://www.kernel.org/doc/Documentation/block/queue-sysfs.txt
    for fs in $(lsblk -o MOUNTPOINT,DISC-MAX,FSTYPE | grep -E '^/.* [1-9]+.* ' | awk '{print $1}'); do
    	fstrim "$fs"