"As some of the latency junkies on lkml already know, commit 8e3e076 in v2.6.26-rc2 removed the preemptible BKL feature and made the Big Kernel Lock a spinlock and thus turned it into non-preemptible code again. This commit returned the BKL code to the 2.6.7 state of affairs in essence," began Ingo Molnar. He noted that this had a very negative effect on the real time kernel efforts, adding that Linux creator Linus Torvalds indicated the only acceptable way forward was to completely remove the BKL. Ingo explained:
"This task is not easy at all. 12 years after Linux has been converted to an SMP OS we still have 1300+ legacy BKL using sites. There are 400+ lock_kernel() critical sections and 800+ ioctls. They are spread out across rather difficult areas of often legacy code that few people understand and few people dare to touch. It takes top people like Alan Cox to map the semantics and to remove BKL code, and even for Alan (who is doing this for the TTY code) it is a long and difficult task."
Ingo went on to describe how the BKL works, how it differs from other locking mechanisms, and why this complicates removing it permanently from the kernel. He noted that the various dependencies of the lock are lost in the haze of 15 years of code changes, "all this has built up to a kind of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt about the BKL: nobody really knows it, nobody really dares to touch it and code can break silently and subtly if BKL locking is wrong." He then suggested "changing the rules of the game", creating a "kill-the-BKL" branch which "turns the BKL into an ordinary albeit somewhat big mutex, with a quirky lock/unlock interface called 'lock_kernel()' and 'unlock_kernel()'."
Linus Torvalds released the 2.6.7-rc3 release candidate kernel which
contains a few cleanups. He notes:
"Ok, let's calm down for a while before the final 2.6.7.
-rc3 does a lot of sparse type cleanup, mainly thanks to Al Viro (but his
work ended up getting some other people involved too, since the list of
sparse warnings isn't as daunting any more). Some of that has unearthed
real bugs which Al fixed.
But there are DRM, AGP, cpufreq, sparc64, and input updates there too."
Read on for the full changelog.