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Kernel patch/review workflow
Minimal howto for the tools involved in my daily patch handling and kernel
mailing list interaction. It may be not perfect and the workflow as well
as tooling/scripts can be improved for sure, but I thought I'd document it
here for myself or others in case it's found useful. The example config
is very much bpf and netdev centric and needs to be adapted for other
Please send patches to Daniel Borkmann <>.
Used tooling:
I mainly use git, git-pw, git-send-email, l2md, pw-*, quilttools, msmtp,
mutt and patchwork UI for all my daily list workflow. The command-line
tools themselves can be obtained via:
- git, git-send-email, msmtp, mutt (available as distro packages)
- git://
- git://
- git://
Base setup:
Example configs for various tools are in this repository as well.
1. git-pw:
Configuration of git-pw is straight forward, simply follow the below
steps. The authentication token can be generated from the patchwork
UI from Below example is related
to netdev:
$ git config --global pw.server ''
$ git config --global pw.project 'netdev'
$ git config --global pw.token 'API-TOKEN'
Note that git-pw must be at least version 1.7.0 or higher as earlier
versions have issues to decode received mboxes in some cases:
2. quilttools aka mb2q:
Example .mb2q.yaml in this repo, needs to be in home directory. More
information on the options can be found in the quilttools repository.
quilttools as well as git-pw is needed for the pw-apply tool in this
repository. Although I don't use quilt, I really like mb2q's patch
3. l2md:
I'm using l2md for fetching new emails via git archives
and msmtp for sending them. My l2md feeds into mutt, and msmtp is used
for mutt as well as git-send-email.
Example .l2mdconfig for lists I follow in this repo, needs to be in
home directory. The l2md repository also has additional information
with regards to mutt and procmail integration and a service unit file
for letting it run in the background automatically.
Patch handling:
Main tools are pw-apply and pw-request-pull, both minimal, quick and dirty
scripts to get the job done. pw-check is called from pw-apply. pw-backport
for the backports to the stable tree. Patches for improving them are very
1. Initial patch triage:
Patches from netdev and bpf lists land under netdev patchwork project, hence
first manual step is to delegate them accordingly such that they land in the
delegate's todo:
Todo list:
From public view, the current BPF todo list is accessible via:
All delegation and setting patches into 'Changes requested' is done through
the web UI. This remains to be improved for more automation.
2. Applying patches:
Applying patches from patchwork, add Tested-by, and Acked-by from others.
Patches are always identified by the series id even if it's just a single
patch. Use -t/-a to propagate tags from the cover letter to individual
patches, multiple people separated by comma:
$ pw-apply -s 132626 -- -t 'Joe Hacker <>' -a 'Joe Hacker <>, Acker Jon <ack@er.jon>'
The pw-apply tool can also handle mboxes directly compressed in gzip or
uncompressed format:
$ pw-apply -b -- -t 'Joe Hacker <>'
Another example without adding optional tags, this time from lore:
$ pw-apply -b
Similar example with adding an explicit merge commit with branch name
$ pw-apply -s 132626 -m bpf-foo-bar
The pw-apply tool normalizes the patches through mb2q, sorts and groups
tags, adds permanent links to the lore list archive and merges them into
the master branch with the maintainer's SOB added to the chain.
After they have been applied and sanity checked successfully, mark patches
as accepted in patchwork. The -a before the optional "--" will tell pw-apply
to mark the series as accepted, it does _not_ re-apply the series or do
anything else:
$ pw-apply -s 132626 -a
Note that this does not work in combination with the -b parameter since
the stand-alone mailbox does not have any context of patchwork.
Full workflow:
$ pw-apply -s 132626
# Double check if all looks good in the git log
$ pw-apply -s 132626 -a
Currently, the acceptance email must be sent manually, but this will be
automated in near term and integrated into -a.
Side-note, manual sanity checking:
$ pw-check -s e3439af4a339acd7fddbd6d59b8ecefaac07a611 -e d21b06927c8bf8083c64a95f272bc5491682ae24
Commit: d21b06927c8b ("bpf: Fix bpf_event_output re-entry issue")
Fixes tag: Fixes: ae5a3a828cd0 ("bpf: add perf event notificaton support for sock_ops")
Has these problem(s):
- Target SHA1 does not exist
Note that pw-check is called automatically for all applied patches through
pw-apply, so above example output is just to demonstrate a manual workflow.
3. Pull requests:
Pull requests together with a consistent format are created as described in
below example. I do like consistency, hence even the pre-cooked template.
The commit sha is the merge base, meaning the last commit that both trees
had before patches have been applied. This could be automated but my own
preference is to explicitly state it here as both {bpf,bpf-next} trees don't
have too many commits piling up. Again, this workflow is mostly bpf specific
and the scripts would need to be adapted for other subsystems.
$ pw-request-pull -t bpf -s aef70a1f44c0b570e6345c02c2d240471859f0a4
PR: pr-bpf-2019-09-26.patch
Currently the -t option only accepts: bpf, bpf-next
The -s option is optional and if not specified then pw-request-pull will
determine the merge base automatically. In order for this to work, it requires
that there is a net (for -t bpf) or net-next (for -t bpf-next) remote in the
repository. To generate the PR, simply do:
$ pw-request-pull -t bpf
PR: pr-bpf-2019-09-26.patch
The resulting file is then edited to describe the changes that the pull-request
contains. It's then sent out same way as other patches through git-send-email:
$ git send-email --to --cc --cc --cc --cc --cc pr-bpf-2019-09-26.patch
The PR will then show up the usual way in patchwork and assigned to the higher
level maintainer delegate for pulling.
4. Backporting to stable:
Backporting is done through the pw-backport tool which automatically adds the
SOB and upstream commit sha to the commit message.
It's tailored to
In the local git clone, the following workflow can be used:
$ git pull origin master
$ git checkout -b linux-5.3.y origin/linux-5.3.y
$ pw-backport d895a0f16fadb26d22ab531c49768f7642ae5c3e
Applying: d895a0f16fad bpf: fix accessing bpf_sysctl.file_pos on s390
The pw-backport can also take multiple shas as command line arguments.
Other workflow examples
mb2q reshuffles tags so I disable it. I always apply patches based
on series with "auto-merge" and edit on:
$ pw-apply -e -N -M -s 211734
If series doesn't have a cover letter patches just get applied.
If there is a merge it will do an automatic git rebase -i and wait for the
rebase to finish. This lets me edit the commits without dealing with
the --rebase-merges magic. It will also automatically git commit --amend
the merge commit, because there are usually things that need to be removed
from the text, like "Hi!", signatures, etc.
pw-pull works great for pulling, again using patchwork ID, but of the
particular PR "patch", PRs don't have series IDs:
$ pw-pull -p 1393469
When author posted the patches alongside the PR (and patchwork grouped them
correctly which doesn't always happen) the script can apply those patches
to a 'tmp' branch and check the contents of series and PR match:
$ pw-pull -p 1393469 -s 12345
pw-pull can also pull from PRs which patchwork does not recognize as PRs
at all, using -c (AKA --pull-from-cover):
$ pw-pull -s 12345 -c
Last but not least it can pull from an explicit URL with -P which can be
useful as well (it will at least provide the merge commit template).
I don't mark as applied from the command line (yet) because I double
check the tests passed in the UI, anyway.
TODO: since I don't use mb2q I have to manually trim CCs and propagate
tags sent to the cover letter.