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Re: Interested in contributing to QEMU

From: Niteesh G. S.
Subject: Re: Interested in contributing to QEMU
Date: Tue, 9 Feb 2021 19:27:28 +0530

Hello John,
On Mon, Feb 8, 2021 at 8:44 PM John Snow <jsnow@redhat.com> wrote:
On 2/7/21 12:01 PM, Niteesh G. S. wrote:
> Hello all,
> I am Niteesh, a junior student(3rd year) pursuing Electronics and
> Communication
> engineering. I was also a GSoC student for RTEMS last year. My main area of
> interest is low-level development (OS, Emulators, Hardware design, etc).

QEMU certainly is the right place for low-level!

> I wanted to start contributing from last year itself but was occupied
> with academic
> work. I have started working on small patches. My ultimate goal is to
> learn about
> how QEMU works, contribute and learn as much as possible.
> I tried going through the Arduino emulation code. I was able to
> understand it from
> a high level but couldn't understand underlying details. I went through
> few blog
> posts related to QEMU internals but they didn't help much. I plan to
> step through
> the code but the sheer size of the codebase is scary(Tips regarding
> debugging are
> very much welcomed). AFAIK the source code is mostly the documentation for
> QEMU. If someone knows any docs or articles that will help a beginner
> get started
> it would be great.

Depending on what you'd like to debug, the debugging tips are going to
be different. I am not sure of the quality of our Arduino code as I have
not touched it personally.

Anything concrete you'd like to ask about how QEMU works? You can always
stop by the IRC channel to ask some questions if you're afraid of
cluttering up the email list.

Which one in your opinion will yield a faster response, Mailing list or IRC?
My problem with IRC is, I don't have an IRC bouncer set up so I miss
some conversations. Which one is simpler to use? There are many options
available. Is there something that will not require me to host a server?

See the end of this mail for instructions on how to join, if you need them.
I am already part of the QEMU IRC channel. But thanks for these instructions.

> I would also like to take part in GSoC this year. I find the below two
> projects interesting
> 1)
> https://wiki.qemu.org/Google_Summer_of_Code_2020#QEMU_emulated_Arduino_board_visualizer
> <https://wiki.qemu.org/Google_Summer_of_Code_2020#QEMU_emulated_Arduino_board_visualizer>
> This one is from last year AFAIK no one has worked on it. If so I would like
> to work on it. I have CC'ed the mentors of this project to share some
> more details
> regarding it. Have you guys decided on the netlist parser lib, UI lib?
> Is there something
> that I could work on or read to get myself familiarized with the JSON
> event IO stuff?

I don't think we have the events this project described in the latest
development branch of QEMU, but maybe Phil has something in development
somewhere. I'll let him answer you, but, it's likely they intend to use
QMP here, which is relevant below, too:
OK and thanks. 

> 2)
> https://wiki.qemu.org/Google_Summer_of_Code_2021#Interactive.2C_asynchronous_QEMU_Machine_Protocol_.28QMP.29_text_user_interface_.28TUI.29
> <https://wiki.qemu.org/Google_Summer_of_Code_2021#Interactive.2C_asynchronous_QEMU_Machine_Protocol_.28QMP.29_text_user_interface_.28TUI.29>
> This is something that I don't know much about. I have a basic idea
> about what
> QMP is but I never used it. The docs say that the Async QMP library is a
> work
> in progress. If someone can hook me up with some small tasks in this
> library it would
> be really helpful in improving my understanding.

1) About QMP and QAPI:

QMP is the JSON-like runtime protocol that QEMU supports. These two
documents should get you started on understanding what QMP is and how it



There's a python script (scripts/qmp/qmp-shell) that can be used to
issue an unsupported* short-hand syntax that translates into "real" QMP.
Or, as qmp-intro.txt says, you can use telnet or socat to copy/paste
JSON straight into the socket.

The commands that QMP accepts are defined by QAPI; those are defined in
./qapi/*.json -- a component called the QAPI generator digests this
information and generates the runtime server code that handles parsing
and dispatch.

2) About QMP Events

Normally, after the initial handshake, QMP is a call-and-response
protocol. The client sends an RPC request, the server executes the
command and sends the response.

QMP also supports asynchronous events, though. At any point, QMP can
send an unprompted status message that informs the client of some state
change within QEMU. This is seen most often for changes in the system
emulator runstate, i.e. if QEMU is paused or resumed, etc.

(It's also used for reporting block device errors, long-running task
status updates like backup, etc.)

It's likely that Phil wants to use this functionality to send
information about GPIO state changes such that a client can render a
meaningful visualization.

3) About AQMP

QEMU today has a QMP library written in Python at ./python/qemu/qmp.py.
This is a synchronous library that blocks execution until the command is
done executing on the server.

We have augmented it over the years to support caching events we
received while waiting for execution to finish (for later retrieval),
but it requires the caller to go back and check those cached events. It
does not offer event handling callbacks. It is a very low-level library
that is prone to race conditions depending on how the test using it is

qmp-shell uses the old qmp library: it does not show you incoming events
as they happen. You have to press "enter" with an empty buffer to coax
the shell to check for new events and print them for you, which can be a
little annoying if you want live updates.

I started writing AQMP using Python's asyncio/await keywords to create a
more modern, flexible QMP library to replace it. One of the hopes I have
for this library is that it will handle asynchronous events much more
nicely. It's my hope that qmp-shell can be upgraded to use this newer
library instead.

The AQMP library is about half finished: It supports all of the basic
functionality of the protocol, but needs work on the callback API for
dispatching event responses. It also likely needs a lot of testing and
polish that's likely to become obvious as anyone tries to integrate it
into a real program like a theoretical qmp-shell-2.0.

Thank you so much for the detailed answer. This helped a lot.
After reading the docs and messing around with simple commands.
I am confused about few things.

1) What is the difference between QMPShell and HMPShell? My understanding
after going through code and doco is both talk to QEMU using QMP and basically
do the same thing but HMPShell is a subset of QMP shell which is more human-friendly
compared to QMPShell. Is that right?

2) When I press <CTRL-A> - C in QEMU I get a monitor prompt, after
reading the man page I go to know that I can use telnet or socat to control
as well. Is this another interface to QEMU which uses QMP?

4) Understanding my project

If you're still interested in my project, I'd recommend trying out
qmp-shell against a running QEMU instance and issuing a few basic,
boring commands ("query-status" is a good candidate) and seeing how that

Then, I'd take a look at some of the other projects I mentioned
(mitmproxy, irssi) to get a sense of what the work is here. This is
largely a UI/API programming task, and there's real work to do on the
AQMP library, but it's probably closer to the surface than the deep
technical internals of QEMU.

It might be a good introductory project that helps you get a better
overview of the internals of QEMU if you're interested in more
hardware-related aspects, but it still requires you have at least some
interested in UI programming and API design.

Phil's project might involve hardware specifics quite a bit more than
mine, while still teaching you some overview of QMP as a necessity of
the project.
TBH UI and Async are both quite new to me, I have only done CLI
stuff since there isn't much UI in low-level dev. I also wanted to try out async
dev at a serious scale but never got an opportunity to do so. My rationale
behind choosing Phil's project is it would let me learn about the hardware
emulation and more importantly the visualization stuff using QEMU. But since
your project involves also async stuff I would love to work on your project if
you allow me to ;).
If you remain interested after the above, I can point you towards some
more concrete tasks that need doing for you to get a fairly concrete
sense of what the project entails.
Please, If you have any small tasks pending, I would like to work on them.

> I would like to work on these projects even outside of GSoC if someone
> is ready to
> mentor in their free time :).
Feel free to join #qemu-gsoc on irc.oftc.net. If you've not joined an
IRC channel before, it's kind of like a prehistoric slack channel.

Linux GUI: xchat, hexchat
Linux TUI: irssi, WeeChat

OSX GUI: LimeChat, Colloquy (I've never used either)
OSX TUI: irssi and weechat should be available via ports (Not tried.)

Windows GUI: mIRC, XChat

I'm jsnow on OFTC. You can use my nickname at the start of a message
("jsnow: Hello, this is Niteesh from the mailing list") and it will show
me a notification -- but the hours I am paying attention to IRC are
around 10AM - 7PM EST. (15:00 - 00:00 GMT)

I can be around later by request (00:00 - 05:00 GMT) if you give me some
advance notice.

> Thanks
> Niteesh.

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