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Date:   Wed, 25 Oct 2017 18:48:04 +0300
From:   Laurent Pinchart <>
To:     Alexandre Courbot <>
Cc:     Sakari Ailus <>,
        Mauro Carvalho Chehab <>,
        Hans Verkuil <>,
        Pawel Osciak <>,
        Marek Szyprowski <>,
        Tomasz Figa <>,
        Gustavo Padovan <>,
        Linux Media Mailing List <>,
Subject: Re: [RFC PATCH 0/9] V4L2 Jobs API WIP


On Monday, 23 October 2017 11:45:01 EEST Alexandre Courbot wrote:
> On Thu, Oct 19, 2017 at 11:43 PM, Sakari Ailus <> wrote:
> > On Thu, Sep 28, 2017 at 06:50:18PM +0900, Alexandre Courbot wrote:
> >> Hi everyone,
> >> 
> >> Here is a new attempt at the "request" (which I propose to rename "jobs")
> >> API for V4L2, hopefully in a manner that can converge to something that
> >> will be merged. The core ideas should be easy to grasp for those
> >> familiar with the previous attemps, yet there are a few important
> >> differences.
> >> 
> >> Most notably, user-space does not need to explicitly allocate and manage
> >> requests/jobs (but still can if this makes sense). We noticed that only
> >> specific use-cases require such an explicit management, and opted for a
> >> jobs queue that controls the flow of work over a set of opened devices.
> >> This should simplify user-space code quite a bit, while still retaining
> >> the ability to manage states explicitly like the previous request API
> >> proposals allowed to do.
> >> 
> >> The jobs API defines a few new concepts that user-space can use to
> >> control the workflow on a set of opened V4L2 devices:
> >> 
> >> A JOB QUEUE can be created from a set of opened FDs that are part of a
> >> pipeline and need to cooperate (be it capture, m2m, or media controller
> >> devices).
> >> 
> >> A JOB can then be set up with regular (if slightly modified) V4L2 ioctls,
> >> and then submitted to the job queue. Once the job queue schedules the
> >> job, its parameters (controls, etc) are applied to the devices of the
> >> queue, and itsd buffers are processed. Immediately after a job is
> >> submitted, the next job is ready to be set up without further user
> >> action.
> >> 
> >> Once a job completes, it must be dequeued and user-space can then read
> >> back its properties (notably controls) at completion time.
> >> 
> >> Internally, the state of jobs is managed through STATE HANDLERS. Each
> >> driver supporting the jobs API needs to specify an implementation of a
> >> state handler. Fortunately, most drivers can rely on the generic state
> >> handler implementation that simply records and replays a job's parameter
> >> using standard V4L2 functions. Thanks to this, adding jobs API support
> >> to a driver relying on the control framework and vb2 only requires a
> >> dozen lines of codes.
> >> 
> >> Drivers with specific needs or opportunities for optimization can however
> >> provide their own implementation of a state handler. This may in
> >> particular be beneficial for hardware that supports configuration or
> >> command buffers (thinking about VSP1 here).
> >> 
> >> This is still very early work, and focus has been on the following
> >> points:
> >> 
> >> * Provide something that anybody can test (currently using vim2m and
> >> vivid),
> >> * Reuse the current V4L2 APIs as much as possible,
> >> * Remain flexible enough to accomodate the inevitable changes that will
> >> be requested,
> >> * Keep line count low, even if functionality is missing at the moment.
> >> 
> >> Please keep this in mind while going through the patches. In particular,
> >> at the moment the parameters of a job are limited to integer controls. I
> >> know that much more is expected, but V4L2 has quite a learning curve and
> >> I preferred to focus on the general concepts for now. More is coming
> >> though! :)
> >> 
> >> I have written two small example programs that demonstrate the use of
> >> this API:
> >> 
> >> - With a codec device (vim2m):
> >>
> >> 
> >> - With a capture device (vivid):
> >>
> >> 
> >> Considering the history with the request API, I don't expect everything
> >> proposed here to be welcome or understood immediately. In particular I
> >> apologize for not reusing any of the previous attempts - I was just more
> >> comfortable laying down my ideas from scratch.
> >> 
> >> If this proposal is not dismissed as complete garbage I will also be
> >> happy to discuss it in-person at the mini-summit in Prague. :)
> > 
> > Thank you for the initiative and the patchset.
> > 
> > While reviewing this patchset, I'm concentrating primarily on the approach
> > taken and the design, not so much in the actual implementation which I
> > don't think matters much at this moment.
> Thanks, that is exactly how I hoped things would go for the moment.
> > It's difficult to avoid seeing many similarities with the Request API
> > patches posted earlier on. And not only that, rather you have to start
> > looking for the differences in what I could call details, while important
> > design decisions could sometimes be only visible in what appear details at
> > this point.
> I was not quite sure whether I should base this work on one of the
> existing patchsets (and in this case, which one) or start from
> scratch. This being my first contribution to a new area of the kernel
> for me, I decided to start from scratch as it would yield more
> educative value.

What bothers me here is that we had a full day face to face meeting in Tokyo 
back in June about this, where you presented this idea of how the userspace 
API could look like. We went through the proposal point by point to discuss 
potential issues, and for most points I recall agreeing that the changes 
proposed compared to the previous request API RFC were introducing problems 
that couldn't be easily solved. I walked out of the meeting understanding we 
had an agreement to go back to an API quite similar to the previous RFC, in 
particular with explicit request object management from userspace, and I now 
see several months later an RFC that ignores all the conclusions of our 

> > Both request and jobs APIs have the concept of a request, or a job, which
> > is created by the user and then different buffers or controls can be bound
> > to that request. (Other configuration isn't really excluded but it's
> > non-trivial to implement in practice.) This is common for both.
> Yes, the main difference being that the current proposal manages the
> jobs flow implicitly by default, to ease the most common uses of this
> API (codecs & camera). It still maintains the ability to control them
> more finely similarly to the previous request API proposals.

Implicit job handling might make your codec use-cases simpler, but it does 
*not* ease camera support.

> > The differences begin however how the functionality within the scope is
> > actieved, in particular:
> > 
> > - A new user space interface (character device) is created for the jobs
> >   API whereas requests use existing Media controller interface. Therefore
> >   the jobs API is specific to V4L2. Consequently, the V4L2 jobs API may
> >   not support Media controller link state changes through requests.
> It is not clear to me why that is the case - could you elaborate on that a
> bit?

I suppose it would be possible to support changing link state in a request if 
we add the MC fd to the job queue, at the price of more implicit state 
handling and I believe a complex implementation on the kernel side. 
Regardless, I see no reason at all to create a new device node for this when 
all operations can be performed on the media device node.

> >   I don't see a reason why it should be this way, and I also see no reason
> >   why there should be yet another user space interface for this purpose
> >   alone: this is a clear drawback compared to handling this through the
> >   Media device.
> Yeah, as I discussed in my reply to Hans, this node is mostly here for
> convenience reasons and I don't feel too strongly about it.

To be honest I don't really understand how this device node increases 
convenience compared to using the media controller device node.

> > - Controls and buffers are always bound to requests explicitly whereas for
> >   jobs, this seems to be implicit based on associating the file handle
> >   related to the relevant video device with the request.
> >   
> >   There are advantages in the approach, but currently I'd see that they're
> >   primarily related to not having to change the existing IOCTL argument
> >   structs.
> For controls, this is definitely not the case (see the newly
> introduced V4L2_CTRL_WHICH_CURJOB_VAL flag for instance). Even when
> using the jobs API, you can change controls on-the-fly without waiting
> for the current job to be processed.

Good, if we're not reluctant to add arguments to existing ioctls, then we can 
certainly pass a request ID :-)

> For other parameters, we need to decide whether it can make sense to
> decouple them from jobs. In particular, allowing buffers to be
> processed both from and out of the jobs queue seems difficult to
> achieve in a consistent way, and may not make any sense semantically
> speaking. This is why the meaning of QBUF/QDBUF depends on whether the
> jobs API is in use for a particular opened node.

I'll have to go through an in-depth analysis of the problem again to come up 
with useful examples (unfortunately we don't have notes of the Tokyo meeting), 
but I remember having discussed cases where buffers are queued as part of a 
request but dequeued separately. This doesn't seem to be supported with the 
proposed implicit API.

> >   There lie problems, too, because of this: with requests (or jobs) it is
> >   vitally important that the user will always have the information if a
> >   buffer, control event etc. was related to a request (or not), and in
> >   particular which request it was.
> >   
> >   You could say that the user must keep track of this information but I'd
> >   suppose it won't make it easier for the user no having an important
> >   piece of information.

I very much agree here. Userspace needs to maintain relationships between 
requests/jobs and parameters in any case. With an explicit API more hints will 
be give to userspace, easing the implementation and reducing the risk of 
getting it wrong.

> >   Having this information as part of the IOCTL argument struct is
> >   mandatory for e.g. events that the user doesn't have an ID to compare
> >   with in order to find the related request.
> When queuing buffers, it is quite obvious which job they will be
> linked too, as it is the current one. We can return a job ID as an
> output argument of the QJOB ioctl to make this easier to handle.

I strongly believe we should expose job IDs to userspace, yes. And if we do, I 
see little reason to use an implicit API.

> I need to look at the ioctl structures too see what is possible, but I
> also see no drawbacks to associating a job ID to dequeued buffers if
> there is space remaining.

I believe there's space in most structures, as this is what my previous RFC 
was doing. We can also extend existing structures, for example v4l2_buffer 
will soon run out of reserved fields and needs to be reworked to support Y2038 

> >   Also --- when an association with a video devnode file descriptor and a
> >   job with a request is made, when does it cease to exist? When the job is
> >   released? When the job is done?
> Association is made between a job queue (to which an undefined number
> of jobs can be queued) and a set of device nodes. A job queue remains
> active as long as its file descriptor is not closed. So the short
> answer to your question is that the devnode remains part of the queue
> until the file descriptor obtained by opening /dev/v4l2_jobqueue (and
> initialized using VIDIOC_JOBQUEUE_INIT) is opened. This is of course
> subject to change if /dev/v4l2_jobqueue disappears, but I would like
> to retain the idea of managing the jobs queue via its own file
> descriptor.

This makes it quite inconvenient to change controls both through a request and 
directly, a userspace application would need to open subdevs and video nodes 
twice, keeping one "direct" fd and associating the other one with the queue. 
That's a complexity increase for userspace without any advantage in my 

> > There are smaller differences, not very important IMO:
> > 
> > - Requests are removed once complete. This was done to simplify the
> >   implementation and it could be added if it is seen reasonable to
> >   implement and useful, neither of which is known.
> > 
> > These are differences, I'd say, in the parts that are somewhat manageable
> > in any way they're designed, and with rather easily understandable
> > consequences from these design decisions. I still prefer the design
> > choices made for the Request API (regarding device nodes and request
> > association especially).
> I suppose this is something we need to discuss thoroughly in Prague to
> make sure we understand why we made different design decisions. I am
> rather fond of the idea of associating a set of opened devices into a
> jobs queue and think that this is necessary for some advanced cases
> (MIPI camera notably).

And I think it hinders that use case, for the reasons I've explained in Tokyo 
(if you manage to extract them from your meeting notes I'd be grateful ;-)). I 
don't see any advantage in an implicit API for requests/jobs. I would rather 
like to go fully the other way around and pass *all* configuration parameters 
(controls, formats, links, ...) through a single ioctl call when queueing (or 
possibly preparing, if we end up needed to split the preparation from queuing 
for a performance reason, but I don't think at the moment that there's a need 
for it) the request. Configuring a pipeline through subdev nodes is painful, 
regardless of whether we use requests/jobs or not, and some operations are 
just not possible (such a propagating the test configuration of multiplexed 
streams for instance, which would in my opinion require a device-wide test 
context to be implemented properly, but that's not upstream yet).

> > The hard stuff, e.g. how do you implement including non-buffer and
> > non-control configuration into the request in a meaningful way in an
> > actual driver I haven't seen yet. We'd need one driver to implement that,
> > and in general case it likely requires locking scheme changes in MC, for
> > instance. There are still use cases where this all isn't needed so there
> > is a motivation to have less than full implementation in the mainline
> > kernel.
> You're right - I wanted to give a go at the easiest part first and
> receive feedback on this. Also it is easiest for us (Google) to
> evaluate this first step as it allows us to replace the config store
> currently used in Chrome OS.

I'm not completely opposed to getting a partial implementation upstream as a 
first step, but only if we can guarantee it won't hinder the full 
implementation. I haven't seen any such guarantee at the moment, quite the 

> > Another matter is making videobuf2 helpful here: we should have, if not in
> > the videobuf2 framework itself, then around it helper function(s) to
> > manage the submission of buffers to a driver. You can get things working
> > pretty easily but the error handling is very painful: what do you do, for
> > instance, with buffers queued with a request if queueing the request
> > itself fails, possibly because the user hasn't provided enough buffers
> > with the request? Mark the buffers errorneous and return them to the user?
> > Probably so, but that requires the user to dequeue the buffers and gather
> > the request again. I presume this would only happen in special
> > circumstances though, and not typically in an application using requests.
> > This, and many other special cases still must be handled by the kernel.
> Error handling is still pretty weak in that version. I would like to
> get an overall agreement on the general direction before looking at
> this more closely though, as I suppose getting things right will take
> some time.

I believe error handling would be much simpler if we passed all request 
parameters through a single ioctl, as we would have one clear point where to 
perform validation with all required information available.

> > Finally, I want to say that I like some aspects of the patchset, such as
> > moving more things to the V4L2 framework from the driver. This would be
> > very useful in helping driver implementation: V4L2 is very stream-centric
> > and the configurations and buffers across device nodes have been
> > essentially independent from API point of view. Associating the pieces of
> > information together in requests would be painful to do in drivers. What
> > the framework can do, still controlled by drivers, could help a lot here.
> > This aspect wasn't much considered where the Request API work was left.
> I am not sure whether this is obvious in this patchset, but the idea
> is that while there is a default implementation that can easily be
> used as-is by most drivers (which allows to keep the lines count in
> vivid and vim2m low), a driver with more specific needs could still
> write its own state handler, tailored to its needs. I am especially
> thinking of VSP1 here, Laurent's implementation was designed with the
> perspective of writing and reusing command buffers, and the same
> result should be attainable with a custom state handler (while still
> benefiting from some of the framework code).

To make my opinion as clear as possible, I would like to see the main entry 
point for the request API being implemented by all drivers. We could implement 
helper functions that translate a request to individual ioctl calls, but I'm 
more and more convinced that we shouldn't. Instead we should do it the other 
way around, make the request API a first class citizen, and provide helper 
functions to translate the V4L2 API to requests (how complicated that will be 
remains to be seen). Implementing legacy APIs on top of new ones is akin to 
V4L1 support on top of V4L2 driver that we have implemented in libv4l, and 
userspace is where I believe such a compatibility layer belongs (assuming we 
need one at all).

> But whether you write a custom state handler or use the generic one,
> the current implementation still depends on VB2/control framework,
> which means that older drivers (and notably uvc) could not make use of
> the jobs API. I am not sure whether this would be considered a
> problem.

UVC isn't the main target of this API, as the UVC protocol doesn't provide a 
way to apply changes atomically.

As for dependencies on the control framework, I believe I've already exposed 
my opinion that the control framework should be refactored to split control 
values from control static data. The former would be used as part of the 
device state, and the latter could be used as part of control validation 
(possibly with some parts written specifically for requests).

> > Still it shouldn't be forgotten that if the framework is geared towards
> > helping drivers "running one job at a time" the scope will be limited to
> > memory-to-memory devices; streaming devices, e.g. all kinds of cameras
> > have multiple requests being processed simultaneously (or frames are bound
> > to be lost, something we can't allow to happen due to framework design).
> > And I believe the memory-to-memory devices are generally the easy case.
> > That could be one option to start with, but at the same time we have to
> > make it absolutely certain we will not paint ourselves to the corner: the
> > V4L2 UAPI (or even KAPI) paint will take much longer to dry than the
> > regular one.
> There are several reasons why the current patchset is focused on m2m
> devices (although vivid can be considered a regular camera case):
> - As you said, it is the easiest use-case to implement,
> - It is also the use-case we are the most interested in for Chrome OS,
> so I am clearly biased towards it, :)
> - My exposure to V4L2 is still limited, so I may not be able to see
> the whole picture yet.

It's good we'll meet to discuss this then :-)

> It is important though, that we consider all the cases that need to be
> supported by the jobs API and I want to make it very clear that I am
> not attempting to direct it towards our specific use. It is not clear
> to me why some cameras would need multiple requests to be processed
> simultaneously (neither is it clear how I could implement that using
> the current design), so we definitely need to discuss this in Prague.
> The current patchset is just to try and validate the general
> direction, and get confidence that this scheme can support all that
> needs to be supported.
> Oh, I have also updated it to complete controls support, and now all
> kinds of controls should work. Besides that the other changes are
> minor improvements on things that were very clumsy, so not resending
> another patchset here, but in case someone wants to have a look it is
> on
> Thanks and see you all in Prague! I should be there from Thursday.


Laurent Pinchart

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