[PATCH] Revert "Enable '-Werror' by default for all kernel builds"

Marco Elver elver at google.com
Tue Sep 7 22:14:19 UTC 2021

On Tue, Sep 07, 2021 at 01:30PM -0700, Nick Desaulniers wrote:
> On Tue, Sep 7, 2021 at 12:16 PM Linus Torvalds <torvalds at linux-foundation.org> wrote:
> > I'm not going to revert that change. I probably will have to limit it
> > (by making that WERROR option depend on certain expectations), but
> > basically any maintainer who has code that causes warnings should
> > expect that they will have to fix those warnings.
> I'm not 100% against it; I think it could land in a more useful
> variation. But it would be good to discuss that on-list, and give it
> time to soak. This is a conversation we should be having with CI
> maintainers IMO, and folks that maintain the build infra, at least.
> I'm happy to kick off that discussion with this RFC.

Here's a datapoint: I had to disable CONFIG_WERROR on a bunch of syzbot
instances which started failing because of -Werror [1], because syzbot's
time is better spent on fuzzing, and having the odd warning in some
subsystem penalize fuzzing of the entire kernel is not appropriate.

[1] https://github.com/google/syzkaller/commit/e096c0a2a414e487412c9669426780ce5acdde9d

Getting the kernel built is a hard requirement for any sort of runtime
testing. Once the kernel is built, runtime testing of various subsystems
can proceed in parallel. A single warning in some odd subsystem
penalizing the _entire_ kernel's testing progress is inappropriate. The
severity of a use-after-free bug found by runtime testing is orders of
magnitude more severe than some "unused variable" warning. Now such a
warning would delay finding bugs at runtime on many CI systems that
haven't yet disabled the warning.

I'm predicting most distributions and runtime-focused CIs will disable
the warning.

I have formulated this in the form of a patch below, that might move
this new Kconfig option towards its appropriate usecases by default.

The intent is not to dispute the usefulness of -Werror, but select the
appropriate usecases by default, limiting friction for all those who can
do little more than say CONFIG_WERROR=n.

-- Marco

------ >8 ------

From: Marco Elver <elver at google.com>
Date: Tue, 7 Sep 2021 23:12:08 +0200
Subject: [PATCH] kbuild: Only default to -Werror if COMPILE_TEST

The cross-product of the kernel's supported toolchains, architectures,
and configuration options is large. So large, that it's generally
accepted to be infeasible to enumerate and build+test them all
(many compile-testers rely on randomly generated configs).

Without the possibility to enumerate all possible combinations of
toolchains, architectures, and configuration options, it is inevitable
that compiler warnings in this space exist.

With -Werror, this means that an innumerable set of kernels are now
broken, yet had been perfectly usable before (confused compilers, code
with warnings unused, or luck).

Distributors will necessarily pick a point in the toolchain X arch X
config space, and if unlucky, will have a broken build. Granted, those
will likely disable CONFIG_WERROR and move on.

The kernel's default configuration is unlikely to be suitable for all
users, but it's inappropriate to force many users to set CONFIG_WERROR=n.

This also holds for CI systems which are focused on runtime testing,
where the odd warning in some subsystem will disrupt testing of the rest
of the kernel. Many of those runtime-focused CI systems run tests or
fuzz the kernel using runtime debugging tools. Runtime testing of
different subsystems can proceed in parallel, and potentially uncover
serious bugs; halting runtime testing of the entire kernel because of
the odd warning (now error) in a subsystem or driver is simply

Therefore, runtime-focused CI systems will likely choose CONFIG_WERROR=n
as well.

The appropriate usecase for -Werror is therefore compile-test focused
builds (often done by developers or CI systems).

Reflect this in the Kconfig option by making the default value of WERROR

Signed-off-by: Marco Elver <elver at google.com>
 init/Kconfig | 2 +-
 1 file changed, 1 insertion(+), 1 deletion(-)

diff --git a/init/Kconfig b/init/Kconfig
index 8cb97f141b70..11f8a845f259 100644
--- a/init/Kconfig
+++ b/init/Kconfig
@@ -139,7 +139,7 @@ config COMPILE_TEST
 config WERROR
 	bool "Compile the kernel with warnings as errors"
-	default y
+	default COMPILE_TEST
 	  A kernel build should not cause any compiler warnings, and this
 	  enables the '-Werror' flag to enforce that rule by default.

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