'Failed to reset ACL' with elogind: Why?

As I've blogged the other day, I like having my machine's syslog on the screen background so I notice when the machine is unwell and generally have some idea what it thinks it is doing. That also makes me spot milder distress signals like:

logind-uaccess-command[30337]: Failed to reset ACL on /dev/bus/usb/002/061: Operation not supported

I've ignored those for a long time since, for all I can see, logind-like software does nothing that on a normal machine sudo and a few judicious udev rules couldn't do just as well – and are doing on my box. The only reason there's elogind (a logind replacement that can live without systemd) on my box is because in Debian, kio – which in bullseye 270 packages depend upon – depends upon something like logind. The complaints in the syslog thus came from software I consider superfluous and I'd rather not have at all, which I felt was justification enough to look the other way.

But then today curiosity sneaked in: What is going on there? Why would whatever elogind tries break on my box?

Well, the usual technique of pasting relevant parts of the error message into some search engine leads to elogind PR #47 (caution: github will run analytics on your request). This mentions that the message results from a udev rule that tries to match hotplugged devices with users occupying a “seat”[1]. The rule calls some binary that would make sure that the user on the “seat” has full access to the device without clobbering system defaults (e.g., that members of the audio group can directly access the sound hardware) – and to keep the others out[2]. The Unix user/group system is not quite rich enough for this plan, and hence a thing called POSIX ACLs would be used for it, a much more complicated and fine-grained way of managing file system access rights.

Well, the udev rules mentioned in the bug indeed live on my box, too, namely in /lib/udev/rules.d/73-seat-late.rules, which has the slightly esoteric:

TAG=="uaccess", ENV{MAJOR}!="", RUN{program}+="/lib/elogind/elogind-uaccess-command %N $env{ID_SEAT}"

I frankly have not researched what exactly adds the uaccess tag that this rule fires on, and when it does that, but clearly it does happen in Debian bullseye. Hence, this rule fires, and thus the failing elogind-uaccess-command is started.

But why does it fail? Well, let's see what it is trying to do. The great thing about Debian is that as long as you have a (proper) deb-src line in your /etc/apt/sources.list, you can quickly fetch the source code of anything on your box:

cd /usr/src  # well, that's really old-school.  These days, you'll
             # probably have your sources somewhere else
mkdir elogind # apt-get source produces a few files
cd elongind   # -- keep them out of /usr/src proper
apt-get source elogind
cd <TAB>  # there's just one child directory

To see where the source of the elongind-uaccess-command would be, I could have used a plain find, but in cases like these I'm usually lazy and just recursively grep for sufficiently specific message fragments, as in:

find . -name "*.c" | xargs grep "reset ACL"

This brings up src/uaccess-command/uaccess-command.c, where you'll find:

k = devnode_acl(path, true, false, 0, false, 0);
if (k < 0) {
         log_full_errno(errno == ENOENT ? LOG_DEBUG : LOG_ERR, k, "Failed to reset ACL on %s: %m", path);
         if (r >= 0)
                 r = k;

Diversion: I like the use of the C ternary operator to emit a debug or error message depending on whether or not things failed because the device file that should have its ACL adapted does not exist.

So, what fails is a function called devnode_acl, which does not have a manpage but can be found in login/logind-acl.c. There, it calls a function acl_get_file, and that has a man page. Quickly skimming it would suggest the prime suspect for failures would be the file system, as that may simply not support POSIX ACLs (which, as I just learned, aren't really properly standardised). Well, does it?

An apropos acl brings up the chacl command that would let me try acls out from the shell. And indeed:

$ chacl -l /dev/bus/usb/001/003
chacl: cannot get access ACL on '/dev/bus/usb/001/003': Operation not supported

Ah. That in fact fails. To remind myself what file system we are talking about, I ran mount | grep "/dev " (the trailing blank on the search pattern is important), which corrected my memory from “it's a tmpfs” to “it's a devtmpfs”; while it turns out that the difference between the two does not matter for the problem at hand, your average search engine will bring up the vintage 2009 patch at https://lwn.net/Articles/345480/ (also from the abysses from which systemd came) when asked for “devtmpfs acl”, and a quick skim of that patch made me notice:


This macro comes from the kernel configuration. Now, I'm still building the kernel on my main machine myself, and looking at the .config in my checkout of the kernel sources confirms that I have been too cheap to enable POSIX ACLs on my tmpfses (for a machine with, in effect, just a single user who's only had contact with something like POSIX ACLs ages ago on an AFS, that may be understandable).

Well, I've enabled it and re-built my kernel, and I'm confident that after the next reboot the elogind messages will be gone. And who knows, perhaps the thing may actually save me a custom udev rule or two in the future because it automagically grants me access to whatever I plug in.

Then again: Given there's now an API for Javascript from the web to read USB devices (I'm not making this up) and at least so far I'm too lazy to patch that out of my browsers… perhaps giving me (and hence these browsers) that sort of low-level access is not such a good idea after all?

[1]See Multiseat on Wikipedia if you have no idea what I'm talking about. If you've read that you can probably see why I consider logind silly for “normal” computers with either a single user or lots of users coming in through the network.
[2]Mind you, that in itself is totally reasonable: it would suck if everyone on a machine could read the USB key you've just plugged into a terminal; except that it's a rare configuration these days to have multiple persons share a machine that anyone but an administrator could plug anything into.
Kategorie: edv

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