Re: [RFC net-next 00/15] net: A socket API for LoRa

From: Alan Cox
Date: Thu Aug 09 2018 - 08:01:16 EST

> Yes, and we are talking about that concrete sx1276 driver here, whose
> chipset has a state machine that only allows either rx or tx and also
> has standby and sleep modes with differing levels of data retention.

It's a hardware limit, it should never influence the protocol stack
itself just the driver. Linux always tries to design to optimize the
non-crappy case. In the long term that works out best because hardware
improves and you don't want to be tied to an old limit.

> > (Some ancient ethernet cards do this btw.. they can't listen and transmit
> > at the same time)
> So when do they start receiving?

When they are not transmitting. The transmit path switches modes and when
the frame send is done it goes back to receiving. As old ethernet was
also half duplex that worked.

> The issue here was that my original description, which you appear to
> have cut, suggested a continuous listen mode, interrupted by transmit.

I don't think I cut it but if so I didn't mean to and your approach is
the one I agree with.

> Jian-Hong didn't like that, with reference to the LoRaWAN spec that
> supposedly asks for only being in receive mode when expecting a message,
> likely to save on battery. So the question is, could we cleanly
> implement receiving only when the user asks us to, or is that a no-go?

Why would you do so ? You can't run Linux on a tiny little
micro-controller where that would matter. Sure it makes sense for some
tiny spec of embedded silicon buried in a sensor - but not a Linux box.

Now you might power it down when the interface is down, or when there is
nobody using that interface but that's really more about long term idle

> bands and 2.) duty-cycle limits for some of those bands. No maintainer
> commented on that so far. Thus I am working in tiny steps on providing
> netlink-layer commands in nllora that can dispatch the individual radio
> settings to drivers, which then upper layers can instrument as needed.

Sounds right to me.
> And making my very first steps with netlink here, it appeared as if each
> technology has its own enums of commands and attributes, so I don't see
> how to reuse anything from Wifi here apart from some design inspiration.

That seems reasonable - you aren't likely to want to manage them with the
same tool.

> > That's a hardware question. Imagine a software defined radio. If your
> > limitation wouldn't exist in a pure software defined radio then it's
> > almost certainly a device level detal.
> An SDR would not be using this sx1276 device driver, I imagine.
> In fact I would expect an SDR device not to be in drivers/net/lora/ at
> all but to live in drivers/net/sdr/ and to consume ETH_P_LORA etc. skbs
> and just do the right thing for them depending on their type...

The point I was trying to make was that if you want to decide whether
something is driver level or protocol level ask 'is this something you
can't do even with an SDR'. Some things are protocol properties that no
fancy hardware will change. Others are hardware limits, in which case you
want them driver level - because at some point the hardware will get

> > If you've got something listening to data but without the structure
> > needed to identify multiple listeners and split out the data meaningfully
> > to those listeners according to parts of the packet then you've got no
> > reason to make it a protocol just use SOCK_PACKET and if need be BPF.
> Sorry, that doesn't parse for me. SOCK_PACKET must be a protocol on some
> PF_ protocol family, no? Are you suggesting I use SOCK_PACKET instead of
> SOCK_DGRAM in what is now net/lora/dgram.c? Or are you saying there's
> some generic implementation that we can reuse and scratch mine?

There is a heirarchy. Let me us IP for an example

(historically it was SOCK_PACKET nowdays PF_PACKET - the layering got
sorted better)


Everything on that device minus some things like hardware pre-ambles


Everything on that device that has the underlying protocol (and the
protocol might not be in the packet but a property of the interface
because it only does that format - simple example SLIP is IP packets over
a serial link a SLIP interface is IP, not because there is anything
saying it is but because that is *all* it can be)

You get the two above for free. PF_PACKET is built into the stack so
providing you label packets with the ETH_P_xxx you have for Lora, you can
use PF_PACKET interfaces to dump them and write raw packets at the kernel


Split the messages by protocol number in IP between multiple


Split the messages by port numbers in the higher level protocol

For PF_LORA these would map to whatever goes on at the LORA protocol
level and divide LORA messages up between multiple processes on the
Linux system that are interested in some of the messages.

> > The reason we have a socket layer not /dev/ethernet0 is that it's
> > meaningful to divide messages up into flows, and to partition those flows
> > securely amongst multiple consumers/generators.
> For me the distinction is that a /dev/whatever0 would seem more suited
> for a stream of data to read/write, whereas sockets give us a bounded
> skb for packets at device driver level.

You could equally do that in a simple character device *if* you didn't
need to split messages up and share between users. Some protocol stacks
actually do that and then sort it out in user space, either because they
are really obscure or they are incredibly complicated and broken so want
to be out of kernel 8)

> These PHYs all broadcast something over the antenna when sending, with
> any addressing of listeners or senders being optional and MAC-specific,
> apart from the LoRa/FSK SyncWord as well as the various frequency etc.
> settings that determine what the receiver listens for.
> None of these PHYs define any mechanism like EtherType through which to
> identify upper-layer protocols.
> So in a way, listening is always in a promiscuous mode, and I guess we
> would need to try to parse each incoming packet as e.g. a LoRaWAN packet
> and just give up if it's too short or checksums don't match. Only at the
> layer of LoRaWAN and competing proprietary or custom protocols can we
> split received packets out to individual listeners.

My vote would be in that case that you either

1. Set the protocol type on the interface assuming you don't mix and
match (and if it's relying on random bits not looking like other packets
then it sounds a complete mess at the moment - but yeah its new tech)

2. You pass everything up to some magical agent which somehow splits them
up and labels them ETH_P_LORA / ETH_P_FOO etc

3. You do what ethernet does (which admittedly is *way* simpler for
ethernet) and you have a library routine you can pass an skbuff in the
driver itself which figures out wtf to label the packet. Look how
eth_type_trans() is used. Drivers then just do

skb->protocol = xxx_type_trans(skb, dev);

and the basic labelling gets done and any header pulls (you probably won't
have any given you don't have anything wrapping LORA), and
multicast/broadcast labelling - again meaningless I suspect.

#3 Is probably the nicest because you update it all in one place as
standards change and the market hopefully conslidates and develops some
kind of sane packet formats. It's also effectively covering #1 and it's
easy to start with because an initial implementation can just do 'return

> Does that give us any further clues for the design discussion here?
I think so yes

How do you plan to deal with routing if you've got multiple devices ?