Packaging kernel modules/drivers using DKMS

Hardware drivers on linux need to fit to the running kernel. When drivers you need are not part of the distribution in use you need to build and install them yourself. While this may be ok to do once or twice it soon becomes tedious doing it after every kernel update.

The Dynamic Kernel Module Support (DKMS) may help in such a situation: The module source code is installed on the target machine and can be rebuilt and installed automatically when a new kernel is installed. While veterans may be willing to manually maintain their hardware drivers with DKMS end user do not care about the underlying system that keeps their hardware working. They want to manage their software updates using the tools of their distribution and everything should be working automagically.

I want to show you how to package a kernel driver as an RPM package hiding all of the complexities of DKMS from the user. This requires several steps:

  1. Preparing/patching the driver (aka kernel module) to include dkms.conf and follow the required conventions of DKMS
  2. Creating a RPM spec-file to install the source, tool chain and integrate the module source with DKMS

While there is native support for RPM packaging in DKMS I found the following procedure more intuitive and flexible.

Preparing the module source

You need at least a small file called dkms.conf to describe the module source to the DKMS system. It usually looks like that:


Also make sure that the source tarball extracts into the directory /usr/src/$PACKAGE_NAME-$PACKAGE_VERSION ! If you do not like /usr/src as a location for your kernel modules you can configure it in /etc/dkms/framework.conf.

Preparing the spec file

Since we are not building a binary and package it but install source code, register, build and install it on the target machine the spec file looks a bit different than usual: We have no build step, instead we just install the source tree and potentially additional files like udev rules or documentation and perform all DKMS work in the postinstall and preuninstall scripts. All that means, that we build a noarch-RPM an depend on dkms, kernel sources and a compiler.

Preparation section

Here we unpack and patch the module source, e.g.:

Source: %{module}-%{version}.tar.bz2
Patch0: menable-dkms.patch
Patch1: menable-fix-for-kernel-3-8.patch

%setup -n %{module}-%{version} -q
%patch0 -p0
%patch1 -p1

Install section

Basically we just copy the source tree to /usr/src in our build root. In this example we have to install some additional files, too.

rm -rf %{buildroot}
mkdir -p %{buildroot}/usr/src/%{module}-%{version}/
cp -r * %{buildroot}/usr/src/%{module}-%{version}
mkdir -p %{buildroot}/etc/udev/rules.d/
install udev/10-siso.rules %{buildroot}/etc/udev/rules.d/
mkdir -p %{buildroot}/sbin/
install udev/men_path_id udev/men_uiq %{buildroot}/sbin/

Post-install section

In the post-install script of the RPM we add our module to the DKMS system build and install it:

occurrences=/usr/sbin/dkms status | grep "%{module}" | grep "%{version}" | wc -l
if [ ! occurrences > 0 ];
    /usr/sbin/dkms add -m %{module} -v %{version}
/usr/sbin/dkms build -m %{module} -v %{version}
/usr/sbin/dkms install -m %{module} -v %{version}
exit 0

Pre-uninstall section

We need to remove our module from DKMS if the user uninstalls our package to leave the system in a clean state. So we need a pre-uninstall script like this:

/usr/sbin/dkms remove -m %{module} -v %{version} --all
exit 0


Packaging kernel modules using DKMS and RPM is not really hard and provides huge benefits to your users. There are some little quirks like the post-install and pre-uninstall scripts but after you got that working you (and your users) are rewarded with a great, fully integrated experience. You can use the full spec file of the driver in the above example as a template for your driver packages.

Building RPM packages of SCons-based projects

Easy delivery and installation of a project helps massively with user acceptance. Take a look at all the app stores and user friendly package managers. For quite some of our Linux specific projects we build RPM-Packages using a build farm and the Jenkins continuous integration (CI) server. Sometimes we have to package dependencies which are not available for the used distributions. Some days ago we packaged some projects that were using the SCons build system. Using SCons is quite simple but there is one caveat to make it work nicely with rpmbuild: You have to fiddle with the installation prefixes. Let’s have a look at the build and install stanza of the SPEC-file:

# build stanza
scons PREFIX=/usr LIBDIR=%_libdir all

# install stanza
scons PREFIX=/usr LIBDIR=%_libdir install --install-sandbox="$RPM_BUILD_ROOT"

The two crucial parts here are:

  1. Setting the correct prefixes in build and install because the build could use configured paths which have to match the situation of the installed result
  2. The --install-sandbox command line switch which tells SCons to install everything under the specified location instead of directly to the system. This allows rpmbuild to put the artifacts into the package using the correct layout.

Using the above advice it should be quite easy to build nicely working RPM packages out of projects using SCons.

1-Click Deployment of RPMs with Jenkins

In one of my previous posts we learned how to build and package our projects as RPM packages. How do we get our shiny packages to our users? If we host our own RPM repository, we can use our extisting CI infrastructure (jenkins in our case) for that. Here are the steps in detail:

Convention for the RPM location in our jobs

To reduce the work needed for our deployment job we define a location where each job puts the RPM artifacts after a successful build. Typically we use something like $workspace/build_dir for that. Because we are using matrix build for different target plattforms, we need to use the same naming conventions for our job axes, too!

Job for RPM deployment

Because of the above convention we can use one parameterized job to deploy the packages of different build jobs. We use the JOBNAME of the build job as our only parameter:


First the deploy job needs to get all the rpms from the build job. We can do this using the Copy Artifact plugin like so:Deploy-RPM-Copy-Artifacts

Since we are usually building for several distributions and processor architectures, we have a complete directory tree in our target directory. We are using a small shell script to copy all the packages to our repository using rsync. Finally we can update the remote repository over ssh. See the complete shell script below:

for i in suse-12.2 suse-12.1 suse-11.4 suse-11.3
  rm -rf $i
  mkdir -p $dir32
  mkdir -p $dir64
  versionlabel=`echo $i | sed 's/[-\.]//g'`
  if [ -e all_rpms/Architecture\=32bit\,Distribution\=$versionlabel/build_dir/ ]
    cp all_rpms/Architecture\=32bit\,Distribution\=$versionlabel/build_dir/* $dir32
  if [ -e all_rpms/Architecture\=64bit\,Distribution\=$versionlabel/build_dir/ ]
    cp all_rpms/Architecture\=64bit\,Distribution\=$versionlabel/build_dir/* $dir64
  rsync -e "ssh" -avz $i/* root@repository-server:/srv/www/htdocs/repo/$i/
  ssh root@repository-server "createrepo /srv/www/htdocs/repo/$i/RPMS"


With a few small tricks and scripts we can deploy the artifacts of our build jobs to the RPM repository and thus deliver a new software release at the push of a button. You could let the deployment job run automatically after a successful build, but we like to have more control over the actual software we release to our users.

Build a RPM package using CMake

Some while ago I presented a way to package projects using different build systems as RPM packages. If you are using CMake for your projects you can use CPack to build RPM packages (in addition to tarballs, NSIS installers, deb packages and so on). This is a really nice option for deployment of your own projects because installation and update can be easily done by the users using familiar package management tools like zypper, yum and yast2.

Your first CPack RPM

It is really easy to add RPM using CPack to your existing project. Just set the mandatory CPack variables and include CPack below the variable definitions, usually as one of the last steps:

project (my_project)
cmake_minimum_required (VERSION 2.8)

set(VERSION "1.0.1")
<----snip your usual build instructions snip--->
set(CPACK_PACKAGE_NAME "my_project")
set(CPACK_PACKAGE_CONTACT "John Explainer")

These few lines should be enough to get you going. After that you can execute a make package command should obtain the RPM package.

Spicing up the package

RPM packages can contain much more metadata and especially package dependencies and a version changelog. Most of the stuff can be specified using CPACK variables. We sometimes prefer to use a SPEC file template to be filled and used by CPack because it then contains most of the RPM specific stuff in a familiar manner instead of polluting the CMakeLists.txt itself:

project (my_project)
<----snip your usual CMake stuff snip--->
<----snip your additional CPack variables snip--->

The variables in the RPM SPEC file will be replaced by the values provided in the CMakeLists.txt and then be used for the RPM package. It looks very similar to a standard SPEC file but you can omit the usual build instructions boiling down to something like this:

Summary:        My very cool Project
Name:           @CPACK_PACKAGE_NAME@
License:        GPL
Group:          Development/Tools/Other
Vendor:         @CPACK_PACKAGE_VENDOR@
Requires:       opencv >= 2.4

%define _rpmdir @CMAKE_CURRENT_BINARY_DIR@/_CPack_Packages/Linux/RPM
%define _rpmfilename @CPACK_PACKAGE_FILE_NAME@.rpm
%define _unpackaged_files_terminate_build 0
%define _topdir @CMAKE_CURRENT_BINARY_DIR@/_CPack_Packages/Linux/RPM

Cool project solving the problems of many colleagues.

# This is a shortcutted spec file generated by CMake RPM generator
# we skip _install step because CPack does that for us.
# We do only save CPack installed tree in _prepr
# and then restore it in build.

if [ -e $RPM_BUILD_ROOT ];


* Tue Jan 29 2013 John Explainer <> 1.0.1-3
- use correct maintainer address
* Tue Jan 29 2013 John Explainer <> 1.0.1-2
- fix something about the package
* Thu Jan 24 2013 John Explainer <> 1.0.1-1
- important bugfixes
* Fri Nov 16 2012 John Explainer <> 1.0.0-1
- first release


Integrating RPM (or other package formats) to your CMake-based build is not as hard as it seems and quite flexible. You do not need to rely on the tools provided by your OS vendor and still deliver your software in a way your users are accustomed to. This makes CPack very continuous integration (CI) friendly too!

Your own CI-based RPM build farm, part 3

In my previous post we learned how to build RPM packages of your software for multiple versions of your target distribution(s). Now I want to present a way of automating the build process and building packages on/for all target platforms. You should have a look at the openSUSE build service to see if it already fits your needs. Then you can stop reading here :-).

We needed better control over the platforms and the process, so we setup a build farm based on the Jenkins continuous integration (CI) server ourselves. The big picture consists of the following components:

  • build slaves allowing a jenkins user to do unattended builds of the packages
  • Jenkins continuous integration server using matrix builds with build slaves for each target platform
  • build script orchestrating the build of all our self-maintained packages
  • jenkins job to deploy the packages to our RPM repository

Preparing the build slaves

Standard installations of openSUSE need some minor tweaks so they can be used as Jenkins build slaves doing unattended RPM package builds. Here are the changes we needed to make it work properly:

  1. Add a user account for the builds, e.g. useradd -m -d /home/jenkins jenkins and setup a password with passwd jenkins.
  2. Change sshd configuration to allow password authentication and restart sshd.
  3. We will link the SOURCES and SPECS directories of /usr/src/packages to the working copy of our repository, so we need to delete the existing directories: rm -r /usr/src/packages/SPECS /usr/src/packages/SOURCES /usr/src/packages/RPMS /usr/src/packages/SRPMS.
  4. Allow non-priviledged users to work with /usr/src/packages with chmod -R o+rwx /usr/src/packages.
  5. Copy the ssh public key for our git repository to the build account in ~/.ssh/id_rsa
  6. Test ssh access on the slave as our build user with ssh -v git@repository. With this step we confirm the host authenticity one time so that future public key ssh interactions work unattended!
  7. Configure git identity on the slave with git config --global "jenkins@build###-$$"; git config --global "".
  8. Add privileges for the build user needed for our build process in /etc/sudoers: jenkins ALL = (root) NOPASSWD:/usr/bin/zypper,/bin/rpm

Configuring the build slaves

Linux build slaves over ssh are quite easily configured using Jenkins’ web interface. We add labels denoting the distribution release and architecture to be easily able to setup our matrix builds. Then we setup our matrix build as a new job with the usual parameters for source code management (in our case git) etc.

Our configuration matrix has the two axes Architecture and OpenSuseRelease and uses the labels of the build slaves. Our only build step here is calling the script orchestrating the build of our rpm packages.

Putting together the build script

Our build script essentially sets up a clean environment, builds package after package installing build prerequisites if needed. We use small utility functions ( for building a package, installing packages from repository, installing freshly built packages and removing installed RPM. The script contains roughly the following phases:

  1. Figure out some quirks about the environment, e.g. openSUSE release number or architecture to build.
  2. Clean the environment by removing previously installed self-built packages.
  3. Setting up the build environment, e.g. linking folder from /usr/src/packages to our working copy or installing compilers, headers and the like.
  4. Building the packages and installing them locally if they are a dependency of packages yet to be built.

Here is a shortened example of our build script:


if [ "i686" = `uname -m` ]
  ARCH=`uname -m`
SUSE_RELEASE=`cat /etc/SuSE-release | sed '/^[openSUSE|CODENAME]/d' | sed 's/VERSION =//g' | tr -d '[:blank:]' | sed 's/\.//g'`


# setup build environment
# force a repository refresh without checking the signature
sudo zypper -n --no-gpg-checks refresh -f OUR_REPO
# remove previously built and installed packages
removeRPM libomniORB4.1
removeRPM omniNotify2
# install needed tools
installFromRepo c++-compiler
if [ $SUSE_RELEASE -lt 121 ]
  installFromRepo java-1_6_0-sun-devel
  installFromRepo jdk
installFromRepo log4j
buildRPM omniORB
installRPM $ARCH/libomniORB4.1
installRPM $ARCH/omniORB-devel
installRPM $ARCH/omniORB-servers
buildAndInstallRPM omniNotify2 $ARCH

Deploying our packages via Jenkins

We setup a second Jenkins job to deploy successfully built RPM packages to our internal repository. We use the Copy Artifacts plugin to fetch the rpms from our build job and put them into a directory like all_rpms. Then we add a build step to execute a script like this:

for i in suse-12.1 suse-11.4 suse-11.3
  rm -rf $i
  mkdir -p $i
  versionlabel=`echo $i | sed 's/[-\.]//g'`
  cp -r "all_rpms/Architecture=32bit,OpenSuseRelease=$versionlabel/RPMS" $i
  cp -r "all_rpms/Architecture=64bit,OpenSuseRelease=$versionlabel/RPMS" $i
  cp -r "all_rpms/Architecture=64bit,OpenSuseRelease=$versionlabel/SRPMS" $i
  rsync -e "ssh" -avz $i/* root@rpmrepository.intranet:/srv/www/htdocs/OUR_REPO/$i/
  ssh root@rpmrepository.intranet "createrepo /srv/www/htdocs/OUR_REPO/$i/RPMS"


With a setup like this we can perform an automatic build of all our RPM packages on several targetplatform everytime we update one of the packages. After a successful build we can deploy our new packages to our RPM repository making them available for our whole organisation. There is an initial amount of work to be done but the rewards are easy, unattended package updates with deployment just one button click away.

Packaging RPMs for a variety of target platforms, part 2

In part 1 of our series covering the RPM package management system we learned the basics and built a template SPEC file for packaging software. Now I want to give you some deeper advice on building packages for different openSUSE releases, architectures and build systems. This includes hints for projects using cmake, qmake, python, automake/autoconf, both platform dependent and independent.

Use existing makros and definitions

RPM provides a rich set of macros for generic access to directory paths and programs providing better portability over different operating system releases. Some popular examples are /usr/lib vs. /usr/lib64 and python2.6 vs. python2.7. Here is an exerpt of macros we use frequently:

  • %_lib and %_libdir for selection of the right directory for architecture dependent files; usually [/usr/]lib or [/usr/]lib64.
  • %py_sitedir for the destination of python libraries and %py_requires for build and runtime dependencies of python projects.
  • %setup, %patch[#], %configure, %{__python} etc. for preparation of the build and execution of helper programs.
  • %{buildroot} for the destination directory of the build artifacts during the build

Use conditionals to enable building on different distros and releases

Sometimes you have to use %if conditional clauses to change the behaviour depending on

  • operating system version
    %if %suse_version < 1210
      Requires: libmysqlclient16
      Requires: libmysqlclient18
  • operating system vendor
    %if "%{_vendor}" == "suse"
    BuildRequires: klogd rsyslog

because package names differ or different dependencies are needed.

Try to be as lenient as possible in your requirement specifications enabling the build on more different target platforms, e.g. use BuildRequires: c++_compiler instead of BuildRequires: g++-4.5. Depend on virtual packages if possible and specify the versions with < or > instead of = whenever reasonable.

Always use a version number when specifying a virtual package

RPM does a good job in checking dependencies of both, the requirements you specify and the implicit dependencies your package is linked against. But if you specify a virtual package be sure to also provide a version number if you want version checking for the virtual package. Leaving it out will never let you force a newer version of the virtual package if one of your packages requires it.

Build tool specific advices

  • qmake: We needed to specify the INSTALL_ROOT issuing make, e.g.:
    make INSTALL_ROOT=%{buildroot}/usr
  • autotools: If the project has a sane build system nothing is easier to package with RPM:
  • cmake: You may need to specify some directory paths with -D. Most of the time we used something like:
    cmake -DCMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX=%{_prefix} -Dlib_dir=%_lib -G "Unix Makefiles" .

Working with patches

When packaging projects you do not fully control, it may be neccessary to patch the project source to be able to build the package for your target systems. We always keep the original source archive around and use diff to generate the patches. The typical workflow to generate a patch is the following:

  1. extract source archive to source-x.y.z
  2. copy extracted source archive to a second directory: cp -r source-x.y.z source-x.y.z-patched
  3. make changes in source-x.y.z-patched
  4. generate patch with: cd source-x.y.z; diff -Naur . ../source-x.y.z-patched > ../my_patch.patch

It is often a good idea to keep separate patches for different changes to the project source. We usually generate separate patches if we need to change the build system, some architecture or compiler specific patches to the source, control-scripts and so on.

Applying the patch is specified in the patch metadata fields and the prep-section of the SPEC file:

Patch0: my_patch.patch
Patch1: %{name}-%{version}-build.patch


%setup -q # unpack as usual
%patch0 -p0
%patch1 -p0

RPM packaging provides many useful tools and abstractions to build and package projects for a wide variety of RPM-based operation systems and releases. Knowing the macros and conditional clauses helps in keeping your packages portable.

In the next and last part of this series we will automate building the packages for different target platforms and deploying them to a repository server.