After nearly two years I began working on a sydbox replacement1 she is finally nearing completion. This post is meant both as a preliminary announcement and help request.

sydbox-1 has been in ::arbor for sometime as sydbox-scm2 and paludis supports it since version 0.78.1. The git repository is hosted on exherbo.org3. Before going on to tell you about her I want to kindly ask you to help me with some tasks:

  • Proof read the manual page4. I am still unsure about the configuration file format and the magic command API so now is the time to share your ideas and views to help make sydbox-1 better.

  • For brave souls, unmask it and install it. Especially important is to run its tests. To do that you have to set the environment variable PALUDIS_DO_NOTHING_SANDBOXY5. You will notice that it doesn’t depend on pinktrace anymore. This is because sydbox-1 includes a rewrite of pinktrace which will eventually be released as pinktrace-1.

  • Once again for brave souls, use it on your system. I am especially interested in how it performs during the src_test phase of exhereseses so please make sure tests are enabled if you do so and report back any issues (accompanied with a poem of your choosing!). It is always a good idea to have a pbin of the package in question to easily rollback changes in case you hit a severe bug[^6].

If you are bored, you can stop reading now. I will go on to introduce sydbox-1.


I am not a professional programmer. However, I have gained many experiences after writing sydbox-0 and watching it perform as the default sandbox of Exherbo. sydbox-0 has many shortcomings and drawbacks which made it rather hard to maintain. Such as:

  • sydbox-0 was based on the now unmaintained catbox initially. There are many design issues which didn’t fit with our use cases for Exherbo.
  • Being GPL-2 licensed it was problematic to share code with the well-established ptrace(2) based projects like strace and truss (of FreeBSD). I have partially solved this problem by writing pinktrace - a BSD3 licensed library providing thin wrappers around certain ptrace(2) calls but this was not enough. (See below about pinktrace-easy)
  • Being a crucial part of the system set, dependencies like GLib was obviously a bad idea.
  • Over the years as sydbox-0 codebase grew there were unforeseen code maintenance problems making it difficult to add new features.

Features of sydbox-1

Below are main features of sydbox-1. You may consult the manual page³ for more information.

  • No external dependencies. GLib dependency is gone for good among with the ini-format configuration file. sydbox-1 uses JSON format for configuration.
  • Most of the ptrace(2) work is now abstracted by a callback-driven higher-level BSD3 licensed library called pinktrace-easy. This makes both the maintenance easier and code sharing with strace less problematic.
  • Well designed, well documented magic command API which fits in with the configuration file format and provides an easier experience during command line invocation.
  • Process dump can be obtained by sending sydbox-1 the SIGUSR1 signal (or SIGUSR2 for a more verbose dump). This makes it easier to debug sydbox hangs.
  • Better signal handling to make sydbox more immune to interrupts.
  • More powerful and configurable rsync-like pattern matching.
  • Support for secure computing mode aka seccomp[^7]. This requires Linux-3.5 or newer and CONFIG_SECCOMP=y and CONFIG_SECCOMP_FILTER=y kernel configuration options. sydbox-scm exheres has a seccomp option to pass --enable-seccomp to econf. This is one of the key features which may make sydbox-1 faster compared to sydbox-0 because in this mode sydbox only traces the sandboxed system calls. Tracing other commonly used system calls - think threaded applications calling sched_yield() - is therefore avoided.
  • Logging is easier to filter. This still needs some work though.
  • Port numbers can now be entered as service names which will be queried from the services(5) database.
  • Unsupported socket families can be whitelisted/blacklisted.
  • New magic commands exec/resume_if_match and exec/kill_if_match are added. These commands may be used to resume or kill matching binaries upon successful execution. Paludis has esandbox resume and esandbox kill commands as an interface for exheres-0 (Make sure esandbox api returns 1 before using them). See systemd.exlib as an example on how we can now restart services from within exhereseses without worrying about sandboxing.
  • Read sandboxing to prevent unwanted filesytem reads.
  • Black listing is now also supported in addition to white listing. This may be used to make an “allow by default and black list unwanted accesses” sandboxing policy.
  • Many bugs fixed, some new system calls are sandboxed.

How can I thank you?

Send me poems[^8]!

be more convenient. [^6]: sydbox-1 has been tested for some time by kind people and I have heard about only one such issue so far but it is always a good idea to be cautious. [^7]: [^8]:

  1. She used to be called pandora in the early days. 

  2. Not sydbox-0-scm which is the old one. 



  5. Eventually sydbox-1 will install its tests so this phase is going to