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Feature Name

Split Softoken off from NSS


The softoken cryptographic module of NSS should be split off as the nss-softokn package. The utilities library which is a common library required by softokn and the rest of nss utils should also be packaged separately as nss-utils.


Current status

  • Targeted release: Fedora 12
  • Last updated: 2009-0726
  • Percentage of completion: 100%

Detailed Description

The softoken cryptographic module of NSS would be the nss-softkn pacakage. A set of utilities called by both softoken and the rest of NSS would also need to be packaged as its own package.

NSS is FIPS 140 validated but what is really submitted for FIPS validation is the cryptographic module, that is, softkn. This split is to enable users and packagers to upgrade to the current version of NSS while preserving the last FIPS validated version of the cryptographic module if they so require. Fedora based distributions such as, but not limited to, RHEL would greatly benefit from this feature in terms of maintenance.

Benefit to Fedora

It will make Fedora a convenient Linux distribution to use when trying to be FIPS compliant.


This will not affect developers as it is a packaging change only and no changes to the NSS API are required nor changes to their build systems. The same libraries are shipped as before. They just get distributed among three packages.

The nss shared libraries which are currently distributed as

 nss: libnss3.so, libnssutil3.so, libnssdbm3.so, libssl3.so, 
      libsmime3.so, libsoftokn3.so, libsoftokn3.chk, libnssckbi.so, libnsspem.so
 softokn-freebl: libfreebl3.so, libfreebl3.chk (subpackage of nss)

would be distributed among the packages as

 nss: libnss3.so, libnssdbm3.so, libssl3.so, libsmime3.so, libnssckbi.so, libnsspem.so
 softokn: libsoftokn3.so, libsoftokn3.chk
 softokn-freebl: libfreebl3.so, libfreebl3.chk (subpackage of softokn)
 util: ibnssutil3.so

How To Test

Separately package nss, nss-softokn, and nss-util all having the same version numbers. Separately package nss, and nss-util as the latest release while keeping nss-softokn at an earlier release such as the current release which was FIPS validated. There should not be conflicts at installation time in either of the above cases. Components that depend on NSS should install without conflicts There should be no regressions for components that depend on NSS. Examples of these are glibc, mod_nss, nss_compat_nss, crypto-utils, openswan, xulrunner, evolution, and Pidgin's libpurple.

Building NSS : pre-flight and test

This section should be called Updating NSS. That is updates that are a rebase of NSS where all pacakges must be updated. Most updates are simpy new releases to incorporate downstream paches, usually for nss only, and do not require the special precautions that are descrived here.

For a full update of three pacakes you will need to build the packages is this order: nss-util, nss-softokn, and nss.

In Rawhide the buildroot is updated frequently and we can also count on chained builds. This is not the case on the stable branches - or on the branch for the next fedora release after the branching which occurs with alpha. In these cases one must wait for one package to be tagged into the buildroot before one can build the subsequent one. Often you will have some urgency. The procedures is to open a ticket asking that the package you built be added to the buildroot and wait until so to proceed to the next one.

WARNING 1: Don't try shortcuts. Do not introduce a BuildRequire that is lower than the Require just so to be able to build the next package right away. It may build but will likely cause breakage later on when you try to install and some package that depends on nss or any of its siblings will fail to install or to build. All three packages have devel sub-packages. The version used for BuildRequire must the one used for Requires.

One must coordinate with release engineering to progressively add packages to the buildroot. It takes waiting. Furthermore, before sending request to release engineering one must get some assurance that all builds will succeed and and will not cause conflicts and avoid repeated requests. Preflight and testing are necessary.

Submitting scratch builds is not sufficient because they will not get installed into the buildroot and we are building several packages which depend on previous ones.

One approach could be to use multiple system builds and installs in various VM's. Once you have downloaded the packages, a 'yum --nogpgcheck localupdate packages-we-have-so-far' is one way to accomplish this. All dependencies must be satisfied and no conflicts shuould result.

A better way is to do mockbuilds and add the packages to our local buildroot as we go along. http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Using_Mock_to_test_package_builds#Building_packages_that_depend_on_packages_not_in_a_repository

Let's expand on how we do it for nss.

Building nss, nss-sotokn and nss-util using mock.

(If you haven't done so add ourself to the mock group usermod -a -G mock myusername)

Use Mock outside your git sandbox to build nss-util

Make nss-util using mock and also create the srpms for nss-softokn and nss which we will build inside the sandbox.

cd {were-the git-checkouts-are}/nss-util; fedpkg srpm
mock -r fedora-rawhide-x86_64 --rebuild nss-util-{v}-{r}.fc15.src.rpm 
cd ../nss-softokn; fedpkg srpm
cd ../nss; fedpkg srpm

Use Mock inside your git sandbox to build nss-softokn and nss First, initialize the mock repository:

mock -r fedora-rawhide-x86_64 --init

Install the packages needed to build nss-softokn and nss (named in BuildRequires) from the yum repositories and local RPMs.

mock -r fedora-rawhide-x86_64 --install \
sqlite-devel zlib-devel pkgconfig gawk psmisc perl nss-devel
mock -r fedora-rawhide-x86_64 --install nss-util-{v}-{r}.fc15.rpm \

Copy in the nss-softokn source RPM into /tmp (we'll copy in and do a build inside the shell, to work around the checks that detect that the packages aren't in the repository):

mock -r fedora-rawhide-x86_64 --copyin /PATH/TO/NSS_SOFTOKN_SRPM_NAME /tmp
mock -r fedora-rawhide-x86_64 --copyin /PATH/TO/NSS_SRPM_NAME /tmp

Shell into the mock environment and perform the builds:

mock -r fedora-rawhide-x86_64 --shell
rpmbuild --rebuild /tmp/nss-softokn-{v}-{r}.fc15.src.rpm

Prepare to Build nss First add yourself as a user, password doesn't matter, to run the build (and test) as yourself not root. If the system doesn't find you it will run as root and this will cause two tests to fail.

userdd yourname 
cd /builddir/build/rpms
rpm -Uhv nss-softokn-{v}-{r}.fc15.rpm nss-softokn-freebl-{v}-{r}.fc15.rpm   nss-softokn-devel-{v}-{r}.fc15.rpm    nss-softokn-freebl-devel-{v}-{r}.fc15.rpm

QESTION: Do we need this step?

Now we are ready to build nss

su yourname
rpmbuild --rebuild /tmp/nss-{v}-{r}.fc15.src.rpm

The nss build will take some time because we run all tests Once it suceeds you can install it and try a client application The results are in /home/yourname/rpmbuild/RPMS/x86_64

exit (bring you back to being root)
cd /home/yourname/rpmbuild/RPMS/x86_64
rpm -Uhv {list-of-rpms}
su yourname
rpm -q curl will confirm that it is installed, use it to access a site
$ curl https://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Bodhi_Guide

Now we are confident that the real builds will work. We haven't done much testing. Can we build another packkage that is a client of nss? crypto-utils is a simple client that we could build in our environment. curl is another.

The Koji builds should be done in reverse order starting with Rawhide. In Rawhide we are lucky and can and should take advange of chained builds.

# Chained build of nss for Rawhide
fedpkg chain-build nss-util nss-softokn 

Once the build succeeds wait for all packages to be in the build root. Here one could do a verification that packages that dependd on nss would not be broken by our update. A scratch build of one of them is a good test. A scratch build of xulrunner may be a good idea.

# Chained build of nss for Rawhide
fedkg clone xulrunner
fedpkg srpm
fedpkg scratch-build XULRUNNER_SPRM

Now we can proceed to the stable branches. These will take some time.

User Experience

Neither developers nor end users should notice any difference with the exception seeing more packages being installed if they look closely at their yum installs or upgrades.


Upstream NSS 3.12.4 where some code reorganization was made to facilitate this work.

Contingency Plan

There are two contingency plans in case this split cannot be accomplished in time. 1) Make softokn and util sub-packages of nss instead of stand-alone packages. 2) Revert to using the current monolithic approach.


  • This proposal has been implemented in Rawhide

Release Notes

  • The softokn cryptographic module of NSS has been split off as the nss-softokn package

Comments and Discussion