Thursday, June 25, 2020

New version of libccid: 1.4.33

I just released version 1.4.33 of libccid the Free Software CCID class smart card reader driver.


1.4.33 - 25 June 2020, Ludovic Rousseau
  • Add support of
    • Genesys Logic CCID Card Reader (idProduct: 0x0771)
    • Swissbit Secure USB PU-50n SE/PE
  • add --enable-oslog argument for macOS
    • use os_log(3) for macOS >= 10.12 (Sierra)
  • Update PCSC submodule to get Unicode support
  • Some minor improvements

Sunday, June 14, 2020

New version of pcsc-lite: 1.9.0

I just released a new version of pcsc-lite 1.9.0.
pcsc-lite is a Free Software implementation of the PC/SC (or WinSCard) API for Unix systems.

This version includes 2 changes I already documented on this blog:
Because of the major speed improvement I decided to name this version 1.9.0.


1.9.0: Ludovic Rousseau
14 June 2020
  • SCardEndTransaction(): greatly improve performances (x300)
  • tokenparser: accept any Unicode character in a reader name
  • Use /run instead of /var/run by default
  • Fix a memory leak from a polkit call
  • Some other minor improvements

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Unicode characters in a reader name

It is now possible to use Unicode characters in a reader name.


Since the beginning of pcsc-lite (at least since the first version of pcsc-lite in 2002 that is in a Version Control System) only a subset of ASCII was considered as legal characters for a PC/SC reader name.

In 2011 I added the character ";" in the list so that it is possible to use the "&" sign (encoded as "&" since the reader list is encoded as XML in the Info.plist file). This was to support a reader name like "Giesecke & Devrient".

In 2012 I added the characters "[" and "]".

In 2020 I add support of any Unicode character.

This request came from the use of the reader name "SoloKeys Solo ๐Ÿ". See the Salsa ticket "Unicode in USB Product string not supported." for more details.


First example

± pcsc_scan 
Using reader plug'n play mechanism
Scanning present readers...
0: ู…ุฑุญุจุง ุจุงู„ุนุงู„ู… ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐ŸŽ‚ 00 00
1: ืฉืœื•ื ืขื•ืœื ๐Ÿ˜Ž ๐Ÿ˜ผ 01 00

Sat May 16 10:52:58 2020
Reader 0: ู…ุฑุญุจุง ุจุงู„ุนุงู„ู… ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐ŸŽ‚ 00 00
Event number: 1
Card state: Card removed,
Reader 1: ืฉืœื•ื ืขื•ืœื ๐Ÿ˜Ž ๐Ÿ˜ผ 01 00
Event number: 0
Card state: Card inserted,
ATR: 3B BE 96 00 00 41 03 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 02 90 00
In case you do not have the correct font installed in your web browser here is a picture version of the same output.

You can note that the reader names are reversed between the text version and the image version. I let you find what is the "problem" here.

Second example

± pcsc_scan 
Using reader plug'n play mechanism
Scanning present readers...
0: ๐Ÿ˜บ ๐Ÿ˜ธ ๐Ÿ˜น ๐Ÿ˜ป ๐Ÿ˜ผ ๐Ÿ˜ฝ ๐Ÿ™€ ๐Ÿ˜ฟ ๐Ÿ˜พ 00 00
1: ๐Ÿ’‹๐Ÿ’˜๐Ÿ’๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ’—๐Ÿ’“๐Ÿ’ž๐Ÿ’•๐Ÿ’Ÿ๐Ÿ’”๐Ÿงก๐Ÿ’›๐Ÿ’š๐Ÿ’™๐Ÿ’œ๐Ÿ–ค 01 00
Sat May 16 11:17:00 2020
 Reader 0: ๐Ÿ˜บ ๐Ÿ˜ธ ๐Ÿ˜น ๐Ÿ˜ป ๐Ÿ˜ผ ๐Ÿ˜ฝ ๐Ÿ™€ ๐Ÿ˜ฟ ๐Ÿ˜พ 00 00
  Event number: 0
  Card state: Card removed, 
 Reader 1: ๐Ÿ’‹๐Ÿ’˜๐Ÿ’๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ’—๐Ÿ’“๐Ÿ’ž๐Ÿ’•๐Ÿ’Ÿ๐Ÿ’”๐Ÿงก๐Ÿ’›๐Ÿ’š๐Ÿ’™๐Ÿ’œ๐Ÿ–ค 01 00
  Event number: 0
  Card state: Card inserted, 
  ATR: 3B BE 96 00 00 41 03 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 02 90 00
Again with the screen capture:

Of course you have no obligation to use some many funny Unicode characters in your reader name. It was just an example.


You need to use CCID version 1.4.33 or more and pcsc-lite version 1.9.0 or more.

These versions are not yet available (when I write this article) so I prepared snapshot of both software at They are pcsc-lite-1.8.26-047789c.tar.bz2 and ccid-1.4.32-e782d48.tar.bz2.

You can also use the current git version of pcsc-lite and ccid if you know what you do.


I made the development and tests on a Debian GNU/Linux system.


I also tested the new CCID driver on macOS Mojave and it works fine with Unicode characters. I found no issue.


I do not expect to see many smart card readers with emoticons, but maybe names with characters from non-Latin alphabets.

Monday, May 25, 2020

10 years of blogging

I started this blog 10 years ago, in April 7th 2010.
Since then I wrote about many aspects of the smart card use in GNU/Linux and macOS.


Some statistics about the number of articles per year.
Years 2010 and 2020 represent only half a year of activity.


I do plan to be present and continue in the next 10 years.

GitHub Sponsors: first payment

Since January 2020 I am part of the Github sponsors program. See my previous article: GitHub Sponsors.


I just got my first payment in May 2020 for the amount of €66.25. Yeah!

The next payment should occur in June 2022, in 2 years. Unless new sponsors arrive in the meantime.


For now I have 3 sponsors:Martin Paljak, Jaroslav Imrich and CrazyMarvin. A big thank you to you!
The sponsor list is public. You can see it at
They sponsor me for a total of $9/month. This number is NOT public but I want to be transparent with you. What you can see on my sponsor page is that I am "90% towards $10 per month goal". So after some mathematical calculation it is easy to get the $9/month.

Github also has the GitHub Sponsors Matching Fund. So half of that money comes from github/Microsoft. That is is first time I receive something from Microsoft ๐Ÿ˜€.

Use of the money

That is not a huge amount of money but that will help pay for the VPS I rent at OVH to host my projects at They are mostly pcsc-lite and libccid.


I have 2 active options to send me money:
Feel free to use whatever to prefer.

Friday, May 15, 2020

New PyKCS11 1.5.8 available

I just released a new version of PyKCS11, a Python wrapper above the PKCS#11 API.
See "PyKCS11 introduction" or "PyKCS11’s documentation".

The project is registered at Pypi:


1.5.8 - May 2020, Ludovic Rousseau
    • Fix name: use CKM_ instead of CKR_ prefix
    • Use an explicit hex prefix: CKM_VENDOR_DEFINED_0x45
  • Add missing CKM_*, CKA_*, CKF_*, CKD_*, CKK_*, CKN_*, CKO_*, CKR_* from PKCS#11 v3.0
  • fix for RSA_PSS_Mechanism

Friday, May 8, 2020

Your PC/SC application 200% faster

Dana Keeler reported an issue on pcsc-lite at "SYS_USleep in SCardEndTransaction in winscard_clnt.c causing slowness in Firefox".

The problem was initially reported on Firefox "firefox is very slow and crashes because of" and also on p11-kit "firefox is very slow and crashes because of".

The issue

The pcsc-lite performance issue comes from this piece of code in SCardEndTransaction:

  * This helps prevent starvation
 randnum = SYS_RandomInt(1000, 10000);

For each call to SCardEndTransaction() you will get a delay between 1 ms and 11 ms. So on average you get 6 ms of delay each time.

Performance measures

I wrote a Python program to get the duration of 100 calls to SCardEndTransaction():

#! /usr/bin/env python3

from smartcard.scard import *
from smartcard.pcsc.PCSCExceptions import *
from time import time

hresult, hcontext = SCardEstablishContext(SCARD_SCOPE_USER)
if hresult != SCARD_S_SUCCESS:
    raise EstablishContextException(hresult)

hresult, readers = SCardListReaders(hcontext, [])
if hresult != SCARD_S_SUCCESS:
    raise ListReadersException(hresult)
print('PC/SC Readers:', readers)
reader = readers[0]
print("Using reader:", reader)

hresult, hcard, dwActiveProtocol = SCardConnect(hcontext, reader, SCARD_SHARE_SHARED, SCARD_PROTOCOL_ANY)
if hresult != SCARD_S_SUCCESS:
    raise BaseSCardException(hresult)

nb = 100
total = 0
for i in range(nb):
    hresult = SCardBeginTransaction(hcard)
    if hresult != SCARD_S_SUCCESS:
        raise BaseSCardException(hresult)

    before = time()
    hresult = SCardEndTransaction(hcard, SCARD_LEAVE_CARD)
    if hresult != SCARD_S_SUCCESS:
        raise BaseSCardException(hresult)
    after = time()
    delta = after - before
    total += delta
print("total: {} ms".format(total * 1000))
print("average: {} ms".format(total * 1000 / nb))

hresult = SCardDisconnect(hcard, SCARD_LEAVE_CARD)
if hresult != SCARD_S_SUCCESS:
    raise BaseSCardException(hresult)

hresult = SCardReleaseContext(hcontext)
if hresult != SCARD_S_SUCCESS:
    raise ReleaseContextException(hresult)


As expected the random delay is of 6 ms (or 0.006 second) on average.

The history

I don't know why this delay is needed. I went into the previous versions of the source code file PCSC/src/winscard_clnt.c but the oldest version (from March 2002, 18 years ago) already has this delay.

The code was written David Corcoran, the initial author of pcsc-lite. It was my very early days in the pcsc-lite project at that time.

The solution

I don't see any good reasons to have a delay here. I guess it was to solve a problem with the communication between pcscd and libpcsclite at that time. The communication mechanism has been redesigned in version 1.6.0 (May 2010) and the delay should now be useless and even problematic as we saw.

My solution is then to remove the problematic code. The was done in this commit.

The results

I used again my Python program to measure the performances of SCardEndTransaction(). I now have:

The mean delay is 9.5x10-6 s so 9 ยตs or 0.009 ms or 0.000009 second. The speedup factor is huge: x647.
The function is now 600 times faster than before.

You can note a high decrease on the 4 first values. My guess is that it is an effect of CPU memory caches in action. I have not investigated this point. This is left as an exercise for my readers.

Macro benchmark

It is nice to have a huge improvement in one PC/SC function but does that help real applications?

For a real smart card application I used OpenSC with a standard command: list all the objects of a smart card.
I used a very simple shell script:


for i in {1..100}
 pkcs11-tool --list-objects

Slow smart card

First I used a very old smart card I have in my collection: a Gemplus GPK 8000 card.
Since the card is very old and slow the shell script will do 10 rounds instead of 100.

whattime (s)

Speedup: x1.02 or 2%

The gain is very limited. This is because the card is so slow that the benefit from the new SCardEndTransaction() is negligible.

Fast smart card

I then used a much faster smart card: a Yubikey 5 from Yubico. It is not a real smart card but a token with a CCID interface and a chip that understand APDU commands.
Since the device is fast I used 100 rounds of pkcs11-tool.

whattime (s)

Speedup: x3.26 or 226%

This time the gain is highly visible. The pkcs11-tool command is now 3 times faster.


You will get a high acceleration with fast smart card.
I was able to get a full execution of pkcs11-tool 3 (three) times faster than before the change.

I was really impressed by this result. For almost 10 years pcsc-lite was slow and could be improved by just removing 2 lines of code.

Potential regression?

I don't think this change will create a regression and will break existing code.

I made a beta version of pcsc-lite including the change available at
Please test this version with your PC/SC application. In case of a problem with PC/SC transactions then open an issue at Salsa or github

I plan to wait a few weeks to get potential feedback before I make a new release of pcsc-lite.


pcsc-lite is now much faster.

This happened because someone complained that Firefox was slow and someone at Mozilla investigated the issue to find a problem in pcsc-lite.

I am very happy to use Free Software programs where it is possible and easy to find problems in software you use.