DEVICE DRIVERS IN LINUX
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06-10-2010, 05:16 PM




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DEVICE DRIVERS IN LINUX

INTRODUCTION
As the popularity of the Linux system continues to grow, the interest in writing Linux device drivers steadily increases. Most of Linux is independent of the hardware it runs on, and most users can be (happily) unaware of hardware issues. But, for each piece of hardware supported by Linux, somebody somewhere has written a driver to make it work with the system. Without device drivers, there is no functioning system.
Device drivers take on a special role in the Linux kernel. They are distinct "black boxes" that make a particular piece of hardware respond to a well-defined internal programming interface; they hide completely the details of how the device works. User activities are performed by means of a set of standardized calls that are independent of the specific driver; mapping those calls to device-specific operations that act on real hardware is then the role of the device driver. This programming interface is such that drivers can be built separately from the rest of the kernel, and "plugged in" at runtime when needed. This modularity makes Linux drivers easy to write, to the point that there are now hundreds of them available.
There are a number of reasons to be interested in the writing of Linux device drivers. The rate at which new hardware becomes available (and obsolete!) alone guarantees that driver writers will be busy for the foreseeable future. Individuals may need to know about drivers in order to gain access to a particular device that is of interest to them. Hardware vendors, by making a Linux driver available for their products, can add the large and growing Linux user base to their potential markets. And the open source nature of the Linux system means that if the driver writer wishes, the source to a driver can be quickly disseminated to millions of users.
This book will teach you how to write your own drivers and how to hack around in related parts of the kernel. We have taken a device-independent approach; the programming techniques and interfaces are presented, whenever possible, without being tied to any specific device. Each driver is different; as a driver writer, you will need to understand your specific device well. But most of the principles and basic techniques are the same for all drivers. This book cannot teach you about your device, but it will give you a handle on the background you need to make your device work.
As you learn to write drivers, you will find out a lot about the Linux kernel in general; this may help you understand how your machine works and why things aren't always as fast as you expect or don't do quite what you want. We'll introduce new ideas gradually, starting off with very simple drivers and building upon them; every new concept will be accompanied by sample code that doesn't need special hardware to be tested.
This chapter doesn't actually get into writing code. However, we introduce some background concepts about the Linux kernel that you'll be glad you know later, when we do launch into programming.



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16-02-2012, 04:13 PM

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