Before we go on to more advanced topics, we need to stop for a quick note on portability issues. Modern versions of the Linux kernel are highly portable, running on several very different architectures. Given the multiplatform nature of Linux, drivers intended for serious use should be portable as well.
But a core issue with kernel code is being able both to access data items of known length (for example, filesystem data structures or registers on device boards) and to exploit the capabilities of different processors (32-bit and 64-bit architectures, and possibly 16 bit as well).
Several of the problems encountered by kernel developers while porting x86 code to new architectures have been related to incorrect data typing. Adherence to strict data typing and compiling with the -Wall -Wstrict-prototypes flags can prevent most bugs.
Data types used by kernel data are divided into three main classes:
standard C types such as
int, explicitly sized
types such as
u32, and types used for specific
kernel objects, such as
pid_t. We are going to see
when and how each of the three typing classes should be used. The
final sections of the chapter talk about some other typical problems
you might run into when porting driver code from the x86 to other
platforms, and introduce the generalized support for linked lists
exported by recent kernel headers.
If you follow the guidelines we provide, your driver should compile and run even on platforms on which you are unable to test it.
Although most programmers are accustomed to freely using standard
device drivers requires some care to avoid typing conflicts and
The problem is that you can’t use the standard types when you need “a
two-byte filler” or “something representing a four-byte string”
because the normal C data types are not the same size on all
architectures. To show the data size of the various C types, the
datasize program has been included in the
sample files provided on the O’Reilly FTP site, in the directory
misc-progs. This is a sample run of the program
on a PC (the last four types shown are introduced in the next
morgana% misc-progs/datasize arch Size: char shor int long ptr long-long u8 u16 u32 u64 i686 1 2 4 4 4 8 1 2 4 8
The program can be used to show that
and pointers feature a different size on 64-bit platforms, as
demonstrated by running the program on different Linux computers:
arch Size: char shor int long ptr long-long u8 u16 u32 u64 i386 1 2 4 4 4 8 1 2 4 8 alpha 1 2 4 8 8 8 1 2 4 8 armv4l 1 2 4 4 4 8 1 2 4 8 ia64 1 2 4 8 8 8 1 2 4 8 m68k 1 2 4 4 4 8 1 2 4 8 mips 1 2 4 4 4 8 1 2 4 8 ppc 1 2 4 4 4 8 1 2 4 8 sparc 1 2 4 4 4 8 1 2 4 8 sparc64 1 2 4 4 4 8 1 2 4 8
It’s interesting to note that the user space of
Linux-sparc64 runs 32-bit code, so pointers are
32 bits wide in user space, even though they are 64 bits wide in kernel
space. This can be verified by loading the
kdatasize module (available in the
misc-modules within the sample
files). The module reports size information at load time using
printk and returns an error (so there’s no need
to unload it):
kernel: arch Size: char short int long ptr long-long u8 u16 u32 u64 kernel: sparc64 1 2 4 8 8 8 1 2 4 8
Although you must be careful when mixing different data types,
sometimes there are good reasons to do so. One such situation is for
memory addresses, which are special as far as the kernel is concerned.
Although conceptually addresses are pointers, memory administration is
better accomplished by using an unsigned integer type; the kernel
treats physical memory like a huge array, and a memory address is just
an index into the array. Furthermore, a pointer is easily
dereferenced; when dealing directly with memory addresses you almost
never want to dereference them in this manner. Using an integer type
prevents this dereferencing, thus avoiding bugs. Therefore, addresses
in the kernel are
unsigned long, exploiting the
fact that pointers and
long integers are always the
same size, at least on all the platforms currently supported by Linux.
The C99 standard defines the
uintptr_t types for an integer variable which
can hold a pointer value. These types are almost unused in the 2.4
kernel, but it would not be surprising to see them show up more often
as a result of future development work.
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