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Linux Device Drivers, Second Edition by Alessandro Rubini, Jonathan Corbet

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Opening and Closing

Our driver can probe for the interface at module load time or at kernel boot. Before the interface can carry packets, however, the kernel must open it and assign an address to it. The kernel will open or close an interface in response to the ifconfig command.

When ifconfig is used to assign an address to the interface, it performs two tasks. First, it assigns the address by means of ioctl(SIOCSIFADDR) (Socket I/O Control Set Interface Address). Then it sets the IFF_UP bit in dev->flag by means of ioctl(SIOCSIFFLAGS) (Socket I/O Control Set Interface Flags) to turn the interface on.

As far as the device is concerned, ioctl(SIOCSIFADDR) does nothing. No driver function is invoked—the task is device independent, and the kernel performs it. The latter command (ioctl(SIOCSIFFLAGS)), though, calls the open method for the device.

Similarly, when the interface is shut down, ifconfig uses ioctl(SIOCSIFFLAGS) to clear IFF_UP, and the stop method is called.

Both device methods return 0 in case of success and the usual negative value in case of error.

As far as the actual code is concerned, the driver has to perform many of the same tasks as the char and block drivers do. open requests any system resources it needs and tells the interface to come up; stop shuts down the interface and releases system resources. There are a couple of additional steps to be performed, however.

First, the hardware address needs to be copied from the hardware device to dev->dev_addr before the interface can communicate with the outside world. The hardware address can be assigned at probe time or at open time, at the driver’s will. The snull software interface assigns it from within open; it just fakes a hardware number using an ASCII string of length ETH_ALEN, the length of Ethernet hardware addresses.

The open method should also start the interface’s transmit queue (allow it to accept packets for transmission) once it is ready to start sending data. The kernel provides a function to start the queue:

void netif_start_queue(struct net_device *dev);

The open code for snull looks like the following:

int snull_open(struct net_device *dev)
    /* request_region(), request_irq(), .... (like fops->open) */

     * Assign the hardware address of the board: use "\0SNULx", where
     * x is 0 or 1. The first byte is '\0' to avoid being a multicast
     * address (the first byte of multicast addrs is odd).
    memcpy(dev->dev_addr, "\0SNUL0", ETH_ALEN);
    dev->dev_addr[ETH_ALEN-1] += (dev - snull_devs); /* the number */

    return 0;

As you can see, in the absence of real hardware, there is little to do in the open method. The same is true of the stop method; it just reverses the operations of open. For this reason the function implementing stop is often called close or release.

int snull_release(struct net_device *dev)
    /* release ports, irq and such -- like fops->close */

    netif_stop_queue(dev); /* can't transmit any more */
    return 0;

The function:

void netif_stop_queue(struct net_device *dev);

is the opposite of netif_start_queue; it marks the device as being unable to transmit any more packets. The function must be called when the interface is closed (in the stop method) but can also be used to temporarily stop transmission, as explained in the next section.

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