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Understanding the Linux Kernel by Marco Cesati, Daniel P. Bovet

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4.6. Interrupt Handling

As we explained earlier, most exceptions are handled simply by sending a Unix signal to the process that caused the exception. The action to be taken is thus deferred until the process receives the signal; as a result, the kernel is able to process the exception quickly.

This approach does not hold for interrupts, because they frequently arrive long after the process to which they are related (for instance, a process that requested a data transfer) has been suspended and a completely unrelated process is running. So it would make no sense to send a Unix signal to the current process.

Furthermore, due to hardware limitations, several devices may share the same IRQ line. (Remember that PCs supply only a few IRQs.) This means that the interrupt vector alone does not tell the whole story: as an example, some PC configurations may assign the same vector to the network card and to the graphic card. Therefore, an interrupt handler must be flexible enough to service several devices. In order to do this, several interrupt service routines (ISRs) can be associated with the same interrupt handler; each of them is a function related to a single device sharing the IRQ line. Since it is not possible to know in advance which particular device issued the IRQ, each ISR is executed to verify whether its device needs attention; if so, the ISR performs all the operations that need to be executed when the device raises an interrupt.

Not all actions to be performed when an ...

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