Saturday, August 27, 2005

Back Door Entry - Getting hold of Kernel

This article talks about a way to break the kernel and getting hold of it for your use, in other words a way to hack a kernel. We will talk in respect to Linux Kernel. Well the same thing can be applied to other kernels as well.


We all know about the paging mechanisum to implement the virtual memory . Virtual memory is actually implemented using page on demand concept. This means we do not load the whole program in memory in one go, rather we keep on loading the required part of program as requested. Whenever the program refers the code or data which is not in memory, system do page-faults. Page fault is an exception generated by the MMU (Memory Management Unit) of system. Whenever the page-fault exception occurs CPU starts executing the page-fault handler code pointed out by the page-fault entry of IDT (Interrupt Descriptor Table). I wont discuss details about IDT in this article, will be writting seperator article for that. In short IDT is the kernel data structure (an array of pointers to kernel functions which handle hardware interrupts and system generated exceptions). The IDT is pointed by the CPU's IDTR register, so CPU knows where the IDT in memory is, that is why whenever any hardware interrupt or exception occures, system automatically switches to the relevant code whose pointer is placed in IDT entry. Coming back to page-faults, as told earlier page-fault is an exception and can occur in system at any time (in user space as well as in kernel space).

Details about Page-Fault Handler:
Page-fault handler handles following specific cases:

- When page fault occures in user space (user application code)
- user programme accessed a virtual memory address out of its virtual user address space. In this case page fault handler will generate SEGV and the process will be terminated.
- user programme accessed a valid virtual memory address which is in user virtual address space but virtual page related to it is not in momory (page table is not set). In this case page-fault handler will swap-in the required virtual page into memory, set the required page table entry and will return back to the page faulted instruction.

- When page fault occures in kernel space (kernel code)
- Kernel access the user space virtual address and the page related to that address is not avaliable in memory. In this case related page will be swapped in and the kernel will access it.
- Kernel tries to access the user space virtual address, whcih does not fall in user address space. In this case, kernel should not generate SEGV, rather it should handle this situation gracefully. This is the case which we will mainly focus on in this article ahead.

Entering a System Call:

Before going ahead, lets see some code related to system call invocation, it will help us in understanding this article in a better way.

When we do any system call using the library function, CPU switches to kernel mode also CPU is set to use the kernel stack of the process. As soon the execution context enters the kernel mode, CPU jumps to the ollowing kernel function, which can be found in arch/i386/kernel/entry.S file in kernel sources

pushl %eax # save orig_eax
testb $0x02,tsk_ptrace(%ebx) # PT_TRACESYS
jne tracesys
cmpl $(NR_syscalls),%eax
jae badsys
call *SYMBOL_NAME(sys_call_table)(,%eax,4)
movl %eax,EAX(%esp) # save the return value

In this function first of all processor context (state of all the registers in a processor) is saved on kernel specific stack and then GET_CURRENT macro is called to get the pointer of process descriptor (task_struct) of currently running process on the CPU. Finally the function related to the requested system call is called by picking the function pointer from sys_call_table (a global array of pointers in kernel - also known as system call table in general terms). From this point onwards the called function is responsible for serving the requested functionality to user space program.

Handling of page-faults in kernel space:

Kernel access the user space provide address, when user space programme makes a system call to fetch/put some user data into kernel, for e.g. write/ read system calls, ioctl system call etc. In these system calls one of the parameters is the user space address. Kernel put/fetch some data from user space with the help of some special kernel function which handles the page faults gracefully, if they occur. Some of the kernel functions used to copy data from/to user space are as follows:


Lets take a simple example of ioctl() system call. Use of ioctl() function in a user programme will be something like this

int on = 1;
ioctl(fd, FIONBIO, &on);

When ioctl system call is done, in kernel sys_ioctl() is called, which further down the line calls one of the above mentioned functions to fetch/put data in user provided buffer. Lets take an example of get_user() kernel function. This is implemented in kernel as a macro and you can find the implementation in include/asm/uaccess.h file of kernel sources.

#define get_user(x,ptr) \
({ int __ret_gu,__val_gu; \
switch(sizeof (*(ptr))) { \
case 1: __get_user_x(1,__ret_gu,__val_gu,ptr); break; \
case 2: __get_user_x(2,__ret_gu,__val_gu,ptr); break; \
case 4: __get_user_x(4,__ret_gu,__val_gu,ptr); break; \
default: __get_user_x(X,__ret_gu,__val_gu,ptr); break; \
} \
(x) = (__typeof__(*(ptr)))__val_gu; \
__ret_gu; \

In this macro "ptr" is the user provided address which can do a page fault. This macro further calls another macro "__get_user_x" depending upon the size of "ptr" pointer passed from user space to kernel. Size of this pointer tells kernel how much bytes need to be copied from/to user space accordingly the "__get_user_x" function is called.

Implementation of "__get_user_x" macro is as follows in kernel, can be found in include/asm/uaccess.h file:

#define __get_user_x(size,ret,x,ptr) \
__asm__ __volatile__("call __get_user_" #size \
:"=a" (ret),"=d" (x) \
:"0" (ptr))

This function uses the assembly code to invoke one of the following functions written in assembly language:


We will only see the implementation of one of these functions to under stand it better. Lets analyse what "__get_user_4()" assembly function do. Implementation of this function is as follows in linux kernel, you can find its code in arch/i386/lib/getuser.S assembly file

.align 4
.globl __get_user_4
addl $3,%eax
movl %esp,%edx
jc bad_get_user
andl $0xffffe000,%edx
cmpl addr_limit(%edx),%eax
jae bad_get_user
3: movl -3(%eax),%edx
xorl %eax,%eax

xorl %edx,%edx
movl $-14,%eax

.section __ex_table,"a"
.long 1b,bad_get_user
.long 2b,bad_get_user
.long 3b,bad_get_user

This is the actual code in kernel which actually gets the specific number of bytes (in this case 4 bytes are copied) from user space buffer to kernel buffer. In this while copying the data we might face a page-fault and as we are currently in kernel mode, we need to handle such page-faults gracefully. We will shortly discuss some kernel data structures which help in this.

In this function following instruction actually copies 4 bytes from address poited by EAX (pointer given by user space program) to CPU's EDX register.

3: movl -3(%eax),%edx

We can face a page fault while executing this instruction,now lets see how we handle that. For this kernel maintains a two dimentional array of poiters, which is known as exception table (__ex_table). This table have number of enteries and each entry contains two elements or in other words if we literally see it as table, it have number of rows and two columns. First column contains the address of kernel instruction which can page fault while accessing the user space address (in our case it will be address of above mov instruction). Second column of this table contains the address of fix up codewhich need to be called when page fault occurs on instruction whose address is stored in first column. So this table looks like following:

Exception Table
| page fault address 1 | fix up address 1 |
| page fault address 2 | fix up address 2 |
| page fault address 3 | fix up address 3 |
| page fault address 4 | fix up address 4 |
| page fault address 5 | fix up address 5 |
| page fault address 6 | fix up address 6 |
| page fault address 7 | fix up address 7 |

If we look at above assembly code of function __get_user_4(), we will find ".section" in it. This is a assembler directive whcih tells the assembler to place the following instruction in a specific section of executable. In above function we are dictating the assembler to place the address of faulting kernel instructions and there corresponding fix up codes in a __ex_table section of linux kernel binary.

Following assembly instructions put the address of faulting instruction and there corresponding fix up codes in exception talble (__ex_table section of linux kernel image).

.long 1b,bad_get_user
.long 2b,bad_get_user
.long 3b,bad_get_user

1b means the first lable 1 in backward direction, which is actually the faulting instruction that is the mov instruction we discussed earlier. "bad_get_user" is another assembly lable which serves as the fix up code and will be executed if page fault occurs while executing the instruction at 1b, 2b or 3b instructions.

This is all about the exception table and setting the enteries in it, but we must know how exception table is exactly used by page fault handler. All this is discussed in the following section.

Use of Exception Table in Page Fault Handler:

In Linux Kernel, page fault handler is the do_page_fault() function defined in arch/i386/mm/fault.c file of kernel sources.

Lets assume that page fault occurs while copying the data from user space to kernel space. Immediately the page fault handler will be executed by CPU and page fault handler will check if the page faulting instruction falls in user space or in kernel space (this determines is the page fault occured in user space program or while executing the kernel instruction). If it occured in kernel, page fault handler (do_page_fault() function) will simple call fixup_exception() kernel function.

if (fixup_exception(regs))

Implementation of fixup_exception() function can be found in arch/i386/mm/extable.c file of kernel sources.

int fixup_exception(struct pt_regs *regs)
const struct exception_table_entry *fixup;

fixup = search_exception_tables(regs->eip);
if (fixup) {
regs->eip = fixup->fixup;
return 1;

return 0;

fixup_exception() function looks for the faulting address (regs->eip) in the first column of exception table and if it find it, it sets the regs_eip to the address found in the second column (this is the address of fix up code). If we are not able to find the faulting address in exception table (this means that kernel access some wrong address for which kernel do not have any fixup code). In this case page fault handler must generate the OOPS (too famous in kernel world) and core dump the kernel image.

This is all about page faulting in kernel and there handling in linux. Nows lets explore the possiblities to exploit the exception table to get an redirect the execution to our malicious code. This would be interesting and wil give you a free hand to do anything in kernel once its compromised ;-)

Hack kernel using exception table:

As now we know what exception table is and what it contains, we can think of exploiting it for getting a back door entry into kernel. In simpler words, if we are able to replace the addresses in second column (addresss of fixup code) of exception table with our own function address, we can exceute our function just by generating a page fault in kernel and that is not too difficult (just pass a wrong address in ioctl or write/read system calls, thats it an you get control to your function). You must be thinking, it can not be that simple. Well, as now you know about page fault handler and exception table, it might seems an simple thing to you.

Lets have some practicle linux kernel module for it, which can show us how we can expoit this option. Following Linux Kernel Module, will replace the addresses in exception table and then we can generate a page fault by a simple user program.

Linux Kernel Module Code:

#ifndef __KERNEL__
#define __KERNEL__

#ifndef MODULE
#define MODULE

#define __START___EX_TABLE 0xc0261e20
#define __END___EX_TABLE 0xc0264548
#define BAD_GET_USER 0xc022f39c

unsigned long start_ex_table = __START___EX_TABLE;
unsigned long end_ex_table = __END___EX_TABLE;
unsigned long bad_get_user = BAD_GET_USER;

#include "linux/module.h"
#include "linux/kernel.h"
#include "linux/slab.h"

# define PDEBUG(fmt, args...) printk(KERN_DEBUG "[fixup] : " fmt, ##args)
# define PDEBUG(fmt, args...) do {} while(0)

MODULE_PARM(start_ex_table, "l");
MODULE_PARM(end_ex_table, "l");
MODULE_PARM(bad_get_user, "l");


struct old_ex_entry {
struct old_ex_entry *next;
unsigned long address;
unsigned long insn;
unsigned long fixup;

struct old_ex_entry *ex_old_table;

void hook(void)
printk(KERN_INFO "You did a Page Fault ..... \n");

void cleanup_module(void)
struct old_ex_entry *entry = ex_old_table;
struct old_ex_entry *tmp;

if (!entry)

while (entry) {
*(unsigned long *)entry->address = entry->insn;
*(unsigned long *)((entry->address) + sizeof(unsigned
long)) = entry->fixup;
tmp = entry->next;
entry = tmp;


int init_module(void)
unsigned long insn = start_ex_table;
unsigned long fixup;
struct old_ex_entry *entry, *last_entry;

ex_old_table = NULL;
PDEBUG(KERN_INFO "hook at address : %p\n", (void *)hook);

for(; insn <>

fixup = insn + sizeof(unsigned long);

if (*(unsigned long *)fixup == BAD_GET_USER) {

PDEBUG(KERN_INFO "address : %p insn: %lx fixup : %lx\n",
(void *)insn, *(unsigned long *)insn,
*(unsigned long *)fixup);

entry = (struct old_ex_entry *)kmalloc(GFP_ATOMIC,
sizeof(struct old_ex_entry));

if (!entry){
if (ex_old_table) {
last_entry = ex_old_table;
ex_old_table = ex_old_table->next;
return -1;

entry->next = NULL;
entry->address = insn;
entry->insn = *(unsigned long *)insn;
entry->fixup = *(unsigned long *)fixup;

if (ex_old_table) {
last_entry = ex_old_table;

while(last_entry->next != NULL)
last_entry = last_entry->next;

last_entry->next = entry;
} else
ex_old_table = entry;

*(unsigned long *)fixup = (unsigned long)hook;

PDEBUG(KERN_INFO "address : %p insn: %lx fixup : %lx\n",
(void *)insn, *(unsigned long *)insn,
*(unsigned long *)fixup);



return 0;


In above Linux Kernel Module (LKM), init_modulr function simply searches the exception table fora specific fixup function (bad_get_user() function) and whereever it finds the address of this function in exception table, it replaces it with our own function hook(). It saves the pointer to bad_get_user() function, so that we can reset the exception table to its original form while removing our kernel module.

Now a simple code which calls ioctl() with a bad argument.

#include "stdio.h"
#include "sys/types.h"
#include "sys/stat.h"
#include "fcntl.h"
#include "unistd.h"
#include "errno.h"
#include "sys/ioctl.h"

int main()
int fd;
int res;

fd = open("testfile", O_RDWR | O_CREAT, S_IRWXU);
res = ioctl(fd, FIONBIO, NULL);
printf("result = %d errno = %d\n", res, errno);
return 0;


Now first load the LKM into system, then run the user program and see the /var/messages/log file, it will show you the string "You did a Page Fault ..... ". This string is printed by the hook() function of our module.

Now you can think what you can do with this, if in place you just printing the string in hook function, you do something important. You have the whole kerel world in front of you ;-)


Hope this article helps you in learning more about kernel. The intention of this article is not to hack the kernel, but rather to provide learning material for people who want to learn kernel programming.


Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Introduction to Linux Device Driver Programming

Author: Gaurav Dhiman

Introduction to Linux Device Drivers:

Linux Device Driver is actually the peace of code which very well knows the device it is controlling. It knows the behavior and has knowledge of device internals. Device Drivers in Linux can be a part of core kernel it self or it can even be developed as a separate module, which can be attached/detached from running kernel anytime, providing a flexibility in kernel to support multiple devices in dynamic environment.

In this article we will talk about writing a device driver as a kernel module. Before talking about device drivers, we should have some basic knowledge of kernel module programming in Linux. In next few sections we will discuss the basics of kernel module programming before jumping to the driver intricacies.

Introduction to Kernel Module Programming:

Kernel module is a piece of code written, compiled and loaded separately from core kernel but linked to the core kernel at load time. Kernel modules have some specific structure to follow. There are two standard functions which need to be implemented in any Linux Kernel Module; we will talk about them bit later. As earlier also mentioned kernel module is a code which attaches to the core kernel at load time and is being executed in kernel or privileged mode. Its not a user program which runs in restricted mode and have limited access to memory and other system resources. Module being a part of the kernel can access any system resource. Due to this fact, kernel module programmers need to take care that their module does not create the security loopholes in kernel and must be well-disciplined. Kernel modules should only be doing what they are supposed to do. One loosely written kernel module loaded to the core kernel can make the whole system venerable.

Module structure:
Module need to have two standard functions which take care of initializing and cleaning up of resources used by module. The standard format of module is as follows:


/*standard function for initializing the resources used by module*/

int init_module(void){

/*other function, which mplements the functionality of module*/





/*standard function for initializing the resources used by module*/

void cleanup_module(void){

In init_module() function, we request and acquire the resources required by our module. For e.g. resources can be an IRQ line (interrupt line on which our device is going to interrupt), I/O memory region, DMA channel etc. We also register few other things like major number used by our driver or the interrupt handlers for the interrupts generated by our device. Init_module() function is called at the time of loading a module to core kernel, using “insmod” or “modprobe” command.

In cleanup_module() function, we release the resources acquired in init_module() function. This function is called at the time uloading a module from core kernel, using “rmmod” command.

Presenting real time Kernel Module:
Let’s follow the tradition and write the first kernel module “hello_world.c”

#define __KERNEL__
#define MODULE


int init_module(void){
printk(<1> “My Module: Hello World !! \n”);

void cleanup_module(void ){
printk(<1> “My Module: Bye World ….. I am going !! \n”);

We need to define above mentioned two macros (__KERNEL and MODULE) for any module we write. printk() function is a brother of printf() function. The major difference between them is that printf() is a standard C library function which resides in user space and printk() is kernel function written from scratch.

Now coming the real thing – Device Drivers
Before going to the real code of device driver, let’s first understand the some basic fundamentals of what devices are in Linux. We will also discuss about how they are accessed by user processes.

Device Files and Major Numbers:
In Linux or and other Unix variant, devices re represented by files in file system. These files are known as device files or even nodes. Device files are special files through with the user process (program) can communicate (open, read, write, close etc) with the underlining device. Process uses the standard system calls, like open(), read(), write(), ioctl() etc to interact with device. With every device file a two special number are associated, which are known as a major number and minor number of a device. Major number is used by kernel to direct the user process request to right kernel driver and minor number is useless for kernel. Minor number is only used by the driver to identify the exact device which needs to be manipulated. The reason of existence of minor number is that, in practical scenario one driver can handle or control more than one device of same type or even of different types as well, so driver needs some mechanism through which it can identify which device it need to manipulate. Lets take an example, if there is a driver ”A”, which actually controls three physical devices “B”, “C” and “D”, then there need to be three device files in file system with same major number but different minor numbers.

Device files can be created with “mknod” command. It has the following syntax.

mknod {device name} {device type} {major number} {minor number}

For help on this command, refer to man pages of it.
It is a convention that device files reside in “/dev” directory of root file system, so it’s always better to create our own device files there rather than creating them somewhere else in file system.

Device Types:
Devices can mainly be categorized in three groups: character devices, block devices and the network devices.

Character Devices: These are the devices to which a user process can write or read a single character at a time. That means the interaction between device driver and actual physical device is in terms of single character. Example: keyboard, serial ports, parallel ports.

Block Devices: These are the devices to which a user process can write or read a single block of data at a time. Reading and writing on these devices are done in terms of block data. A block can be of 512 bytes, 1024 bytes or so. Example: Hard Disk, Floppy Disk.

Network Devices: These are asynchronous devices and are responsible for establishing a network connection to outside world. Best example of this type of device can be NIC card.

For not complicating things, this article will only talk about the character device drivers.

Opening a Device:
As mentioned earlier also that user process can communicate with the underlining device through device file, so for interacting with device, user process should first open the related device file, using open() system call. Once the device file is opened, user process receives the file descriptor, which it can refer in further file manipulation file system calls.

Now we will see how things work in kernel when a device file is opened by a user process. Before discussing it, let’s discuss about some related data structures.

task_struct: This data structure represents the process or task in kernel. Kernel uses this data structure to keep track of process in system and resources they are using. It is one of the main data structures in kernel and contains number of elements to track process specific information.

files_struct: This structure contains the information related to the open files per process. It keeps information to track the open files of a process. One of the elements of this structure is an array of pointers to “file” structure. This array points to different “file” structures and the index of this array is returned to process as a file descriptor when open system call is made. It also keep a count of total number of open files for a process.

file: This structure represents an open file for a process. Do not confuse it with physical file, which is represented by “inode” structure in kernel. This structure only remains in kernel memory till the file is open for a process. As soon as the process closes, exits or aborts, all the “file” structures (representing open files for that process) are destroyed, if those are not anymore pointed by any other process.

Some of the elements of “file” structure:

- f_mode: This element tells in what mode the file has been opened by the process. Process can open a file in either read (FMODE_READ) or write (FMODE_WRITE) mode. This element is normally used by device drivers to check in what mode the device file has been opened.

- f_pos: This element tells the offset (in bytes) from where to read and write in file.
- f_flags: This element also tells us in which mode the file has been opened (read or write), but it’s always recommendable to use “f_mode” element to check the mode of file. This element remembers one important thing, which might be helpful to driver writers and that is if the file has been opened in non-blocking mode or not. By default (if O_NONBLOCK flag is not mentioned at opening time) the file is opened in blocking mode. Driver checks this flag at the time of reading or writing a device. If the device file is opened in blocking mode (default mode) and at read time there is no data to be read from device or at write time driver specific buffer is full, driver puts the process to sleep on one of its local wait queues (we will soon see what wait queue are). But on other hand if the device file has been opened in non-blocking mode then the driver does not put the process to sleep, rather control returns back to user process with error.
- f_count: This element keeps track of how many processes are referring to this instance of file. As we know that all files of parent process are inherited by child process if file does not have close_on_exec element set. If the child process inherits the files from parent process, the “f_count” element of all inherited files is incremented, so that kernel can keep track of number of process this file structure. “file” structure (representing an open file) does not get destroyed on all close system calls, as it might be shared by other process also. During close system call kernel checks the “f_count” element of “file” structure and if it is zero then only “file” structure is released and its memory Is released.
- f_owner: This element tells which process is the owner of this open file. It contains the pid of the owner process. This element is used for sending the SIGIO signal to the right process in case of asynchronous notification. User process can change this element by using fcntl() system call.
- f_op: This is an important element from the perspective of device driver. This element actually points to the structure of pointers to file operations. For a device file (represented by “file” structure), this element points to the structure, which further contains pointers to driver specific functions. We will discuss in detail, the structure (file_operations) to which this element points.

- file_operations: This is an important data structure for device driver, as this is the structure through which driver registers its functions with kernel, so that kernel can call them on different events, like opening a device file, reading/writing a device file or sending ioctl commands to device. In case of device file, this structure contains pointer to different functions of driver, through which kernel invokes the driver. Now we will briefly discuss the elements of this data structure.

Some of the elements of “file_operations” structure

- llseek: This is a pointer to driver function, which actually moves or sets the “f_pos” element of device file (discussed earlier).
- read: This is a pointer to driver function, which actually physically reads data from device.
- write: This is a pointer to driver function, which actually physically writes data to device.
- poll: This function is called by either “poll” or “select” system calls.
- ioctl: This function is called by ioctl system call. This function in drier is used to pass on the special commands to device, format the device or setting the read/write head of device, which are different from normal read / write commands.
- mmap: This function of driver is used to map the device memory area to process virtual address space.
- open: This function is used to open a file. Incase of device file, this function of driver initialize the device or initializes other book keeping data structures.
- flush: This function flushes the driver buffer to physical file. This should be implemented in driver if driver wants to provide a facility to application to make sure that all the data is physically put on device.
- release: This function is called by close system call, but it is not called for every close system call. As described earlier also that one “file” data structure (which represents an open file in kernel) can be referred by more than one process, if processes are sharing the file (best example is FIFO files), in that case close system file does not release the “file” data structure and only decrement the “f_count” element of “file” data structure. If after decrementing “f_count” element turns to be zero, close system call, calls the associated “release” function, which is a driver function in case of device files. So “release” function of driver should clear and release all the memory acquired. “release” is just an opposite of “open” function.

Few Important Kernel Mechanisms used in Drivers

Wait Queues:
Wait queue is a mechanism in kernel through which the kernel code can put the process to sleep. This is used in different parts of kernel where the kernel decides to put the process to sleep. Kernel puts the process to sleep in case the required event has not yet occurred (for e.g. some process wants to read from device and there is no data to be read), in this case kernel puts the process to sleep and gets back the processor from it by calling the schedule() function, which is a scheduler in Linux Kernel. schedule() function schedules and dispatches the other process.

Before discussing the function related to sleeping a process, we should look what data structures are used for implementing a wait queue in kernel.

Wait queue is actually a linked list of “wait_queue_t” type of structures. The head of wait queue is represented by “wait_queue_head_t” structure, which contains the spin lock to synchronize the access to wait queue. “wait_queue_head_t” structure also contains the pointer to the first element in wait queue. Each element in the wait queue is represented by “wait_queue_t” structure, which contains the pointer to the “task_struct” type of structure. It also contains the pointer to next element in the wait queue. “task_struct” represents the alive process in kernel. So with this mechanism of wait queue driver or any kernel part can keep track of process waiting for a specific event to occur.

Putting process to sleep:
Process can be put to sleep by using any of the following kernel functions. You can call these functions from anywhere in the kernel (drivers, modules or the core kernel) in case you want to put your process to sleep. Whenever a kernel code is executed (when system call is made by the user process), kernel code executes in the context of process which has made a system call. But there is exception to this rule, whenever the interrupt occurs the kernel code (interrupt handler) does not execute in process context, it’s a anonymous context. This is the reason that we should be careful to not to call any function in interrupt handler which can put the execution thread to sleep. If we do so the kernel will hang, that means the system will hang.

Functions which can put a process to sleep:
- sleep_on(wait_queue_head_t * wait_queue)
- interruptible_sleep_on(wait_queue_head_t * wait_queue)
- sleep_on_timeout(wait_queue_head_t * wait_queue, long timeout)
- interruptible_sleep_on_timeout(wait_queue_head_t * wait_queue, long timeout)

In above functions, “wait_queue” is the wait_queue_head and “timeout” is the value mentioned in terms of jiffies. We will talk about jiffies very soon. Now we will see the difference between above mentioned functions.

- sleep_on: This function puts the process to sleep in TASK_UNINTERRPTIBLE mode, which means the process will not be waked up in case process receives any signal while it was in sleep. The process will only be waked up any other part of kernel code wakes it up (normally on the occurrence of some event) deliberately by calling any of the waking function (we will be discussing the waking up functions very soon). Process put to sleep with this function can sometimes cause some problem. For e.g. if a process is put to sleep with this function and the event on which it need to be waked up does not occur then your process will not come back to the execution stage. That process can not even be killed by sending a KILL signal, as process in sleep in TASK_UNINTERRUPTIBLE mode ignores all signals. Process put to sleep with this function can be waked if any of the following conditions occur:

o Process is deliberately waked up by some part of the kernel code on the occurrence of event for which it was waiting

- interruptible_sleep_on: This function in kernel is written to avoid the problem caused by “sleep_on” function. This function puts the process to sleep in TASK_INTERRUPTIBLE mode. When a process sleeps in this mode, it can be waked up if any of the following condition occurs:

o Process receives the signal either from any other process or kernel itself.
o Process is deliberately waked up by some part of the kernel code on the occurrence of event for which it was waiting.

- sleep_on_timeout: This function is similar to “sleep_on” function but is not that much dangerous as “sleep_on”. Process put to sleep with this function can be waked if any of the following conditions occurs:

o Time mentioned in the timeout parameter has expired
o Process is deliberately waked up by some part of the kernel code on the occurrence of event for which it was waiting.

- interruptible_sleep_on_timeout: I hope by now you can easily guess what this function does. Well the process put to sleep with this function is waked up when any of the following conditions occurs:

o Process receives the signal either from any other process or kernel itself.
o Time mentioned in the timeout parameter has expired
o Process is deliberately waked up by some part of the kernel code on the occurrence of event for which it was waiting.

Waking up a process:
Process put to sleep should also be waked up by some kernel code else the process will never return to the execution state. If your driver is putting the process to sleep, it’s the responsibility of that driver itself to wake up the sleeping processes when the required event occurs for which those processes are waiting. For e.g. if your driver put the reading process to sleep on its internal waiting queue, if there is nothing to read from driver buffer (driver buffer empty) then the process put to sleep should also be waked up whoever new data arrives in driver buffer (this will occur when device interrupts, so interrupt handler will be responsible for waking up the process sleeping on the driver’s waiting queue).

Functions which can be explicitly called to wake up the process:
- wake_up(wait_queue_head_t * wait_queue)
- wake_up_interruptible(wait_queue_head_t * wait_queue)
- wake_up_sync(wait_queue_head_t * wait_queue)
- wake_up_interruptible_sync(wait_queue_head_t * wait_queue)


That’s it for this time. In next article I will cover ‘ioctl’ interface of devices and different timing mechanisms available in Linux Kernel.