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2008-07-09 18:08:45


Most reasonably current cards for the PCI bus (and others) provide one or more I/O memory regions to the bus. By accessing those regions, the processor can communicate with the peripheral and make things happen. A look at /proc/iomem will show the I/O memory regions which have been registered on a given system.

To work with an I/O memory region, a driver is supposed to map that region with a call to ioremap(). The return value from ioremap() is a magic cookie which can be passed to a set of accessor functions (with names like readb() or writel()) to actually move data to or from the I/O memory. On some architectures (notably x86), I/O memory is truly mapped into the kernel's memory space, so those accessor functions turn into a straightforward pointer dereference. Other architectures require more complicated operations.

There have been some longstanding problems with this scheme. Drivers written for the x86 architecture have often been known to simply dereference I/O memory addresses directly, rather than using the accessor functions. That approach works on the x86, but breaks on other architectures. Other drivers, knowing that I/O memory addresses are not real pointers, store them in integer variables; that works until they encounter a system with a physical address space which doesn't fit into 32 bits. And, in any case, readb() and friends perform no type checking, and thus fail to catch errors which could be found at compile time.

The 2.6.9 kernel will contain a series of changes designed to improve how the kernel works with I/O memory. The first of these is a new __iomem annotation used to mark pointers to I/O memory. These annotations work much like the __user markers, except that they reference a different address space. As with __user, the __iomem marker serves a documentation role in the kernel code; it is ignored by the compiler. When checking the code with sparse, however, developers will see a whole new set of warnings caused by code which mixes normal pointers with __iomem pointers, or which dereferences those pointers.

The next step is the addition of a new set of accessor functions which explicitly require a pointer argument. These functions are:

    unsigned int ioread8(void __iomem *addr);
    unsigned int ioread16(void __iomem *addr);
    unsigned int ioread32(void __iomem *addr);
    void iowrite8(u8 value, void __iomem *addr);
    void iowrite16(u16 value, void __iomem *addr);
    void iowrite32(u32 value, void __iomem *addr);

By default, these functions are simply wrappers around readb() and friends. The explicit pointer type for the argument will generate warnings, however, if a driver passes in an integer type.

There are "string" versions of these operations:

    extern void ioread8_rep(void __iomem *port, void *buf, 
                            unsigned long count);

All of the other variants are defined as well, of course.

There is actually one other twist to these functions. Some drivers have to be able to use either I/O memory or I/O ports, depending on the architecture and the device. Some such drivers have gone to considerable lengths to try to avoid duplicating code in those two cases. With the new accessors, a driver which finds it needs to work with x86-style ports can call:

    void __iomem *ioport_map(unsigned long port, unsigned int count);

The return value will be a cookie which allows the mapped ports to be treated as if they were I/O memory; functions like ioread8() will automatically do the right thing. For PCI devices, there is a new function:

    void __iomem *pci_iomap(struct pci_dev *dev, int base, 
                            unsigned long maxlen);

For this function, the base can be either a port number or an I/O memory address, and the right thing will be done.

As of 2.6.9-rc2, there are no in-tree users of the new interface. That can be expected to change soon as patches get merged and the kernel janitors get to work. For more information on the new I/O memory interface and the motivation behind it, see .

( to post comments)

A new I/O memory access mechanism

Posted Sep 16, 2004 8:11 UTC (Thu) by armcc (subscriber, #5827) []

> void iowrite8(void __iomem *addr);
> void iowrite16(void __iomem *addr);
> void iowrite32(void __iomem *addr);

Don't these functions also require a value parameter ??

A new I/O memory access mechanism

Posted Sep 16, 2004 12:20 UTC (Thu) by corbet (editor, #1) []

That would work a little better, wouldn't it? Don't know how that got through. Fixed now.

A new I/O memory access mechanism

Posted Sep 23, 2004 16:41 UTC (Thu) by jonsmirl (guest, #7874) []

Where do you get sparse and how do you run it? I din't have much luck finding it and instructions with google.

A new I/O memory access mechanism

Posted Sep 23, 2004 18:32 UTC (Thu) by barrygould (guest, #4774) []

, found .

Finding sparse

Posted Sep 24, 2004 2:32 UTC (Fri) by corbet (editor, #1) []

Of course, that's what the new can be good for...

A new I/O memory access mechanism

Posted Dec 19, 2005 14:42 UTC (Mon) by (guest, #34548) []

Please refer the sparse.txt under Documentation of Linux kernel source tree.
or here:
Where to get sparse

With BK, you can just get it from


and DaveJ has tar-balls at

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