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2011-07-06 17:09:56


Building External Modules

This document describes how to build an out-of-tree kernel module.

=== Table of Contents

    === 1 Introduction
    === 2 How to Build External Modules
       --- 2.1 Command Syntax
       --- 2.2 Options
       --- 2.3 Targets
       --- 2.4 Building Separate Files
    === 3. Creating a Kbuild File for an External Module
       --- 3.1 Shared Makefile
       --- 3.2 Separate Kbuild file and Makefile
       --- 3.3 Binary Blobs
       --- 3.4 Building Multiple Modules
    === 4. Include Files
       --- 4.1 Kernel Includes
       --- 4.2 Single Subdirectory
       --- 4.3 Several Subdirectories
    === 5. Module Installation
       --- 5.1 INSTALL_MOD_PATH
       --- 5.2 INSTALL_MOD_DIR
    === 6. Module Versioning
       --- 6.1 Symbols From the Kernel (vmlinux + modules)
       --- 6.2 Symbols and External Modules
       --- 6.3 Symbols From Another External Module
    === 7. Tips & Tricks
       --- 7.1 Testing for CONFIG_FOO_BAR

=== 1. Introduction

"kbuild" is the build system used by the Linux kernel. Modules must use kbuild to stay compatible with changes in the build infrastructure and to pick up the right flags to "gcc." Functionality for building modules both in-tree and out-of-tree is provided. The method for building either is similar, and all modules are initially developed and built out-of-tree.

Covered in this document is information aimed at developers interested in building out-of-tree (or "external") modules. The author of an external module should supply a makefile that hides most of the complexity, so one only has to type "make" to build the module. This is easily accomplished, and a complete example will be presented in section 3.

=== 2. How to Build External Modules

To build external modules, you must have a prebuilt kernel available that contains the configuration and header files used in the build. Also, the kernel must have been built with modules enabled. If you are using a distribution kernel, there will be a package for the kernel you
are running provided by your distribution.

An alternative is to use the "make" target "modules_prepare." This will make sure the kernel contains the information required. The target exists solely as a simple way to prepare a kernel source tree for building external modules.

NOTE: "modules_prepare" will not build Module.symvers even if CONFIG_MODVERSIONS is set; therefore, a full kernel build needs to be executed to make module versioning work.

--- 2.1 Command Syntax

    The command to build an external module is:

        $ make -C M=$PWD

    The kbuild system knows that an external module is being built due to the "M="
    option given in the command.

    To build against the running kernel use:

        $ make -C /lib/modules/`uname -r`/build M=$PWD

    Then to install the module(s) just built, add the target "modules_install" to the command:

        $ make -C /lib/modules/`uname -r`/build M=$PWD modules_install

--- 2.2 Options

    ($KDIR refers to the path of the kernel source directory.)

    make -C $KDIR M=$PWD

    -C $KDIR
        The directory where the kernel source is located. "make" will actually change to the   
        specified directory when executing and will change back when finished.

        Informs kbuild that an external module is being built. The value given to "M" is the
        absolute path of the directory where the external module (kbuild file) is located.

--- 2.3 Targets

    When building an external module, only a subset of the "make"  targets are available.

    make -C $KDIR M=$PWD [target]

    The default will build the module(s) located in the current directory, so a target does not
    need to be specified. All output files will also be generated in this directory. No attempts
    are made to update the kernel source, and it is a precondition that a successful "make"
    has been executed for the kernel.

        The default target for external modules. It has the same functionality as if no target was
        specified. See description above.

        Install the external module(s). The default location is 
        but a prefix may be added with INSTALL_MOD_PATH (discussed in section 5).

        Remove all generated files in the module directory only.

        List the available targets for external modules.

--- 2.4 Building Separate Files

    It is possible to build single files that are part of a module. This works equally well for the
    kernel, a module, and even for external modules.

    Example (The module foo.ko, consist of bar.o and baz.o):
        make -C $KDIR M=$PWD bar.lst
        make -C $KDIR M=$PWD baz.o
        make -C $KDIR M=$PWD foo.ko
        make -C $KDIR M=$PWD /

=== 3. Creating a Kbuild File for an External Module

In the last section we saw the command to build a module for the running kernel. The module is not actually built, however, because a build file is required. Contained in this file will be the name of the module(s) being built, along with the list of requisite source files. The file may be as simple as a single line:

    obj-m := .o

The kbuild system will build .o from .c, and, after linking, will result in the kernel module .ko. The above line can be put in either a "Kbuild" file or a "Makefile." When the module is built from multiple sources, an additional line is needed listing the files:

    -y := .o .o ...

NOTE: Further documentation describing the syntax used by kbuild is located in Documentation/kbuild/makefiles.txt.

The examples below demonstrate how to create a build file for the module 8123.ko, which is built from the following files:

    8123_bin.o_shipped    <= Binary blob

--- 3.1 Shared Makefile

    An external module always includes a wrapper makefile that supports building the module
    using "make" with no arguments. This target is not used by kbuild; it is only for convenience.
    Additional functionality, such as test targets, can be included but should be filtered out from
    kbuild due to possible name clashes.

    Example 1:
        --> filename: Makefile
        ifneq ($(KERNELRELEASE),)
        # kbuild part of makefile
        obj-m  := 8123.o
        8123-y := 8123_if.o 8123_pci.o 8123_bin.o

        # normal makefile
        KDIR ?= /lib/modules/`uname -r`/build

            $(MAKE) -C $(KDIR) M=$$PWD

        # Module specific targets
            echo "X" > 8123_bin.o_shipped


    The check for KERNELRELEASE is used to separate the two parts of the makefile. In the
    example, kbuild will only see the two assignments, whereas "make" will see everything
    except these two assignments. This is due to two passes made on the file: the first pass
    is by the "make" instance run on the command line
; the second pass is by the kbuild
, which is initiated by the parameterized "make" in the default target.

--- 3.2 Separate Kbuild File and Makefile

    In newer versions of the kernel, kbuild will first look for a file named "Kbuild," and only if that
    is not found, will it then look for a makefile. Utilizing a "Kbuild" file allows us to split up the
    makefile from example 1 into two files:

    Example 2:
        --> filename: Kbuild
        obj-m  := 8123.o
        8123-y := 8123_if.o 8123_pci.o 8123_bin.o

        --> filename: Makefile
        KDIR ?= /lib/modules/`uname -r`/build

            $(MAKE) -C $(KDIR) M=$$PWD

        # Module specific targets
            echo "X" > 8123_bin.o_shipped

    The split in example 2 is questionable due to the simplicity of each file; however, some
    external modules use makefiles consisting of several hundred lines, and here it really
    pays off to separate the kbuild part from the rest.

    The next example shows a backward compatible version.
    Example 3:
        --> filename: Kbuild
        obj-m  := 8123.o
        8123-y := 8123_if.o 8123_pci.o 8123_bin.o

        --> filename: Makefile
        ifneq ($(KERNELRELEASE),)
        # kbuild part of makefile
        include Kbuild

        # normal makefile
        KDIR ?= /lib/modules/`uname -r`/build

            $(MAKE) -C $(KDIR) M=$$PWD

        # Module specific targets
            echo "X" > 8123_bin.o_shipped


    Here the "Kbuild" file is included from the makefile. This allows an older version of kbuild,
    which only knows of  makefiles, to be used when the "make" and kbuild parts are split into
    separate files.

--- 3.3 Binary Blobs

    Some external modules need to include an object file as a blob(binary large object).  kbuild
    has support for this, but requires the blob file to be named _shipped. When the
    kbuild rules kick in, a copy of _shipped is created with _shipped stripped off,
    giving us . This shortened filename can be used in the assignment to the

    Throughout this section, 8123_bin.o_shipped has been used to build the kernel module
    8123.ko; it has been included as 8123_bin.o.

        8123-y := 8123_if.o 8123_pci.o 8123_bin.o

    Although there is no distinction between the ordinary source files and the binary file, kbuild
    will pick up different rules  when creating the object file for the module.

--- 3.4 Building Multiple Modules

    kbuild supports building multiple modules with a single build file. For example, if you wanted
    to build two modules, foo.ko and bar.ko, the kbuild lines would be:

        obj-m := foo.o bar.o
        foo-y :=
        bar-y :=

    It is that simple!

=== 4. Include Files

Within the kernel, header files are kept in standard locations according to the following rule:

    * If the header file only describes the internal interface of a module, then the file is placed in
      the same directory as the source files.
    * If the header file describes an interface used by other parts of the kernel that are located
      in different directories, then the file is placed in include/linux/.

      NOTE: There are two notable exceptions to this rule: larger subsystems have their own
      directory under include/, such as include/scsi; and architecture specific headers are
      located under arch/$(ARCH)/include/.

--- 4.1 Kernel Includes

    To include a header file located under include/linux/, simply use:


    kbuild will add options to "gcc" so the relevant directories are searched.

--- 4.2 Single Subdirectory

    External modules tend to place header files in a separate include/ directory where their
    source is located, although this is not the usual kernel style. To inform kbuild of the
    directory, use either ccflags-y or CFLAGS_.o.

    Using the example from section 3, if we moved 8123_if.h to a subdirectory named include,
    the resulting kbuild file would look like:

        --> filename: Kbuild
        obj-m := 8123.o

        ccflags-y := -Iinclude
        8123-y := 8123_if.o 8123_pci.o 8123_bin.o

    Note that in the assignment there is no space between -I and the path. This is a limitation of
    kbuild: there must be no space present.

--- 4.3 Several Subdirectories

    kbuild can handle files that are spread over several directories. Consider the following
    |__ src
    |   |__ complex_main.c
    |   |__ hal
    |    |__ hardwareif.c
    |    |__ include
    |        |__ hardwareif.h
    |__ include
        |__ complex.h

    To build the module complex.ko, we then need the following kbuild file:

        --> filename: Kbuild
        obj-m := complex.o
        complex-y := src/complex_main.o
        complex-y += src/hal/hardwareif.o

        ccflags-y := -I$(src)/include
        ccflags-y += -I$(src)/src/hal/include

    As you can see, kbuild knows how to handle object files located in other directories. The trick
    is to specify the directory relative to the kbuild file's location. That being said, this is NOT
    recommended practice

    For the header files, kbuild must be explicitly told where to look. When kbuild executes, the
    current directory is always the root of the kernel tree (the argument to "-C") and therefore
    an absolute path is needed. $(src) provides the absolute path by pointing to the directory
    where the currently executing kbuild file is located.

=== 5. Module Installation

Modules which are included in the kernel are installed in the directory:


And external modules are installed in:



    Above are the default directories but as always some level of customization is possible. A
    prefix can be added to the installation path using the variable INSTALL_MOD_PATH:

        $ make INSTALL_MOD_PATH=/frodo modules_install
        => Install dir: /frodo/lib/modules/$(KERNELRELEASE)/kernel/

    INSTALL_MOD_PATH may be set as an ordinary shell variable or, as shown above, can be
    specified on the command line when calling "make." This has effect when installing both
    in-tree and out-of-tree modules.


    External modules are by default installed to a directory under
    /lib/modules/$(KERNELRELEASE)/extra/, but you may wish to locat modules for a specific
    functionality in a separate directory. For this purpose, use INSTALL_MOD_DIR to specify an
    alternative name to "extra."

        $ make INSTALL_MOD_DIR=gandalf -C $KDIR \
               M=$PWD modules_install
        => Install dir: /lib/modules/$(KERNELRELEASE)/gandalf/

=== 6. Module Versioning

Module versioning is enabled by the CONFIG_MODVERSIONS tag, and is used as a simple ABI
consistency check(一致性检查). A CRC value of the full prototype for an exported symbol is created. When a module is loaded/used, the CRC values contained in the kernel are compared with similar values in the module; if they are not equal, the kernel refuses to load the module.

Module.symvers contains a list of all exported symbols from a kernel build.

--- 6.1 Symbols From the Kernel (vmlinux + modules)

    During a kernel build, a file named Module.symvers will be generated. Module.symvers
    contains all exported symbols from the kernel and compiled modules
. For each symbol, the
    corresponding CRC value is also stored.

    The syntax of the Module.symvers file is:

        0x2d036834  scsi_remove_host   drivers/scsi/scsi_mod

    For a kernel build without CONFIG_MODVERSIONS enabled, the CRC would read

    Module.symvers serves two purposes:
    1) It lists all exported symbols from vmlinux and all modules.
    2) It lists the CRC if CONFIG_MODVERSIONS is enabled.

--- 6.2 Symbols and External Modules

    When building an external module, the build system needs access to the symbols from the
    kernel to check if all external symbols are defined. This is done in the MODPOST step.
    modpost obtains the symbols by reading Module.symvers from the kernel source tree. If a
    Module.symvers file is present in the directory where the external module is being built, this
    file will be read too. During the MODPOST step, a new Module.symvers file will be written
    containing all exported symbols that were not defined in the kernel.

--- 6.3 Symbols From Another External Module

    Sometimes, an external module uses exported symbols from another external module.
    kbuild needs to have full knowledge of all symbols to avoid spitting out warnings about
    undefined symbols
. Three solutions exist for this situation.

    NOTE: The method with a top-level kbuild file is recommended but may be impractical in
    certain situations.

    Use a top-level kbuild file
        If you have two modules, foo.ko and bar.ko, where foo.ko needs symbols from bar.ko,
       you can use a common top-level kbuild file so both modules are compiled in the same
Consider the following directory layout:

        ./foo/ <= contains foo.ko
        ./bar/ <= contains bar.ko

        The top-level kbuild file would then look like:

        #./Kbuild (or ./Makefile):
            obj-y := foo/ bar/

        And executing

            $ make -C $KDIR M=$PWD

        will then do the expected and compile both modules with full knowledge of symbols from
        either module.

    Use an extra Module.symvers file

        When an external module is built, a Module.symvers file is generated containing all
        exported symbols which are not defined in the kernel. To get access to symbols from
        bar.ko, copy the Module.symvers file from the compilation of bar.ko to the directory
        where foo.ko is built. During the module build, kbuild will read the Module.symvers file
        in the directory of the external module, and when the build is finished, a new
        Module.symvers file is created containing the sum of all symbols defined and not part
        of the kernel.

    Use "make" variable KBUILD_EXTRA_SYMBOLS
        If it is impractical to copy Module.symvers from another module, you can assign a space
        separated list of files to KBUILD_EXTRA_SYMBOLS in your build file. These files will be
        loaded by modpost during the initialization of its symbol tables

=== 7. Tips & Tricks

--- 7.1 Testing for CONFIG_FOO_BAR

    Modules often need to check for certain CONFIG_ options to decide if a specific feature is
    included in the module. In kbuild this is done by referencing the CONFIG_ variable

        obj-$(CONFIG_EXT2_FS) += ext2.o

        ext2-y := balloc.o bitmap.o dir.o
        ext2-$(CONFIG_EXT2_FS_XATTR) += xattr.o

    External modules have traditionally used "grep" to check for specific CONFIG_ settings
    directly in .config. This usage is broken. As introduced before, external modules should
    use kbuild for building and can therefore use the same methods as in-tree modules when
    testing for CONFIG_ definitions.

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