signals handling in the kernel

David Hawkins dwh at
Thu Aug 9 03:19:31 EST 2007

Hi Mirek,

> I run embedded Linux on ppc405 (ml403 xilinx evaluation board).
> I use the GPIO based device build on FPGA part of the xilinx
> chip. My gpio device generates interrupts whenever it changes
> its state.
> I use Montavista gpio driver with some modifications to react
> on interrupts. Each time when interrupt occurs the interrupt
> handler routine is called. This routine sends the signal to the
> application in user space to trigger it. When the application
> is triggered it reads the data from the GPIO device.
> I read that in this situation the best is to use signals. In my
> case the ideal would be to use kill_proc_info which sends to the
> application the Signal with info data were I intended to put just
> one integer value. Such a value determines how to react for the
> signal on the application level.

Signals are not the appropriate solution.

It sounds like your application is read-only, so how about
the following use-cases for the driver:

1. In user-space, you only have one GPIO, and the code
    only needs to react in response to this one I/O port.
    The information required by user-space is the 1-byte
    (or 2, or 4) of GPIO

    The driver implements a buffer that a user-space read() call
    consumes. A user-space read() call blocks until there is
    data in the buffer.

    The driver ISR reads the GPIO port, and writes the
    contents to the buffer.

2. In user-space, you have multiple GPIO ports, and
    the code needs to respond to any one.

    The driver implements the poll() call back so that
    user-space can call select() on the multiple GPIO
    file descriptors.

    Again, the driver ISR reads the different GPIO ports,
    and writes the data to the GPIO specific buffer.

I have plenty of driver code lying around, and can point
you to an example that implements both of these options.
The driver easily supports both (1) and (2) since
(1) is just a blocking-read, and (2) is poll().

Is the kernel 2.4 or 2.6? Here's some code I wrote for
2.6, and this code was ported from some 2.4 drivers
(and I still have that code in CVS)

I can re-write say the parallel port example to demonstrate
how the value of the GPIO port (the parallel port) can be
sent to user space. There's a parallel port interrupt
example in there somewhere. I know I wrote a GPIO driver
for my Yosemite board (440EP example), but I don't see it
in that zip ... it must be lying around here somewhere :)

I wouldn't necessarily copy say a parallel port example
verbatim, since there is only ever one of those devices
in a system. There are more likely to be multiple GPIO ports,
so the driver design would be generalized a little more.
Look at the COBRA driver code. I have crates of cPCI equipment
loaded with 10s of boards, with each board having multiple
device nodes, transferring megabytes per second over
multiple cPCI crates :)

Anyway, stop thinking about signals, they'll just mess you up.

Oh, the driver will also support sending SIGIO to the process,
via the fasync() driver call, so you can try signals, and
convince yourself that select() is much nicer.

A GPIO driver seems like such an obvious thing to write. Are
you sure the montavista driver doesn't already support these
features? I have no idea of your experience with coding, so
it could just be that you are unaware of what the driver
implements. If you are allowed to post it, go ahead, and
I'll comment on its features.


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