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Understanding the Linux Kernel, 3rd Edition by Marco Cesati, Daniel P. Bovet

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The Device Driver Model

Earlier versions of the Linux kernel offered few basic functionalities to the device driver developers: allocating dynamic memory, reserving a range of I/O addresses or an IRQ line, activating an interrupt service routine in response to a device's interrupt. Older hardware devices, in fact, were cumbersome and difficult to program, and two different hardware devices had little in common even if they were hosted on the same bus. Thus, there was no point in trying to offer a unifying model to the device driver developers.

Things are different now. Bus types such as PCI put strong demands on the internal design of the hardware devices; as a consequence, recent hardware devices, even of different classes, sport similar functionalities. Drivers for such devices should typically take care of:

  • Power management (handling of different voltage levels on the device's power line)

  • Plug and play (transparent allocation of resources when configuring the device)

  • Hot-plugging (support for insertion and removal of the device while the system is running)

Power management is performed globally by the kernel on every hardware device in the system. For instance, when a battery-powered computer enters the "standby" state, the kernel must force every hardware device (hard disks, graphics card, sound card, network card, bus controllers, and so on) in a low-power state. Thus, each driver of a device that can be put in the "standby" state must include a callback function that puts the hardware ...

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