Monday, July 25, 2011

Character Device Driver

Linux Kernel Programming: Writing a simple character device driver

Probably the simplest example for a simple linux device driver is a character device driver using virtual buffer, i.e. without using any real device, a block of memory will be used to simulate the properties of a buffer. We will be dealing only with the major device number, minor device number is used internally by the driver, but will be skipped in this example for simplicity. Also, the major number will be statically declared. I call this device "chardev", however, you can put any name you like. Like any other kernel driver modules, it has 6 basic functionalities, among which, two are module_init and module_exit functions, namely, device_init and device_exit. The rest four functions are from file_operations structures, read, write, open and release which are accomplished by device_read, device_write, device_open and device_release functions here. Actions of each functions are quite simple, device_init registers the device when the module is loaded and device_exit unregisters it upon removal. device_open tracks whether the device is already open or not, and device_release may be used to free any used space, however, we are allocating memory statically, so nothing much to do here. And finally, device_write is used to write a string to the device buffer which is in kernel space from an address which is in user space, for example, when we use `echo "hi" > /dev/chardev`, string "hi" (without quotes) will be written to device buffer. device_read is the opposite of device_write function. It is used when user space calls the device to read something from the buffer, for example `cat /dev/chardev`. Basically what it does is, just exports buffer data to a user space address. More details of each operation and functions used here in the text books or from online resources. Now here is a simple implementation. Don't expect it to be too smart anyway.
AUTHOR: Zobayer Hasan
PROGRAM: Character Device Driver
DATE: Monday, 25 July 2011

#include <linux/kernel.h>
#include <linux/module.h>
#include <linux/moduleparam.h>
#include <linux/init.h>
#include <linux/slab.h>
#include <linux/fs.h>
#include <linux/fcntl.h>
#include <linux/stat.h>
#include <linux/types.h>
#include <linux/errno.h>
#include <asm/system.h>
#include <asm/uaccess.h>

#define DEVICE_NAME "chardev"
#define BUFFER_SIZE 1024

MODULE_AUTHOR("Zobayer Hasan");
MODULE_DESCRIPTION("A simple character device driver.");

int device_init(void);
void device_exit(void);
static int device_open(struct inode *, struct file *);
static int device_release(struct inode *, struct file *);
static ssize_t device_read(struct file *, char *, size_t, loff_t *);
static ssize_t device_write(struct file *, const char *, size_t, loff_t *);


static struct file_operations fops = {
    .read = device_read,
    .write = device_write,
    .open = device_open,
    .release = device_release

static int device_major = 60;
static int device_opend = 0;
static char device_buffer[BUFFER_SIZE];
static char *buff_rptr;
static char *buff_wptr;

module_param(device_major, int, S_IRUSR | S_IWUSR | S_IRGRP | S_IWGRP);
MODULE_PARM_DESC(device_major, DEVICE_NAME " major number");

int device_init() {
    int ret;
    ret = register_chrdev(device_major, DEVICE_NAME, &fops);
    if(ret < 0) {
        printk(KERN_ALERT "chardev: cannot obtain major number %d.\n", device_major);
        return ret;
    memset(device_buffer, 0, BUFFER_SIZE);
    printk(KERN_INFO "chardev: chrdev loaded.\n");
    return 0;

void device_exit() {
    unregister_chrdev(device_major, DEVICE_NAME);
    printk(KERN_INFO "chardev: chrdev unloaded.\n");

static int device_open(struct inode *nd, struct file *fp) {
    if(device_opend) return -EBUSY;
    buff_rptr = buff_wptr = device_buffer;
    return 0;

static int device_release(struct inode *nd, struct file *fp) {
    if(device_opend) device_opend--;
    return 0;

static ssize_t device_read(struct file *fp, char *buff, size_t length, loff_t *offset) {
    int bytes_read = strlen(buff_rptr);
    if(bytes_read > length) bytes_read = length;
    copy_to_user(buff, buff_rptr, bytes_read);
    buff_rptr += bytes_read;
    return bytes_read;

static ssize_t device_write(struct file *fp, const char *buff, size_t length, loff_t *offset) {
    int bytes_written = BUFFER_SIZE - (buff_wptr - device_buffer);
    if(bytes_written > length) bytes_written = length;
    copy_from_user(buff_wptr, buff, bytes_written);
    buff_wptr += bytes_written;
    return bytes_written;

End of Source Code
Ha, quite tiny code. obviously huge optimization and improvement await here. Now, we have assigned major number 60, before doing anything, make sure your system has not assigned 60 as a major number for any device. To check this, just use the command:
$ ls -l /dev
Just try to find out a number which is not already used as a major number (1st number) and assign it to the variable device_major, or you can do it through command line also when using insmod command to insert the module. To compile this program, just use the following Makefile (name the file Makefile):
obj-m := chardev.o
    make -C /lib/modules/$(shell uname -r)/build M=$(shell pwd) modules
    make -C /lib/modules/$(shell uname -r)/build M=$(shell pwd) clean
Note, do not copy this, you must write it by typing to avoid problems, and spaces before keyword make must be tab character. And I assumed the source file name 'chardev.c'. I am using ubuntu platform, so you might need to change this a bit, however I think it will work just fine. To run the makefile, go to the directory it is in along with the sourcefile,
$ sudo make
If you don't get any errors, that means you have successfully compiled the source file to generate chardev.ko which is the kernel module. Now, you need to create a device with major number 60 or what you want to assign:
$ sudo mknod /dev/chardev c 60 0
$ sudo chmod 666 /dev/chardev
$ sudo insmod chardev.ko
In mknod command, c defines that it will be a character device, then we give read+write permissions for everyone, so that the device can be usable. Then insmod command inserts chardev device in modules, you can see it in various ways, like, using `lsmod | grep chardev` or `ls -l /dev | grep chardev` or `modinfo chardev` or you can just use `dmesg` to display kernel log to see whether the loading printk printed anything (last line of the output of dmesg command). Now it's upto you to do some experiments, like to write to device, just redirect the output of any program with a output redirect operator `>` (be careful, buffer here is allocated only 1KB). And to read from the device, open it (/dev/chardev) with any program and read from it, like, just using `cat /dev/chardev`. Finally, when done with experimenting, you may wish to unload the driver and remove the device:
$ sudo rmmod chardev
$ sudo rm /dev/chardev
That's pretty much of it. Good luck & have fun!


  1. That's nice experiment. Hope problem solving is also going nice.

  2. Thanks for commenting, and no, problem solving is not going all at-all, kinda off mood these days, trying to get back to the track soon.. having a hard time ... :(

    1. Hey, I want to know where can i get the examples of char drivers.. :)
      its good to know the procedure but practice is another thing which i have to do.
      i need lots of program on CHAR DRIVERS. plz suggest me asap
      u can mail me at

  3. Dear brother, is it possible to create a kernel module file(.ko) from a system file(.sys) written for windows driver? If so how?

  4. Thanks it helped to get started with device driver.
    For new kernel, Ver 3-x: Remove system.h file from headers, otherwise it would give an error.