Kernel Thread – Linux Device Driver Tutorial Part 19

This article is a continuation of the  Series on Linux Device Driver and carries the discussion on Linux device drivers and their implementation. The aim of this series is to provide easy and practical examples that anyone can understand. This is the Kernel Thread in Linux kernel driver – Linux Device Driver Tutorial Part 19.

You can also read mutex, read-write spinlockProcfsWorkqueueCompletionSoftirq, and threaded IRQ in the Linux device driver.

Process

An executing instance of a program is called a process. Some operating systems use the term ‘task‘ to refer to a program that is being executed.  The process is a heavyweight process. The context switch between the process is time-consuming.

Threads

thread is an independent flow of control that operates within the same address space as other independent flows of control within a process.

Kernel Thread

One process can have multiple threads, with each thread executing different code concurrently, while sharing data and synchronizing much more easily than cooperating processes. Threads require fewer system resources than processes and can start more quickly. Threads, also known as lightweight processes.

One of the advantages of the thread is that since all the threads within the processes share the same address space, the communication between the threads is far easier and less time-consuming as compared to processes. This approach has one disadvantage also. It leads to several concurrency issues and requires synchronization mechanisms to handle the same.

Thread Management

Whenever we are creating a thread, it has to manage by someone. So that management follows like below.

  • A thread is a sequence of instructions.
  • CPU can handle one instruction at a time.
  • To switch between instructions on parallel threads, the execution state needs to be saved.
  • Execution state in its simplest form is a program counter and CPU registers.
  • The program counter tells us what instruction to execute next.
  • CPU registers hold execution arguments, for example, addition operands.
  • This alternation between threads requires management.
  • Management includes saving state, restoring state, deciding what thread to pick next.

Types of Thread

There are two types of threads.

  1. User Level Thread
  2. Kernel Level Thread

User Level Thread

In this type, the kernel is not aware of these threads. Everything is maintained by the user thread library. That thread library contains code for creating and destroying threads, for passing messages and data between threads, for scheduling thread execution, and for saving and restoring thread contexts. So all will be in User Space.

Kernel Level Thread

Kernel level threads are managed by the OS, therefore, thread operations are implemented in the kernel code. There is no thread management code in the application area.

Anyhow each type of thread has advantages and disadvantages too.

Now we will move into Kernel Thread Programming. First, we will see the functions used in a kernel thread.

Kernel Thread Management Functions

There are many functions used in Kernel Thread. We will see each one by one. We can classify those functions based on functionalities.

  • Create Kernel Thread
  • Start Kernel Thread
  • Stop Kernel Thread
  • Other functions in Kernel Thread

For use the below functions you should include linux/kthread.h header file.

Create Kernel Thread

kthread_create

This API creates a kthread.

struct task_struct * kthread_create (int (* threadfn(void *data), void *data, const char namefmt[], ...);

Where,

threadfn – the function to run until signal_pending(current).

data – data ptr for threadfn.

namefmt[] – printf-style name for the thread.

... – variable arguments

This helper function creates and names a kernel thread. But we need to wake up that thread manually. When woken, the thread will run threadfn() with data as its argument.

threadfn can either call do_exit directly if it is a standalone thread for which no one will call kthread_stop, or return when ‘kthread_should_stop‘ is true (which means kthread_stop has been called). The return value should be zero or a negative error number; it will be passed to kthread_stop.

It Returns task_struct or ERR_PTR(-ENOMEM).

Start Kernel Thread

wake_up_process

This is used to Wake up a specific process.

int wake_up_process (struct task_struct * p);

Where,

p – The process to be woken up.

Attempt to wake up the nominated process and move it to the set of runnable processes.

It returns 1 if the process was woken up, 0 if it was already running.

It may be assumed that this function implies a write memory barrier before changing the task state if and only if any tasks are woken up.

Stop Kernel Thread

kthread_stop

It stops a thread created by kthread_create.

int kthread_stop ( struct task_struct *k);

Where,

k – thread created by kthread_create.

Sets kthread_should_stop for k to return true, wakes it and waits for it to exit. Your threadfn must not call do_exit itself, if you use this function! This can also be called after kthread_create instead of calling wake_up_process: the thread will exit without calling threadfn.

It Returns the result of threadfn, or –EINTR if wake_up_process was never called.

Other functions in Kernel Thread

kthread_should_stop

should this kthread return now?

int kthread_should_stop (void);

When someone calls kthread_stop on your kthread, it will be woken and this will return true. You should then return, and your return value will be passed through to kthread_stop.

kthread_bind

This is used to bind a just-created kthread to a CPU.

void kthread_bind (struct task_struct *k, unsigned int cpu);

Where,

k – thread created by kthread_create.

cpu – CPU (might not be online, must be possible) for k to run on.

Implementation

Thread Function

First, we have to create our thread that has the argument of void *  and should return int value.  We should follow some conditions in our thread function. It is advisable.

  • If that thread is a long run thread, we need to check kthread_should_stop() every time, because any function may call kthread_stop. If any function called kthread_stop, that time kthread_should_stop will return true. We have to exit our thread function if true value been returned by kthread_should_stop.
  • But if your thread function is not running long, then let that thread finish its task and kill itself using do_exit.

In my thread function, let’s print something every minute and it is a continuous process. So let’s check the kthread_should_stop every time. See the below snippet to understand.

int thread_function(void *pv) 
{
 int i=0;
 while(!kthread_should_stop())
 {
   printk(KERN_INFO "In EmbeTronicX Thread Function %d\n", i++);
   msleep(1000);
 } 
 return 0; 
}

Creating and Starting Kernel Thread

So as of now, we have our thread function to run. Now, we will create a kernel thread using kthread_create and start the kernel thread using  wake_up_process.

static struct task_struct *etx_thread; 

etx_thread = kthread_create(thread_function,NULL,"eTx Thread"); 
if(etx_thread) 
{
 wake_up_process(etx_thread); 
} 
else 
{
 printk(KERN_ERR "Cannot create kthread\n"); 
}

There is another function that does both processes (create and start). That is kthread_run(). You can replace both kthread_create  and wake_up_process using this function.

kthread_run

This is used to create and wake a thread.

kthread_run (threadfn, data, namefmt, ...);

Where,

threadfn – the function to run until signal_pending(current).

data – data ptr for threadfn.

namefmt – printf-style name for the thread.

... – variable arguments

Convenient wrapper for kthread_create followed by wake_up_process.

It returns the kthread or ERR_PTR(-ENOMEM).

You can see the below snippet which is using kthread_run.

static struct task_struct *etx_thread;

etx_thread = kthread_run(thread_function,NULL,"eTx Thread"); 
if(etx_thread) 
{
 printk(KERN_ERR "Kthread Created Successfully...\n");
}
else 
{
 printk(KERN_ERR "Cannot create kthread\n"); 
}

Stop Kernel Thread

You can stop the kernel thread using kthread_stop.  Use the below snippet to stop.

kthread_stop(etx_thread);

Kernel thread in Linux – Driver Source Code 

The kernel thread will start when we insert the kernel module. It will print something every second. When we remove the module that time it stops the kernel thread. Let’s see the source code.

[Get the source code from the GitHub]

/***************************************************************************//**
*  \file       driver.c
*
*  \details    Simple Linux device driver (Kernel Thread)
*
*  \author     EmbeTronicX
*
*  \Tested with Linux raspberrypi 5.10.27-v7l-embetronicx-custom+
*
*******************************************************************************/
#include <linux/kernel.h>
#include <linux/init.h>
#include <linux/module.h>
#include <linux/kdev_t.h>
#include <linux/fs.h>
#include <linux/cdev.h>
#include <linux/device.h>
#include<linux/slab.h>                 //kmalloc()
#include<linux/uaccess.h>              //copy_to/from_user()
#include <linux/kthread.h>             //kernel threads
#include <linux/sched.h>               //task_struct 
#include <linux/delay.h>
 
 
dev_t dev = 0;
static struct class *dev_class;
static struct cdev etx_cdev;
 
static int __init etx_driver_init(void);
static void __exit etx_driver_exit(void);
 
static struct task_struct *etx_thread;
 
/*
** Function Prototypes
*/
/*************** Driver functions **********************/
static int etx_open(struct inode *inode, struct file *file);
static int etx_release(struct inode *inode, struct file *file);
static ssize_t etx_read(struct file *filp, 
                char __user *buf, size_t len,loff_t * off);
static ssize_t etx_write(struct file *filp, 
                const char *buf, size_t len, loff_t * off);
 /******************************************************/
 
int thread_function(void *pv);

/*
** Thread
*/
int thread_function(void *pv)
{
    int i=0;
    while(!kthread_should_stop()) {
        pr_info("In EmbeTronicX Thread Function %d\n", i++);
        msleep(1000);
    }
    return 0;
}

/*
** File operation sturcture
*/ 
static struct file_operations fops =
{
        .owner          = THIS_MODULE,
        .read           = etx_read,
        .write          = etx_write,
        .open           = etx_open,
        .release        = etx_release,
};

/*
** This function will be called when we open the Device file
*/  
static int etx_open(struct inode *inode, struct file *file)
{
        pr_info("Device File Opened...!!!\n");
        return 0;
}

/*
** This function will be called when we close the Device file
*/   
static int etx_release(struct inode *inode, struct file *file)
{
        pr_info("Device File Closed...!!!\n");
        return 0;
}

/*
** This function will be called when we read the Device file
*/
static ssize_t etx_read(struct file *filp, 
                char __user *buf, size_t len, loff_t *off)
{
        pr_info("Read function\n");
 
        return 0;
}

/*
** This function will be called when we write the Device file
*/
static ssize_t etx_write(struct file *filp, 
                const char __user *buf, size_t len, loff_t *off)
{
        pr_info("Write Function\n");
        return len;
}

/*
** Module Init function
*/  
static int __init etx_driver_init(void)
{
        /*Allocating Major number*/
        if((alloc_chrdev_region(&dev, 0, 1, "etx_Dev")) <0){
                pr_err("Cannot allocate major number\n");
                return -1;
        }
        pr_info("Major = %d Minor = %d \n",MAJOR(dev), MINOR(dev));
 
        /*Creating cdev structure*/
        cdev_init(&etx_cdev,&fops);
 
        /*Adding character device to the system*/
        if((cdev_add(&etx_cdev,dev,1)) < 0){
            pr_err("Cannot add the device to the system\n");
            goto r_class;
        }
 
        /*Creating struct class*/
        if((dev_class = class_create(THIS_MODULE,"etx_class")) == NULL){
            pr_err("Cannot create the struct class\n");
            goto r_class;
        }
 
        /*Creating device*/
        if((device_create(dev_class,NULL,dev,NULL,"etx_device")) == NULL){
            pr_err("Cannot create the Device \n");
            goto r_device;
        }
 
        etx_thread = kthread_create(thread_function,NULL,"eTx Thread");
        if(etx_thread) {
            wake_up_process(etx_thread);
        } else {
            pr_err("Cannot create kthread\n");
            goto r_device;
        }
#if 0
        /* You can use this method also to create and run the thread */
        etx_thread = kthread_run(thread_function,NULL,"eTx Thread");
        if(etx_thread) {
            pr_info("Kthread Created Successfully...\n");
        } else {
            pr_err("Cannot create kthread\n");
             goto r_device;
        }
#endif
        pr_info("Device Driver Insert...Done!!!\n");
        return 0;
 
 
r_device:
        class_destroy(dev_class);
r_class:
        unregister_chrdev_region(dev,1);
        cdev_del(&etx_cdev);
        return -1;
}

/*
** Module exit function
*/  
static void __exit etx_driver_exit(void)
{
        kthread_stop(etx_thread);
        device_destroy(dev_class,dev);
        class_destroy(dev_class);
        cdev_del(&etx_cdev);
        unregister_chrdev_region(dev, 1);
        pr_info("Device Driver Remove...Done!!\n");
}
 
module_init(etx_driver_init);
module_exit(etx_driver_exit);
 
MODULE_LICENSE("GPL");
MODULE_AUTHOR("EmbeTronicX <[email protected]>");
MODULE_DESCRIPTION("A simple device driver - Kernel Thread");
MODULE_VERSION("1.14");

MakeFile

obj-m += driver.o

KDIR = /lib/modules/$(shell uname -r)/build

all:
    make -C $(KDIR) M=$(shell pwd) modules

clean:
    make -C $(KDIR) M=$(shell pwd) clean

Building and Testing Driver

  • Build the driver by using Makefile (sudo make)
  • Load the driver using sudo insmod driver.ko
  • Then Check the dmesg

Major = 246 Minor = 0
Device Driver Insert...Done!!!
In EmbeTronicX Thread Function 0
In EmbeTronicX Thread Function 1
In EmbeTronicX Thread Function 2
In EmbeTronicX Thread Function 3

  • So our thread is running now.
  • Remove the driver using sudo rmmod driver to stop the thread.

In our next tutorial, we will discuss the tasklet in the Linux device driver.

Please find the other Linux device driver tutorials here.

You can also read the below tutorials.

Linux Device Driver TutorialsC Programming Tutorials
FreeRTOS TutorialsNuttX RTOS Tutorials
RTX RTOS TutorialsInterrupts Basics
I2C Protocol – Part 1 (Basics)I2C Protocol – Part 2 (Advanced Topics)
STM32 TutorialsLPC2148 (ARM7) Tutorials
PIC16F877A Tutorials8051 Tutorials
Unit Testing in C TutorialsESP32-IDF Tutorials
Raspberry Pi TutorialsEmbedded Interview Topics
Reset Sequence in ARM Cortex-M4BLE Basics
VIC and NVIC in ARMSPI – Serial Peripheral Interface Protocol
Bootloader TutorialsRaspberry PI Pico Tutorials
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