Figure 132 Specialized IO ports

To lower costs, the same I/O port is often used for different purposes. For instance, some bits describe the device state, while others specify the command to be issued to the device. Similarly, the same I/O port may be used as an input register or an output register. Accessing I/O ports

The in, out, ins, and outs assembly language instructions access I/O ports. The following auxiliary functions are included in the kernel to simplify such accesses:

Read 1, 2, or 4 consecutive bytes, respectively, from an I/O port. The suffix "b," "w," or "l" refers, respectively, to a byte (8 bits), a word (16 bits), and a long (32 bits).

Read 1, 2, or 4 consecutive bytes, respectively, from an I/O port, and then execute a "dummy" instruction to introduce a pause.

Write 1, 2, or 4 consecutive bytes, respectively, to an I/O port.

Write 1, 2, and 4 consecutive bytes, respectively, to an I/O port, and then execute a "dummy" instruction to introduce a pause.

Read sequences of consecutive bytes in groups of 1, 2, or 4, respectively, from an I/O port. The length of the sequence is specified as a parameter of the functions.

Write sequences of consecutive bytes, in groups of 1, 2, or 4, respectively, to an I/O port.

While accessing I/O ports is simple, detecting which I/O ports have been assigned to I/O devices may not be easy, in particular, for systems based on an ISA bus. Often a device driver must blindly write into some I/O port to probe the hardware device; if, however, this I/O port is already used by some other hardware device, a system crash could occur. To prevent such situations, the kernel keeps track of I/O ports assigned to each hardware device by means of "resources."

A resource represents a portion of some entity that can be exclusively assigned to a device driver. In our case, a resource represents a range of I/O port addresses. The information relative to each resource is stored in a resource data structure, whose fields are shown in Table 13-1. All resources of the same kind are inserted in a tree-like data structure; for instance, all resources representing I/O port address ranges are included in a tree rooted at the node ioport resource.

Table 13-1. The fields of the resource data structure




const char *


Description of owner of the resource

unsigned long


Start of the resource range

unsigned long


End of the resource range

unsigned long


Various flags

struct resource *


Pointer to parent in the resource tree

struct resource *


Pointer to a sibling in the resource tree

struct resource *


Pointer to first child in the resource tree

The children of a node are collected in a list whose first element is pointed to by the child field. The sibling field points to the next node in the list.

Why use a tree? Well, consider, for instance, the I/O port addresses used by an IDE hard disk interface—let's say from 0xf000 to 0xf00f. A resource with the start field set to 0xf000 and the end field set to 0xf00f is then included in the tree, and the conventional name of the controller is stored in the name field. However, the IDE device driver needs to remember another bit of information, namely that the subrange from 0xf000 to 0xf007 is used for the master disk of the IDE chain, while the subrange from 0xf008 to 0xf00f is used for the slave disk. To do this, the device driver inserts two children below the resource corresponding to the whole range from 0xf000 to 0xf00f, one child for each subrange of

I/O ports. As a general rule, each node of the tree must correspond to a subrange of the range associated with the parent.

Any device driver may use the following three functions, passing to them the root node of the resource tree and the address of a resource data structure of interest:

request_resource( )

Assigns a given range to an I/O device.

check_resource( )

Checks whether a given range is free or whether some subrange has already been assigned to an I/O device release_resource( )

Releases a given range previously assigned to an I/O device.

The kernel also defines some shortcuts to the above functions that apply to I/O ports: request_region( ) assigns a given interval of I/O ports, check_region( ) verifies whether a given interval of I/O ports is free or (even partially) busy, and release_region( ) releases a previously assigned interval of I/O ports. The tree of all I/O addresses currently assigned to I/O devices can be obtained from the /proc/ioports file.

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