Linux Kernel Development, 3rd Edition

Linux Kernel Development, 3rd Edition

Author: Robert Love

Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional

Genres: ,

Publish Date: July 2, 2010

ISBN-10: 0672329468

Pages: 440

File Type: PDF

Language: English

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Book Preface

Developing code in the kernel does not require genius, magic, or a bushy Unix-hacker beard.The kernel, although having some interesting rules of its own, is not much different from any other large software endeavor.You need to master many details—as with any big project—but the differences are quantitative, not qualitative.

It is imperative that you utilize the source.The open availability of the source code for the Linux system is a rare gift that you must not take for granted. It is not sufficient only to read the source, however.You need to dig in and change some code. Find a bug and fix it. Improve the drivers for your hardware. Add some new functionality, even if it is trivial. Find an itch and scratch it! Only when you write code will it all come together.

Kernel Version

This book is based on the 2.6 Linux kernel series. It does not cover older kernels, except for historical relevance.We discuss, for example, how certain subsystems are implemented in the 2.4 Linux kernel series, as their simpler implementations are helpful teaching aids. Specifically, this book is up to date as of Linux kernel version 2.6.34. Although the kernel is a moving target and no effort can hope to capture such a dynamic beast in a timeless manner, my intention is that this book is relevant for developers and users of both older and newer kernels.

Although this book discusses the 2.6.34 kernel, I have made an effort to ensure the material is factually correct with respect to the 2.6.32 kernel as well.That latter version is sanctioned as the “enterprise” kernel by the various Linux distributions, ensuring we will continue to see it in production systems and under active development for many years. (2.6.9, 2.6.18, and 2.6.27 were similar “long-term” releases.)


This book targets Linux developers and users who are interested in understanding the Linux kernel. It is not a line-by-line commentary of the kernel source. Nor is it a guide to developing drivers or a reference on the kernel API. Instead, the goal of this book is to provide enough information on the design and implementation of the Linux kernel that a sufficiently accomplished programmer can begin developing code in the kernel. Kernel development can be fun and rewarding, and I want to introduce the reader to that world as readily as possible.This book, however, in discussing both theory and application, should appeal to readers of both academic and practical persuasions. I have always been of the mind that one needs to understand the theory to understand the application, but I try to balance the two in this work. I hope that whatever your motivations for understanding the Linux kernel, this book explains the design and implementation sufficiently for your needs.

Thus, this book covers both the usage of core kernel systems and their design and implementation. I think this is important and deserves a moment’s discussion. A good example is Chapter 8,“Bottom Halves and Deferring Work,” which covers a component of device drivers called bottom halves. In that chapter, I discuss both the design and implementation of the kernel’s bottom-half mechanisms (which a core kernel developer or academic might find interesting) and how to actually use the exported interfaces to implement your own bottom half (which a device driver developer or casual hacker can find pertinent). I believe all groups can find both discussions relevant.The core kernel developer, who certainly needs to understand the inner workings of the kernel, should have a good understanding of how the interfaces are actually used. At the same time, a device driver writer can benefit from a good understanding of the implementation behind the interface.

This is akin to learning some library’s API versus studying the actual implementation of the library. At first glance, an application programmer needs to understand only the API—it is often taught to treat interfaces as a black box. Likewise, a library developer is concerned only with the library’s design and implementation. I believe, however, both parties should invest time in learning the other half. An application programmer who better understands the underlying operating system can make much greater use of it. Similarly, the library developer should not grow out of touch with the reality and practicality of the applications that use the library. Consequently, I discuss both the design and usage of kernel subsystems, not only in hopes that this book will be useful to either party, but also in hopes that the whole book is useful to both parties. I assume that the reader knows the C programming language and is familiar with Linux systems. Some experience with operating system design and related computer science topics is beneficial, but I try to explain concepts as much as possible—if not, the Bibliography includes some excellent books on operating system design.

This book is appropriate for an undergraduate course introducing operating system design as the applied text if accompanied by an introductory book on theory.This book should fare well either in an advanced undergraduate course or in a graduate-level course without ancillary material.

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