Chapter 9. Blocking Processes

Blocking Processes

Replacing printk

What do you do when somebody asks you for something you can't do right away? If you're a human being and you're bothered by a human being, the only thing you can say is: "Not right now, I'm busy. Go away!". But if you're a kernel module and you're bothered by a process, you have another possibility. You can put the process to sleep until you can service it. After all, processes are being put to sleep by the kernel and woken up all the time (that's the way multiple processes appear to run on the same time on a single CPU).

This kernel module is an example of this. The file (called /proc/sleep) can only be opened by a single process at a time. If the file is already open, the kernel module calls module_interruptible_sleep_on[1]. This function changes the status of the task (a task is the kernel data structure which holds information about a process and the system call it's in, if any) to TASK_INTERRUPTIBLE, which means that the task will not run until it is woken up somehow, and adds it to WaitQ, the queue of tasks waiting to access the file. Then, the function calls the scheduler to context switch to a different process, one which has some use for the CPU.

When a process is done with the file, it closes it, and module_close is called. That function wakes up all the processes in the queue (there's no mechanism to only wake up one of them). It then returns and the process which just closed the file can continue to run. In time, the scheduler decides that that process has had enough and gives control of the CPU to another process. Eventually, one of the processes which was in the queue will be given control of the CPU by the scheduler. It starts at the point right after the call to module_interruptible_sleep_on[2]. It can then proceed to set a global variable to tell all the other processes that the file is still open and go on with its life. When the other processes get a piece of the CPU, they'll see that global variable and go back to sleep.

To make our life more interesting, module_close doesn't have a monopoly on waking up the processes which wait to access the file. A signal, such as Ctrl+c (SIGINT) can also wake up a process. [3] In that case, we want to return with -EINTR immediately. This is important so users can, for example, kill the process before it receives the file.

There is one more point to remember. Some times processes don't want to sleep, they want either to get what they want immediately, or to be told it cannot be done. Such processes use the O_NONBLOCK flag when opening the file. The kernel is supposed to respond by returning with the error code -EAGAIN from operations which would otherwise block, such as opening the file in this example. The program cat_noblock, available in the source directory for this chapter, can be used to open a file with O_NONBLOCK.

Example 9-1. sleep.c

/*  sleep.c - create a /proc file, and if several processes try to open it at
 *  the same time, put all but one to sleep

#include <linux/kernel.h>                   /* We're doing kernel work */
#include <linux/module.h>                   /* Specifically, a module */

#include <linux/modversions.h>

/* Necessary because we use proc fs */
#include <linux/proc_fs.h>

/* For putting processes to sleep and waking them up */
#include <linux/sched.h>
#include <linux/wrapper.h>

/* In 2.2.3 /usr/include/linux/version.h includes a macro for this, but 2.0.35
 * doesn't - so I add it here if necessary.
#define KERNEL_VERSION(a,b,c) ((a)*65536+(b)*256+(c))

#include <asm/uaccess.h>                    /* for get_user and put_user */

/* The module's file functions */

/* Here we keep the last message received, to prove that we can process our
 * input
static char Message[MESSAGE_LENGTH];

/* Since we use the file operations struct, we can't use the special proc
 * output provisions - we have to use a standard read function, which is this
 * function
static ssize_t module_output (
   struct file *file,                      /* The file read */
   char *buf,           /* The buffer to put data to (in the user segment) */
   size_t len,                             /* The length of the buffer */
   loff_t *offset)                         /* Offset in the file - ignore */
static int module_output (
   struct inode *inode,                    /* The inode read */
   struct file *file,                      /* The file read */
   char *buf,           /* The buffer to put data to (in the user segment) */
   int len)                                /* The length of the buffer */
   static int finished = 0;
   int i;
   char message[MESSAGE_LENGTH+30];

   /* Return 0 to signify end of file - that we have nothing more to say at this
    * point.
   if (finished) {
      finished = 0;
      return 0;

   /* If you don't understand this by now, you're hopeless as a kernel
    * programmer.
   sprintf(message, "Last input:%s\n", Message);
   for (i = 0; i < len && message[i]; i++) 
      put_user(message[i], buf+i);

   finished = 1;
   return i;                            /* Return the number of bytes "read" */

/* This function receives input from the user when the user writes to the /proc
 * file.
static ssize_t module_input (
   struct file *file,                     /* The file itself */
   const char *buf,                       /* The buffer with input */
   size_t length,                         /* The buffer's length */
   loff_t *offset)                        /* offset to file - ignore */
static int module_input (
   struct inode *inode,                   /* The file's inode */
   struct file *file,                     /* The file itself */
   const char *buf,                       /* The buffer with the input */
   int length)                            /* The buffer's length */
   int i;

   /* Put the input into Message, where module_output will later be able to use
    * it
   for(i = 0; i < MESSAGE_LENGTH-1 && i < length; i++)
      get_user(Message[i], buf+i);
      Message[i] = get_user(buf+i);
   /* we want a standard, zero terminated string */
   Message[i] = '\0';  
   /* We need to return the number of input characters used */
   return i;

/* 1 if the file is currently open by somebody */
int Already_Open = 0;

/* Queue of processes who want our file */
static struct wait_queue *WaitQ = NULL;

/* Called when the /proc file is opened */
static int module_open(struct inode *inode, struct file *file)
   /* If the file's flags include O_NONBLOCK, it means the process doesn't want
    * to wait for the file.  In this case, if the file is already open, we
    * should fail with -EAGAIN, meaning "you'll have to try again", instead of
    * blocking a process which would rather stay awake.
   if ((file->f_flags & O_NONBLOCK) && Already_Open) 
      return -EAGAIN;

	 /* This is the correct place for MOD_INC_USE_COUNT because if a process is
    * in the loop, which is within the kernel module, the kernel module must
    * not be removed.

   /* If the file is already open, wait until it isn't */
   while (Already_Open) 
      int i, is_sig = 0;

      /* This function puts the current process, including any system calls,
       * such as us, to sleep.  Execution will be resumed right after the
       * function call, either because somebody called wake_up(&WaitQ) (only
       * module_close does that, when the file is closed) or when a signal,
       * such as Ctrl-C, is sent to the process
      /* If we woke up because we got a signal we're not blocking, return
       * -EINTR (fail the system call).  This allows processes to be killed or
       * stopped.

 * Emmanuel Papirakis:
 * This is a little update to work with 2.2.*.  Signals now are contained in
 * two words (64 bits) and are stored in a structure that contains an array of
 * two unsigned longs.  We now have to make 2 checks in our if.
 * Ori Pomerantz:
 * Nobody promised me they'll never use more than 64 bits, or that this book
 * won't be used for a version of Linux with a word size of 16 bits.  This code
 * would work in any case.
      for (i = 0; i < _NSIG_WORDS && !is_sig; i++)
         is_sig = current->signal.sig[i] & ~current->blocked.sig[i];

      if (is_sig) {
      if (current->signal & ~current->blocked) {
         /* It's important to put MOD_DEC_USE_COUNT here, because for processes
          * where the open is interrupted there will never be a corresponding
          * close. If we don't decrement the usage count here, we will be left
          * with a positive usage count which we'll have no way to bring down
          * to zero, giving us an immortal module, which can only be killed by
          * rebooting the machine.
         return -EINTR;

   /* If we got here, Already_Open must be zero */

   /* Open the file */
   Already_Open = 1;
   return 0;                                 /* Allow the access */

/* Called when the /proc file is closed */
int module_close(struct inode *inode, struct file *file)
void module_close(struct inode *inode, struct file *file)
   /* Set Already_Open to zero, so one of the processes in the WaitQ will be
    * able to set Already_Open back to one and to open the file.  All the other
    * processes will be called when Already_Open is back to one, so they'll go
    * back to sleep.
   Already_Open = 0;

   /* Wake up all the processes in WaitQ, so if anybody is waiting for the
    * file, they can have it.


   return 0;                                 /* success */

/* This function decides whether to allow an operation (return zero) or not
 * allow it (return a non-zero which indicates why it is not allowed).
 * The operation can be one of the following values:
 * 0 - Execute (run the "file" - meaningless in our case)
 * 2 - Write (input to the kernel module)
 * 4 - Read (output from the kernel module)
 * This is the real function that checks file permissions. The permissions
 * returned by ls -l are for referece only, and can be overridden here. 
static int module_permission(struct inode *inode, int op)
   /* We allow everybody to read from our module, but only root (uid 0) may
    * write to it
   if (op == 4 || (op == 2 && current->euid == 0))
      return 0; 

   /* If it's anything else, access is denied */
   return -EACCES;

/* Structures to register as the /proc file, with pointers to all the relevant
 * functions. 

/* File operations for our proc file. This is where we place pointers to all
 * the functions called when somebody tries to do something to our file. NULL
 * means we don't want to deal with something.
static struct file_operations File_Ops_4_Our_Proc_File = {
   NULL,                                   /* lseek */
   module_output,                          /* "read" from the file */
   module_input,                           /* "write" to the file */
   NULL,                                   /* readdir */
   NULL,                                   /* select */
   NULL,                                   /* ioctl */
   NULL,                                   /* mmap */
   module_open,                    /* called when the /proc file is opened */
   NULL,                                   /* flush */
   module_close};                          /* called when it's classed */

/* Inode operations for our proc file.  We need it so we'll have somewhere to
 * specify the file operations structure we want to use, and the function we
 * use for permissions. It's also possible to specify functions to be called
 * for anything else which could be done to an inode (although we don't bother,
 * we just put NULL).
static struct inode_operations Inode_Ops_4_Our_Proc_File = {
   NULL,                                   /* create */
   NULL,                                   /* lookup */
   NULL,                                   /* link */
   NULL,                                   /* unlink */
   NULL,                                   /* symlink */
   NULL,                                   /* mkdir */
   NULL,                                   /* rmdir */
   NULL,                                   /* mknod */
   NULL,                                   /* rename */
   NULL,                                   /* readlink */
   NULL,                                   /* follow_link */
   NULL,                                   /* readpage */
   NULL,                                   /* writepage */
   NULL,                                   /* bmap */
   NULL,                                   /* truncate */
   module_permission};                     /* check for permissions */

/* Directory entry */
static struct proc_dir_entry Our_Proc_File = {
	 0,                 /* Inode number - ignore, it will be filled by 
                       * proc_register[_dynamic]
   5,                                      /* Length of the file name */
   "sleep",                                /* The file name */

   /* File mode - this is a regular file which can be read by its owner, its
    * group, and everybody else. Also, its owner can write to it.
    * Actually, this field is just for reference, it's module_permission that
    * does the actual check. It could use this field, but in our
    * implementation it doesn't, for simplicity.
   1,        /* Number of links (directories where the file is referenced) */
   0, 0,     /* The uid and gid for the file - we give it to root */
   80,       /* The size of the file reported by ls. */

   /* A pointer to the inode structure for the file, if we need it. In our
    * case we do, because we need a write function.

   /* The read function for the file.  Irrelevant, because we put it in the
    * inode structure above

/* Module initialization and cleanup */

/* Initialize the module - register the proc file */
int init_module()
   /* Success if proc_register_dynamic is a success, failure otherwise */
   return proc_register(&proc_root, &Our_Proc_File);
   return proc_register_dynamic(&proc_root, &Our_Proc_File);

   /* proc_root is the root directory for the proc fs (/proc).  This is where
    * we want our file to be located. 

/* Cleanup - unregister our file from /proc.  This could get dangerous if
 * there are still processes waiting in WaitQ, because they are inside our
 * open function, which will get unloaded. I'll explain how to avoid removal
 * of a kernel module in such a case in chapter 10.
void cleanup_module()
   proc_unregister(&proc_root, Our_Proc_File.low_ino);



The easiest way to keep a file open is to open it with tail -f.


This means that the process is still in kernel mode -- as far as the process is concerned, it issued the open system call and the system call hasn't returned yet. The process doesn't know somebody else used the CPU for most of the time between the moment it issued the call and the moment it returned.


This is because we used module_interruptible_sleep_on. We could have used module_sleep_on instead, but that would have resulted is extremely angry users whose Ctrl+cs are ignored.