Index of Documentation for People Interested in Writing and/or Understanding the Linux Kernel

Juan-Mariano de Goyeneche <jmseyas@dit.upm.es>

The need for a document like this one became apparent in the linux-kernel mailing list as the same questions, asking for pointers to information, appeared again and again.

Fortunately, as more and more people get to GNU/Linux, more and more get interested in the Kernel. But reading the sources is not always enough. It is easy to understand the code, but miss the concepts, the philosophy and design decisions behind this code.

Unfortunately, not many documents are available for beginners to start. And, even if they exist, there was no “well-known” place which kept track of them. These lines try to cover this lack. All documents available on line known by the author are listed, while some reference books are also mentioned.

PLEASE, if you know any paper not listed here or write a new document, send me an e-mail, and I’ll include a reference to it here. Any corrections, ideas or comments are also welcomed.

The papers that follow are listed in no particular order. All are cataloged with the following fields: the document’s “Title”, the “Author”/s, the “URL” where they can be found, some “Keywords” helpful when searching for specific topics, and a brief “Description” of the Document.

Enjoy!

Note

The documents on each section of this document are ordered by its published date, from the newest to the oldest.

Docs at the Linux Kernel tree

The Sphinx books should be built with make {htmldocs | pdfdocs | epubdocs}.

  • Name: linux/Documentation

    Author

    Many.

    Location

    Documentation/

    Keywords

    text files, Sphinx.

    Description

    Documentation that comes with the kernel sources, inside the Documentation directory. Some pages from this document (including this document itself) have been moved there, and might be more up to date than the web version.

On-line docs

  • Title: Linux Kernel Mailing List Glossary

    Author

    various

    URL

    https://kernelnewbies.org/KernelGlossary

    Date

    rolling version

    Keywords

    glossary, terms, linux-kernel.

    Description

    From the introduction: “This glossary is intended as a brief description of some of the acronyms and terms you may hear during discussion of the Linux kernel”.

  • Title: Tracing the Way of Data in a TCP Connection through the Linux Kernel

    Author

    Richard Sailer

    URL

    https://archive.org/details/linux_kernel_data_flow_short_paper

    Date

    2016

    Keywords

    Linux Kernel Networking, TCP, tracing, ftrace

    Description

    A seminar paper explaining ftrace and how to use it for understanding linux kernel internals, illustrated at tracing the way of a TCP packet through the kernel.

    Abstract

    This short paper outlines the usage of ftrace a tracing framework as a tool to understand a running Linux system. Having obtained a trace-log a kernel hacker can read and understand source code more determined and with context. In a detailed example this approach is demonstrated in tracing and the way of data in a TCP Connection through the kernel. Finally this trace-log is used as base for more a exact conceptual exploration and description of the Linux TCP/IP implementation.

  • Title: On submitting kernel Patches

    Author

    Andi Kleen

    URL

    http://halobates.de/on-submitting-kernel-patches.pdf

    Date

    2008

    Keywords

    patches, review process, types of submissions, basic rules, case studies

    Description

    This paper gives several experience values on what types of patches there are and how likley they get merged.

    Abstract

    […]. This paper examines some common problems for submitting larger changes and some strategies to avoid problems.

  • Title: Linux Device Drivers, Third Edition

    Author

    Jonathan Corbet, Alessandro Rubini, Greg Kroah-Hartman

    URL

    http://lwn.net/Kernel/LDD3/

    Date

    2005

    Description

    A 600-page book covering the (2.6.10) driver programming API and kernel hacking in general. Available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license.

    note

    You can also purchase a copy from O’Reilly or elsewhere.

  • Title: Writing an ALSA Driver

    Author

    Takashi Iwai <tiwai@suse.de>

    URL

    http://www.alsa-project.org/~iwai/writing-an-alsa-driver/index.html

    Date

    2005

    Keywords

    ALSA, sound, soundcard, driver, lowlevel, hardware.

    Description

    Advanced Linux Sound Architecture for developers, both at kernel and user-level sides. ALSA is the Linux kernel sound architecture in the 2.6 kernel version.

  • Title: Linux PCMCIA Programmer’s Guide

    Author

    David Hinds.

    URL

    http://pcmcia-cs.sourceforge.net/ftp/doc/PCMCIA-PROG.html

    Date

    2003

    Keywords

    PCMCIA.

    Description

    “This document describes how to write kernel device drivers for the Linux PCMCIA Card Services interface. It also describes how to write user-mode utilities for communicating with Card Services.

  • Title: Linux Kernel Module Programming Guide

    Author

    Ori Pomerantz.

    URL

    http://tldp.org/LDP/lkmpg/2.6/html/index.html

    Date

    2001

    Keywords

    modules, GPL book, /proc, ioctls, system calls, interrupt handlers .

    Description

    Very nice 92 pages GPL book on the topic of modules programming. Lots of examples.

  • Title: Global spinlock list and usage

    Author

    Rick Lindsley.

    URL

    http://lse.sourceforge.net/lockhier/global-spin-lock

    Date

    2001

    Keywords

    spinlock.

    Description

    This is an attempt to document both the existence and usage of the spinlocks in the Linux 2.4.5 kernel. Comprehensive list of spinlocks showing when they are used, which functions access them, how each lock is acquired, under what conditions it is held, whether interrupts can occur or not while it is held…

  • Title: A Linux vm README

    Author

    Kanoj Sarcar.

    URL

    http://kos.enix.org/pub/linux-vmm.html

    Date

    2001

    Keywords

    virtual memory, mm, pgd, vma, page, page flags, page cache, swap cache, kswapd.

    Description

    Telegraphic, short descriptions and definitions relating the Linux virtual memory implementation.

  • Title: Video4linux Drivers, Part 1: Video-Capture Device

    Author

    Alan Cox.

    URL

    http://www.linux-mag.com/id/406

    Date

    2000

    Keywords

    video4linux, driver, video capture, capture devices, camera driver.

    Description

    The title says it all.

  • Title: Video4linux Drivers, Part 2: Video-capture Devices

    Author

    Alan Cox.

    URL

    http://www.linux-mag.com/id/429

    Date

    2000

    Keywords

    video4linux, driver, video capture, capture devices, camera driver, control, query capabilities, capability, facility.

    Description

    The title says it all.

  • Title: Linux IP Networking. A Guide to the Implementation and Modification of the Linux Protocol Stack.

    Author

    Glenn Herrin.

    URL

    http://www.cs.unh.edu/cnrg/gherrin

    Date

    2000

    Keywords

    network, networking, protocol, IP, UDP, TCP, connection, socket, receiving, transmitting, forwarding, routing, packets, modules, /proc, sk_buff, FIB, tags.

    Description

    Excellent paper devoted to the Linux IP Networking, explaining anything from the kernel’s to the user space configuration tools’ code. Very good to get a general overview of the kernel networking implementation and understand all steps packets follow from the time they are received at the network device till they are delivered to applications. The studied kernel code is from 2.2.14 version. Provides code for a working packet dropper example.

  • Title: How To Make Sure Your Driver Will Work On The Power Macintosh

    Author

    Paul Mackerras.

    URL

    http://www.linux-mag.com/id/261

    Date

    1999

    Keywords

    Mac, Power Macintosh, porting, drivers, compatibility.

    Description

    The title says it all.

  • Title: An Introduction to SCSI Drivers

    Author

    Alan Cox.

    URL

    http://www.linux-mag.com/id/284

    Date

    1999

    Keywords

    SCSI, device, driver.

    Description

    The title says it all.

  • Title: Advanced SCSI Drivers And Other Tales

    Author

    Alan Cox.

    URL

    http://www.linux-mag.com/id/307

    Date

    1999

    Keywords

    SCSI, device, driver, advanced.

    Description

    The title says it all.

  • Title: Writing Linux Mouse Drivers

    Author

    Alan Cox.

    URL

    http://www.linux-mag.com/id/330

    Date

    1999

    Keywords

    mouse, driver, gpm.

    Description

    The title says it all.

  • Title: More on Mouse Drivers

    Author

    Alan Cox.

    URL

    http://www.linux-mag.com/id/356

    Date

    1999

    Keywords

    mouse, driver, gpm, races, asynchronous I/O.

    Description

    The title still says it all.

  • Title: Writing Video4linux Radio Driver

    Author

    Alan Cox.

    URL

    http://www.linux-mag.com/id/381

    Date

    1999

    Keywords

    video4linux, driver, radio, radio devices.

    Description

    The title says it all.

  • Title: I/O Event Handling Under Linux

    Author

    Richard Gooch.

    URL

    http://web.mit.edu/~yandros/doc/io-events.html

    Date

    1999

    Keywords

    IO, I/O, select(2), poll(2), FDs, aio_read(2), readiness event queues.

    Description

    From the Introduction: “I/O Event handling is about how your Operating System allows you to manage a large number of open files (file descriptors in UNIX/POSIX, or FDs) in your application. You want the OS to notify you when FDs become active (have data ready to be read or are ready for writing). Ideally you want a mechanism that is scalable. This means a large number of inactive FDs cost very little in memory and CPU time to manage”.

  • Title: (nearly) Complete Linux Loadable Kernel Modules. The definitive guide for hackers, virus coders and system administrators.

    Author

    pragmatic/THC.

    URL

    http://packetstormsecurity.org/docs/hack/LKM_HACKING.html

    Date

    1999

    Keywords

    syscalls, intercept, hide, abuse, symbol table.

    Description

    Interesting paper on how to abuse the Linux kernel in order to intercept and modify syscalls, make files/directories/processes invisible, become root, hijack ttys, write kernel modules based virus… and solutions for admins to avoid all those abuses.

    Notes

    For 2.0.x kernels. Gives guidances to port it to 2.2.x kernels.

  • Name: Linux Virtual File System

    Author

    Peter J. Braam.

    URL

    http://www.coda.cs.cmu.edu/doc/talks/linuxvfs/

    Date

    1998

    Keywords

    slides, VFS, inode, superblock, dentry, dcache.

    Description

    Set of slides, presumably from a presentation on the Linux VFS layer. Covers version 2.1.x, with dentries and the dcache.

  • Title: The Venus kernel interface

    Author

    Peter J. Braam.

    URL

    http://www.coda.cs.cmu.edu/doc/html/kernel-venus-protocol.html

    Date

    1998

    Keywords

    coda, filesystem, venus, cache manager.

    Description

    “This document describes the communication between Venus and kernel level file system code needed for the operation of the Coda filesystem. This version document is meant to describe the current interface (version 1.0) as well as improvements we envisage”.

  • Title: Design and Implementation of the Second Extended Filesystem

    Author

    Rémy Card, Theodore Ts’o, Stephen Tweedie.

    URL

    http://web.mit.edu/tytso/www/linux/ext2intro.html

    Date

    1998

    Keywords

    ext2, linux fs history, inode, directory, link, devices, VFS, physical structure, performance, benchmarks, ext2fs library, ext2fs tools, e2fsck.

    Description

    Paper written by three of the top ext2 hackers. Covers Linux filesystems history, ext2 motivation, ext2 features, design, physical structure on disk, performance, benchmarks, e2fsck’s passes description… A must read!

    Notes

    This paper was first published in the Proceedings of the First Dutch International Symposium on Linux, ISBN 90-367-0385-9.

  • Title: The Linux RAID-1, 4, 5 Code

    Author

    Ingo Molnar, Gadi Oxman and Miguel de Icaza.

    URL

    http://www.linuxjournal.com/article.php?sid=2391

    Date

    1997

    Keywords

    RAID, MD driver.

    Description

    Linux Journal Kernel Korner article.

    Abstract

    A description of the implementation of the RAID-1, RAID-4 and RAID-5 personalities of the MD device driver in the Linux kernel, providing users with high performance and reliable, secondary-storage capability using software.

  • Title: Linux Kernel Hackers’ Guide

    Author

    Michael K. Johnson.

    URL

    http://www.tldp.org/LDP/khg/HyperNews/get/khg.html

    Date

    1997

    Keywords

    device drivers, files, VFS, kernel interface, character vs block devices, hardware interrupts, scsi, DMA, access to user memory, memory allocation, timers.

    Description

    A guide designed to help you get up to speed on the concepts that are not intuitevly obvious, and to document the internal structures of Linux.

  • Title: Dynamic Kernels: Modularized Device Drivers

    Author

    Alessandro Rubini.

    URL

    http://www.linuxjournal.com/article.php?sid=1219

    Date

    1996

    Keywords

    device driver, module, loading/unloading modules, allocating resources.

    Description

    Linux Journal Kernel Korner article.

    Abstract

    This is the first of a series of four articles co-authored by Alessandro Rubini and Georg Zezchwitz which present a practical approach to writing Linux device drivers as kernel loadable modules. This installment presents an introduction to the topic, preparing the reader to understand next month’s installment.

  • Title: Dynamic Kernels: Discovery

    Author

    Alessandro Rubini.

    URL

    http://www.linuxjournal.com/article.php?sid=1220

    Date

    1996

    Keywords

    character driver, init_module, clean_up module, autodetection, mayor number, minor number, file operations, open(), close().

    Description

    Linux Journal Kernel Korner article.

    Abstract

    This article, the second of four, introduces part of the actual code to create custom module implementing a character device driver. It describes the code for module initialization and cleanup, as well as the open() and close() system calls.

  • Title: The Devil’s in the Details

    Author

    Georg v. Zezschwitz and Alessandro Rubini.

    URL

    http://www.linuxjournal.com/article.php?sid=1221

    Date

    1996

    Keywords

    read(), write(), select(), ioctl(), blocking/non blocking mode, interrupt handler.

    Description

    Linux Journal Kernel Korner article.

    Abstract

    This article, the third of four on writing character device drivers, introduces concepts of reading, writing, and using ioctl-calls.

  • Title: Dissecting Interrupts and Browsing DMA

    Author

    Alessandro Rubini and Georg v. Zezschwitz.

    URL

    http://www.linuxjournal.com/article.php?sid=1222

    Date

    1996

    Keywords

    interrupts, irqs, DMA, bottom halves, task queues.

    Description

    Linux Journal Kernel Korner article.

    Abstract

    This is the fourth in a series of articles about writing character device drivers as loadable kernel modules. This month, we further investigate the field of interrupt handling. Though it is conceptually simple, practical limitations and constraints make this an ‘’interesting’’ part of device driver writing, and several different facilities have been provided for different situations. We also investigate the complex topic of DMA.

  • Title: Device Drivers Concluded

    Author

    Georg v. Zezschwitz.

    URL

    http://www.linuxjournal.com/article.php?sid=1287

    Date

    1996

    Keywords

    address spaces, pages, pagination, page management, demand loading, swapping, memory protection, memory mapping, mmap, virtual memory areas (VMAs), vremap, PCI.

    Description

    Finally, the above turned out into a five articles series. This latest one’s introduction reads: “This is the last of five articles about character device drivers. In this final section, Georg deals with memory mapping devices, beginning with an overall description of the Linux memory management concepts”.

  • Title: Network Buffers And Memory Management

    Author

    Alan Cox.

    URL

    http://www.linuxjournal.com/article.php?sid=1312

    Date

    1996

    Keywords

    sk_buffs, network devices, protocol/link layer variables, network devices flags, transmit, receive, configuration, multicast.

    Description

    Linux Journal Kernel Korner.

    Abstract

    Writing a network device driver for Linux is fundamentally simple—most of the complexity (other than talking to the hardware) involves managing network packets in memory.

  • Title: Analysis of the Ext2fs structure

    Author

    Louis-Dominique Dubeau.

    URL

    http://teaching.csse.uwa.edu.au/units/CITS2002/fs-ext2/

    Date

    1994

    Keywords

    ext2, filesystem, ext2fs.

    Description

    Description of ext2’s blocks, directories, inodes, bitmaps, invariants…

Published books

  • Title: Linux Treiber entwickeln

    Author

    Jürgen Quade, Eva-Katharina Kunst

    Publisher

    dpunkt.verlag

    Date

    Oct 2015 (4th edition)

    Pages

    688

    ISBN

    978-3-86490-288-8

    Note

    German. The third edition from 2011 is much cheaper and still quite up-to-date.

  • Title: Linux Kernel Networking: Implementation and Theory

    Author

    Rami Rosen

    Publisher

    Apress

    Date

    December 22, 2013

    Pages

    648

    ISBN

    978-1430261964

  • Title: Embedded Linux Primer: A practical Real-World Approach, 2nd Edition

    Author

    Christopher Hallinan

    Publisher

    Pearson

    Date

    November, 2010

    Pages

    656

    ISBN

    978-0137017836

  • Title: Linux Kernel Development, 3rd Edition

    Author

    Robert Love

    Publisher

    Addison-Wesley

    Date

    July, 2010

    Pages

    440

    ISBN

    978-0672329463

  • Title: Essential Linux Device Drivers

    Author

    Sreekrishnan Venkateswaran

    Published

    Prentice Hall

    Date

    April, 2008

    Pages

    744

    ISBN

    978-0132396554

  • Title: Linux Device Drivers, 3rd Edition

    Authors

    Jonathan Corbet, Alessandro Rubini, and Greg Kroah-Hartman

    Publisher

    O’Reilly & Associates

    Date

    2005

    Pages

    636

    ISBN

    0-596-00590-3

    Notes

    Further information in http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/linuxdrive3/ PDF format, URL: http://lwn.net/Kernel/LDD3/

  • Title: Linux Kernel Internals

    Author

    Michael Beck

    Publisher

    Addison-Wesley

    Date

    1997

    ISBN

    0-201-33143-8 (second edition)

  • Title: Programmation Linux 2.0 API systeme et fonctionnement du noyau

    Author

    Remy Card, Eric Dumas, Franck Mevel

    Publisher

    Eyrolles

    Date

    1997

    Pages

    520

    ISBN

    2-212-08932-5

    Notes

    French

  • Title: The Design and Implementation of the 4.4 BSD UNIX Operating System

    Author

    Marshall Kirk McKusick, Keith Bostic, Michael J. Karels, John S. Quarterman

    Publisher

    Addison-Wesley

    Date

    1996

    ISBN

    0-201-54979-4

  • Title: Unix internals – the new frontiers

    Author

    Uresh Vahalia

    Publisher

    Prentice Hall

    Date

    1996

    Pages

    600

    ISBN

    0-13-101908-2

  • Title: Programming for the real world - POSIX.4

    Author

    Bill O. Gallmeister

    Publisher

    O’Reilly & Associates, Inc

    Date

    1995

    Pages

    552

    ISBN

    I-56592-074-0

    Notes

    Though not being directly about Linux, Linux aims to be POSIX. Good reference.

  • Title: UNIX Systems for Modern Architectures: Symmetric Multiprocessing and Caching for Kernel Programmers

    Author

    Curt Schimmel

    Publisher

    Addison Wesley

    Date

    June, 1994

    Pages

    432

    ISBN

    0-201-63338-8

  • Title: The Design and Implementation of the 4.3 BSD UNIX Operating System

    Author

    Samuel J. Leffler, Marshall Kirk McKusick, Michael J Karels, John S. Quarterman

    Publisher

    Addison-Wesley

    Date

    1989 (reprinted with corrections on October, 1990)

    ISBN

    0-201-06196-1

  • Title: The Design of the UNIX Operating System

    Author

    Maurice J. Bach

    Publisher

    Prentice Hall

    Date

    1986

    Pages

    471

    ISBN

    0-13-201757-1

Miscellaneous

  • Name: Cross-Referencing Linux

    URL

    https://elixir.bootlin.com/

    Keywords

    Browsing source code.

    Description

    Another web-based Linux kernel source code browser. Lots of cross references to variables and functions. You can see where they are defined and where they are used.

  • Name: Linux Weekly News

    URL

    http://lwn.net

    Keywords

    latest kernel news.

    Description

    The title says it all. There’s a fixed kernel section summarizing developers’ work, bug fixes, new features and versions produced during the week. Published every Thursday.

  • Name: The home page of Linux-MM

    Author

    The Linux-MM team.

    URL

    http://linux-mm.org/

    Keywords

    memory management, Linux-MM, mm patches, TODO, docs, mailing list.

    Description

    Site devoted to Linux Memory Management development. Memory related patches, HOWTOs, links, mm developers… Don’t miss it if you are interested in memory management development!

  • Name: Kernel Newbies IRC Channel and Website

    URL

    http://www.kernelnewbies.org

    Keywords

    IRC, newbies, channel, asking doubts.

    Description

    #kernelnewbies on irc.oftc.net. #kernelnewbies is an IRC network dedicated to the ‘newbie’ kernel hacker. The audience mostly consists of people who are learning about the kernel, working on kernel projects or professional kernel hackers that want to help less seasoned kernel people. #kernelnewbies is on the OFTC IRC Network. Try irc.oftc.net as your server and then /join #kernelnewbies. The kernelnewbies website also hosts articles, documents, FAQs…

  • Name: linux-kernel mailing list archives and search engines

    URL

    http://vger.kernel.org/vger-lists.html

    URL

    http://www.uwsg.indiana.edu/hypermail/linux/kernel/index.html

    URL

    http://groups.google.com/group/mlist.linux.kernel

    Keywords

    linux-kernel, archives, search.

    Description

    Some of the linux-kernel mailing list archivers. If you have a better/another one, please let me know.


Document last updated on Tue 2016-Sep-20

This document is based on:

http://www.dit.upm.es/~jmseyas/linux/kernel/hackers-docs.html