Programming with Linux proc files

Discussion in 'Linux' started by poornaMoksha, Sep 29, 2011.

  1. poornaMoksha

    poornaMoksha New Member

    Jan 29, 2011
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    As we have already discussed the procfile system in my previous article. Here we will learn about how to create a procfile which can be read and written to.

    Since, proc files act as an interface between user space and kernel space, so creating, reading and writing a proc file will not be simple programming. Programming with proc files involves kernel level programming in form of loadable kernel modules.


    As I have already discussed how to program LKMs, so I will not repeat it here. Lets start with creating Proc files :
    1. The function used for creating proc files is 'create_proc_entry'. It takes 3 arguments- name of proc file, permissions to the file, a location in the /proc filesystem in which the file is to reside and returns a pointer to structure 'struct proc_dir_entry'.
    2. The return pointer ctan be used to configure other aspects of the proc file, such as the function to call when a read is performed on the file.
    3. The structure 'proc_dir_entry' is as follows :

      struct proc_dir_entry {
          const char *name;            // virtual file name
          mode_t mode;                // mode permissions
          uid_t uid;                // File's user id
          gid_t gid;                // File's group id
          struct inode_operations *proc_iops;    // Inode operations functions
          struct file_operations *proc_fops;    // File operations functions
          struct proc_dir_entry *parent;        // Parent directory
          read_proc_t *read_proc;            // /proc read function
          write_proc_t *write_proc;        // /proc write function
          void *data;                // Pointer to private data
          atomic_t count;                // use count
    4. To remove a file from /proc, use the 'remove_proc_entry' function.
    5. We have declared/defined two functions 'my_read' and 'my_write' that get called when proc file is read and written to respectively.
    6. Since the data is coming from user space in case of 'my_write' function, so we cannot directly use the pointer to the data passed by the user space.
    7. To solve the above problem we use the function 'copy_from_user'
    8. Similarly 'copy_to_user' is used in case of a read for proc file is issued.
    Enough of theory, lets look at a real example :

    #include <linux/module.h>
    #include <linux/kernel.h>
    #include <linux/proc_fs.h>
    #include <linux/string.h>
    #include <linux/vmalloc.h>
    #include <asm/uaccess.h>
    #define MAX_LENGTH       PAGE_SIZE
    static struct proc_dir_entry *proc_entry;
    static char *info;  // Space for my_proc_entry strings
    static int write_index;  // Index to write
    static int read_index;  // Index to read
    int my_read( char *page, char **start, off_t off,
                       int count, int *eof, void *data );
    ssize_t my_write( struct file *filp, const char __user *buff,
                            unsigned long len, void *data );
    int init_my_module( void )
      int ret = 0;
      info = (char *)vmalloc( MAX_LENGTH );
      if (!info) {
        ret = -ENOMEM;
      } else {
        memset( info, 0, MAX_LENGTH );
        proc_entry = create_proc_entry( "my_proc_entry", 0644, NULL );
        if (proc_entry == NULL) {
          ret = -ENOMEM;
          printk(KERN_INFO "my_proc_entry: Couldn't create proc entry\n");
        } else {
          write_index = 0;
          read_index = 0;
          proc_entry->read_proc = my_read;
          proc_entry->write_proc = my_write;
          printk(KERN_INFO "my_proc_entry: Module loaded.\n");
      return ret;
    void cleanup_my_module( void )
      remove_proc_entry("my_proc_entry", proc_entry);
      printk(KERN_INFO "my_proc_entry: Module unloaded.\n");
    ssize_t my_write( struct file *filp, const char __user *buff,
                            unsigned long len, void *data )
      int space_available = (MAX_LENGTH-write_index)+1;
      if (len > space_available) {
        printk(KERN_INFO "my_proc_entry: space full!\n");
        return -ENOSPC;
      if (copy_from_user( &info[write_index], buff, len )) {
        return -EFAULT;
      write_index += len;
      info[write_index-1] = 0;
      return len;
    int my_read( char *page, char **start, off_t off,
                       int count, int *eof, void *data )
      int len;
      if (off > 0) {
        *eof = 1;
        return 0;
      /* Wrap-around */
      if (read_index >= write_index) read_index = 0;
      len = sprintf(page, "%s\n", &info[read_index]);
      read_index += len;
      return len;
    module_init( init_my_module );
    module_exit( cleanup_my_module );
    Makefile for the above LKM :

    obj-m += proc.o
            sudo make -C /lib/modules/$(shell uname -r)/build M=$(PWD) modules
            sudo make -C /lib/modules/$(shell uname -r)/build M=$(PWD) clean 
    Compilation and insertion of module:
    practice # make
    sudo make -C /lib/modules/2.6.32-21-generic/build M=/home/himanshu/practice modules
    make: Entering directory `/usr/src/linux-headers-2.6.32-21-generic'
      CC [M]  /home/himanshu/practice/proc.o
    /home/himanshu/practice/proc.c: In function ‘init_my_module’:
    /home/himanshu/practice/proc.c:49: warning: assignment from incompatible pointer type
      Building modules, stage 2.
      MODPOST 1 modules
      LD [M]  /home/himanshu/practice/proc.ko
    make: Leaving directory `/usr/src/linux-headers-2.6.32-21-generic'
    practice # insmod ./proc.ko
    Now, when we see our proc file system, we will find an entry for my_proc_entry.

    To play around, run the following command :

    $ echo "hello world" > /proc/my_proc_entry
    now, try to view the contents of the proc file 'my_proc_entry'. You will see that the string 'hello world' will be displayed.


    To conclude, programming with proc files is extremely useful where-in there is a requirement to expose dynamic kerenl information to the user space and take parameters as input from user space and change the kernel configuration dynamically.

    Stay tuned for more!!!!!

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