May the #! be with you

Using LKM and procfs -- Part I

| Stephen Zhang | Comments

The proc filesystem was originally designed for providing information on the processes in a system. But given the usefulness of procfs, many elements use it both to report information and enable dynamic module configuration. It can also be used as an communication mechanism between kernel space and user space. LKM is for Loadable kernel module. In this post, we will practice to write our own module, and use procfs to communicate with user environment.

An example of LKM

This book is very detailed on LKM programming, The Linux Kernel Module Programming Guide. For a quick start, I just provide a very simple hello world module to demonstrate usage of lkm.

#include <linux/module.h>

MODULE_AUTHOR("Stephen Zhang");

int init_simple_lkm(void)
    printk(KERN_INFO "SLKM: module loaded. speaking from kernel.\n");
    return 0;

void cleanup_simple_lkm(void)
    printk(KERN_INFO "SLKM: module unloaded.\n");


In this simple code, line 19-20 defines the entrance and exit function of the module, they will be invoked while the module is loaded/unloaded. The declaration is in linux/init.h:

typedef int (*initcall_t)(void);
typedef void (*exitcall_t)(void);

Sometimes you will see two macros __init and __exit, __init. The __init macro causes the init function to be discarded and its memory freed once the init function finishes. And the same, the __exit macro causes the omission of the function.

As stdin is an fd associated with a specific process, kernel module don’t have stdin or stdout, thus you cannot use printf to put messages on a terminal. Instead, you should use printk, and the messages will go to /var/log/messages. You can use dmesg or cat /var/log/messages to examine them. KERN_INFO is the level of the message, defined in linux/printk.h:

#define KERN_EMERG      "<0>"   /* system is unusable                   */
#define KERN_ALERT      "<1>"   /* action must be taken immediately     */
#define KERN_CRIT       "<2>"   /* critical conditions                  */
#define KERN_ERR        "<3>"   /* error conditions                     */
#define KERN_WARNING    "<4>"   /* warning conditions                   */
#define KERN_NOTICE     "<5>"   /* normal but significant condition     */
#define KERN_INFO       "<6>"   /* informational                        */
#define KERN_DEBUG      "<7>"   /* debug-level messages                 */

In kernel 2.6+, build a kernel module is quite simple, just use the following Makefile:

obj-m += simple_lkm.o
    make -C /lib/modules/${shell uname -r}/build/ M=${PWD} modules

And now just type make in your current directory, everything will be done for you. You will get a simple_lkm.ko, load it with insmod:

$ insmod simple_lkm.ko

Now we can see the module is loaded with lsmod and dmesg:

$ lsmod | grep simple_lkm
simple_lkm               938  0

$ dmesg | tail -n 1
[349718.844315] SLKM: module loaded. speaking from kernel.

We can use rmmod to unload the module:

$ rmmod simple_lkm
$ dmesg | tail -n 1
[349913.592481] SLKM: module unloaded.

So far, the first lkm is finished. In the next post, I will demonstrate how to use procfs with an simple procfs calculator.


In this post, I referred the following materials. But be ware that, some of them may be outdated, keep an eye on the version of linux they are using.