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Index of Documentation for People Interested in Writing and/or
Understanding the Linux Kernel.
Juan-Mariano de Goyeneche <>
* The latest version of this document may be found at:
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
* Title: "Linux Device Drivers, Third Edition"
Author: Jonathan Corbet, Alessandro Rubini, Greg Kroah-Hartman
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.
* Title: "The Linux Kernel"
Author: David A. Rusling.
Keywords: everything!, book.
Description: On line, 200 pages book describing most aspects of
the Linux Kernel. Probably, the first reference for beginners.
Lots of illustrations explaining data structures use and
relationships in the purest Richard W. Stevens' style. Contents:
"1.-Hardware Basics, 2.-Software Basics, 3.-Memory Management,
4.-Processes, 5.-Interprocess Communication Mechanisms, 6.-PCI,
7.-Interrupts and Interrupt Handling, 8.-Device Drivers, 9.-The
File system, 10.-Networks, 11.-Kernel Mechanisms, 12.-Modules,
13.-The Linux Kernel Sources, A.-Linux Data Structures, B.-The
Alpha AXP Processor, C.-Useful Web and FTP Sites, D.-The GNU
General Public License, Glossary". In short: a must have.
* Title: "Linux Device Drivers, 2nd Edition"
Author: Alessandro Rubini and Jonathan Corbet.
Keywords: device drivers, modules, debugging, memory, hardware,
interrupt handling, char drivers, block drivers, kmod, mmap, DMA,
Description: O'Reilly's popular book, now also on-line under the
GNU Free Documentation License.
Notes: You can also buy it in paper-form from O'Reilly. See below
under BOOKS (Not on-line).
* Title: "Conceptual Architecture of the Linux Kernel"
Author: Ivan T. Bowman.
Keywords: conceptual software architecture, extracted design,
reverse engineering, system structure.
Description: Conceptual software architecture of the Linux kernel,
automatically extracted from the source code. Very detailed. Good
figures. Gives good overall kernel understanding.
* Title: "Concrete Architecture of the Linux Kernel"
Author: Ivan T. Bowman, Saheem Siddiqi, and Meyer C. Tanuan.
Keywords: concrete architecture, extracted design, reverse
engineering, system structure, dependencies.
Description: Concrete architecture of the Linux kernel,
automatically extracted from the source code. Very detailed. Good
figures. Gives good overall kernel understanding. This papers
focus on lower details than its predecessor (files, variables...).
* Title: "Linux as a Case Study: Its Extracted Software
Author: Ivan T. Bowman, Richard C. Holt and Neil V. Brewster.
Keywords: software architecture, architecture recovery,
Description: Paper appeared at ICSE'99, Los Angeles, May 16-22,
1999. A mixture of the previous two documents from the same
* Title: "Overview of the Virtual File System"
Author: Richard Gooch.
Keywords: VFS, File System, mounting filesystems, opening files,
dentries, dcache.
Description: Brief introduction to the Linux Virtual File System.
What is it, how it works, operations taken when opening a file or
mounting a file system and description of important data
structures explaining the purpose of each of their entries.
* Title: "The Linux RAID-1, 4, 5 Code"
Author: Ingo Molnar, Gadi Oxman and Miguel de Icaza.
Keywords: RAID, MD driver.
Description: Linux Journal Kernel Korner article. Here is its
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: "Dynamic Kernels: Modularized Device Drivers"
Author: Alessandro Rubini.
Keywords: device driver, module, loading/unloading modules,
allocating resources.
Description: Linux Journal Kernel Korner article. Here is its
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
* Title: "Dynamic Kernels: Discovery"
Author: Alessandro Rubini.
Keywords: character driver, init_module, clean_up module,
autodetection, mayor number, minor number, file operations,
open(), close().
Description: Linux Journal Kernel Korner article. Here is its
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.
Keywords: read(), write(), select(), ioctl(), blocking/non
blocking mode, interrupt handler.
Description: Linux Journal Kernel Korner article. Here is its
abstract: "This article, the third of four on writing character
device drivers, introduces concepts of reading, writing, and using
* Title: "Dissecting Interrupts and Browsing DMA"
Author: Alessandro Rubini and Georg v. Zezschwitz.
Keywords: interrupts, irqs, DMA, bottom halves, task queues.
Description: Linux Journal Kernel Korner article. Here is its
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
* Title: "Device Drivers Concluded"
Author: Georg v. Zezschwitz.
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.
Keywords: sk_buffs, network devices, protocol/link layer
variables, network devices flags, transmit, receive,
configuration, multicast.
Description: Linux Journal Kernel Korner. Here is the 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: "Writing Linux Device Drivers"
Author: Michael K. Johnson.
Keywords: files, VFS, file operations, kernel interface, character
vs block devices, I/O access, hardware interrupts, DMA, access to
user memory, memory allocation, timers.
Description: Introductory 50-minutes (sic) tutorial on writing
device drivers. 12 pages written by the same author of the "Kernel
Hackers' Guide" which give a very good overview of the topic.
* Title: "The Venus kernel interface"
Author: Peter J. Braam.
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
* Title: "Programming PCI-Devices under Linux"
Author: Claus Schroeter.
Keywords: PCI, device, busmastering.
Description: 6 pages tutorial on PCI programming under Linux.
Gives the basic concepts on the architecture of the PCI subsystem,
as long as basic functions and macros to read/write the devices
and perform busmastering.
* Title: "Writing Character Device Driver for Linux"
Author: R. Baruch and C. Schroeter.
Keywords: character device drivers, I/O, signals, DMA, accessing
ports in user space, kernel environment.
Description: 68 pages paper on writing character drivers. A little
bit old (1.993, 1.994) although still useful.
* Title: "Design and Implementation of the Second Extended
Author: Rémy Card, Theodore Ts'o, Stephen Tweedie.
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: "Analysis of the Ext2fs structure"
Author: Louis-Dominique Dubeau.
Keywords: ext2, filesystem, ext2fs.
Description: Description of ext2's blocks, directories, inodes,
bitmaps, invariants...
* Title: "Journaling the Linux ext2fs Filesystem"
Author: Stephen C. Tweedie.
Keywords: ext3, journaling.
Description: Excellent 8-pages paper explaining the journaling
capabilities added to ext2 by the author, showing different
problems faced and the alternatives chosen.
* Title: "Kernel API changes from 2.0 to 2.2"
Author: Richard Gooch.
Keywords: 2.2, changes.
Description: Kernel functions/structures/variables which changed
from 2.0.x to 2.2.x.
* Title: "Kernel API changes from 2.2 to 2.4"
Author: Richard Gooch.
Keywords: 2.4, changes.
Description: Kernel functions/structures/variables which changed
from 2.2.x to 2.4.x.
* Title: "Linux Kernel Module Programming Guide"
Author: Ori Pomerantz.
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: "I/O Event Handling Under Linux"
Author: Richard Gooch.
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: "The Kernel Hacking HOWTO"
Author: Various Talented People, and Rusty.
Location: in kernel tree, Documentation/DocBook/kernel-hacking.tmpl
(must be built as "make {htmldocs | psdocs | pdfdocs})
Keywords: HOWTO, kernel contexts, deadlock, locking, modules,
symbols, return conventions.
Description: From the Introduction: "Please understand that I
never wanted to write this document, being grossly underqualified,
but I always wanted to read it, and this was the only way. I
simply explain some best practices, and give reading entry-points
into the kernel sources. I avoid implementation details: that's
what the code is for, and I ignore whole tracts of useful
routines. This document assumes familiarity with C, and an
understanding of what the kernel is, and how it is used. It was
originally written for the 2.3 kernels, but nearly all of it
applies to 2.2 too; 2.0 is slightly different".
* Title: "Writing an ALSA Driver"
Author: Takashi Iwai <>
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: "Programming Guide for Linux USB Device Drivers"
Author: Detlef Fliegl.
Keywords: USB, universal serial bus.
Description: A must-read. From the Preface: "This document should
give detailed information about the current state of the USB
subsystem and its API for USB device drivers. The first section
will deal with the basics of USB devices. You will learn about
different types of devices and their properties. Going into detail
you will see how USB devices communicate on the bus. The second
section gives an overview of the Linux USB subsystem [2] and the
device driver framework. Then the API and its data structures will
be explained step by step. The last section of this document
contains a reference of all API calls and their return codes".
Notes: Beware: the main page states: "This document may not be
published, printed or used in excerpts without explicit permission
of the author". Fortunately, it may still be read...
* Title: "Linux Kernel Mailing List Glossary"
Author: various
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: "Linux Kernel Locking HOWTO"
Author: Various Talented People, and Rusty.
Location: in kernel tree, Documentation/DocBook/kernel-locking.tmpl
(must be built as "make {htmldocs | psdocs | pdfdocs})
Keywords: locks, locking, spinlock, semaphore, atomic, race
condition, bottom halves, tasklets, softirqs.
Description: The title says it all: document describing the
locking system in the Linux Kernel either in uniprocessor or SMP
Notes: "It was originally written for the later (>2.3.47) 2.3
kernels, but most of it applies to 2.2 too; 2.0 is slightly
different". Freely redistributable under the conditions of the GNU
General Public License.
* Title: "Global spinlock list and usage"
Author: Rick Lindsley.
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: "Porting Linux 2.0 Drivers To Linux 2.2: Changes and New
Features "
Author: Alan Cox.
Keywords: ports, porting.
Description: Article from Linux Magazine on porting from 2.0 to
2.2 kernels.
* Title: "Porting Device Drivers To Linux 2.2: part II"
Author: Alan Cox.
Keywords: ports, porting.
Description: Second part on porting from 2.0 to 2.2 kernels.
* Title: "How To Make Sure Your Driver Will Work On The Power
Author: Paul Mackerras.
Keywords: Mac, Power Macintosh, porting, drivers, compatibility.
Description: The title says it all.
* Title: "An Introduction to SCSI Drivers"
Author: Alan Cox.
Keywords: SCSI, device, driver.
Description: The title says it all.
* Title: "Advanced SCSI Drivers And Other Tales"
Author: Alan Cox.
Keywords: SCSI, device, driver, advanced.
Description: The title says it all.
* Title: "Writing Linux Mouse Drivers"
Author: Alan Cox.
Keywords: mouse, driver, gpm.
Description: The title says it all.
* Title: "More on Mouse Drivers"
Author: Alan Cox.
Keywords: mouse, driver, gpm, races, asynchronous I/O.
Description: The title still says it all.
* Title: "Writing Video4linux Radio Driver"
Author: Alan Cox.
Keywords: video4linux, driver, radio, radio devices.
Description: The title says it all.
* Title: "Video4linux Drivers, Part 1: Video-Capture Device"
Author: Alan Cox.
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.
Keywords: video4linux, driver, video capture, capture devices,
camera driver, control, query capabilities, capability, facility.
Description: The title says it all.
* Title: "PCI Management in Linux 2.2"
Author: Alan Cox.
Keywords: PCI, bus, bus-mastering.
Description: The title says it all.
* Title: "Linux 2.4 Kernel Internals"
Author: Tigran Aivazian and Christoph Hellwig.
Keywords: Linux, kernel, booting, SMB boot, VFS, page cache.
Description: A little book used for a short training course.
Covers building the kernel image, booting (including SMP bootup),
process management, VFS and more.
* Title: "Linux IP Networking. A Guide to the Implementation and
Modification of the Linux Protocol Stack."
Author: Glenn Herrin.
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: "Get those boards talking under Linux."
Author: Alex Ivchenko.
Keywords: data-acquisition boards, drivers, modules, interrupts,
memory allocation.
Description: Article written for people wishing to make their data
acquisition boards work on their GNU/Linux machines. Gives a basic
overview on writing drivers, from the naming of functions to
interrupt handling.
Notes: Two-parts article. Part II is at
* Title: "Linux PCMCIA Programmer's Guide"
Author: David Hinds.
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: "The Linux Kernel NFSD Implementation"
Author: Neil Brown.
Keywords: knfsd, nfsd, NFS, RPC, lockd, mountd, statd.
Description: The title says it all.
Notes: Covers knfsd's version 1.4.7 (patch against 2.2.7 kernel).
* Title: "A Linux vm README"
Author: Kanoj Sarcar.
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: "(nearly) Complete Linux Loadable Kernel Modules. The
definitive guide for hackers, virus coders and system
Author: pragmatic/THC.
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
BOOKS: (Not on-line)
* Title: "Linux Device Drivers"
Author: Alessandro Rubini.
Publisher: O'Reilly & Associates.
Date: 1998.
Pages: 439.
ISBN: 1-56592-292-1
* Title: "Linux Device Drivers, 2nd Edition"
Author: Alessandro Rubini and Jonathan Corbet.
Publisher: O'Reilly & Associates.
Date: 2001.
Pages: 586.
ISBN: 0-59600-008-1
Notes: Further information in
* 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
PDF format, URL:
* Title: "Linux Kernel Internals"
Author: Michael Beck.
Publisher: Addison-Wesley.
Date: 1997.
ISBN: 0-201-33143-8 (second edition)
* Title: "The Design of the UNIX Operating System"
Author: Maurice J. Bach.
Publisher: Prentice Hall.
Date: 1986.
Pages: 471.
ISBN: 0-13-201757-1
* 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 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: "Programmation Linux 2.0 API systeme et fonctionnement du
Author: Remy Card, Eric Dumas, Franck Mevel.
Publisher: Eyrolles.
Date: 1997.
Pages: 520.
ISBN: 2-212-08932-5
Notes: French.
* 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: ???.
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
* Name: linux/Documentation
Author: Many.
URL: Just look inside your kernel sources.
Keywords: anything, DocBook.
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.
* Name: "Linux Kernel Source Reference"
Author: Thomas Graichen.
Keywords: CVS, web, cvsweb, browsing source code.
Description: Web interface to a CVS server with the kernel
sources. "Here you can have a look at any file of the Linux kernel
sources of any version starting from 1.0 up to the (daily updated)
current version available. Also you can check the differences
between two versions of a file".
* Name: "Cross-Referencing Linux"
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"
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: "Kernel Traffic"
Keywords: linux-kernel mailing list, weekly kernel news.
Description: Weekly newsletter covering the most relevant
discussions of the linux-kernel mailing list.
* Name: "CuTTiNG.eDGe.LiNuX"
Keywords: changelist.
Description: Site which provides the changelist for every kernel
release. What's new, what's better, what's changed. Myrdraal reads
the patches and describes them. Pointers to the patches are there,
* Name: "New linux-kernel Mailing List FAQ"
Keywords: linux-kernel mailing list FAQ.
Description: linux-kernel is a mailing list for developers to
communicate. This FAQ builds on the previous linux-kernel mailing
list FAQ maintained by Frohwalt Egerer, who no longer maintains
it. Read it to see how to join the mailing list. Dozens of
interesting questions regarding the list, Linux, developers (who
is ...?), terms (what is...?) are answered here too. Just read it.
* Name: "Linux Virtual File System"
Author: Peter J. Braam.
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
* Name: "Gary's Encyclopedia - The Linux Kernel"
Author: Gary (I suppose...).
Keywords: linux, community, everything!
Description: Gary's Encyclopedia exists to allow the rapid finding
of documentation and other information of interest to GNU/Linux
users. It has about 4000 links to external pages in 150 major
categories. This link is for kernel-specific links, documents,
sites... This list is now hosted by,
but seems not to have been updated since sometime in 1999.
* Name: "The home page of Linux-MM"
Author: The Linux-MM team.
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"
Keywords: IRC, newbies, channel, asking doubts.
Description: #kernelnewbies on From the web
page: "#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 Open Projects IRC Network,
try or irc.<country> as your
server and then /join #kernelnewbies". It also hosts articles,
documents, FAQs...
* Name: "linux-kernel mailing list archives and search engines"
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 Sat 2005-NOV-19