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Sync File API Guide
Gustavo Padovan
<gustavo at padovan dot org>
This document serves as a guide for device drivers writers on what the
sync_file API is, and how drivers can support it. Sync file is the carrier of
the fences(struct fence) that needs to synchronized between drivers or across
process boundaries.
The sync_file API is meant to be used to send and receive fence information
to/from userspace. It enables userspace to do explicit fencing, where instead
of attaching a fence to the buffer a producer driver (such as a GPU or V4L
driver) sends the fence related to the buffer to userspace via a sync_file.
The sync_file then can be sent to the consumer (DRM driver for example), that
will not use the buffer for anything before the fence(s) signals, i.e., the
driver that issued the fence is not using/processing the buffer anymore, so it
signals that the buffer is ready to use. And vice-versa for the consumer ->
producer part of the cycle.
Sync files allows userspace awareness on buffer sharing synchronization between
Sync file was originally added in the Android kernel but current Linux Desktop
can benefit a lot from it.
in-fences and out-fences
Sync files can go either to or from userspace. When a sync_file is sent from
the driver to userspace we call the fences it contains 'out-fences'. They are
related to a buffer that the driver is processing or is going to process, so
the driver an create out-fence to be able to notify, through fence_signal(),
when it has finished using (or processing) that buffer. Out-fences are fences
that the driver creates.
On the other hand if the driver receives fence(s) through a sync_file from
userspace we call these fence(s) 'in-fences'. Receiveing in-fences means that
we need to wait for the fence(s) to signal before using any buffer related to
the in-fences.
Creating Sync Files
When a driver needs to send an out-fence userspace it creates a sync_file.
struct sync_file *sync_file_create(struct fence *fence);
The caller pass the out-fence and gets back the sync_file. That is just the
first step, next it needs to install an fd on sync_file->file. So it gets an
fd = get_unused_fd_flags(O_CLOEXEC);
and installs it on sync_file->file:
fd_install(fd, sync_file->file);
The sync_file fd now can be sent to userspace.
If the creation process fail, or the sync_file needs to be released by any
other reason fput(sync_file->file) should be used.
[1] struct sync_file in include/linux/sync_file.h
[2] All interfaces mentioned above defined in include/linux/sync_file.h