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+The seq_file interface
+ Copyright 2003 Jonathan Corbet <corbet@lwn.net>
+ This file is originally from the LWN.net Driver Porting series at
+ http://lwn.net/Articles/driver-porting/
+There are numerous ways for a device driver (or other kernel component) to
+provide information to the user or system administrator. One useful
+technique is the creation of virtual files, in debugfs, /proc or elsewhere.
+Virtual files can provide human-readable output that is easy to get at
+without any special utility programs; they can also make life easier for
+script writers. It is not surprising that the use of virtual files has
+grown over the years.
+Creating those files correctly has always been a bit of a challenge,
+however. It is not that hard to make a virtual file which returns a
+string. But life gets trickier if the output is long - anything greater
+than an application is likely to read in a single operation. Handling
+multiple reads (and seeks) requires careful attention to the reader's
+position within the virtual file - that position is, likely as not, in the
+middle of a line of output. The kernel has traditionally had a number of
+implementations that got this wrong.
+The 2.6 kernel contains a set of functions (implemented by Alexander Viro)
+which are designed to make it easy for virtual file creators to get it
+The seq_file interface is available via <linux/seq_file.h>. There are
+three aspects to seq_file:
+ * An iterator interface which lets a virtual file implementation
+ step through the objects it is presenting.
+ * Some utility functions for formatting objects for output without
+ needing to worry about things like output buffers.
+ * A set of canned file_operations which implement most operations on
+ the virtual file.
+We'll look at the seq_file interface via an extremely simple example: a
+loadable module which creates a file called /proc/sequence. The file, when
+read, simply produces a set of increasing integer values, one per line. The
+sequence will continue until the user loses patience and finds something
+better to do. The file is seekable, in that one can do something like the
+ dd if=/proc/sequence of=out1 count=1
+ dd if=/proc/sequence skip=1 of=out2 count=1
+Then concatenate the output files out1 and out2 and get the right
+result. Yes, it is a thoroughly useless module, but the point is to show
+how the mechanism works without getting lost in other details. (Those
+wanting to see the full source for this module can find it at
+The iterator interface
+Modules implementing a virtual file with seq_file must implement a simple
+iterator object that allows stepping through the data of interest.
+Iterators must be able to move to a specific position - like the file they
+implement - but the interpretation of that position is up to the iterator
+itself. A seq_file implementation that is formatting firewall rules, for
+example, could interpret position N as the Nth rule in the chain.
+Positioning can thus be done in whatever way makes the most sense for the
+generator of the data, which need not be aware of how a position translates
+to an offset in the virtual file. The one obvious exception is that a
+position of zero should indicate the beginning of the file.
+The /proc/sequence iterator just uses the count of the next number it
+will output as its position.
+Four functions must be implemented to make the iterator work. The first,
+called start() takes a position as an argument and returns an iterator
+which will start reading at that position. For our simple sequence example,
+the start() function looks like:
+ static void *ct_seq_start(struct seq_file *s, loff_t *pos)
+ {
+ loff_t *spos = kmalloc(sizeof(loff_t), GFP_KERNEL);
+ if (! spos)
+ return NULL;
+ *spos = *pos;
+ return spos;
+ }
+The entire data structure for this iterator is a single loff_t value
+holding the current position. There is no upper bound for the sequence
+iterator, but that will not be the case for most other seq_file
+implementations; in most cases the start() function should check for a
+"past end of file" condition and return NULL if need be.
+For more complicated applications, the private field of the seq_file
+structure can be used. There is also a special value which can be returned
+by the start() function called SEQ_START_TOKEN; it can be used if you wish
+to instruct your show() function (described below) to print a header at the
+top of the output. SEQ_START_TOKEN should only be used if the offset is
+zero, however.
+The next function to implement is called, amazingly, next(); its job is to
+move the iterator forward to the next position in the sequence. The
+example module can simply increment the position by one; more useful
+modules will do what is needed to step through some data structure. The
+next() function returns a new iterator, or NULL if the sequence is
+complete. Here's the example version:
+ static void *ct_seq_next(struct seq_file *s, void *v, loff_t *pos)
+ {
+ loff_t *spos = v;
+ *pos = ++*spos;
+ return spos;
+ }
+The stop() function is called when iteration is complete; its job, of
+course, is to clean up. If dynamic memory is allocated for the iterator,
+stop() is the place to free it.
+ static void ct_seq_stop(struct seq_file *s, void *v)
+ {
+ kfree(v);
+ }
+Finally, the show() function should format the object currently pointed to
+by the iterator for output. The example module's show() function is:
+ static int ct_seq_show(struct seq_file *s, void *v)
+ {
+ loff_t *spos = v;
+ seq_printf(s, "%lld\n", (long long)*spos);
+ return 0;
+ }
+If all is well, the show() function should return zero. A negative error
+code in the usual manner indicates that something went wrong; it will be
+passed back to user space. This function can also return SEQ_SKIP, which
+causes the current item to be skipped; if the show() function has already
+generated output before returning SEQ_SKIP, that output will be dropped.
+We will look at seq_printf() in a moment. But first, the definition of the
+seq_file iterator is finished by creating a seq_operations structure with
+the four functions we have just defined:
+ static const struct seq_operations ct_seq_ops = {
+ .start = ct_seq_start,
+ .next = ct_seq_next,
+ .stop = ct_seq_stop,
+ .show = ct_seq_show
+ };
+This structure will be needed to tie our iterator to the /proc file in
+a little bit.
+It's worth noting that the iterator value returned by start() and
+manipulated by the other functions is considered to be completely opaque by
+the seq_file code. It can thus be anything that is useful in stepping
+through the data to be output. Counters can be useful, but it could also be
+a direct pointer into an array or linked list. Anything goes, as long as
+the programmer is aware that things can happen between calls to the
+iterator function. However, the seq_file code (by design) will not sleep
+between the calls to start() and stop(), so holding a lock during that time
+is a reasonable thing to do. The seq_file code will also avoid taking any
+other locks while the iterator is active.
+Formatted output
+The seq_file code manages positioning within the output created by the
+iterator and getting it into the user's buffer. But, for that to work, that
+output must be passed to the seq_file code. Some utility functions have
+been defined which make this task easy.
+Most code will simply use seq_printf(), which works pretty much like
+printk(), but which requires the seq_file pointer as an argument. It is
+common to ignore the return value from seq_printf(), but a function
+producing complicated output may want to check that value and quit if
+something non-zero is returned; an error return means that the seq_file
+buffer has been filled and further output will be discarded.
+For straight character output, the following functions may be used:
+ int seq_putc(struct seq_file *m, char c);
+ int seq_puts(struct seq_file *m, const char *s);
+ int seq_escape(struct seq_file *m, const char *s, const char *esc);
+The first two output a single character and a string, just like one would
+expect. seq_escape() is like seq_puts(), except that any character in s
+which is in the string esc will be represented in octal form in the output.
+There is also a pair of functions for printing filenames:
+ int seq_path(struct seq_file *m, struct path *path, char *esc);
+ int seq_path_root(struct seq_file *m, struct path *path,
+ struct path *root, char *esc)
+Here, path indicates the file of interest, and esc is a set of characters
+which should be escaped in the output. A call to seq_path() will output
+the path relative to the current process's filesystem root. If a different
+root is desired, it can be used with seq_path_root(). Note that, if it
+turns out that path cannot be reached from root, the value of root will be
+changed in seq_file_root() to a root which *does* work.
+Making it all work
+So far, we have a nice set of functions which can produce output within the
+seq_file system, but we have not yet turned them into a file that a user
+can see. Creating a file within the kernel requires, of course, the
+creation of a set of file_operations which implement the operations on that
+file. The seq_file interface provides a set of canned operations which do
+most of the work. The virtual file author still must implement the open()
+method, however, to hook everything up. The open function is often a single
+line, as in the example module:
+ static int ct_open(struct inode *inode, struct file *file)
+ {
+ return seq_open(file, &ct_seq_ops);
+ }
+Here, the call to seq_open() takes the seq_operations structure we created
+before, and gets set up to iterate through the virtual file.
+On a successful open, seq_open() stores the struct seq_file pointer in
+file->private_data. If you have an application where the same iterator can
+be used for more than one file, you can store an arbitrary pointer in the
+private field of the seq_file structure; that value can then be retrieved
+by the iterator functions.
+The other operations of interest - read(), llseek(), and release() - are
+all implemented by the seq_file code itself. So a virtual file's
+file_operations structure will look like:
+ static const struct file_operations ct_file_ops = {
+ .owner = THIS_MODULE,
+ .open = ct_open,
+ .read = seq_read,
+ .llseek = seq_lseek,
+ .release = seq_release
+ };
+There is also a seq_release_private() which passes the contents of the
+seq_file private field to kfree() before releasing the structure.
+The final step is the creation of the /proc file itself. In the example
+code, that is done in the initialization code in the usual way:
+ static int ct_init(void)
+ {
+ struct proc_dir_entry *entry;
+ proc_create("sequence", 0, NULL, &ct_file_ops);
+ return 0;
+ }
+ module_init(ct_init);
+And that is pretty much it.
+If your file will be iterating through a linked list, you may find these
+routines useful:
+ struct list_head *seq_list_start(struct list_head *head,
+ loff_t pos);
+ struct list_head *seq_list_start_head(struct list_head *head,
+ loff_t pos);
+ struct list_head *seq_list_next(void *v, struct list_head *head,
+ loff_t *ppos);
+These helpers will interpret pos as a position within the list and iterate
+accordingly. Your start() and next() functions need only invoke the
+seq_list_* helpers with a pointer to the appropriate list_head structure.
+The extra-simple version
+For extremely simple virtual files, there is an even easier interface. A
+module can define only the show() function, which should create all the
+output that the virtual file will contain. The file's open() method then
+ int single_open(struct file *file,
+ int (*show)(struct seq_file *m, void *p),
+ void *data);
+When output time comes, the show() function will be called once. The data
+value given to single_open() can be found in the private field of the
+seq_file structure. When using single_open(), the programmer should use
+single_release() instead of seq_release() in the file_operations structure
+to avoid a memory leak.