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Programming input drivers
1. Creating an input device driver
1.0 The simplest example
Here comes a very simple example of an input device driver. The device has
just one button and the button is accessible at i/o port BUTTON_PORT. When
pressed or released a BUTTON_IRQ happens. The driver could look like:
#include <linux/input.h>
#include <linux/module.h>
#include <linux/init.h>
#include <asm/irq.h>
#include <asm/io.h>
static struct input_dev *button_dev;
static irqreturn_t button_interrupt(int irq, void *dummy)
input_report_key(button_dev, BTN_0, inb(BUTTON_PORT) & 1);
static int __init button_init(void)
int error;
if (request_irq(BUTTON_IRQ, button_interrupt, 0, "button", NULL)) {
printk(KERN_ERR "button.c: Can't allocate irq %d\n", button_irq);
return -EBUSY;
button_dev = input_allocate_device();
if (!button_dev) {
printk(KERN_ERR "button.c: Not enough memory\n");
error = -ENOMEM;
goto err_free_irq;
button_dev->evbit[0] = BIT_MASK(EV_KEY);
button_dev->keybit[BIT_WORD(BTN_0)] = BIT_MASK(BTN_0);
error = input_register_device(button_dev);
if (error) {
printk(KERN_ERR "button.c: Failed to register device\n");
goto err_free_dev;
return 0;
free_irq(BUTTON_IRQ, button_interrupt);
return error;
static void __exit button_exit(void)
free_irq(BUTTON_IRQ, button_interrupt);
1.1 What the example does
First it has to include the <linux/input.h> file, which interfaces to the
input subsystem. This provides all the definitions needed.
In the _init function, which is called either upon module load or when
booting the kernel, it grabs the required resources (it should also check
for the presence of the device).
Then it allocates a new input device structure with input_allocate_device()
and sets up input bitfields. This way the device driver tells the other
parts of the input systems what it is - what events can be generated or
accepted by this input device. Our example device can only generate EV_KEY
type events, and from those only BTN_0 event code. Thus we only set these
two bits. We could have used
set_bit(EV_KEY, button_dev.evbit);
set_bit(BTN_0, button_dev.keybit);
as well, but with more than single bits the first approach tends to be
Then the example driver registers the input device structure by calling
This adds the button_dev structure to linked lists of the input driver and
calls device handler modules _connect functions to tell them a new input
device has appeared. input_register_device() may sleep and therefore must
not be called from an interrupt or with a spinlock held.
While in use, the only used function of the driver is
which upon every interrupt from the button checks its state and reports it
via the
call to the input system. There is no need to check whether the interrupt
routine isn't reporting two same value events (press, press for example) to
the input system, because the input_report_* functions check that
Then there is the
call to tell those who receive the events that we've sent a complete report.
This doesn't seem important in the one button case, but is quite important
for for example mouse movement, where you don't want the X and Y values
to be interpreted separately, because that'd result in a different movement.
1.2 dev->open() and dev->close()
In case the driver has to repeatedly poll the device, because it doesn't
have an interrupt coming from it and the polling is too expensive to be done
all the time, or if the device uses a valuable resource (eg. interrupt), it
can use the open and close callback to know when it can stop polling or
release the interrupt and when it must resume polling or grab the interrupt
again. To do that, we would add this to our example driver:
static int button_open(struct input_dev *dev)
if (request_irq(BUTTON_IRQ, button_interrupt, 0, "button", NULL)) {
printk(KERN_ERR "button.c: Can't allocate irq %d\n", button_irq);
return -EBUSY;
return 0;
static void button_close(struct input_dev *dev)
free_irq(IRQ_AMIGA_VERTB, button_interrupt);
static int __init button_init(void)
button_dev->open = button_open;
button_dev->close = button_close;
Note that input core keeps track of number of users for the device and
makes sure that dev->open() is called only when the first user connects
to the device and that dev->close() is called when the very last user
disconnects. Calls to both callbacks are serialized.
The open() callback should return a 0 in case of success or any nonzero value
in case of failure. The close() callback (which is void) must always succeed.
1.3 Basic event types
The most simple event type is EV_KEY, which is used for keys and buttons.
It's reported to the input system via:
input_report_key(struct input_dev *dev, int code, int value)
See linux/input.h for the allowable values of code (from 0 to KEY_MAX).
Value is interpreted as a truth value, ie any nonzero value means key
pressed, zero value means key released. The input code generates events only
in case the value is different from before.
In addition to EV_KEY, there are two more basic event types: EV_REL and
EV_ABS. They are used for relative and absolute values supplied by the
device. A relative value may be for example a mouse movement in the X axis.
The mouse reports it as a relative difference from the last position,
because it doesn't have any absolute coordinate system to work in. Absolute
events are namely for joysticks and digitizers - devices that do work in an
absolute coordinate systems.
Having the device report EV_REL buttons is as simple as with EV_KEY, simply
set the corresponding bits and call the
input_report_rel(struct input_dev *dev, int code, int value)
function. Events are generated only for nonzero value.
However EV_ABS requires a little special care. Before calling
input_register_device, you have to fill additional fields in the input_dev
struct for each absolute axis your device has. If our button device had also
the ABS_X axis:
button_dev.absmin[ABS_X] = 0;
button_dev.absmax[ABS_X] = 255;
button_dev.absfuzz[ABS_X] = 4;
button_dev.absflat[ABS_X] = 8;
Or, you can just say:
input_set_abs_params(button_dev, ABS_X, 0, 255, 4, 8);
This setting would be appropriate for a joystick X axis, with the minimum of
0, maximum of 255 (which the joystick *must* be able to reach, no problem if
it sometimes reports more, but it must be able to always reach the min and
max values), with noise in the data up to +- 4, and with a center flat
position of size 8.
If you don't need absfuzz and absflat, you can set them to zero, which mean
that the thing is precise and always returns to exactly the center position
(if it has any).
These three macros from bitops.h help some bitfield computations:
BITS_TO_LONGS(x) - returns the length of a bitfield array in longs for
x bits
BIT_WORD(x) - returns the index in the array in longs for bit x
BIT_MASK(x) - returns the index in a long for bit x
1.5 The id* and name fields
The dev->name should be set before registering the input device by the input
device driver. It's a string like 'Generic button device' containing a
user friendly name of the device.
The id* fields contain the bus ID (PCI, USB, ...), vendor ID and device ID
of the device. The bus IDs are defined in input.h. The vendor and device ids
are defined in pci_ids.h, usb_ids.h and similar include files. These fields
should be set by the input device driver before registering it.
The idtype field can be used for specific information for the input device
The id and name fields can be passed to userland via the evdev interface.
1.6 The keycode, keycodemax, keycodesize fields
These three fields should be used by input devices that have dense keymaps.
The keycode is an array used to map from scancodes to input system keycodes.
The keycode max should contain the size of the array and keycodesize the
size of each entry in it (in bytes).
Userspace can query and alter current scancode to keycode mappings using
EVIOCGKEYCODE and EVIOCSKEYCODE ioctls on corresponding evdev interface.
When a device has all 3 aforementioned fields filled in, the driver may
rely on kernel's default implementation of setting and querying keycode
1.7 dev->getkeycode() and dev->setkeycode()
getkeycode() and setkeycode() callbacks allow drivers to override default
keycode/keycodesize/keycodemax mapping mechanism provided by input core
and implement sparse keycode maps.
1.8 Key autorepeat
... is simple. It is handled by the input.c module. Hardware autorepeat is
not used, because it's not present in many devices and even where it is
present, it is broken sometimes (at keyboards: Toshiba notebooks). To enable
autorepeat for your device, just set EV_REP in dev->evbit. All will be
handled by the input system.
1.9 Other event types, handling output events
The other event types up to now are:
EV_LED - used for the keyboard LEDs.
EV_SND - used for keyboard beeps.
They are very similar to for example key events, but they go in the other
direction - from the system to the input device driver. If your input device
driver can handle these events, it has to set the respective bits in evbit,
*and* also the callback routine:
button_dev->event = button_event;
int button_event(struct input_dev *dev, unsigned int type, unsigned int code, int value);
if (type == EV_SND && code == SND_BELL) {
outb(value, BUTTON_BELL);
return 0;
return -1;
This callback routine can be called from an interrupt or a BH (although that
isn't a rule), and thus must not sleep, and must not take too long to finish.