3. On FreeBSD Kernel Programming

3.1. Memory Allocation

See malloc(9). Basic memory allocation is only slightly different than its userland equivalent. Most notably, malloc() and free() accept additional parameters as is described in the man page.

A malloc type must be declared in the declaration section of a source file, like this:

  static MALLOC_DEFINE(M_GJOURNAL, "gjournal data", "GEOM_JOURNAL Data");

To use this macro, sys/param.h, sys/kernel.h and sys/malloc.h headers must be included.

There is another mechanism for allocating memory, the UMA (Universal Memory Allocator). See uma(9) for details, but it is a special type of allocator mainly used for speedy allocation of lists comprised of same-sized items (for example, dynamic arrays of structs).

3.2. Lists and Queues

See queue(3). There are a LOT of cases when a list of things needs to be maintained. Fortunately, this data structure is implemented (in several ways) by C macros included in the system. The most used list type is TAILQ because it is the most flexible. It is also the one with largest memory requirements (its elements are doubly-linked) and also the slowest (although the speed variation is on the order of several CPU instructions more, so it should not be taken seriously).

If data retrieval speed is very important, see tree(3) and hashinit(9).

3.3. BIOs

Structure bio is used for any and all Input/Output operations concerning GEOM. It basically contains information about what device ('provider') should satisfy the request, request type, offset, length, pointer to a buffer, and a bunch of user-specific flags and fields that can help implement various hacks.

The important thing here is that bios are handled asynchronously. That means that, in most parts of the code, there is no analogue to userland's read(2) and write(2) calls that do not return until a request is done. Rather, a developer-supplied function is called as a notification when the request gets completed (or results in error).

The asynchronous programming model (also called event-driven) is somewhat harder than the much more used imperative one used in userland (at least it takes a while to get used to it). In some cases the helper routines g_write_data() and g_read_data() can be used, but not always. In particular, they cannot be used when a mutex is held; for example, the GEOM topology mutex or the internal mutex held during the .start() and .stop() functions.

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