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The Linux Kernel Primer: A Top-down Approach for X86 and Powerpc Architectures (Prentice Hall Open Source Software Development) Paperback – 19 Sep 2005

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I've been less than happy with other kernel books I've read. Admittedly,it's a difficult subject: there's a lot to cover, and you really need quite a bit of programming and general Unix knowledge before you could even consider jumping into this area. But I have the background,have even written simple Unix drivers, and yet every other kernel programming book has disappointed me.

It's all so overwhelming: there are conventions and quirks that have developed over time and surely are second nature to the people who have been doing Linux kernels for years, but these things are baffling to the newcomer.

This book tries to get you past that. The authors specifically say that they have tried to cover the things that confused them when they first started looking at the kernel. I'm sure their efforts aren't perfect, but the effort does definitely show.

The authors present several programming projects to help explore the kernel concepts, and every chapter has review questions to help firm up your understanding. The approach is from user space when possible: the assumption is that you are comfortable with application programming and that is used as the base to lead you down into the work done by the kernel for your programs. There's plenty of annotated source code here, both for x86 and PowerPC architectures. The inclusion of PowerPC information was an unexpected bonus; other books I've read have usually ignored that entirely or glossed it over quickly.

Of course you need a background in C, and while this does try to cover general kernel subjects, it wouldn't hurt to have at least some prior reading there. A little familiarity with hardware and light assembly language will help also, although the authors do give some coverage there.

I'm looking forward to spending more time exploring this book.


From the Back Cover

Learn Linux kernel programming, hands-on: a uniquely effective top-down approach

The Linux® Kernel Primer is the definitive guide to Linux kernel programming. The authors' unique top-down approach makes kernel programming easier to understand by systematically tracing functionality from user space into the kernel and carefully associating kernel internals with user-level programming fundamentals. Their approach helps you build on what you already know about Linux, gaining a deep understanding of how the kernel works and how its elements fit together.

One step at a time, the authors introduce all the tools and assembly language programming techniques required to understand kernel code and control its behavior. They compare x86 and PowerPC implementations side-by-side, illuminating cryptic functionality through carefully-annotated source code examples and realistic projects.The Linux® Kernel Primer is the first book to offer in-depth coverage of the rapidly growing PowerPC Linux development platform, and the only book to thoroughly discuss kernel configuration with the Linux build system. Coverage includes

  • Data structures

  • x86 and PPC assembly language

  • Viewing kernel internals

  • Linux process model

  • User and kernel space

  • Interrupts and exceptions

  • Memory allocation and tracking

  • Tracing subsystem behavior

  • I/O interactions

  • Filesystems and file operations

  • Scheduling and synchronization

  • Kernel boot process

  • Kernel build system

  • Configuration options

  • Device drivers

  • And more...

If you know C, this book teaches you all the skills and techniques you need to succeed with Linux kernel programming. Whether you're a systems programmer, software engineer, systems analyst, test professional, open source project contributor, or simply a Linux enthusiast, you'll find it indispensable.

© Copyright Pearson Education. All rights reserved.

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Amazon.com: 12 reviews
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Finally, a good Kernel book 5 Oct. 2005
By Anthony Lawrence - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I've been less than happy with other kernel books before, so when this landed in my mailbox, I was prepared for disappointment. I've been down this road: it's too overwhelming a subject, authors typically assume far too much prior knowledge, and I'm left feeling puzzled and confused.

Well, the subject is overwhelming, and it really can't be covered in one book. But you have to start somewhere, and this looks like the best place I've seen so far. Yes, of course you'll need and want other books, and you'll need to spend a lot of time experimenting on your own, but this is (as the title says) your primer: the book that introduces and explains all the confusing little conventions and quirks that you need to know to avoid being totally lost.

I really like the approach of trying to relate everything to user space programs and of writing example code and drivers to illustrate concepts. The authors have also made an effort to point out and elucidate the things that confused them when they first started looking at the kernel.

Every chapter has at least a few review questions at the end, and lots of annotated source code. Four projects get you started with actual kernel programming.

There are, of course, ommissions and lightly covered areas. Six hundred pages aren't enough to cover everything in depth, and there has to be at least some basic assumption of programming knowledge. But overall, this looks great and I'm looking forward to spending more time with it.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
typos abound 26 Jan. 2007
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
A good basic intro to the linux kernel, pretty much exactly what I was looking for. I bought this to act as a primer before delving into Understanding the Linux Kernel, which is a much deeper and difficult work, and it's proved very satisfactory.

The major problem I have is that it seems not to have been proofread AT ALL. I have found at least a typo a page on average, and not just punctuation and spelling mistakes. Using the wrong name for a function, referring the reader to the wrong figure, chapter or section, that kind of typo. The design of the book (notational conventions, typefaces, how they display varible names vs. code blocks vs. normal text, etc) is quite inconsistent at times.

All in all, a good read, and a great intro, but very inconsistent and error-ridden; prepare to read it with oversight.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
excellent linux kernel intro 9 Jan. 2006
By wag, a dog - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Really appreciate the detailed comparison of x86 and PPC assembler, description of analysis tools, and the exercises. The exercises are extremely useful to determine whether or not you actually need to read a chapter. The book assumes you're going to do a lot of hands-on exploration and analysis while you're reading, and gears a lot of its examples and exercises towards that activity. Between this, and the referrals back to the differences between an x86 and PPC implementation (when necessary) and the detailed blow-by-blow of booting may make it a better buy for the kernel newbie than the O'Reilly book Understanding the Linux Kernel.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Dull presentation, badly proofread 25 Jan. 2008
By KP - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The views expressed in this review are based on the Filesystems chapter. The book has a very dull presentation style. Kernel structures are listed and the important lines in them are explained. The explanation lacks sufficient detail in a lot of places. It also suffers from redundant, obvious statements (conveying no information) in other places. I could also spot several mistakes; figures drawn wrong, text referring to something that is not present in the figure etc...
8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
FINALLY 28 Feb. 2006
By Anthony Lambiris - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
A book that steps through the important parts of the kernel and explains each point. Ive read other Linux kernel books before (ie: Oreillys Understanding the Linux kernel), and this book is by far the best read for the advanced user that has some programming experience and wants dive into tinkering around with the kernel.

Very easy to read, follow and understand. If you want to learn how Linux works, buy this book.
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