April 23, 2019

Linux Device Drivers Demystified - page 3


  • September 23, 1999
  • By James Andrews

Non-kernel devices

This section tries to provide help on what devices are in the kernel and how to find out more about them.

Non-kernel devices

Although in this article we only cover standard kernel devices, there are also non-kernel devices that act in a similar way. The most important of these are the video drivers for X11; see http://www.xfree86.org/cardlist.html for a list of which cards are supported.


The best place to look is in the Linux kernel help files. However, you can normally only access them during a compilation of the Linux kernel. If you already have a Linux installed and a little experience with Linux, then skip over to our kernel compiling article and give it a whirl.

If not, Linuxplanet is here to help. Use the search box below to access an online version of the Configure.help file.

search the kernel docs for info on device drivers for...

Note that the information it returns includes technical information aimed at people in the middle of compiling a kernel. It should be clear from the results if a particular device is supported in the kernel. The searchable files supplied are for kernel version 2.2.9. Most of the hardware is that is supported is common to the 2.2.x series. If you are planning on running a higher version than this, then it might be worth looking in on http://kernelnotes.org to see if a more recent update does support your devices. If you are running a 2.0.x version then the search facility is, I'm sorry to say, of little help.

Have a grep

If this still doesn't answer your questions about whether your particular device is supported or not, then the next stage is to look at the Linux kernel sources. I did consider writing a CGI to search these as well, but the information from C source code is of limited utility to people who cannot program C. If you can program in C or are feeling adventurous, please look at our kernel installation article and get the source. The device drivers are usually found in /usr/src/linux/drivers. I have found using a grep command for a numerical part of the name of the hardware device is quite a good approach. For instance if looking for Buslogic BT-950 support

cd /usr/src/linux/drivers/scsi/
grep 950 *.[ch] README*

Would work fine. The README files are sometimes out of date, so beware. If this still doesn't give you the answer you need, then ask! Linuxplanets online discussion forums might be a good place to start.


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