Driver questions

Sean Hinde Sean.Hinde@REDACTED
Wed Jun 27 19:43:25 CEST 2001


Thanks for the answers - my understanding is growing :)

> 	port_command = send
> 	port_control = ioctl

Yes, sure, but the crypto decided to use port_control for the work part, not
port_command. I guess both work so no difference?

> > Is the syncronous one quicker?
> It looks to me like port_command (async) will be quicker.

I'm not sure I see this. Port_command relies on dropping a message into the
receive box of the process whereas port_control look closer to a straight

> I wouldn't rely on it, just check the actual size which is supplied in
> the last argument to your driver's control function and make sure it's
> large enough for the response.  If not allocate your own and 
> return that.

I guess so. This also maps with the comments in the chapter on writing a new
distribution mechanism.

> /* Since we are operating in binary mode, the return value 
> from control
>  * is irrelevant, as long as it is not negative.
>  */

If I read io.c correctly in binary mode the return value is ignored (if
positive) because it is already encoded in the driver binary. In normal mode
a list is made from the resp buffer using the return value as its length. I
think I get this now..

> No, you can send back a binary with either case.  If you're using
> port_command and want to return a binary then send it back with
> driver_output_binary().

Oh yes, missed that one.

> > 5. In both sync and async cases is it possible for any 
> process to make use
> > of the port and have answers returned directly, or only the 
> process which
> > opened the port?
> Answers always go to the port owner.  You can change this with
> port_connect/2.

This is kind of what I thought from the docs but crypto seems to do it a
little differently.. Here there is a server process which opens the driver,
"owns" it, and puts the port reference in a 'protected' ets table (i.e. read
allowed by all). The client functions read this table and call
erlang:port_command in the context of the *calling* process. This avoids
message passing overhead completely. Maybe I just figured out the advantage
of port_control for my app..

> Please don't take my answers as "definitive", they just represent my
> understanding of how things work after having spent some time working
> on drivers.

It would be nice if some of this understanding was published somewhere.
Maybe a use for the wikie?


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