Saturday, May 1, 2010

Writing an ALSA driver: The basics

In my last post I described a bit of hardware that I am writing an ALSA driver for. In this installment, I'll dig a little deeper into the base driver. I wont go into the details of the module and PCI initialization that was already present in my driver (I developed the core and v4l2 components first, so all of that is taken care of).

So first off I needed to register with ALSA that we actually have a sound card. This bit is easy, and looks like this:

struct snd_card *card;
ret = snd_card_create(SNDRV_DEFAULT_IDX1, "MySoundCard",
                      THIS_MODULE, 0, &card);
if (ret < 0)
        return ret;

This asks ALSA to allocate a new sound card with the name "MySoundCard". This is also the name that appears in /proc/asound/ as a symlink to the card ID (e.g. "card0"). In my particular instance I actually name the card with an ID number, so it ends up being "MySoundCard0". This is because I can, and typically do, have more than one installed at a time for this type of device. I notice some other sound drivers do not do this, probably because they don't expect more than one to be installed at a time (think HDA, which is usually embedded on the motherboard, and so wont have two or more inserted into a PCIe slot). Next, we set some of the properties of this new card.

strcpy(card->driver, "my_driver");
strcpy(card->shortname, "MySoundCard Audio");
sprintf(card->longname, "%s on %s IRQ %d", card->shortname,
        pci_name(pci_dev), pci_dev->irq);
snd_card_set_dev(card, &pci_dev->dev);

Here, we've assigned the name of the driver that handles this card, which is typically the same as the actual name of your driver. Next is a short description of the hardware, followed by a longer description. Most drivers seem to set the long description to something containing the PCI info. If you have some other bus, then the convention would follow to use information from that particular bus. Finally, set the parent device associated with the card. Again, since this is a PCI device, I set it to that.

Now to set this card up in ALSA along with a decent description of how the hardware works. We add the next bit of code to do this:

static struct snd_device_ops ops = { NULL };
ret = snd_device_new(card, SNDRV_DEV_LOWLEVEL, mydev, &ops);
if (ret < 0)
        return ret;

We're basically telling ALSA to create a new card that is a low level sound driver. The mydev argument is passed as the private data that is associated with this device, for your convenience. We leave the ops structure as a no-op here for now.

Lastly, to complete the registration with ALSA:

if ((ret = snd_card_register(card)) < 0)
        return ret;

ALSA now knows about this card, and lists it in /proc/asound/ among other places such as /sys. We still haven't told ALSA about the interfaces associated with this card (capture/playback). This will be discussed in the next installment. One last thing, when you cleanup your device/driver, you must do so through ALSA as well, like this:


This will cleanup all items associated with this card, including any devices that we will register later.

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