Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Writing an ALSA driver: PCM Hardware Description

Welcome to the fourth installment in my "Writing an ALSA Driver" series. In this post, we'll dig into the snd_pcm_hardware structure that will be used in the next post which will describe the PCM handler callbacks.

Here is a look at the snd_pcm_hardware structure I have for my driver. It's fairly simplistic:

static struct snd_pcm_hardware my_pcm_hw = {
        .info = (SNDRV_PCM_INFO_MMAP |
        .formats          = SNDRV_PCM_FMTBIT_U8,
        .rates            = SNDRV_PCM_RATE_8000,
        .rate_min         = 8000,
        .rate_max         = 8000,
        .channels_min     = 1,
        .channels_max     = 1,
        .buffer_bytes_max = (32 * 48),
        .period_bytes_min = 48,
        .period_bytes_max = 48,
        .periods_min      = 1,
        .periods_max      = 32,

This structure describes how my hardware lays out the PCM data for capturing. As I described before, it writes out 48 bytes at a time for each stream, into 32 pages. A period basically describes an interrupt. It sums up the "chunk" size that the hardware supplies data in.

This hardware only supplies mono data (1 channel) and only 8000HZ sample rate. Most hardware seems to work in the range of 8000 to 48000, and there is a define for that of SNDRV_PCM_RATE_8000_48000. This is a bit masked field, so you can add whatever rates your harware supports.

My hardware driver describes this data as unsigned 8-bit format (it's actually signed 3-bit g723-24, but ALSA doesn't support that, so I fake it). Most common PCM data is signed 16-bit little-endian (S16_LE). You would use whatever your hardware supplies, which can be more than one type. Since the format is a bit mask, you can define multiple data formats.

Lastly, the info field describes some middle layer features that your hardware/driver supports. What I have here is the base for what most drivers will supply. See the ALSA docs for more details. For example, if your hardware has stereo (or multiple channels) but it does not interleave these channels together, you would not have the interleave flag.

Next post will give us some handler callbacks. It will likely be split into two posts.

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