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I'm interested in modifying the kernel internals, applying patches, handling device drivers and modules, for my own personal fun.

Is there a comprehensive resource for kernel hacking, intended for experienced programmers?

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7 Answers 7

up vote 11 down vote accepted

Linux Kernel Newbies is a great resource.

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I suggest you read "Linux Kernel in a Nutshell", by Greg Kroah-Hartman and "Understanding the Linux Kernel", by Robert Love. Must reads :)

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kroah.com/lkn - Free Online –  Joshua Enfield Oct 3 '10 at 21:41
@Josh These books were written 5-6 years ago, are they still topical? –  Alex Bolotov Feb 27 '12 at 21:00
I can't answer that with any reasonable credibility :( Other responsibilities consumed my time, and I never got around to reading it. Hopefully wzzrd sees these comments and can comment. –  Joshua Enfield Feb 27 '12 at 21:40
Yes, the books are still relevant. Many, many details have changed beyond recognition. Look at the kernel newbies page mentioned above (or lwn.net's kernel page for in-depth discussion and breaking news). –  vonbrand Jan 15 '13 at 23:15

Linux Device Drivers is another good resource. It would give you another way to get into the inner workings. From the preface:

This is, on the surface, a book about writing device drivers for the Linux system. That is a worthy goal, of course; the flow of new hardware products is not likely to slow down anytime soon, and somebody is going to have to make all those new gadgets work with Linux. But this book is also about how the Linux kernel works and how to adapt its workings to your needs or interests. Linux is an open system; with this book, we hope, it is more open and accessible to a larger community of developers.

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I always find goal oriented learning more productive than abstract learning for me. The LDD book gave me a chance to bite off a small enough chunk to make progress. –  Larry Smithmier Aug 23 '10 at 16:12

See The Linux Documentation Project. Particularly the "Linux Kernel module guide".

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Linux Kernel 2.4 Internals is another online resource to look at. It appears to take a pretty 'ground up' approach, starting with booting. Here the the TOC:

  1. Booting
    • 1.1 Building the Linux Kernel Image
    • 1.2 Booting: Overview
    • 1.3 Booting: BIOS POST
    • 1.4 Booting: bootsector and setup
    • 1.5 Using LILO as a bootloader
    • 1.6 High level initialisation
    • 1.7 SMP Bootup on x86
    • 1.8 Freeing initialisation data and code
    • 1.9 Processing kernel command line
  2. Process and Interrupt Management
    • 2.1 Task Structure and Process Table
    • 2.2 Creation and termination of tasks and kernel threads
    • 2.3 Linux Scheduler
    • 2.4 Linux linked list implementation
    • 2.5 Wait Queues
    • 2.6 Kernel Timers
    • 2.7 Bottom Halves
    • 2.8 Task Queues
    • 2.9 Tasklets
    • 2.10 Softirqs
    • 2.11 How System Calls Are Implemented on i386 Architecture?
    • 2.12 Atomic Operations
    • 2.13 Spinlocks, Read-write Spinlocks and Big-Reader Spinlocks
    • 2.14 Semaphores and read/write Semaphores
    • 2.15 Kernel Support for Loading Modules
  3. Virtual Filesystem (VFS)
    • 3.1 Inode Caches and Interaction with Dcache
    • 3.2 Filesystem Registration/Unregistration
    • 3.3 File Descriptor Management
    • 3.4 File Structure Management
    • 3.5 Superblock and Mountpoint Management
    • 3.6 Example Virtual Filesystem: pipefs
    • 3.7 Example Disk Filesystem: BFS
    • 3.8 Execution Domains and Binary Formats
  4. Linux Page Cache
  5. IPC mechanisms
    • 5.1 Semaphores
    • 5.2 Message queues
    • 5.3 Shared Memory
    • 5.4 Linux IPC Primitives

And, to make it even sweeter, there is a new Linux Kernel Development Third Edition by Robert Love out and Slashdot has a review.

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Start with Linux Kernel Primer by Claudia Salzberg et al. Good one to start with for beginners. Robert Love's book is definitely not the book that beginners should start with. Latter book is above intermediate level.

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You may explore Linux Tutorial for beginner

This is having 4 sub chapter and good coverage for beginner to start with

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