[lkml]   [2003]   [Aug]   [22]   [last100]   RSS Feed
Views: [wrap][no wrap]   [headers]  [forward] 
Messages in this thread
Patch in this message
Subject[PATCH] Documentation for initramfs and early userspace
Linus, please pull from

This adds some documentation of the initramfs file format and a brief
overview of early userspace.

00-INDEX | 2
early-userspace/README | 75 +++++++++++++++++++++++++
early-userspace/buffer-format.txt | 112 ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ 3 files changed, 189 insertions(+)

# This is a BitKeeper generated patch for the following project:
# Project Name: Linux kernel tree
# This patch format is intended for GNU patch command version 2.5 or higher.
# This patch includes the following deltas:
# ChangeSet 1.1135 -> 1.1136
# Documentation/00-INDEX 1.9 -> 1.10
# (new) -> 1.1 Documentation/early-userspace/README
# (new) -> 1.1 Documentation/early-userspace/buffer-format.txt
# The following is the BitKeeper ChangeSet Log
# --------------------------------------------
# 03/08/21 1.1136
# Documentation for initramfs, klibc, and early userspace.
# --------------------------------------------
diff -Nru a/Documentation/00-INDEX b/Documentation/00-INDEX
--- a/Documentation/00-INDEX Thu Aug 21 22:03:20 2003
+++ b/Documentation/00-INDEX Thu Aug 21 22:03:20 2003
@@ -70,6 +70,8 @@
- info about directory notification in Linux.
- info about Linux driver model.
+ - info about initramfs, klibc, and userspace early during boot.
- how Linux v2.2 handles exceptions without verify_area etc.
diff -Nru a/Documentation/early-userspace/README b/Documentation/early-userspace/README
--- /dev/null Wed Dec 31 16:00:00 1969
+++ b/Documentation/early-userspace/README Thu Aug 21 22:03:20 2003
@@ -0,0 +1,75 @@
+Early userspace support
+Last update: 2003-08-21
+"Early userspace" is a set of libraries and programs that provide
+various pieces of functionality that are important enough to be
+available while a Linux kernel is coming up, but that don't need to be
+run inside the kernel itself.
+It consists of several major infrastructure components:
+- gen_init_cpio, a program that builds a cpio-format archive
+ containing a root filesystem image. This archive is compressed, and
+ the compressed image is linked into the kernel image.
+- initramfs, a chunk of code that unpacks the compressed cpio image
+ midway through the kernel boot process.
+- klibc, a userspace C library, currently packaged separately, that is
+ optimised for correctness and small size.
+The cpio file format used by initramfs is the "newc" (aka "cpio -c")
+format, and is documented in the file "buffer-format.txt". If you
+want to generate your own cpio files directly instead of hacking on
+gen_init_cpio, you will need to short-circuit the build process in
+usr/ so that gen_init_cpio does not get run, then simply pop your own
+initramfs_data.cpio.gz file into place.
+Where's this all leading?
+The klibc distribution contains some of the necessary software to make
+early userspace useful. The klibc distribution is currently
+maintained separately from the kernel, but this may change early in
+the 2.7 era (it missed the boat for 2.5).
+You can obtain somewhat infrequent snapshots of klibc from
+For active users, you are better off using the klibc BitKeeper
+repositories, at
+The standalone klibc distribution currently provides three components,
+in addition to the klibc library:
+- ipconfig, a program that configures network interfaces. It can
+ configure them statically, or use DHCP to obtain information
+ dynamically (aka "IP autoconfiguration").
+- nfsmount, a program that can mount an NFS filesystem.
+- kinit, the "glue" that uses ipconfig and nfsmount to replace the old
+ support for IP autoconfig, mount a filesystem over NFS, and continue
+ system boot using that filesystem as root.
+kinit is built as a single statically linked binary to save space.
+Eventually, several more chunks of kernel functionality will hopefully
+move to early userspace:
+- Almost all of init/do_mounts* (the beginning of this is already in
+ place)
+- ACPI table parsing
+- Insert unwieldy subsystem that doesn't really need to be in kernel
+ space here
+If kinit doesn't meet your current needs and you've got bytes to burn,
+the klibc distribution includes a small Bourne-compatible shell (ash)
+and a number of other utilities, so you can replace kinit and build
+custom initramfs images that meet your needs exactly.
+For questions and help, you can sign up for the early userspace
+mailing list at
+Bryan O'Sullivan <>
diff -Nru a/Documentation/early-userspace/buffer-format.txt b/Documentation/early-userspace/buffer-format.txt
--- /dev/null Wed Dec 31 16:00:00 1969
+++ b/Documentation/early-userspace/buffer-format.txt Thu Aug 21 22:03:20 2003
@@ -0,0 +1,112 @@
+ initramfs buffer format
+ -----------------------
+ Al Viro, H. Peter Anvin
+ Last revision: 2002-01-13
+Starting with kernel 2.5.x, the old "initial ramdisk" protocol is
+getting {replaced/complemented} with the new "initial ramfs"
+(initramfs) protocol. The initramfs contents is passed using the same
+memory buffer protocol used by the initrd protocol, but the contents
+is different. The initramfs buffer contains an archive which is
+expanded into a ramfs filesystem; this document details the format of
+the initramfs buffer format.
+The initramfs buffer format is based around the "newc" or "crc" CPIO
+formats, and can be created with the cpio(1) utility. The cpio
+archive can be compressed using gzip(1). One valid version of an
+initramfs buffer is thus a single .cpio.gz file.
+The full format of the initramfs buffer is defined by the following
+grammar, where:
+ * is used to indicate "0 or more occurrences of"
+ (|) indicates alternatives
+ + indicates concatenation
+ GZIP() indicates the gzip(1) of the operand
+ ALGN(n) means padding with null bytes to an n-byte boundary
+ initramfs := ("\0" | cpio_archive | cpio_gzip_archive)*
+ cpio_gzip_archive := GZIP(cpio_archive)
+ cpio_archive := cpio_file* + (<nothing> | cpio_trailer)
+ cpio_file := ALGN(4) + cpio_header + filename + "\0" + ALGN(4) + data
+ cpio_trailer := ALGN(4) + cpio_header + "TRAILER!!!\0" + ALGN(4)
+In human terms, the initramfs buffer contains a collection of
+compressed and/or uncompressed cpio archives (in the "newc" or "crc"
+formats); arbitrary amounts zero bytes (for padding) can be added
+between members.
+The cpio "TRAILER!!!" entry (cpio end-of-archive) is optional, but is
+not ignored; see "handling of hard links" below.
+The structure of the cpio_header is as follows (all fields contain
+hexadecimal ASCII numbers fully padded with '0' on the left to the
+full width of the field, for example, the integer 4780 is represented
+by the ASCII string "000012ac"):
+Field name Field size Meaning
+c_magic 6 bytes The string "070701" or "070702"
+c_ino 8 bytes File inode number
+c_mode 8 bytes File mode and permissions
+c_uid 8 bytes File uid
+c_gid 8 bytes File gid
+c_nlink 8 bytes Number of links
+c_mtime 8 bytes Modification time
+c_filesize 8 bytes Size of data field
+c_maj 8 bytes Major part of file device number
+c_min 8 bytes Minor part of file device number
+c_rmaj 8 bytes Major part of device node reference
+c_rmin 8 bytes Minor part of device node reference
+c_namesize 8 bytes Length of filename, including final \0
+c_chksum 8 bytes Checksum of data field if c_magic is 070702;
+ otherwise zero
+The c_mode field matches the contents of st_mode returned by stat(2)
+on Linux, and encodes the file type and file permissions.
+The c_filesize should be zero for any file which is not a regular file
+or symlink.
+The c_chksum field contains a simple 32-bit unsigned sum of all the
+bytes in the data field. cpio(1) refers to this as "crc", which is
+clearly incorrect (a cyclic redundancy check is a different and
+significantly stronger integrity check), however, this is the
+algorithm used.
+If the filename is "TRAILER!!!" this is actually an end-of-archive
+marker; the c_filesize for an end-of-archive marker must be zero.
+*** Handling of hard links
+When a nondirectory with c_nlink > 1 is seen, the (c_maj,c_min,c_ino)
+tuple is looked up in a tuple buffer. If not found, it is entered in
+the tuple buffer and the entry is created as usual; if found, a hard
+link rather than a second copy of the file is created. It is not
+necessary (but permitted) to include a second copy of the file
+contents; if the file contents is not included, the c_filesize field
+should be set to zero to indicate no data section follows. If data is
+present, the previous instance of the file is overwritten; this allows
+the data-carrying instance of a file to occur anywhere in the sequence
+(GNU cpio is reported to attach the data to the last instance of a
+file only.)
+c_filesize must not be zero for a symlink.
+When a "TRAILER!!!" end-of-archive marker is seen, the tuple buffer is
+reset. This permits archives which are generated independently to be
+To combine file data from different sources (without having to
+regenerate the (c_maj,c_min,c_ino) fields), therefore, either one of
+the following techniques can be used:
+a) Separate the different file data sources with a "TRAILER!!!"
+ end-of-archive marker, or
+b) Make sure c_nlink == 1 for all nondirectory entries.

To unsubscribe from this list: send the line "unsubscribe linux-kernel" in
the body of a message to
More majordomo info at
Please read the FAQ at

 \ /
  Last update: 2005-03-22 13:47    [W:0.050 / U:0.924 seconds]
©2003-2020 Jasper Spaans|hosted at Digital Ocean and TransIP|Read the blog|Advertise on this site