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Subject[PATCH 2/2] vga: drops a documentation regarding the VGA arbiter
Signed-off-by: Tiago Vignatti <>
Documentation/vgaarbiter.txt | 197 ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
1 files changed, 197 insertions(+), 0 deletions(-)
create mode 100644 Documentation/vgaarbiter.txt

diff --git a/Documentation/vgaarbiter.txt b/Documentation/vgaarbiter.txt
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+VGA Arbiter
+Graphic devices are accessed through ranges in I/O or memory space. While most
+modern devices allow relocation of such ranges, some "Legacy" VGA devices
+implemented on PCI will typically have the same "hard-decoded" addresses as
+they did on ISA. For more details see "PCI Bus Binding to IEEE Std 1275-1994
+Standard for Boot (Initialization Configuration) Firmware Revision 2.1"
+Section 7, Legacy Devices.
+The Resource Access Control (RAC) module inside the X server currently does
+the task of arbitration when more than one legacy device co-exists on the same
+machine. But the problem happens when these devices are trying to be accessed
+by different userspace clients (e.g. two server in parallel). Their address
+assignments conflict. Therefore an arbitration scheme _outside_ of the X
+server is needed to control the sharing of these resources. This document
+introduces the operation of the VGA arbiter implemented for Linux kernel.
+I. Details and Theory of Operation
+ I.1 vgaarb
+ I.2 libpciaccess
+ I.3 xf86VGAArbiter (X server implementation)
+II. Open Issues / Bugs
+VI. References
+I. Details and Theory of Operation
+I.1 vgaarb
+The vgaarb is a module of the Linux Kernel. When it is initially loaded, it
+scans all PCI devices and add the VGA ones inside the arbitration. The arbiter
+then enables/disables the decoding of VGA legacy instructions by different
+devices which are trying to use them on the same machine. The device which
+does not want/need to use the arbiter may explicitly tell it by calling
+vga_arb_decodes() from the VGA library function. Driver must take a special
+care here.
+Basically the kernel exports a char device interface (/dev/vga_arbiter) to the
+clients. It has the usual semantics:
+ open : open user instance of the arbiter. By default, it's attached to
+ the default VGA device of the system.
+ close : close user instance. Release locks made by the user
+ read : return a string indicating the status of the target like:
+ "<card_ID>,decodes=<io_state>,owns=<io_state>,locks=<io_state> (ic,mc)"
+ An IO state string is of the form {io,mem,io+mem,none}, mc and
+ ic are respectively mem and io lock counts (for debugging/
+ diagnostic only). "decodes" indicate what the card currently
+ decodes, "owns" indicates what is currently enabled on it, and
+ "locks" indicates what is locked by this card. If the card is
+ unplugged, we get "invalid" then for card_ID and an -ENODEV
+ error is returned for any command until a new card is targeted.
+ write : write a command to the arbiter. List of commands:
+ target <card_ID> : switch target to card <card_ID> (see below)
+ lock <io_state> : acquires locks on target ("none" is an invalid io_state)
+ trylock <io_state> : non-blocking acquire locks on target (returns EBUSY if
+ unsuccessful)
+ unlock <io_state> : release locks on target
+ unlock all : release all locks on target held by this user (not
+ implemented yet)
+ decodes <io_state> : set the legacy decoding attributes for the card
+ poll : event if something changes on any card (not just the
+ target)
+ card_ID is of the form "PCI:domain:bus:dev.fn". It can be set to "default"
+ to go back to the system default card (TODO: not implemented yet). Currently,
+ only PCI is supported as a prefix, but the userland API may support other bus
+ types in the future, even if the current kernel implementation doesn't.
+Note about locks:
+The driver keeps track of which user has which locks on which card. It
+supports stacking, like the kernel one. This complexifies the implementation
+a bit, but makes the arbiter more tolerant to user space problems and able
+to properly cleanup in all cases when a process dies.
+Currently, a max of 16 cards can have locks simultaneously issued from
+user space for a given user (file descriptor instance) of the arbiter.
+If the device is hot-{un,}plugged, there is a hook inside the module to notify
+them being added/removed in the system and automatically added/removed in
+the arbiter.
+There's also a in-kernel API of the arbiter in the case of DRM, vgacon and
+others which may use the arbiter.
+I.2 libpciaccess
+To use the vga arbiter char device it was implemented a serie of functions
+inside the pciaccess library. Two fields were added to struct pci_device for
+this be possible:
+ /* the type of resource decoded by the device */
+ int vgaarb_rsrc;
+ /* the file descriptor (/dev/vga_arbiter) */
+ int vgaarb_fd;
+and the functions:
+These functions below acquire VGA resources for the given card and mark those
+resources as locked. If the resources requested are "normal" (and not legacy)
+resources, the arbiter will first check whether the card is doing legacy
+decoding for that type of resource. If yes, the lock is "converted" into a
+legacy resource lock. The arbiter will first look for all VGA cards that
+might conflict and disable their IOs and/or Memory access, including VGA
+forwarding on P2P bridges if necessary, so that the requested resources can
+be used. Then, the card is marked as locking these resources and the IO and/or
+Memory access is enabled on the card (including VGA forwarding on parent
+P2P bridges if any). In the case of vga_arb_lock(), the function will block
+if some conflicting card is already locking one of the required resources (or
+any resource on a different bus segment, since P2P bridges don't differentiate
+VGA memory and IO afaik). If the card already owns the resources, the function
+succeeds. vga_arb_trylock() will return (-EBUSY) instead of blocking. Nested
+calls are supported (a per-resource counter is maintained).
+Set the target device of this client.
+ int pci_device_vgaarb_set_target (struct pci_device *dev);
+For instance, in x86 if two devices on the same bus want to lock different
+resources, both will succeed (lock). If devices are in different buses and
+trying to lock different resources, only the first who tried succeeds.
+ int pci_device_vgaarb_lock (struct pci_device *dev);
+ int pci_device_vgaarb_trylock (struct pci_device *dev);
+Unlock resources of device.
+ int pci_device_vgaarb_unlock (struct pci_device *dev);
+Indicates to the arbiter if the card decodes legacy VGA IOs, legacy VGA
+Memory, both, or none. All cards default to both, the card driver (fbdev for
+example) should tell the arbiter if it has disabled legacy decoding, so the
+card can be left out of the arbitration process (and can be safe to take
+interrupts at any time.
+ int pci_device_vgaarb_decodes (struct pci_device *dev);
+Connects to the arbiter device, allocates the struct
+ int pci_device_vgaarb_init (struct pci_device *dev);
+Close the connection
+ void pci_device_vgaarb_fini (struct pci_device *dev);
+I.3 xf86VGAArbiter (X server implementation)
+This work will probably remove the RAC (Resource Access Control) code inside
+Xorg DDX. Complain: RAC is non-OS dependent. VGA Arbiter is.
+II. Open Issues / Bugs
+Current status:
+ - two X servers is parallel works (multiseat style)
+ - non-bottable card works
+ - secondary card works
+ - xinemara-like _doesn't_ works (need to trace more paths paths that touch
+ the registers and bracket with lock/unlock)
+III. Credits
+Benjamin Herrenschmidt (IBM?) started this work when he discussed such design
+with the Xorg community in 2005 [1, 2]. In the end of 2007, Paulo Zanoni and
+Tiago Vignatti (both of C3SL/Federal University of Paraná) proceeded his work
+enhancing the kernel code to adapt as a kernel module and also did the
+implementation of the user space side [3]. Now (2009) Tiago Vignatti is
+finally trying to push such work upstream.
+VI. References
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