What Is a Device Driver?

Before we get into the details of device driver technology,let’s back up and discuss operating systems and,more important,the kernel.Basically,the operating system (OS) is a traffic cop of sorts that directs the hardware and software on a given computer. The OS manages access to the hardware and the software,decides what process to run,and generally takes care of all the background tasks most users don’t know about. The OS also provides tools and an interface for accomplishing certain goals. The heart of the OS is the kernel.The kernel is simply a software program that performs a number of services,including management and abstraction of hardware, as well as provides a common interface for processes in an OS to start and stop.

Inaddition,the kernel manages the memory these processes use,and it provides security as well as a standard set of system calls through which different parts of the OS request that the kernel carry out some task on their behalf.A kernel also provides a memory model.A memory model defines how memory is segmented and used by processes.Most common operating systems running on x86 hardware segment memory into ring0 or kernel space,and ring3 or userland.The only thing you need to know for the purposes of our discussion is that ring0 is the highest privilege level and is where the kernel runs,and ring3 is the lowest and is where applications such as Web browsers and word processors run. One of the things the kernel is responsible for is making the computer’s hardware work in concert with its software.Device drivers are a way for operating system vendors to abstract support for hardware or low-level operations.

They are implemented differently depending on the operating system and hardware architec ture on which they are run.Device drivers aren’t limited to just driving hardware either;they can carry out a number of low-level tasks,such as implementing the capability to access a certain type of file system on a disk,and carrying out antipiracy

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