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  1. include/
  2. test/
  5. parse.h

Simple UART driver template library

The lib/uart template library provides simple driver support for the UART devices supported as Zircon serial consoles. Its primary purpose is to implement serial console support for phys executables and the kernel proper, but it can be used in any environment. To support phys environments, the code must meet some stringent constraints; see lib/arch for more details.

The key use case is to instantiate a serial console device in physboot and then hand it off to the kernel proper. These are substantially different execution environments with separate code and limited ability to share data structures. The library is built around a layer that is hardware-specific but agnostic to execution environment; and a layer that is hardware-agnostic but parameterized for a particular execution environment. The hardware-specific layer's state can be safely shared or copied between the different environments.

Library API

Device-specific API Layer

Each supported UART device has a lib/uart/xyz.h header file that defines a uart::xyz namespace and a uart::xyz::Driver class. This namespace contains public hwreg types for the hardware registers so that user-level driver code can use the library just for these register definitions even without using the library's driver support. The uart::null::Driver class in lib/uart/null.h provides a bit-bucket fake hardware device and demonstrates the API contract for the hardware layer.

Generic API Layer

The “front-end” interface is the uart::KernelDriver template class in lib/uart/uart.h. This is parameterized by a uart::xyz::Driver hardware-support class, and two other template parameters that describe the execution environment's methods for synchronization and accessing hardware resources (i.e. MMIO and/or PIO). Trivial implementations are provided that suffice for phys environments.

Runtime Driver-Selection API Layer

uart::all::KernelDriver in lib/uart/all.h provides a variant type fanning out to all the supported device types. This can match ZBI items to configure and instantiate the serial console driver. The hardware configuration and state in the underlying uart::xyz::Driver object can then be transferred from the uart::all::KernelDriver instantiation in one environment to a new instantiation in a different environment.

Unit Test Support

lib/uart/mock.h in the separate uart-mock library provides zxtest testing support. uart::mock::Driver is used for testing the front end code itself. uart::mock::IoProvider is used to instantiate the front end for tests of each hardware-specific driver.

Adding a New Driver

For each UART device, or family of related UART devices, there is one header file, as described above: lib/uart/xyz.h for the “xyz” UART device family. Some examples of existing drivers for common UARTs include lib/uart/pl011.h and lib/uart/ns8250.h.

Hardware Register Types

First, simply define the hardware‘s register layout details using hwreg types in the uart::xyz namespace. The register details and canonical names for bit fields are usually found in the manufacturer’s data sheet. These parts of the header may also be used for user-level driver code or other test code for the same hardware interfaces that doesn‘t use this library’s driver logic. So they should generally use the hardware specification's vocabulary and be as complete as possible.

ZBI Item Protocol

Each kind of UART device is described to the Zircon kernel by a boot loader via a ZBI item of type ZBI_TYPE_KERNEL_DRIVER. The extra header field is the subtype, a ZBI_KERNEL_DRIVER_*_UART constant defined in <lib/zbi-format/driver-config.h>. That file is generated from the FIDL source files in //sdk/fidl/zbi, where the KernelDriver enum type represents all these constants.

For a new driver, a new unique constant must be added there. It's a good idea for the name to match the driver header file and namespace name (upcased).

Each specific UART subtype also indicates the ZBI item payload type that's used to carry information from the boot loader about how the particular device is accessed, such as MMIO address and interrupt routing details. Various zbi_dcfg_*_t types are defined to carry necessary information. Most UART devices use zbi_dcfg_simple_t. Choose the type that best fits the need of the new device, and add a new type if necessary. (If you need to add a type, there are some more pieces to add to the generic library code; look for the functions specialized on dcfg_simple_t for the models.)

The ZBI_KERNEL_DRIVER_*_UART constant and the zbi_dcfg_*_t payload type are template parameters used when defining the uart::xyz::Driver type in the new <lib/uart/xyz.h>:

struct Driver : public DriverBase<Driver, ZBI_KERNEL_DRIVER_XYZ_UART, zbi_dcfg_simple_t> { ... };

Add Unit Tests

Add a test/ file and add it to the list in test/ These tests can use the lib/uart/mock.h API to test the MMIO (or PIO) reads and writes the driver should be doing. See the existing tests for examples.

Add to uart::all

Finally, add the xyz::Driver type to the WithAllDrivers template in lib/uart/all.h. This lists all the drivers that will be built into the Zircon kernel. If the new driver is for a device that really only ever exists on systems of a certain CPU architecture, then it can go into one of the #if defined(__cpuname__) || UART_ALL_DRIVERS blocks.

Using the New Driver

The Zircon kernel chooses the driver and configuration for its serial console in one of two ways:

  • kernel.serial=xyz,... boot option (how the ... is parsed varies for each dcfg_*_t type, e.g. xyz,0x1234000,12 for dcfg_simple_t giving an MMIO address in hex and an IRQ number in decimal) Both of these can be supplied directly by the bootloader, or they can be embedded in a ZBI at build time or manually using the zbi tool.

Among all ZBI items with supported UART subtypes, the last in the ZBI item sequence will be used (items synthesized by the bootloader appear after the items embedded in the ZBI file). If a kernel.serial=... boot option appears in a command-line string, it will always override any ZBI items with UART subtypes. If multiple kernel.serial=... strings appear, the last one will be used (command-line strings can also be embedded in the ZBI, and those also precede and are overridden by any strings added by the bootloader).

Custom phys tests

For the very first real-world test, there may not be any ZBI-compatible bootloader already available on your platform. In this case, you can start with a raw phys test that is hard-wired for your particular configuration, e.g.

#include <lib/uart/xyz.h>
#include <stdio.h>
#include <stdlib.h>
#include <phys/main.h>
#include <phys/stdio.h>
#include <phys/uart.h>

void PhysMain(void* ptr, arch::EarlyTicks ticks) {


  constexpr dcfg_simple_t kXyzConfig = {.mmio_phys=0x1234000};
  static uart::xyz::KernelDriver<> uart(kXyzConfig);

  printf("hello world!\n");


This can be wired up with build rules in kernel/phys/test/ as a phys_executable() target e.g. using //zircon/kernel/arch/arm64/phys:linuxboot to make an image that's bootable as a Linux/ARM64 kernel with any bootloader supporting that traditional format.

Once this is proven to work, you should be ready to move on either to building a boot shim or to booting Zircon directly.