Writing Device Drivers

Defining Event Attributes

Event attributes are defined as a list of name-value pairs. The Solaris DDI provides routines and structures for storing information in name-value pairs. Name-value pairs are retained in an nvlist_t structure, which is opaque to the driver. The value for a name-value pair can be a Boolean, an int, a byte, a string, an nvlist, or an array of these data types. An int can be defined as 16 bits, 32 bits, or 64 bits and can be signed or unsigned.

The steps in creating a list of name-value pairs are as follows.

  1. Create an nvlist_t structure with nvlist_alloc(9F).

    The nvlist_alloc() interface takes three arguments:

    • nvlp – Pointer to a pointer to an nvlist_t structure

    • nvflag – Flag to indicate the uniqueness of the names of the pairs. If this flag is set to NV_UNIQUE_NAME_TYPE, any existing pair that matches the name and type of a new pair is removed from the list. If the flag is set to NV_UNIQUE_NAME, then any existing pair with a duplicate name is removed, regardless of its type. Specifying NV_UNIQUE_NAME_TYPE allows a list to contain two or more pairs with the same name as long as their types are different, whereas with NV_UNIQUE_NAME only one instance of a pair name can be in the list. If the flag is not set, then no uniqueness checking is done and the consumer of the list is responsible for dealing with duplicates.

    • kmflag – Flag to indicate the allocation policy for kernel memory. If this argument is set to KM_SLEEP, then the driver blocks until the requested memory is available for allocation. KM_SLEEP allocations might sleep but are guaranteed to succeed. KM_NOSLEEP allocations are guaranteed not to sleep but might return NULL if no memory is currently available.

  2. Populate the nvlist with name-value pairs. For example, to add a string, use nvlist_add_string(9F). To add an array of 32-bit integers, use nvlist_add_int32_array(9F). The nvlist_add_boolean(9F) man page contains a complete list of interfaces for adding pairs.

To deallocate a list, use nvlist_free(9F).

The following code sample illustrates the creation of a name-value list.

Example 5–2 Creating and Populating a Name-Value Pair List

    int err;
    char *str = "child";
    int32_t ints[] = {0, 1, 2};
    nvlist_t *nvl;

    err = nvlist_alloc(&nvl, NV_UNIQUE_NAME, 0);    /* allocate list */
    if (err)
        return (NULL);
    if ((nvlist_add_string(nvl, "name", str) != 0) ||
        (nvlist_add_int32_array(nvl, "prop", ints, 3) != 0)) {
        return (NULL);
    return (nvl);

Drivers can retrieve the elements of an nvlist by using a lookup function for that type, such as nvlist_lookup_int32_array(9F), which takes as an argument the name of the pair to be searched for.

Note –

These interfaces work only if either NV_UNIQUE_NAME or NV_UNIQUE_NAME_TYPE is specified when nvlist_alloc(9F) is called. Otherwise, ENOTSUP is returned, because the list cannot contain multiple pairs with the same name.

A list of name-value list pairs can be placed in contiguous memory. This approach is useful for passing the list to an entity that has subscribed for notification. The first step is to get the size of the memory block that is needed for the list with nvlist_size(9F). The next step is to pack the list into the buffer with nvlist_pack(9F). The consumer receiving the buffer's content can unpack the buffer with nvlist_unpack(9F).

The functions for manipulating name-value pairs are available to both user-level and kernel-level developers. You can find identical man pages for these functions in both man pages section 3: Library Interfaces and Headers and in man pages section 9: DDI and DKI Kernel Functions. For a list of functions that operate on name-value pairs, see the following table.

Table 5–1 Functions for Using Name-Value Pairs

Man Page 

Purpose / Functions 


Add name-value pairs to the list. Functions include: 

nvlist_add_boolean(), nvlist_add_boolean_value(), nvlist_add_byte(), nvlist_add_int8(), nvlist_add_uint8(), nvlist_add_int16(), nvlist_add_uint16(), nvlist_add_int32(), nvlist_add_uint32(), nvlist_add_int64(), nvlist_add_uint64(), nvlist_add_string(), nvlist_add_nvlist(), nvlist_add_nvpair(), nvlist_add_boolean_array(), nvlist_add_int8_array, nvlist_add_uint8_array(), nvlist_add_nvlist_array(), nvlist_add_byte_array(), nvlist_add_int16_array(), nvlist_add_uint16_array(), nvlist_add_int32_array(), nvlist_add_uint32_array(), nvlist_add_int64_array(), nvlist_add_uint64_array(), nvlist_add_string_array()


Manipulate the name-value list buffer. Functions include: 

nvlist_alloc(), nvlist_free(), nvlist_size(), nvlist_pack(), nvlist_unpack(), nvlist_dup(), nvlist_merge()


Search for name-value pairs. Functions include: 

nvlist_lookup_boolean(), nvlist_lookup_boolean_value(), nvlist_lookup_byte(), nvlist_lookup_int8(), nvlist_lookup_int16(), nvlist_lookup_int32(), nvlist_lookup_int64(), nvlist_lookup_uint8(), nvlist_lookup_uint16(), nvlist_lookup_uint32(), nvlist_lookup_uint64(), nvlist_lookup_string(), nvlist_lookup_nvlist(), nvlist_lookup_boolean_array, nvlist_lookup_byte_array(), nvlist_lookup_int8_array(), nvlist_lookup_int16_array(), nvlist_lookup_int32_array(), nvlist_lookup_int64_array(), nvlist_lookup_uint8_array(), nvlist_lookup_uint16_array(), nvlist_lookup_uint32_array(), nvlist_lookup_uint64_array(), nvlist_lookup_string_array(), nvlist_lookup_nvlist_array(), nvlist_lookup_pairs()


Get name-value pair data. Functions include: 

nvlist_next_nvpair(), nvpair_name(), nvpair_type()


Remove name-value pairs. Functions include: 

nv_remove(), nv_remove_all()