Based on kernel version 3.9. Page generated on 2013-05-02 23:06 EST.
1 inotify 2 a powerful yet simple file change notification system 3 4 5 6 Document started 15 Mar 2005 by Robert Love <firstname.lastname@example.org> 7 8 9 (i) User Interface 10 11 Inotify is controlled by a set of three system calls and normal file I/O on a 12 returned file descriptor. 13 14 First step in using inotify is to initialise an inotify instance: 15 16 int fd = inotify_init (); 17 18 Each instance is associated with a unique, ordered queue. 19 20 Change events are managed by "watches". A watch is an (object,mask) pair where 21 the object is a file or directory and the mask is a bit mask of one or more 22 inotify events that the application wishes to receive. See <linux/inotify.h> 23 for valid events. A watch is referenced by a watch descriptor, or wd. 24 25 Watches are added via a path to the file. 26 27 Watches on a directory will return events on any files inside of the directory. 28 29 Adding a watch is simple: 30 31 int wd = inotify_add_watch (fd, path, mask); 32 33 Where "fd" is the return value from inotify_init(), path is the path to the 34 object to watch, and mask is the watch mask (see <linux/inotify.h>). 35 36 You can update an existing watch in the same manner, by passing in a new mask. 37 38 An existing watch is removed via 39 40 int ret = inotify_rm_watch (fd, wd); 41 42 Events are provided in the form of an inotify_event structure that is read(2) 43 from a given inotify instance. The filename is of dynamic length and follows 44 the struct. It is of size len. The filename is padded with null bytes to 45 ensure proper alignment. This padding is reflected in len. 46 47 You can slurp multiple events by passing a large buffer, for example 48 49 size_t len = read (fd, buf, BUF_LEN); 50 51 Where "buf" is a pointer to an array of "inotify_event" structures at least 52 BUF_LEN bytes in size. The above example will return as many events as are 53 available and fit in BUF_LEN. 54 55 Each inotify instance fd is also select()- and poll()-able. 56 57 You can find the size of the current event queue via the standard FIONREAD 58 ioctl on the fd returned by inotify_init(). 59 60 All watches are destroyed and cleaned up on close. 61 62 63 (ii) 64 65 Prototypes: 66 67 int inotify_init (void); 68 int inotify_add_watch (int fd, const char *path, __u32 mask); 69 int inotify_rm_watch (int fd, __u32 mask); 70 71 72 (iii) Kernel Interface 73 74 Inotify's kernel API consists a set of functions for managing watches and an 75 event callback. 76 77 To use the kernel API, you must first initialize an inotify instance with a set 78 of inotify_operations. You are given an opaque inotify_handle, which you use 79 for any further calls to inotify. 80 81 struct inotify_handle *ih = inotify_init(my_event_handler); 82 83 You must provide a function for processing events and a function for destroying 84 the inotify watch. 85 86 void handle_event(struct inotify_watch *watch, u32 wd, u32 mask, 87 u32 cookie, const char *name, struct inode *inode) 88 89 watch - the pointer to the inotify_watch that triggered this call 90 wd - the watch descriptor 91 mask - describes the event that occurred 92 cookie - an identifier for synchronizing events 93 name - the dentry name for affected files in a directory-based event 94 inode - the affected inode in a directory-based event 95 96 void destroy_watch(struct inotify_watch *watch) 97 98 You may add watches by providing a pre-allocated and initialized inotify_watch 99 structure and specifying the inode to watch along with an inotify event mask. 100 You must pin the inode during the call. You will likely wish to embed the 101 inotify_watch structure in a structure of your own which contains other 102 information about the watch. Once you add an inotify watch, it is immediately 103 subject to removal depending on filesystem events. You must grab a reference if 104 you depend on the watch hanging around after the call. 105 106 inotify_init_watch(&my_watch->iwatch); 107 inotify_get_watch(&my_watch->iwatch); // optional 108 s32 wd = inotify_add_watch(ih, &my_watch->iwatch, inode, mask); 109 inotify_put_watch(&my_watch->iwatch); // optional 110 111 You may use the watch descriptor (wd) or the address of the inotify_watch for 112 other inotify operations. You must not directly read or manipulate data in the 113 inotify_watch. Additionally, you must not call inotify_add_watch() more than 114 once for a given inotify_watch structure, unless you have first called either 115 inotify_rm_watch() or inotify_rm_wd(). 116 117 To determine if you have already registered a watch for a given inode, you may 118 call inotify_find_watch(), which gives you both the wd and the watch pointer for 119 the inotify_watch, or an error if the watch does not exist. 120 121 wd = inotify_find_watch(ih, inode, &watchp); 122 123 You may use container_of() on the watch pointer to access your own data 124 associated with a given watch. When an existing watch is found, 125 inotify_find_watch() bumps the refcount before releasing its locks. You must 126 put that reference with: 127 128 put_inotify_watch(watchp); 129 130 Call inotify_find_update_watch() to update the event mask for an existing watch. 131 inotify_find_update_watch() returns the wd of the updated watch, or an error if 132 the watch does not exist. 133 134 wd = inotify_find_update_watch(ih, inode, mask); 135 136 An existing watch may be removed by calling either inotify_rm_watch() or 137 inotify_rm_wd(). 138 139 int ret = inotify_rm_watch(ih, &my_watch->iwatch); 140 int ret = inotify_rm_wd(ih, wd); 141 142 A watch may be removed while executing your event handler with the following: 143 144 inotify_remove_watch_locked(ih, iwatch); 145 146 Call inotify_destroy() to remove all watches from your inotify instance and 147 release it. If there are no outstanding references, inotify_destroy() will call 148 your destroy_watch op for each watch. 149 150 inotify_destroy(ih); 151 152 When inotify removes a watch, it sends an IN_IGNORED event to your callback. 153 You may use this event as an indication to free the watch memory. Note that 154 inotify may remove a watch due to filesystem events, as well as by your request. 155 If you use IN_ONESHOT, inotify will remove the watch after the first event, at 156 which point you may call the final inotify_put_watch. 157 158 (iv) Kernel Interface Prototypes 159 160 struct inotify_handle *inotify_init(struct inotify_operations *ops); 161 162 inotify_init_watch(struct inotify_watch *watch); 163 164 s32 inotify_add_watch(struct inotify_handle *ih, 165 struct inotify_watch *watch, 166 struct inode *inode, u32 mask); 167 168 s32 inotify_find_watch(struct inotify_handle *ih, struct inode *inode, 169 struct inotify_watch **watchp); 170 171 s32 inotify_find_update_watch(struct inotify_handle *ih, 172 struct inode *inode, u32 mask); 173 174 int inotify_rm_wd(struct inotify_handle *ih, u32 wd); 175 176 int inotify_rm_watch(struct inotify_handle *ih, 177 struct inotify_watch *watch); 178 179 void inotify_remove_watch_locked(struct inotify_handle *ih, 180 struct inotify_watch *watch); 181 182 void inotify_destroy(struct inotify_handle *ih); 183 184 void get_inotify_watch(struct inotify_watch *watch); 185 void put_inotify_watch(struct inotify_watch *watch); 186 187 188 (v) Internal Kernel Implementation 189 190 Each inotify instance is represented by an inotify_handle structure. 191 Inotify's userspace consumers also have an inotify_device which is 192 associated with the inotify_handle, and on which events are queued. 193 194 Each watch is associated with an inotify_watch structure. Watches are chained 195 off of each associated inotify_handle and each associated inode. 196 197 See fs/notify/inotify/inotify_fsnotify.c and fs/notify/inotify/inotify_user.c 198 for the locking and lifetime rules. 199 200 201 (vi) Rationale 202 203 Q: What is the design decision behind not tying the watch to the open fd of 204 the watched object? 205 206 A: Watches are associated with an open inotify device, not an open file. 207 This solves the primary problem with dnotify: keeping the file open pins 208 the file and thus, worse, pins the mount. Dnotify is therefore infeasible 209 for use on a desktop system with removable media as the media cannot be 210 unmounted. Watching a file should not require that it be open. 211 212 Q: What is the design decision behind using an-fd-per-instance as opposed to 213 an fd-per-watch? 214 215 A: An fd-per-watch quickly consumes more file descriptors than are allowed, 216 more fd's than are feasible to manage, and more fd's than are optimally 217 select()-able. Yes, root can bump the per-process fd limit and yes, users 218 can use epoll, but requiring both is a silly and extraneous requirement. 219 A watch consumes less memory than an open file, separating the number 220 spaces is thus sensible. The current design is what user-space developers 221 want: Users initialize inotify, once, and add n watches, requiring but one 222 fd and no twiddling with fd limits. Initializing an inotify instance two 223 thousand times is silly. If we can implement user-space's preferences 224 cleanly--and we can, the idr layer makes stuff like this trivial--then we 225 should. 226 227 There are other good arguments. With a single fd, there is a single 228 item to block on, which is mapped to a single queue of events. The single 229 fd returns all watch events and also any potential out-of-band data. If 230 every fd was a separate watch, 231 232 - There would be no way to get event ordering. Events on file foo and 233 file bar would pop poll() on both fd's, but there would be no way to tell 234 which happened first. A single queue trivially gives you ordering. Such 235 ordering is crucial to existing applications such as Beagle. Imagine 236 "mv a b ; mv b a" events without ordering. 237 238 - We'd have to maintain n fd's and n internal queues with state, 239 versus just one. It is a lot messier in the kernel. A single, linear 240 queue is the data structure that makes sense. 241 242 - User-space developers prefer the current API. The Beagle guys, for 243 example, love it. Trust me, I asked. It is not a surprise: Who'd want 244 to manage and block on 1000 fd's via select? 245 246 - No way to get out of band data. 247 248 - 1024 is still too low. ;-) 249 250 When you talk about designing a file change notification system that 251 scales to 1000s of directories, juggling 1000s of fd's just does not seem 252 the right interface. It is too heavy. 253 254 Additionally, it _is_ possible to more than one instance and 255 juggle more than one queue and thus more than one associated fd. There 256 need not be a one-fd-per-process mapping; it is one-fd-per-queue and a 257 process can easily want more than one queue. 258 259 Q: Why the system call approach? 260 261 A: The poor user-space interface is the second biggest problem with dnotify. 262 Signals are a terrible, terrible interface for file notification. Or for 263 anything, for that matter. The ideal solution, from all perspectives, is a 264 file descriptor-based one that allows basic file I/O and poll/select. 265 Obtaining the fd and managing the watches could have been done either via a 266 device file or a family of new system calls. We decided to implement a 267 family of system calls because that is the preferred approach for new kernel 268 interfaces. The only real difference was whether we wanted to use open(2) 269 and ioctl(2) or a couple of new system calls. System calls beat ioctls.