#ioctl #linux-kernel #linux #api-bindings


Library for building runtime-safe linux ioctl() interfaces

2 releases

0.1.1 Sep 4, 2020
0.1.0 Aug 19, 2020

#127 in Operating systems

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iocuddle is a library for building runtime-safe ioctl() interfaces.

Existing approaches to interfacing with ioctls from Rust rely on casting and/or unsafe code declarations at the call site. This moves the burden of safety to the consumer of the ioctl interface, which is less than ideal.

In contrast, iocuddle attempts to move the unsafe code burden to ioctl definition. Once an ioctl is defined, all executions of that ioctl can be done within safe code.


iocuddle aims to handle >=99% of the kernel's ioctl interfaces. However, we do not aim to handle all possible ioctl interfaces. We will outline the different ioctl interfaces below.

Classic Interfaces

Classic ioctl interfaces are those ioctls which were created before the modern interfaces we will see below. They basically allowed the full usage of the ioctl libc function which is defined as this:

use std::os::raw::{c_int, c_ulong};
extern "C" { fn ioctl(fd: c_int, request: c_ulong, ...) -> c_int; }

This interface can take any number of any type of arguments and can return any positive integer (with -1 reserved for indicating an error in combination with errno).

One major drawback of this interface is that it entirely punts on compiler checking of type safety. A particular request is implicitly associated with one or more types that are usually listed in the relevant ioctl man page. If the programmer gets any of the types wrong, you end up with corrupted memory.

The problems with this interface were recognized early on. Therefore, most ioctls support only a single argument to reduce complexity. But this does not solve the problem of the lack of compiler-enforced type safety.

iocuddle does not currently support ioctls with multiple arguments. Otherwise, classic ioctl interfaces can be defined and used via the Ioctl::classic() constructor as follows:

use std::os::raw::{c_void, c_int, c_uint};
use iocuddle::*;

let mut file = std::fs::File::open("/dev/tty").unwrap_or_else(|_| std::process::exit(0));

// This is the simplest ioctl call. The request number is provided via the
// Ioctl::classic() constructor. This ioctl reads a C integer from the
// kernel by internally passing a reference to a c_int as the argument to
// the ioctl. This c_int is returned in the Ok status of the ioctl Result.
// Notice that since the state of the file descriptor is not modified via
// this ioctl, we define it using the Read parameter.
const TIOCINQ: Ioctl<Read, &c_int> = unsafe { Ioctl::classic(0x541B) };
assert_eq!(TIOCINQ.ioctl(&file).unwrap(), (0 as c_uint, 0 as c_int));

// This ioctl is similar to the previous one. It differs in two important
// respects. First, this raw ioctl takes an input argument rather than an
// output argument. This raw argument is a C integer *NOT* a reference to
// a C integer. Second, since this ioctl modifies the state of the file
// descriptor we use Write instead of Read.
// Notice that the return value of the TCSBRK.ioctl() call is the positive
// integer returned from the raw ioctl(), unlike the previous example. It
// is not the input argument type.
const TCSBRK: Ioctl<Write, c_int> = unsafe { Ioctl::classic(0x5409) };
assert_eq!(TCSBRK.ioctl(&mut file, 0).unwrap(), 0 as c_uint);

// `iocuddle` can also support classic ioctls with no argument. These
// always modify the file descriptor state, so the Write parameter is
// used.
const TIOCSBRK: Ioctl<Write, c_void> = unsafe { Ioctl::classic(0x5427) };
const TIOCCBRK: Ioctl<Write, c_void> = unsafe { Ioctl::classic(0x5428) };
assert_eq!(TIOCSBRK.ioctl(&mut file).unwrap(), 0);
assert_eq!(TIOCCBRK.ioctl(&mut file).unwrap(), 0);

Modern Interfaces

In order to alleviate the type-safety problem with the classic interfaces, the Linux kernel developed a new set of conventions for developing ioctls. We call these conventions the modern interface.

Modern ioctl interfaces always take a single reference to a struct or integer and return -1 on failure and 0 (or occasionally another positive integer) on success. The ioctl request number is constructed from four parameters:

  • a group (confusingly called type in the kernel macros)
  • a nr (number)
  • a direction
  • (the size of) a type

The group parameter is used as a namespace to group related ioctls. It is an integer value.

The nr parameter is an integer discriminator to uniquely identify the ioctl within the group.

The direction parameter identifies which direction the data flows. If the data flows from userspace to the kernel, this is the write direction. If data flows from the kernel to userspace, this is the read direction. Data which flows both ways is tagged with the write/read direction.

The type parameter identifies the type that should be used with this ioctl. In the kernel C code this type is only directly used to perturb the ioctl request number with the size of the type. iocuddle additionally uses this parameter to provide type safety.

Defining modern ioctls using iocuddle looks like this:

use iocuddle::*;

// Define the Group of KVM ioctls.
const KVM: Group = Group::new(0xAE);

// Define ioctls within the KVM group.
// The nr is passed to the direction-specific constructor.
const KVM_PPC_ALLOCATE_HTAB: Ioctl<WriteRead, &u32> = unsafe { KVM.write_read(0xa7) };
const KVM_X86_GET_MCE_CAP_SUPPORTED: Ioctl<Read, &u64> = unsafe { KVM.read(0x9d) };
const KVM_X86_SETUP_MCE: Ioctl<Write, &u64> = unsafe { KVM.write(0x9c) };

Kernel Documentation

For the kernel documentation of the ioctl process, see the following file in the kernel source tree: Documentation/userspace-api/ioctl/ioctl-number.rst

License: Apache-2.0

No runtime deps