Our path to libmraa with 96Boards – Part 7

Manivannan Sadhasivam


Welcome to Part - 7 of Our path to libmraa with 96Boards series. In this part I will provide a quick summary of the recent support added to 96Boards board support in libmraa.

Chardev support in MRAA

One big feature addition happened in MRAA library last month, which is the addition of Chardev support for accessing GPIO’s in latest kernel. This is a descriptor based interface and relatively new way of accessing GPIO’s in linux kernel starting from 4.8. Comparing the legacy sysfs way of accessing GPIOs, this interface exposes each GPIO chip in the hardware as its own char device under /dev. This addresses most of the drawbacks with the sysfs interface, including accessing multiple GPIOs at once.

  • Chardev MRAA source - https://github.com/intel-iot-devkit/mraa/blob/master/src/gpio/gpio_chardev.c

For a detailed information of this interface, please take a look at the kernel documentation. Eventhough the interface is very robust and useful, we can’t really use it from userspace as we did with sysfs. We always need to write some code or depend on a library like libgpiod.

But MRAA library just provides a neat abstraction layer (not very neat since it needs to be compatible with old API). We can access GPIO’s using the same API as we used for sysfs, MRAA will do the heavy lifting for you underneath. Only thing required is the new kernel (>=4.8) and chardev mapping in board support.

Now you can ask a question, why can’t MRAA just depend on libgpiod instead of reinventing the wheel? Well, we are not reinventing the wheel here, chardev is the generic interface, which provides useful API’s for accessing GPIO’s and using them is not that difficult. One more issue with libgpiod is its license, MRAA is based on MIT license where libgpiod is based on LGPL license. So the maintainers didn’t favour dependency on incompatible (not much) licensed library.

96Boards team submitted a Pull Request to MRAA for adding the chardev support to Dragonboard410c and HiKey. Since our release/snapshot images are based on latest kernel, chardev support will be turned on by default.


This concludes the summary of Part - 7 of Our path to libmraa with 96Boards blog. I hope that this blog provided information around chardev support in MRAA with regards to 96Boards. In the upcoming blogs, I will provide more information on the new board support and feature additions. Stay tuned!

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