0002 Real Time Clock (RTC) Drivers for Linux
0005 When Linux developers talk about a "Real Time Clock", they usually mean
0006 something that tracks wall clock time and is battery backed so that it
0007 works even with system power off. Such clocks will normally not track
0008 the local time zone or daylight savings time -- unless they dual boot
0009 with MS-Windows -- but will instead be set to Coordinated Universal Time
0010 (UTC, formerly "Greenwich Mean Time").
0012 The newest non-PC hardware tends to just count seconds, like the time(2)
0013 system call reports, but RTCs also very commonly represent time using
0014 the Gregorian calendar and 24 hour time, as reported by gmtime(3).
0016 Linux has two largely-compatible userspace RTC API families you may
0017 need to know about:
0019 * /dev/rtc ... is the RTC provided by PC compatible systems,
0020 so it's not very portable to non-x86 systems.
0022 * /dev/rtc0, /dev/rtc1 ... are part of a framework that's
0023 supported by a wide variety of RTC chips on all systems.
0025 Programmers need to understand that the PC/AT functionality is not
0026 always available, and some systems can do much more. That is, the
0027 RTCs use the same API to make requests in both RTC frameworks (using
0028 different filenames of course), but the hardware may not offer the
0029 same functionality. For example, not every RTC is hooked up to an
0030 IRQ, so they can't all issue alarms; and where standard PC RTCs can
0031 only issue an alarm up to 24 hours in the future, other hardware may
0032 be able to schedule one any time in the upcoming century.
0035 Old PC/AT-Compatible driver: /dev/rtc
0038 All PCs (even Alpha machines) have a Real Time Clock built into them.
0039 Usually they are built into the chipset of the computer, but some may
0040 actually have a Motorola MC146818 (or clone) on the board. This is the
0041 clock that keeps the date and time while your computer is turned off.
0043 ACPI has standardized that MC146818 functionality, and extended it in
0044 a few ways (enabling longer alarm periods, and wake-from-hibernate).
0045 That functionality is NOT exposed in the old driver.
0047 However it can also be used to generate signals from a slow 2Hz to a
0048 relatively fast 8192Hz, in increments of powers of two. These signals
0049 are reported by interrupt number 8. (Oh! So *that* is what IRQ 8 is
0050 for...) It can also function as a 24hr alarm, raising IRQ 8 when the
0051 alarm goes off. The alarm can also be programmed to only check any
0052 subset of the three programmable values, meaning that it could be set to
0053 ring on the 30th second of the 30th minute of every hour, for example.
0054 The clock can also be set to generate an interrupt upon every clock
0055 update, thus generating a 1Hz signal.
0057 The interrupts are reported via /dev/rtc (major 10, minor 135, read only
0058 character device) in the form of an unsigned long. The low byte contains
0059 the type of interrupt (update-done, alarm-rang, or periodic) that was
0060 raised, and the remaining bytes contain the number of interrupts since
0061 the last read. Status information is reported through the pseudo-file
0062 /proc/driver/rtc if the /proc filesystem was enabled. The driver has
0063 built in locking so that only one process is allowed to have the /dev/rtc
0064 interface open at a time.
0066 A user process can monitor these interrupts by doing a read(2) or a
0067 select(2) on /dev/rtc -- either will block/stop the user process until
0068 the next interrupt is received. This is useful for things like
0069 reasonably high frequency data acquisition where one doesn't want to
0070 burn up 100% CPU by polling gettimeofday etc. etc.
0072 At high frequencies, or under high loads, the user process should check
0073 the number of interrupts received since the last read to determine if
0074 there has been any interrupt "pileup" so to speak. Just for reference, a
0075 typical 486-33 running a tight read loop on /dev/rtc will start to suffer
0076 occasional interrupt pileup (i.e. > 1 IRQ event since last read) for
0077 frequencies above 1024Hz. So you really should check the high bytes
0078 of the value you read, especially at frequencies above that of the
0079 normal timer interrupt, which is 100Hz.
0081 Programming and/or enabling interrupt frequencies greater than 64Hz is
0082 only allowed by root. This is perhaps a bit conservative, but we don't want
0083 an evil user generating lots of IRQs on a slow 386sx-16, where it might have
0084 a negative impact on performance. This 64Hz limit can be changed by writing
0085 a different value to /proc/sys/dev/rtc/max-user-freq. Note that the
0086 interrupt handler is only a few lines of code to minimize any possibility
0087 of this effect.
0089 Also, if the kernel time is synchronized with an external source, the
0090 kernel will write the time back to the CMOS clock every 11 minutes. In
0091 the process of doing this, the kernel briefly turns off RTC periodic
0092 interrupts, so be aware of this if you are doing serious work. If you
0093 don't synchronize the kernel time with an external source (via ntp or
0094 whatever) then the kernel will keep its hands off the RTC, allowing you
0095 exclusive access to the device for your applications.
0097 The alarm and/or interrupt frequency are programmed into the RTC via
0098 various ioctl(2) calls as listed in ./include/linux/rtc.h
0099 Rather than write 50 pages describing the ioctl() and so on, it is
0100 perhaps more useful to include a small test program that demonstrates
0101 how to use them, and demonstrates the features of the driver. This is
0102 probably a lot more useful to people interested in writing applications
0103 that will be using this driver. See the code at the end of this document.
0105 (The original /dev/rtc driver was written by Paul Gortmaker.)
0108 New portable "RTC Class" drivers: /dev/rtcN
0111 Because Linux supports many non-ACPI and non-PC platforms, some of which
0112 have more than one RTC style clock, it needed a more portable solution
0113 than expecting a single battery-backed MC146818 clone on every system.
0114 Accordingly, a new "RTC Class" framework has been defined. It offers
0115 three different userspace interfaces:
0117 * /dev/rtcN ... much the same as the older /dev/rtc interface
0119 * /sys/class/rtc/rtcN ... sysfs attributes support readonly
0120 access to some RTC attributes.
0122 * /proc/driver/rtc ... the system clock RTC may expose itself
0123 using a procfs interface. If there is no RTC for the system clock,
0124 rtc0 is used by default. More information is (currently) shown
0125 here than through sysfs.
0127 The RTC Class framework supports a wide variety of RTCs, ranging from those
0128 integrated into embeddable system-on-chip (SOC) processors to discrete chips
0129 using I2C, SPI, or some other bus to communicate with the host CPU. There's
0130 even support for PC-style RTCs ... including the features exposed on newer PCs
0131 through ACPI.
0133 The new framework also removes the "one RTC per system" restriction. For
0134 example, maybe the low-power battery-backed RTC is a discrete I2C chip, but
0135 a high functionality RTC is integrated into the SOC. That system might read
0136 the system clock from the discrete RTC, but use the integrated one for all
0137 other tasks, because of its greater functionality.
0139 SYSFS INTERFACE
0142 The sysfs interface under /sys/class/rtc/rtcN provides access to various
0143 rtc attributes without requiring the use of ioctls. All dates and times
0144 are in the RTC's timezone, rather than in system time.
0146 date: RTC-provided date
0147 hctosys: 1 if the RTC provided the system time at boot via the
0148 CONFIG_RTC_HCTOSYS kernel option, 0 otherwise
0149 max_user_freq: The maximum interrupt rate an unprivileged user may request
0150 from this RTC.
0151 name: The name of the RTC corresponding to this sysfs directory
0152 since_epoch: The number of seconds since the epoch according to the RTC
0153 time: RTC-provided time
0154 wakealarm: The time at which the clock will generate a system wakeup
0155 event. This is a one shot wakeup event, so must be reset
0156 after wake if a daily wakeup is required. Format is seconds since
0157 the epoch by default, or if there's a leading +, seconds in the
0158 future, or if there is a leading +=, seconds ahead of the current
0160 offset: The amount which the rtc clock has been adjusted in firmware.
0161 Visible only if the driver supports clock offset adjustment.
0162 The unit is parts per billion, i.e. The number of clock ticks
0163 which are added to or removed from the rtc's base clock per
0164 billion ticks. A positive value makes a day pass more slowly,
0165 longer, and a negative value makes a day pass more quickly.
0167 IOCTL INTERFACE
0170 The ioctl() calls supported by /dev/rtc are also supported by the RTC class
0171 framework. However, because the chips and systems are not standardized,
0172 some PC/AT functionality might not be provided. And in the same way, some
0173 newer features -- including those enabled by ACPI -- are exposed by the
0174 RTC class framework, but can't be supported by the older driver.
0176 * RTC_RD_TIME, RTC_SET_TIME ... every RTC supports at least reading
0177 time, returning the result as a Gregorian calendar date and 24 hour
0178 wall clock time. To be most useful, this time may also be updated.
0180 * RTC_AIE_ON, RTC_AIE_OFF, RTC_ALM_SET, RTC_ALM_READ ... when the RTC
0181 is connected to an IRQ line, it can often issue an alarm IRQ up to
0182 24 hours in the future. (Use RTC_WKALM_* by preference.)
0184 * RTC_WKALM_SET, RTC_WKALM_RD ... RTCs that can issue alarms beyond
0185 the next 24 hours use a slightly more powerful API, which supports
0186 setting the longer alarm time and enabling its IRQ using a single
0187 request (using the same model as EFI firmware).
0189 * RTC_UIE_ON, RTC_UIE_OFF ... if the RTC offers IRQs, the RTC framework
0190 will emulate this mechanism.
0192 * RTC_PIE_ON, RTC_PIE_OFF, RTC_IRQP_SET, RTC_IRQP_READ ... these icotls
0193 are emulated via a kernel hrtimer.
0195 In many cases, the RTC alarm can be a system wake event, used to force
0196 Linux out of a low power sleep state (or hibernation) back to a fully
0197 operational state. For example, a system could enter a deep power saving
0198 state until it's time to execute some scheduled tasks.
0200 Note that many of these ioctls are handled by the common rtc-dev interface.
0201 Some common examples:
0203 * RTC_RD_TIME, RTC_SET_TIME: the read_time/set_time functions will be
0204 called with appropriate values.
0206 * RTC_ALM_SET, RTC_ALM_READ, RTC_WKALM_SET, RTC_WKALM_RD: gets or sets
0207 the alarm rtc_timer. May call the set_alarm driver function.
0209 * RTC_IRQP_SET, RTC_IRQP_READ: These are emulated by the generic code.
0211 * RTC_PIE_ON, RTC_PIE_OFF: These are also emulated by the generic code.
0213 If all else fails, check out the tools/testing/selftests/timers/rtctest.c test!