5.4. Subsystem Initialization
Many kernel subsystems are initialized by the code found in main.c. Some are initialized explicitly, as with the calls to init_timers() and console_init(), which need to be called very early. Others are initialized using a technique very similar to that described earlier for the __setup macro. In short, the linker builds lists of function pointers to various initialization routines, and a simple loop is used to execute each in turn. Listing 5-7 shows how this works.
Listing 5-7. Example Initialization Routine
5.4.1. The *__initcall Macros
Notice two important things about the initialization routine in Listing 5-7. First, it is defined with the __init macro. As we saw earlier, this macro applies the section attribute to declare that this function gets placed into a section called .init.text in the vmlinux ELF file. Recall that the purpose of placing this function into a special section of the object file is so the memory space that it occupies can be reclaimed when it is no longer needed.
The second thing to notice is the macro immediately following the definition of the function: arch_initcall(customize_machine). This macro is part of a family of macros defined in .../include/linux/init.h. These macros are reproduced here as Listing 5-8.
Listing 5-8. initcall Family of Macros
In a similar fashion to the __setup macro previously detailed, these macros declare a data item based on the name of the function, and use the section attribute to place this data item into a uniquely named section of the vmlinux ELF file. The benefit of this approach is that main.c can call an arbitrary initialization function for a subsystem that it has no knowledge of. The only other option, as mentioned earlier, is to pollute main.c with knowledge of every subsystem in the kernel.
As you can see from Listing 5-8, the name of the section is .initcallN.init, where N is the level defined between 1 and 7. The data item is assigned the address of the function being named in the macro. In the example defined by Listings 5-7 and 5-8, the data item would be as follows (simplified by omitting the section attribute):
static initcall_t __initcall_customize_machine = customize_machine;
This data item is placed in the kernel's object file in a section called .initcall1.init.
The level (N) is used to provide an ordering of initialization calls. Functions declared using the core_initcall() macro are called before all others. Functions declared using the postcore_initcall() macros are called next, and so on, while those declared with late_initcall() are the last initialization functions to be called.
In a fashion similar to the __setup macro, you can think of this family of *_initcall macros as registration functions for kernel subsystem initialization routines that need to be run once at kernel startup and then never used again. These macros provide a mechanism for causing the initialization routine to be executed during system startup, and a mechanism to discard the code and reclaim the memory after the routine has been executed. The developer is also provided up to seven levels of when to perform the initialization routines. Therefore, if you have a subsystem that relies on another being available, you can enforce this ordering using these levels. If you grep the kernel for the string [a-z]*_initcall, you will see that this family of macros is used extensively.
One final note about the *_initcall family of macros: The use of multiple levels was introduced during the development of the 2.6 kernel series. Earlier kernel versions used the __initcall() macro for this purpose. This macro is still in widespread use, especially in device drivers. To maintain backward compatibility, this macro has been defined to device_initcall(), which has been defined as a level 6 initcall.