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Device Drivers


Describe the basic architecture of a local disk and the naming conventions for disk devices as used in the Solaris operating environment.

Explain when and how to list and reconfigure devices.

A computer typically uses a wide range of peripheral and mass-storage devices such as a small computer system interface (SCSI) disk drive, a keyboard, a mouse, and some kind of magnetic backup medium. Other commonly used devices include CD-ROM drives, printers, and various Universal Serial Bus (USB) devices. Solaris communicates with peripheral devices through device files or drivers. A device driver is a low-level program that allows the kernel to communicate with a specific piece of hardware. The driver serves as the operating system's "interpreter" for that piece of hardware. Before Solaris can communicate with a device, the device must have a device driver.

When a system is started for the first time, the kernel creates a device hierarchy to represent all the devices connected to the system. This is the autoconfiguration process, which is described later in this chapter. If a driver is not loaded for a particular peripheral, that device is not functional. In Solaris, each disk device is described in three ways, using three distinct naming conventions:

  • Physical device name Represents the full device pathname in the device information hierarchy.

  • Instance name Represents the kernel's abbreviation name for every possible device on the system.

  • Logical device name Used by system administrators with most file system commands to refer to devices.

System administrators need to understand these device names when using commands to manage disks and file systems. We discuss these device names throughout this chapter.

Exam Alert

Memorize these device names. You'll encounter them in several questions and it's important that you understand when and where each name is used. Make sure you can identify a particular device driver name when it is presented as a filename.

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