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LED handling under Linux
In its simplest form, the LED class just allows control of LEDs from
userspace. LEDs appear in /sys/class/leds/. The maximum brightness of the
LED is defined in max_brightness file. The brightness file will set the brightness
of the LED (taking a value 0-max_brightness). Most LEDs don't have hardware
brightness support so will just be turned on for non-zero brightness settings.
The class also introduces the optional concept of an LED trigger. A trigger
is a kernel based source of led events. Triggers can either be simple or
complex. A simple trigger isn't configurable and is designed to slot into
existing subsystems with minimal additional code. Examples are the disk-activity,
nand-disk and sharpsl-charge triggers. With led triggers disabled, the code
optimises away.
Complex triggers while available to all LEDs have LED specific
parameters and work on a per LED basis. The timer trigger is an example.
The timer trigger will periodically change the LED brightness between
LED_OFF and the current brightness setting. The "on" and "off" time can
be specified via /sys/class/leds/<device>/delay_{on,off} in milliseconds.
You can change the brightness value of a LED independently of the timer
trigger. However, if you set the brightness value to LED_OFF it will
also disable the timer trigger.
You can change triggers in a similar manner to the way an IO scheduler
is chosen (via /sys/class/leds/<device>/trigger). Trigger specific
parameters can appear in /sys/class/leds/<device> once a given trigger is
Design Philosophy
The underlying design philosophy is simplicity. LEDs are simple devices
and the aim is to keep a small amount of code giving as much functionality
as possible. Please keep this in mind when suggesting enhancements.
LED Device Naming
Is currently of the form:
- devicename:
it should refer to a unique identifier created by the kernel,
like e.g. phyN for network devices or inputN for input devices, rather
than to the hardware; the information related to the product and the bus
to which given device is hooked is available in sysfs and can be
retrieved using script from tools/leds; generally
this section is expected mostly for LEDs that are somehow associated with
other devices.
- color:
one of LED_COLOR_ID_* definitions from the header
- function:
one of LED_FUNCTION_* definitions from the header
If required color or function is missing, please submit a patch
It is possible that more than one LED with the same color and function will
be required for given platform, differing only with an ordinal number.
In this case it is preferable to just concatenate the predefined LED_FUNCTION_*
name with required "-N" suffix in the driver. fwnode based drivers can use
function-enumerator property for that and then the concatenation will be handled
automatically by the LED core upon LED class device registration.
LED subsystem has also a protection against name clash, that may occur
when LED class device is created by a driver of hot-pluggable device and
it doesn't provide unique devicename section. In this case numerical
suffix (e.g. "_1", "_2", "_3" etc.) is added to the requested LED class
device name.
There might be still LED class drivers around using vendor or product name
for devicename, but this approach is now deprecated as it doesn't convey
any added value. Product information can be found in other places in sysfs
(see tools/leds/
Examples of proper LED names:
- "red:disk"
- "white:flash"
- "red:indicator"
- "phy1:green:wlan"
- "phy3::wlan"
- ":kbd_backlight"
- "input5::kbd_backlight"
- "input3::numlock"
- "input3::scrolllock"
- "input3::capslock"
- "mmc1::status"
- "white:status" script can be used for verifying if the LED name
meets the requirements pointed out here. It performs validation of the LED class
devicename sections and gives hints on expected value for a section in case
the validation fails for it. So far the script supports validation
of associations between LEDs and following types of devices:
- input devices
- ieee80211 compliant USB devices
The script is open to extensions.
There have been calls for LED properties such as color to be exported as
individual led class attributes. As a solution which doesn't incur as much
overhead, I suggest these become part of the device name. The naming scheme
above leaves scope for further attributes should they be needed. If sections
of the name don't apply, just leave that section blank.
Brightness setting API
LED subsystem core exposes following API for setting brightness:
- led_set_brightness:
it is guaranteed not to sleep, passing LED_OFF stops
- led_set_brightness_sync:
for use cases when immediate effect is desired -
it can block the caller for the time required for accessing
device registers and can sleep, passing LED_OFF stops hardware
blinking, returns -EBUSY if software blink fallback is enabled.
LED registration API
A driver wanting to register a LED classdev for use by other drivers /
userspace needs to allocate and fill a led_classdev struct and then call
`[devm_]led_classdev_register`. If the non devm version is used the driver
must call led_classdev_unregister from its remove function before
free-ing the led_classdev struct.
If the driver can detect hardware initiated brightness changes and thus
wants to have a brightness_hw_changed attribute then the LED_BRIGHT_HW_CHANGED
flag must be set in flags before registering. Calling
led_classdev_notify_brightness_hw_changed on a classdev not registered with
the LED_BRIGHT_HW_CHANGED flag is a bug and will trigger a WARN_ON.
Hardware accelerated blink of LEDs
Some LEDs can be programmed to blink without any CPU interaction. To
support this feature, a LED driver can optionally implement the
blink_set() function (see <linux/leds.h>). To set an LED to blinking,
however, it is better to use the API function led_blink_set(), as it
will check and implement software fallback if necessary.
To turn off blinking, use the API function led_brightness_set()
with brightness value LED_OFF, which should stop any software
timers that may have been required for blinking.
The blink_set() function should choose a user friendly blinking value
if it is called with `*delay_on==0` && `*delay_off==0` parameters. In this
case the driver should give back the chosen value through delay_on and
delay_off parameters to the leds subsystem.
Setting the brightness to zero with brightness_set() callback function
should completely turn off the LED and cancel the previously programmed
hardware blinking function, if any.
Known Issues
The LED Trigger core cannot be a module as the simple trigger functions
would cause nightmare dependency issues. I see this as a minor issue
compared to the benefits the simple trigger functionality brings. The
rest of the LED subsystem can be modular.
Future Development
At the moment, a trigger can't be created specifically for a single LED.
There are a number of cases where a trigger might only be mappable to a
particular LED (ACPI?). The addition of triggers provided by the LED driver
should cover this option and be possible to add without breaking the
current interface.