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newpsm framework - description - Details and benefits over the Old Ways

The Old Ways

The old ways are dark. They are known to cause birth defects. Or something...

The old design of mouse magic in FreeBSD appears somewhat ad-hoc. psm(4) stands on it's own, as does ums(4), and mse(4). moused(8) can be used, optionally. Independently, all three mouse drivers can be used as input to X. Without moused(8), you don't get a mouse in the console (if you want one). moused(8) can direct multiple mice through the sysmouse(4) device, allowing you to present X (or others) with one single mouse device. This is great, and allows you to hotplug mice and not need to reconfigure or restart X to use it.

A problem with this setup is the fact that protocol handlers are all over the place. psm(4) supports a number of mice, ums(4) has hacks to support different "broken" mice aswell as standard uhid mice. and mouse(8) itself supports a number of other mice magic as well.

Adding new ps/2 mice drivers to psm(4) requires hacking code in 3 or 4 different places (if not more) of psm.c. This may not seem all that bad, except it is further hindered by the fact that you have to reboot every time you want to test your code. Compound that with kernel segfaults result in panics, and you have a very difficult environment in which to write new mouse drivers.

The same goes for ums(4), though uhid is a bit easier to deal with.

Furthermore, moused(8) itself is awkward to hack on. Rather, that has been my experience. Feature magic such as emulate-3-button is intertwined amongst other unrelated logic, making debugging annoying and making it annoying to write new features due to the entangled nature of the code.

I'm not trying to say "this sucks" as an offense to the developers who worked on these projects. I simply believe there is a better way to do it.

To summarize, the problems with the old way are:
  • Protocol magic is handled in many different places
  • Design is not modular and does not lend itself to easy feature additions
  • Kernel-land makes for difficult "trial and error" tweaking

The New Hotness

The new design is based upon a few ideas:
  • All protocol magic should be handled by moused
  • Kernel devices should report raw data only
  • Drivers are implemented in the form of loadable modules
  • Magic features (ie; emulate 3 buttons) should be modular and independent
I'll address these individually.

Protocol Magic

Instead of having ums(4) or psm(4) have a deep understanding of their respective protocols, they should report data, unmodified, from the hardware.

That is, instead of psm(4) providing Synaptics Touchpad support, a userland driver module should provide this support. psm(4) should merely act as a hardware-to-userland interface, and a dumb one at that.

Raw Data

psm: The new psm kernel driver should allow protocol commands to be transmitted from the userland to the hardware via ioctl(2). Such commands include setting packet size, data checksum information, and little else. Movement data is transmitted using read(2) and will report data of instructed packet size. The packet size defaults to 3, the "real" PS/2 protocol's packet size.

ums: ums simply fronts for uhid(4). Therefore, I believe ums(4) should be moved to a userland moused module, which reads from uhid(4) devices.

No protocol understanding is required for the new psm to function, becuase all it does is proxy commands and data between hardware and the userland.

Userland driver modules

Mouse-specific drivers will be implemented in userland loadable modules. A module will provide certain functions such as probing and data handling.

The probe function is responsible for two things:
  • Test if the mouse is a specific kind of mouse by..
  • Enabling extended features of the specified mouse
If the probe succeeds, then we can go about using this module as our mouse driver. If it fails, then return failure to indicate that this module cannot understand this mouse.

The handler function is called whenever new data is available from the mouse device. New data is detected using the select(2) system call. The handler function is expected to read data from the given mouse device and process it as necessary. Updates are conveyed by calling an update function with a structure containing the activity data.

Magic features AKA filters

Features such as emulate-3-button, chordmiddle, acceleration, button remapping, jitter correction, and virtual scrolling, are all what I would consider post-process filters. They are used to modify the activity structure after the driver module has processed a new piece of activity data.

For instance, the button mapping filter would map the reported mouse button to another mapping, such as swapping left and right mouse button actions. That is, the reports "right mouse button held" and this filter would change it to "left mouse button held." This is extremely useful.

Filters in the old moused(8) are not modular. They are grossly intertwined with other unrelated code. In the new moused(8), filters are independent functions. As as result, post processing filters are chained.

This chaining allowed you to have "emulate 3 button" and "virtual scroll" enabled at the same time. "emulate 3 button" will send faked middle-mouse button activity if both left and right buttons are pressed at the same time. "virtual scroll" will change movements into scrolling activity while the middle mouse button is held. "emulate 3 button" is called before "virtual scroll" is called. Therefore, if you have both enabled, you can press left and right buttons together, and scroll up and down by moving the mouse up and down. This is not possible with the old moused(8) implementation.

Per-mouse configuration

The new moused(8) also provides a means to configure each specific mouse. The syntax is that of termcap entries.

For example, on my laptop I have the following configuration:
This enables "virtual scrolling" only for synaptics and disables the touchpad. I have a T41 and it has a trackpoint and touchpad, both show up via the same psm(4) device.

Another example (unimplemented) may look like this, if you have a fancy logitech MX100 mouse:
Assuming I do this (might be useful), 'maptokey' would map a button press to a keyboard key stroke. Here, mouse button 9 would get mapped to "F5" - Keep in mind that I have not implemented this yet. More research is required :)

Framework Comparison

For some flow-chart-ey goodness, see the following:

Old mouse diagram:

New mouse diagram