Difference between /dev/sr0 and /dev/scd0 and what is a character device vs. a block device?
There isn't necessarily any difference at all.
This sometimes comes up because somebody is having trouble accessing a cd - perhaps for reading, but more likely for burning. One device node doesn't work, so they try another.
If a "ls -l" of the two devices gives the same major/minor numbers (see Understanding Unix Devices), the device IS going to behave identically in the kernel, because the major and minor numbers are all that the kernel gets. It picks the driver based on the first number and passes the second number to that driver.
Sure, some silly piece of software might insist that you use some particular name (some serial software does that) but internally, none of that matters.
And what do the minor numbers mean? Whatever the person who wrote the driver wants them to mean. For Linux, there's a good list at http://www.lanana.org/docs/device-list/devices.txt but without documentation like that or source, a minor number doesn't tell you anything.
That is especially true when looking at different operating systems. You might have noticed that tty devices have a major number of "3" on your Ubuntu Linux.On a SCO Unix system, "5" would be used. Different systems will use different schemes.
By the way, these files are NOT driver code. They are pointers to driver code in the kernel, but the actual files contain no data, only the metadata in their inode. These aren't programs, they aren't drivers, they are just pointers.
Older systems would often have device entries for devices that didn't exist. You might see /dev/lp0, /dev/lp1 and /dev/lp2 even if you had no parallel printer ports at all. Nowadays, most systems create device files as and when needed.
What is the difference between character raw and block devices?
The driver for a (physical) block
device is reading n-sized blocks, and only n-sized blocks.
If it implements a raw interface, then it buffers those
blocks and gives you whatever you ask for.
A block device is usually a block device because the actual
hardware works that way- returning some specific number of
characters whenever it is tickled appropriately. Of course
a driver can hide that and make x characters become y, or
could even make a phyically raw device appear to be a block
device- but that doesn't change the underlying nature of the
device. When you access a raw device that is actually
mechanically a block device, x-sized character blocks get
What I am trying to get at is that this all does depend on
the driver, but the underlying hardware does have some
influence on it. You could easily (easy
being a relative term, of course) make a block interface for
tapes. It wouldn't be so easy to treat an rs232 port that
way unless you also had control of whatever was feeding it.
Therefor a tty port is not likely to ever be implemented as
anything but a character device.
The real important differences is what routines
get called- a block open gets a buffer allocated by the
kernel and that's where its data is, while a raw read or
write is reading or writing user space. That is an
important point - a device that is
physically a block device can have a driver that implements
only a raw interface- and tapes are an excellent example.
As to the rules for mounting, formatting, etc., in some OS's
they have become rather arbitrary because the programs
themselves will ignore what you actually typed and open the
corresponding block or raw device that they actually need.
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© 2013-07-27 Tony Lawrence