A new version of `devmem2` with kernel super-powers

Have you ever been sitting at your Linux shell prompt and just wanted to store a simple value at a simple address, but every force in the universe was lined up to prevent you from doing so?

I present devememkm, a tiny Loadable Kernel Module that will let you poke any value into any address you want instantly, reliability, and without ceremony.

Here is the repo…


Here is the readme…


A super-powered version of devmem/devmem2 that uses a tiny kernel module to reach off-limits addresses


devemem2 is handy, but there are addresses it can not reach since it runs in userspace. This version works just like the old one – except that it uses a tiny Loadable Kernel Module to give you access to any address that the kernel can reach.


sudo insmod devmemkm.ko addr=0x44e10990 val=0x01

…where addr is the address to write to and val is the value to write there (size unsigned).

If the write worked, then you will get the console message…

Error: could not insert module devmemkm.ko: Inappropriate ioctl for device

..and you will get an entry in the kernel log like this…

tail /var/log/kern.log
Dec 13 06:30:58 beaglebone kernel: [174144.222807] DMK: Address 0x44e10990 changed from 0x0 to 0x1

Note that the above error is good. We have to return an error so that the module is aborted and not left loaded in the system. This means you can insmod it repeatedly with no other effects besides writing to the specified addresses.

If you forget to specify an address, then you will see..

root@beaglebone:~/devmemkm# sudo insmod devmemkm.ko
Error: could not insert module devmemkm.ko: Invalid parameters

This error means nothing happened because you did not specify an addr. If you don’t specify a val, then you get the default value of 0x00.


  1. Make sure you have kernel header files installed and linked to /lib/modules/$(shell uname -r)/build/.
  2. git clone https://github.com/bigjosh/devmemkm
  3. cd devmemkm
  4. make

Kernel header files

Yep this part is harder than it should be. To compile a loadable kernel module, you need the header files that go with your specific kernel version.

On my BeagleBone running Debian, this worked…

apt-get update
sudo apt-get install linux-headers-$(uname -r)

I also had to add a symlink like this on some machines/linux versions…

ln -s /usr/src/$(uname -r) /lib/modules/$(uname -r)/build

My favorite use cases

Setting pinmode to PRU from a command prompt with no reboot!

When programming on the BeagleBone PRU, it is very nice to be able to twiddle an output pin trigger an oscilloscope or to see if some part of the code is even running. Normally to do this you’d need to make a device tree overlay, compile it, install it, reboot, and then kill yourself.

Luckily with devmemkm we can configure the pin faster than you can say SBBO!

 sudo insmod devmemkm.ko addr=0x44e10990 val=0x05

That’s it! Now pin pr1_pru0_pru_r30_0 (or called P9_31 or GPIO_110 or SPI1_SCLK or PIN 100 depending on where you grew up) is now assigned to bit0 on r30 on PRU #0. You can twiddle it with this lovely PRU ASM code…

// Turn on pin P9_31
SET r30,r30, 0


// Turn off pin P9_31
CLR r30,r30, 0

This works because 0x44e10990 is the address of the pin control register in the Control Module of the ARM chip, and 0x05 sets the pin multiplexer to the PRU output.

How nice is that!?

Increasing the priority for PRU access to the L3/L4 interconnects

 sudo insmod devmemkm.ko addr=0x44e10608 val=0x30

After you execute this line, all your PRU accesses to DDR RAM will win if there is a contest with the ARM MPU.

If you know what any of this means, then you will see why this is a game changer.


Why don’t you just use normal devemem2 to write to the address?

devmem2 uses the /dev/mem interface so it can not access "kernel only" protected mode addresses. For example, if you try to access registers in an ARM Control Module with devmem2, it just will not work.

Why don’t you just use normal /sys/class/ stuff?

As far as I can tell, it can not change the pinmux to PRU. You also cannot access the priority registers in the Control Module. I am sure there are many others, and also it is so much faster and simpler to just change the memory address you want to change rather than try to figure out layer after layer of abstraction and indirection- each layer with its own idiosyncrasies and potential bugs.

Why don’t you just use normal device-tree stuff?

Because I deeply hate it, and I can not make myself waste another hour of my life dealing with the constantly changing landscape of issues and quirks. I have enough problems trying to get my own code to work.

Go ahead – configure the PRU0 bit 0 pin to output on your board. Don’t forget to copy the file to a location that changes depending on what version you are running. Don’t forget that the file MUST end in -0A00. Did you know that if the filename is longer than 14 chars then it will not work? (I do NOW). Don’t call me when/if you finally get it working because I will already be dead.

you cant make this stuff up

Also as far as I can tell once you’ve gotten a DTS just right and cajoled the compiler to turn it into a working DTD, you still must reboot to change a pin to PRU mode that is not already set up for it.

Why not make a nice interface in /sys where I can write new addresses and values and lots of cool commands and stuff.

I’m sure that’s how all the other ways of doing this started before they got complicated. Simple is best here.

Have you tried meditation?

Listen, I just wasted a fricken week to get something working that should have taken an hour – and almost none of that time was actually working on the thing I was working on. It was spent dealing with system bugs, bad design, wrong documentation, and other unnecessary frictions. I just want to set my memory locations to what I want them to be and know they actually got set without then having to figure out a way to check that they actually got set right and get on with my life.

Aren’t there massive security risks here?

This is a hack meant for people who know what they want to do. You must be a superuser to run insmod so it doesn’t make it possible to do anything you could not do already, just makes it easier to do it.

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