I've written a kernel module (tested on Raspberry Pi) to use a rotary encoder as a volume control.

The Linux source tree already contains a driver for rotary encoders so I've just piggybacked off of that to do the hard work, essentially my driver converts the events from that driver into volume up and down keypresses.

The GitHub repo also contains setup/build instructions etc.

However the code in question is reproduced below:

#define pr_fmt(fmt) KBUILD_MODNAME ": " fmt

#include <linux/slab.h>
#include <linux/module.h>
#include <linux/input.h>
#include <linux/init.h>
#include <linux/device.h>

MODULE_AUTHOR("James Kent");
MODULE_DESCRIPTION("rotary encoder as volume control module");

static char *devicename = "rotary@4";
module_param(devicename, charp, 0);
MODULE_PARM_DESC(devicename, "name of rotary input device");

static int reltype = REL_MISC; // 0x09
module_param(reltype, int, 0);
MODULE_PARM_DESC(reltype, "type of relative event to listen for");

static int count_per_press = 10;
module_param(count_per_press, int, 0);
MODULE_PARM_DESC(count_per_press, "event count before a press is generated");

static struct input_dev *button_dev;

static void send_key(int key) {
    input_report_key(button_dev, key, 1);
    input_report_key(button_dev, key, 0);

int count = 0;

static void rotary_event(struct input_handle *handle, unsigned int type, unsigned int code, int value) {
//  printk(KERN_DEBUG pr_fmt("Event. Dev: %s, Type: %d, Code: %d, Value: %d\n"), dev_name(&handle->dev->dev), type, code, value);
    if (type == EV_REL) {
        if (code == reltype) {
            int i;
            int inc = (value > 0) ? 1 : -1;
            if ((inc > 0 && count < 0) || (inc < 0 && count > 0)) { // if change of direction reset count
                count = 0;
            for (i=0; i!=value; i+=inc) {
                count += inc;
                if (abs(count) >= count_per_press) {
                    send_key( (inc > 0) ? KEY_VOLUMEUP : KEY_VOLUMEDOWN);
                    count = 0;

static int rotary_connect(struct input_handler *handler, struct input_dev *dev, const struct input_device_id *id) {
    struct input_handle *handle;
    int error;

    handle = kzalloc(sizeof(struct input_handle), GFP_KERNEL);
    if (!handle)
        return -ENOMEM;

    handle->dev = dev;
    handle->handler = handler;
    handle->name = "gpio_volume";

    error = input_register_handle(handle);
    if (error)
        goto err_free_handle;

    error = input_open_device(handle);
    if (error)
        goto err_unregister_handle;

    printk(KERN_DEBUG pr_fmt("Connected device: %s (%s at %s)\n"),
           dev->name ?: "unknown",
           dev->phys ?: "unknown");

    return 0;

    return error;

bool startsWith(const char *pre, const char *str) {
    size_t lenpre = strlen(pre),
           lenstr = strlen(str);
    return lenstr < lenpre ? false : strncmp(pre, str, lenpre) == 0;

// keep record of match and remove record is disconnect
bool matched = false;

static bool rotary_match(struct input_handler *handler, struct input_dev *dev) {
    if (matched)
        return false;
    matched = startsWith(devicename, dev->name);
    return matched;

static void rotary_disconnect(struct input_handle *handle) {
    printk(KERN_DEBUG pr_fmt("Disconnected device: %s\n"), dev_name(&handle->dev->dev));

    matched = false;

static const struct input_device_id rotary_ids[] = {
    { .driver_info = 1 },   /* Matches all devices */
    { },            /* Terminating zero entry */

MODULE_DEVICE_TABLE(input, rotary_ids);

static struct input_handler rotary_handler = {
    .event =    rotary_event,
    .match =    rotary_match,
    .connect =  rotary_connect,
    .disconnect =   rotary_disconnect,
    .name =     "rotary_volume",
    .id_table = rotary_ids,

static int __init button_init(void) {
    int error;
    int i;

    button_dev = input_allocate_device();
    if (!button_dev) {
        printk(KERN_ERR pr_fmt("Not enough memory\n"));
        error = -ENOMEM;
        return error;

    button_dev->name = "Rotary Encoder Volume";
    button_dev->evbit[0] = BIT_MASK(EV_KEY);// | BIT_MASK(EV_REP);
    set_bit(KEY_VOLUMEDOWN, button_dev->keybit);
    set_bit(KEY_VOLUMEUP, button_dev->keybit);

    for (i=KEY_ESC; i<=KEY_KPDOT; i++) { // add a load of extra keys
        set_bit(i, button_dev->keybit);

    error = input_register_device(button_dev);
    if (error) {
        printk(KERN_ERR pr_fmt("Failed to register device\n"));
        goto err_free_dev;
    return 0;
    return error;

static int __init rotary_volume_init(void) {
    int error = button_init();
    if (count_per_press < 1) // sanitise input
        count_per_press = 1;
    if (error == 0) {
        if (input_register_handler(&rotary_handler)==0) {
            printk(KERN_INFO pr_fmt("loaded.\n"));
            return 0;
        } else {
    return error;

static void __exit rotary_volume_exit(void) {


One area I'm keen to improve is the driver/device matching, because the rotary driver doesn't implement any bus, vendor, product or version info (all 0's). I haven't been able to find a better way of selecting the device other than by name matching. but I'm keen to see if there is anywhere else this could be improved.


1 Answer 1


As you say, the device matching doesn't work properly, and doesn't allow you to use more than one of these encoders at once.

What you need to do is to match against Device Tree entries. This is a subject too big for a single answer, but thankfully there's a good introduction to Device Trees on the Raspberry Pi site that shows how to create DT overlays.

For the kernel side of things, the best advice is to crib from existing modules that match against DT entries. Look for files that contain of_device_id (OpenFirmware device identifier) for examples of how to match specific devices.


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