One of the most important (and thus difficult to debug) problems in kernel programming are race conditions. In the Linux kernel, they are usually avoided via spin-locks, mutexes or semaphores. In general, if a race condition can happen in an interrupt handler, it has to be managed atomically, and you have to use a spinlock to protect the critical session. If the critical section is not in interrupt handler code and if taking a relatively long time to execute is acceptable, you should use mutexes or semaphores instead.

As already seen, some pcm callbacks are atomic and some are not. For example, the hw_params callback is non-atomic, while trigger callback is atomic. This means, the latter is called already in a spinlock held by the PCM middle layer. Please take this atomicity into account when you choose a locking scheme in the callbacks.

In the atomic callbacks, you cannot use functions which may call schedule or go to sleep. Semaphores and mutexes can sleep, and hence they cannot be used inside the atomic callbacks (e.g. trigger callback). To implement some delay in such a callback, please use udelay() or mdelay().

All three atomic callbacks (trigger, pointer, and ack) are called with local interrupts disabled.