Книга: Embedded Linux Primer: A Practical, Real-World Approach

5.2.1. Kernel Entry Point: head.o

5.2.1. Kernel Entry Point: head.o

The intention of the kernel developers was to keep the architecture-specific head.o module very generic, without any specific machine[39] dependencies. This module, derived from the assembly language file head.S, is located at .../arch/<ARCH>/kernel/head.S, where <ARCH> is replaced by the given architecture. The examples in this chapter are based on the ARM/XScale, as you have seen, with <ARCH>=arm.

The head.o module performs architecture- and often CPU-specific initialization in preparation for the main body of the kernel. CPU-specific tasks are kept as generic as possible across processor families. Machine-specific initialization is performed elsewhere, as you will discover shortly. Among other low-level tasks, head.o performs the following tasks:

• Checks for valid processor and architecture

• Creates initial page table entries

• Enables the processor's memory management unit (MMU)

• Establishes limited error detection and reporting

• Jumps to the start of the kernel proper, main.c

These functions contain some hidden complexities. Many novice embedded developers have tried to single-step through parts of this code, only to find that the debugger becomes hopelessly lost. Although a discussion of the complexities of assembly language and the hardware details of virtual memory is beyond the scope of this book, a few things are worth noting about this complicated module.

When control is first passed to the kernel's head.o from the bootstrap loader, the processor is operating in what we used to call real mode in x86 terminology. In effect, the logical address contained in the processor's program counter[40] (or any other register, for that matter) is the actual physical address driven onto the processor's electrical memory address pins. Soon after the processor's registers and kernel data structures are initialized to enable memory translation, the processor's memory management unit (MMU) is turned on. Suddenly, the address space as seen by the processor is yanked from beneath it and replaced by an arbitrary virtual addressing scheme determined by the kernel developers. This creates a complexity that can really be understood only by a detailed analysis of both the assembly language constructs and logical flow, as well as a detailed knowledge of the CPU and its hardware address translation mechanism. In short, physical addresses are replaced by logical addresses the moment the MMU is enabled. That's why a debugger can't single-step through this portion of code as with ordinary code.

The second point worth noting is the limited available mapping at this early stage of the kernel boot process. Many developers have stumbled into this limitation while trying to modify head.o for their particular platform.[41] One such scenario might go like this. Let's say you have a hardware device that needs a firmware load very early in the boot cycle. One possible solution is to compile the necessary firmware statically into the kernel image and then reference it via a pointer to download it to your device. However, because of the limited memory mapping done at this point, it is quite possible that your firmware image will exist beyond the range that has been mapped at this early stage in the boot cycle. When your code executes, it generates a page fault because you have attempted to access a memory region for which no valid mapping has been created inside the processor. Worse yet, a page fault handler has not yet been installed at this early stage, so all you get is an unexplained system crash. At this early stage in the boot cycle, you are pretty much guaranteed not to have any error messages to help you figure out what's wrong.

You are wise to consider delaying any custom hardware initialization until after the kernel has booted, if at all possible. In this manner, you can rely on the well-known device driver model for access to custom hardware instead of trying to customize the much more complicated assembly language startup code. Numerous undocumented techniques are used at this level. One common example of this is to work around hardware errata that may or may not be documented. A much higher price will be paid in development time, cost, and complexity if you must make changes to the early startup assembly language code. Hardware and software engineers should discuss these facts during early stages of hardware development, when often a minor hardware change can lead to significant savings in software development time.

It is important to recognize the constraints placed upon the developer in a virtual memory environment. Many experienced embedded developers have little or no experience in this environment, and the scenario presented earlier is but one small example of the pitfalls that await the developer new to virtual memory architectures. Nearly all modern 32-bit and larger microprocessors have memory-management hardware used to implement virtual memory architectures. One of the most significant advantages of virtual memory machines is that they help separate teams of developers write large complex applications, while protecting other software modules, and the kernel itself, from programming errors.

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