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After this documentation was released in July 2003, I was approached by Prentice Hall and asked to write a book on the Linux VM under the Bruce Peren's Open Book Series.

The book is available and called simply "Understanding The Linux Virtual Memory Manager". There is a lot of additional material in the book that is not available here, including details on later 2.4 kernels, introductions to 2.6, a whole new chapter on the shared memory filesystem, coverage of TLB management, a lot more code commentary, countless other additions and clarifications and a CD with lots of cool stuff on it. This material (although now dated and lacking in comparison to the book) will remain available although I obviously encourge you to buy the book from your favourite book store :-) . As the book is under the Bruce Perens Open Book Series, it will be available 90 days after appearing on the book shelves which means it is not available right now. When it is available, it will be downloadable from http://www.phptr.com/perens so check there for more information.

To be fully clear, this webpage is not the actual book.
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5.5 Exception Handling

A very important part of VM is how exceptions related to bad kernel address references are caught 5.9 which are not a result of a kernel bug5.10. This section does not cover the exceptions that are raised with errors such as divide by zero, we are only concerned with the exception raised as the result of a page fault. There are two situations where a bad reference may occur. The first is where a process sends an invalid pointer to the kernel via a system call which the kernel must be able to safely trap as the only check made initially is that the address is below PAGE_OFFSET. The second is where the kernel uses copy_from_user() or copy_to_user() to read or write data from userspace.

At compile time, the linker creates an exception table in the __ex_table section of the kernel code segment which starts at __start___ex_table and ends at __stop___ex_table. Each entry is of type exception_table_entry which is a pair consisting of an execution point and a fixup routine. When an exception occurs that the page fault handler cannot manage, it calls search_exception_table() to see if a fixup routine has been provided for an error at the faulting instruction. If module support is compiled, each module's exception table will also be searched.

If the address of the current exception is found in the table, the corresponding location of the fixup code is returned and executed. We will see in Section 5.7 how this is used to trap bad reads and writes to userspace.


... caught5.9
Many thanks go to Ingo Oeser for clearing up the details of how this is implemented.
... bug5.10
Of course bad references due to kernel bugs should rightfully cause the system to have a minor fit.

next up previous contents index
Next: 5.6 Page Faulting Up: 5. Process Address Space Previous: 5.4 Memory Regions   Contents   Index
Mel 2004-02-15