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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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Next: 3.4 High Memory Up: 3. Describing Physical Memory Previous: 3.2 Zones   Contents   Index


3.3 Pages

Every physical page frame in the system has an associated struct page which is used to keep track of its status. In the 2.2 kernel [#!bovet00!#], this structure resembled it's equivilent in System V [#!goodheart94!#] but like the other families in UNIX, the structure changed considerably. It is declared as follows in $<$linux/mm.h$>$:

152 typedef struct page {
153         struct list_head list;
154         struct address_space *mapping;
155         unsigned long index;
156         struct page *next_hash;
158         atomic_t count;
159         unsigned long flags;
161         struct list_head lru;
163         struct page **pprev_hash;
164         struct buffer_head * buffers;
176 #if defined(CONFIG_HIGHMEM) || defined(WANT_PAGE_VIRTUAL)
177         void *virtual;
180 } mem_map_t;

Here is a brief description of each of the fields:

list Pages may belong to many lists and this field is used as the list head. For example, pages in a mapping will be in one of three circular linked links kept by the address_space. These are clean_pages, dirty_pages and locked_pages. In the slab allocator, this field is used to store pointers to the slab and cache the page is a part of. It is also used to link blocks of free pages together;

mapping When files or devices are memory mapped 3.3, their inodes has an associated address_space. This field will point to this address space if the page belongs to the file. If the page is anonymous and mapping is set, the address_space is swapper_space which manages the swap address space. An anonymous page is one that is not backed by any file or device, such as one allocated for malloc();

index This field has two uses and what it means depends on the state of the page what it means. If the page is part of a file mapping, it is the offset within the file. If the page is part of the swap cache this will be the offset within the address_space for the swap address space (swapper_space). Secondly, if a block of pages is being freed for a particular process, the order (power of two number of pages being freed) of the block being freed is stored in index. This is set in the function __free_pages_ok();

next_hash Pages that are part of a file mapping are hashed on the inode and offset. This field links pages together that share the same hash bucket;

count The reference count to the page. If it drops to 0, it may be freed. Any greater and it is in use by one or more processes or is in use by the kernel like when waiting for IO;

flags These are flags which describe the status of the page. All of them are declared in $<$linux/mm.h$>$ and are listed in Table 3.1. There are a number of macros defined for testing, clearing and setting the bits which are all listed in Table 3.2;

lru For the page replacement policy, pages that may be swapped out will exist on either the active_list or the inactive_list declared in page_alloc.c. This is the list head for these LRU lists;

pprev_hash The complement to next_hash;

buffers If a page has buffers for a block device associated with it, this field is used to keep track of the buffer_head. An anonymous page mapped by a process may also have an associated buffer_head if it is backed by a swap file. This is necessary as the page has to be synced with backing storage in block sized chunks defined by the underlying filesystem;

virtual Normally only pages from ZONE_ NORMAL are directly mapped by the kernel. To address pages in ZONE_ HIGHMEM, kmap() is used to map the page for the kernel which is described further in Chapter [*]. There are only a fixed number of pages that may be mapped. When it is mapped, this is its virtual address;

The type mem_map_t is a typedef for struct page so it can be easily referred to within the mem_map array.

Table 3.1: Flags Describing Page Status
% latex2html id marker 1802
\ \begin{center}
\ \begin{tabularx}{13...
...his bit will be set. \\
\end{center} \end{table}

Table 3.2: Macros For Testing, Setting and Clearing Page Status Bits
\begin{tabularx}{16.7cm}{\vert l\vert l\vert l\vert...
...learPageUptodate()}} \\
\end{center} \end{table}

3.3.1 Mapping Pages to Zones

Up until as recently as kernel 2.4.18, a struct page stored a reference to its zone with page$\rightarrow$zone which was later considered wasteful, as even such a small pointer consumes a lot of memory when thousands of struct pages exist. In more recent kernels, the zone field has been removed and instead the top ZONE_SHIFT (8 in the x86) bits of the page$\rightarrow$flags are used to determine the zone a page belongs to. First a zone_table of zones is set up. It is declared in $<$linux/page_alloc.c$>$ as:

33 zone_t *zone_table[MAX_NR_ZONES*MAX_NR_NODES];
34 EXPORT_SYMBOL(zone_table);

MAX_NR_ZONES is the maximum number of zones that can be in a node, i.e. 3. MAX_NR_NODES is the maximum number of nodes that may exist. This table is treated like a multi-dimensional array. During free_area_init_core(), all the pages in a node are initialised. First it sets the value for the table

734               zone_table[nid * MAX_NR_ZONES + j] = zone;

Where nid is the node ID, j is the zone index and zone is the zone_t struct. For each page, the function set_page_zone() is called as

788               set_page_zone(page, nid * MAX_NR_ZONES + j);

page is the page to be set. So, clearly the index in the zone_table is stored in the page.


... mapped 3.3
Frequently abbreviated to mmaped during kernel discussions.

next up previous contents index
Next: 3.4 High Memory Up: 3. Describing Physical Memory Previous: 3.2 Zones   Contents   Index
Mel 2004-02-15

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