Paul Boddie's Free Software-related blog

Paul's activities and perspectives around Free Software

Porting L4Re and Fiasco.OC to the Ben NanoNote (Part 6)

With all the previous effort adjusting Fiasco.OC and the L4Re bootstrap code, I had managed to get the Ben NanoNote to run some code, but I had encountered a problem entering the kernel. When an instruction was encountered that attempted to clear the status register, it would seem that the boot process would not get any further. The status register controls things like which mode the processor is operating in, and certain modes offer safety guarantees about how much else can go wrong, which is useful when they are typically entered when something has already gone wrong.

When starting up, a MIPS-based processor typically has the “error level” (ERL) flag set in the status register, meaning that normal operations are suspended until the processor can be configured. The processor will be in kernel mode and it will bypass the memory mapping mechanisms when reading from and writing to memory addresses. As I found out in my earlier experiments with the Ben, running in kernel mode with ERL set can mask problems that may then emerge when unsetting it, and clearing the status register does precisely that.

With the kernel’s _start routine having unset ERL, accesses to lower memory addresses will now need to go through a memory mapping even though kernel mode still applies, and if a memory mapping hasn’t been set up then exceptions will start to occur. This tripped me up for quite some time in my previous experiments until I figured out that a routine accessing some memory in an apparently safe way was in fact using lower memory addresses. This wasn’t a problem with ERL set – the processor wouldn’t care and just translate them directly to physical memory – but with ERL unset, the processor now wanted to know how those addresses should really be translated. And since I wasn’t handling the resulting exception, the Ben would just hang.

Debugging the Debugging

I had a long list of possible causes, some more exotic than others: improperly flushed caches, exception handlers in the wrong places, a bad memory mapping configuration. I must admit that it is difficult now, even looking at my notes, to fully review my decision-making when confronting this problem. I can apply my patches from this time and reproduce a situation where the Ben doesn’t seem to report any progress from within the kernel, but with hindsight and all the progress I have made since, it hardly seems like much of an obstacle at all.

Indeed, I have already given the game away in what I have already written. Taking over the framebuffer involves accessing some memory set up by the bootloader. In the bootstrap code, all of this memory should actually be mapped, but since ERL is set I now doubt that this mapping was even necessary for the duration of the bootstrap code’s execution. And I do wonder whether this mapping was preserved once the kernel was started. But what appeared to happen was that when my debugging code tried to load data from the framebuffer descriptor, it would cause an exception that would appear to cause a hang.

Since I wanted to make progress, I took the easy way out. Rather than try and figure out what kind of memory mapping would be needed to support my debugging activities, I simply wrapped the code accessing the framebuffer descriptor and the framebuffer itself with instructions that would set ERL and then unset it afterwards. This would hopefully ensure that even if things weren’t working, then at least my things weren’t making it all worse.

Lost in Translation

It now started to become possible to track the progress of the processor through the kernel. From the _start routine, the processor jumps to the kernel_main function (in kernel/fiasco/src/kern/mips/main.cpp) and starts setting things up. As I was quite sure that the kernel wasn’t functioning correctly, it made sense to drop my debugging code into various places and see if execution got that far. This is tedious work – almost a form of inefficient “single-stepping” – but it provides similar feedback about how the code is behaving.

Although I had tried to do a reasonable job translating certain operations to work on the JZ4720 used by the Ben, I was aware that I might have made one or two mistakes, also missing areas where work needed doing. One such area appeared in the Cpu class implementation (in kernel/fiasco/src/kern/mips/cpu-mips.cpp): a rich seam of rather frightening-looking processor-related initialisation activities. The Cpu::first_boot method contained this ominous-looking code:

require(c.r<0>().ar() > 0,  "MIPS r1 CPUs are notsupported\n");

I hadn’t noticed this earlier, and its effect is to terminate the kernel if it detects an architecture revision just like the one provided by the JZ4720. There were a few other tests of the capabilities of the processor that needed to be either disabled or reworked, and I spent some time studying the documentation concerning configuration registers and what they can tell programs about the kind of processor they are running on. Amusingly, our old friend the rdhwr instruction is enabled for user programs in this code, but since the JZ4720 has no notion of that instruction, we actually disable the instruction that would switch rdhwr on in this way.

Another area that proved to be rather tricky was that of switching interrupts on and having the system timer do its work. Early on, when laying the groundwork for the Ben in the kernel, I had made a rough translation of the CI20 code for the Ben, and we saw some of these hardware details a few articles ago. Now it was time to start the timer, enable interrupts, and have interrupts delivered as the timer counter reaches its limit. The part of the kernel concerned is Kernel_thread::bootstrap (in kernel/fiasco/src/kern/kernel_thread.cpp), where things are switched on and then we wait in a delay loop for the interrupts to cause a variable to almost magically change by itself (in kernel/fiasco/src/drivers/delayloop.cpp):

  Cpu_time t = k->clock;
  Timer::update_timer(t + 1000); // 1ms
  while (t == (t1 = k->clock))
    Proc::pause();

But the processor just got stuck in this loop forever! Clearly, I hadn’t done everything right. Some investigation confirmed that various timer registers were being set up correctly, interrupts were enabled, but that they were being signalled using the “interrupt pending 2″ (IP2) flag of the processor’s “cause” register which reports exception and interrupt conditions. Meanwhile, I had misunderstood the meaning of the number in the last statement of the following code (from kernel/fiasco/src/kern/mips/bsp/qi_lb60/mips_bsp_irqs-qi_lb60.cpp):

  _ic[0] = new Boot_object<Irq_chip_ingenic>(0xb0001000);
  m->add_chip(_ic[0], 0);

  auto *c = new Boot_object<Cascade_irq>(nullptr, ingenic_cascade);
  Mips_cpu_irqs::chip->alloc(c, 1);

Here is how the CI20 had been set up (in kernel/fiasco/src/kern/mips/bsp/ci20/mips_bsp_irqs-ci20.cpp):

  _ic[0] = new Boot_object<Irq_chip_ingenic>(0xb0001000);
  m->add_chip(_ic[0], 0);
  _ic[1] = new Boot_object<Irq_chip_ingenic>(0xb0001020);
  m->add_chip(_ic[1], 32);

  auto *c = new Boot_object<Cascade_irq>(nullptr, ingenic_cascade);
  Mips_cpu_irqs::chip->alloc(c, 2);

With virtually no knowledge of the details, and superficially transcribing the code, editing here and there, I had thought that the argument to the alloc method referred to the number of “chips” (actually the number of registers dedicated to interrupt signals). But in fact, it indicates an adjustment to what the kernel code calls a “pin”. In the Mips_cpu_irq_chip class (in kernel/fiasco/src/kern/mips/mips_cpu_irqs.cpp), we actually see that this number is used to indicate the IP flag that will need to be tested. So, the correct argument to the alloc method is 2, not 1, just as it is for the CI20:

  Mips_cpu_irqs::chip->alloc(c, 2);

This fix led to another problem and the discovery of another area that I had missed: the “exception base” gets redefined in the kernel (in src/kern/mips/cpu-mips.cpp), and so I had to make sure it was consistent with the other places I had defined it by changing its value in the kernel (in src/kern/mips/mem_layout-mips32.cpp). I mentioned this adjustment previously, but it was at this stage that I realised that the exception base gets set in the kernel after all. (I had previously set it in the bootstrap code to override the typical default of 0×80000000.)

Leaving the Kernel

Although we are not quite finished with the kernel, the next significant obstacle involved starting programs that are not part of the kernel. Being a microkernel, Fiasco.OC needs various other things to offer the kind of environment that a “monolithic” operating system kernel might provide. One of these is the sigma0 program which has responsibilities related to “paging” or allocating memory. Attempting to start such programs exercises how the kernel behaves when it hands over control to these other programs. We should expect that timer interrupts should periodically deliver control back to the kernel for it to do work itself, this usually involving giving other programs a chance to run.

I was seeing the kernel in the “home straight” with regard to completing its boot activities. The Kernel_thread::init_workload method (in kernel/fiasco/src/kern/kernel_thread-std.cpp) was pretty much the last thing to be invoked in the Kernel_thread::run method (in kernel/fiasco/src/kern/kernel_thread.cpp) before normal service begins. But it was upon attempting to “activate” a thread to run sigma0 that a problem arose: the kernel never got control back! This would be my last major debugging exercise before embarking on a final excursion into “user space”.

One Response to “Porting L4Re and Fiasco.OC to the Ben NanoNote (Part 6)”

  1. Porting L4Re and Fiasco.OC to the Ben NanoNote (Part 7) « Paul Boddie's Free Software-related blog Says:

    [...] Paul's activities and perspectives around Free Software « Porting L4Re and Fiasco.OC to the Ben NanoNote (Part 6) [...]