[CSE]  Advanced Operating Systems 
COMP9242 2015/S2 
CRICOS Provider
Number: 00098G

PRINTER Printer-Friendly Version

M3: A pager

Use your memory manager from M2 to write a simple pager that supports on-demand memory mapping of an application and an allocate on demand memory heap.

Current Implementation

The current implementation simply pre-maps in the pages for the single binary. Any actual VM page faults will trigger an assert() which halts the system, under the assumption something has gone wrong. The executable itself is mapped in with untracked frames (i.e. we leak them), and finally, the current sos application malloc implementation uses a static array.

A small malloc() intro

'malloc' is the standard library function to allocate memory in C. In our system, malloc is provided by the musl libc library. malloc manages memory from a bigger memory pool. In the SOS code you are provided, malloc uses memory from a pre-allocated array in the initial data section as the memory pool. This pool is fixed in size, and malloc fails when the pool is exhausted. See the diagram below for an approximate picture of the memory layout. The code musl uses to allocate memory from the static region for SOS is in apps/sos/src/sys/sys_morecore.c

SOS applications use an independent implementation that uses a pre-allocated memory pool in the application's data section (as shown in the middle of the diagram). The code musl libc uses in applications is in libs/libsos/src/sys_morecore.c. So just for emphasis, there are two versions of the morecore code in the system.

One of the tasks of this milestone is to leverage virtual memory to create a dynamically allocated memory region for malloc's use, usually termed the heap, as shown at the bottom of the diagram. The dynamic region is allocated on-demand via VM faults, and can be expanded in range dynamically by requesting that SOS increase the brk point.

In this milestone, you will modify the application-level morecore routines in libs/libsos/src/sys_morecore.c to use your dynamically-allocated memory region. Again, be sure you're modifying the morecore routines for sos applications, not SOS's own morecore routines.

Malloc and musl libc peculiarities

The malloc implementation in musl libc (i.e. the application C library) has two behaviours for implementing memory allocation of the memory pool:

  • Musl expects a brk syscall that has similar semantics to the Linux brksyscall. The current implementation is sys_brk in libs/libsos/src/sys_morecore.c and it returns memory from a static array, as described above.
  • If malloc is called to allocate more than 112KiB, then musl libc does not allocate from the heap or increase the heap via sys_brk, but instead it uses mmap to create an large anonymous mapping. The sample implementation of this is the sys_mmap2 function in libs/libsos/src/sys_morecore.c and it currently steals memory from the top of the static morecore region, and leaks memory on when it's released with munmap

The Milestone

In this milestone you will:

  • Implement a page table to translate virtual memory addresses to frame table entries. You need to consider where you will keep track of cptrs to both levels of the page table and to the frames themselves. Note: ARM uses a 16K level-one page directory and a 1K level-two page table, i.e. 12-bits index the top level, and 8-bits index the second level. You do not have to follow this split, you have freedom to choose whatever split is convenient for your implementation of SOS. However, you do need to theoretically keep track of the cptrs to an in-kernel page tables to be able to de-allocate them. So if SOS applications have a 2GB address space, you potentially need to keep track of 2^11 cptrs.
  • Using our code as a guide only, create your own version of the map_page(). Your version (say sos_map_page()) will need to populate and use your data structures to keep track of address spaces, virtual addresses, frame physical addresses and cptrs. Note: The existing map_page() is used internally and thus needs to continue to work as before, so be careful if modifying it.
  • Design your application-level address space layout and permissions - including the stack, heap and other sections. You may wish to consider a region-like abstraction like OS/161.
  • Change the current application-level malloc implementation to use virtual memory by modifying the sys_brk() to use the heap memory region, thus removing the need for a static array (just allow the application to fault in memory within the heap region), as shown at the bottom of the above diagram.
    • At this point, you do not need to support the brk system call to expand the region. You can choose a fixed (large-ish) virtual memory range. You can add a brk() system call in a later milestone.
    • You are not required to support the mmap syscall for anonymous memory in this project. We don't expect you to support applications calling malloc for sizes over 112KiB (you can gracefully fail those requests in the library). Note: there is a small bonus available for those who do implement mmap/munmap.
  • Modify the bootstrap ELF-loading code to use your modified pager mapping functions, not the frame table directly.

Design alternatives

Probably the main thing that you should consider here is the layout of your processes address space. Some things you will want to consider is where you place various parts of memory such as the stack, heap and code segments. You may also have some other regions in your process address space, one of these is the IPC Buffer.

You should also think about if you want to make different ranges of the address space have different permissions, eg: you may want to make code read-only to prevent bugs, or have a guard page at the end of your stack to prevent overflow.

While not needed for this milestone, you should think about what book keeping is required to delete an address space and free all the resources associated with it.


The main demonstration here will be to show a user process running with a high stack pointer (> 0x20000000). You should also demonstrate a user process using malloc() from a heap.

#define NPAGES 27

/* called from pt_test */
static void
do_pt_test( char *buf )
    int i;

    /* set */
    for(i = 0; i < NPAGES; i ++)
	buf[i * 4096] = i;

    /* check */
    for(i = 0; i < NPAGES; i ++)
	assert(buf[i * 4096] == i);

static void
pt_test( void )
    /* need a decent sized stack */
    char buf1[NPAGES * 4096], *buf2 = NULL;

    /* check the stack is above phys mem */
    assert((void *) buf1 > (void *) 0x20000000);

    /* stack test */

    /* heap test */
    buf2 = malloc(NPAGES * 4096);

You should also be able to explain to the tutor how your code works and any design decisions you took.

Last modified: 28 Jul 2015.