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PostPosted: Fri Jul 02, 2010 6:56 pm 
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Genesi

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Do we have folks out there that know this project?

R&B :)

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 06, 2010 5:24 am 
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I don't know it, but find it quite interesting. I use many kinds of virtualization, but AFAIK neither of these is available for ARM at the moment (xen, openvz, virtuozzo, all the different vmware products from workstation to ESX)... There were some news, that a major virtualization player is porting to ARM, but it was not specified in the interview, which...

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 07, 2010 2:14 am 
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I'm following the development of Lx-Kernels since this article in iX in 1997 (http://www.heise.de/ix/artikel/Prinzess ... 05314.html). Since than a lot has changed in the kernel API. The latest concept I try to understand deeply is capabilities as a security concept.

There are two german universities (Karlsruhe and Dresden) leeding together with Australian UNSW. NICTA a spinoff of the australian part has with OKL4 a commercial product used in some smartphones based on ARM. Karlsruhe has a PPC L4 running on G3, G4 and G5 Macs but there isn't any movement in the last years. IBM was part of the development, as Jochen Liedke (father of the Lx-Kernel) and some others was doing research for them. They have some research kernels influenced by L3.

There is also a 8 part learning session on OKLabs to go deeper in the API and the concepts. Have in mind, that the OKL Version of L4 differs in some point from the normal L4 and L4.sec. But this is covered in one part of the videos. http://www.ok-labs.com/geektv/video-cat ... ducational

All over all, I think L4 is a nice kernel for efika (PPC and ARM) and could be a real microkernel with a exec feeling (small, well understud and really fast). And if you can get contact to the UNSW maybe efika.MX is a very good developer machine for them.

I'm really sad, that I haven't time to program L4 on my PPC Boards anymore.

King regards
kug1977


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 07, 2010 1:01 pm 
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thanks for the heads-up and links, kug1977.

like most others, i too have been tempted by the subject of kernel design principles, and my initial reaction to whatever cursory info i gathered on L4 was that it reminded me of QNX's kernel philosophy from the early QNX days, perhaps mostly of their neutrino kernel. now thanks to your post i can actually go learn more about L4.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 07, 2010 4:05 pm 
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Hi Martin, a good starting point to learn is http://www.l4hq.org. There are the kernel API documentation for a lot of CPU families, L4 and its predessesor L3 was running on, like MIPS and Alpha.

From there the way leads to University of Karlsruhe http://l4ka.org/. They are doing a lot in L4 developing as a hypervisor and virtualization of Linux. There was also a dissertation try to host Darwin Kernel on top of L4. http://ertos.nicta.com.au/software/darbat/ And not to forget the never ending HURD carryed on with L4 a short time.

On the other hand is the Technical University of Dresden http://os.inf.tu-dresden.de/L4/. There you can find a lot about API internals and theory behind the implementation. They have also initiated the design of a mathematical proven high secure microkernel based on L4 (called L4.sec http://os.inf.tu-dresden.de/L4/L4.Sec/) which is as far as I understand base of appliance used by the german ambassy to secure the communication channels (SINA-BOX). Dresden is also the only member is researching the real time capabilities of L4. All other (particulary the OKL) have dropped these, because is makes the IPC path a lot more complicated.

Most of the kernel sources are GPL or BSD on you can have a look into. In the beginning it was a mixture of ASM and C/C++. Todays kernels are pure C/C++, which makes them very portable. I haven't found so much about QNX and it's design priciples, so I couldn't compare. Maybe, you can give me some information here.

Lx is really easy. The basic concept is synchronous IPC as mechanism to communication and a special handling of memory. Both are changed in details, but the main concept is constant since L3.

IPC is synchronous which mean that the receiving thread doesn't have a buffer. Only if the receiving thread is waiting for a msg he can receive. The sending thread may block or fail, if not. On older APIs there was also something like a watchdog in the sending/waiting, say wait x seconds and than come back with failure, if you are not able to send/receive. This was used for real time capabilities in DROPS. L3 (?) starts than in optimizing the IPC path with ASM and the send/receive by a fast path IPC call with the ability to send a msg and stay waiting for an answer from the receiver/another task in ONE operation.

There was/are 3 kinds of msg. 1.) The newer APIs use up to 32 virtual registers to transfer msg from one thread to another, which are partly identical to CPU registers. This makes the IPC of short msgs really fast, because sending and receiving thread using the same REGs without transfering to/from memory (synchronous IPC!!!). 2.) the next used strings up to a few MB which was copyed to the receivers address space. These was abandoned few years ago. 3.) use classicle map of memory pages and was used to underly memory to an address space. (Will explain it later.)

Memory is special kind of ressource in L4. All the memory (not used by the kernel) are given to root task (Sigma0). Every other task isn't more than a virtual address space of x GB filled with no memory pages in the beginning. If a thread start living it will access a memory address and rise a MMU exception 'cause of there is no memory underlying, which will be transformed to an IPC msg by the kernel send to the tasks memory handler (mainly Sigma0) which will answer with an IPC msg of type 3 to grant memory to this address. There is also an unmap operation to steel pages back and a map operation for sharing memory regions. By the way all exceptions are also transformed to IPC msg to special Exception handler tasks.

All other kernel operations (something between 7 and 15 in total) are specialized to create address spaces/ threads, perform operations on CPU registers and so on.

The last big change came from EROS kernel and is called a capability. This is a concept of security I didn't understand in total. As far as I figured out, a task hold a access/operation right (rwx) on an object (like a memory page). Let's say Task A has the right to write msg to task B, than every IPC need started by task A will use this write capability. And as the capabilities are kernel controled object, task A can't forge this right. But, I'm honest with you. I didn't get how to handle this in real life.

Greeting, Kay-Uwe


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 08, 2010 8:22 am 
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Thank you, Kay-Uwe. Your informative post was much appreciated, and not just by me : )

Let me try to return the favor with some QNX trivia. QNX, by the time of its neutrino incarnation (after the 4.x era) had established some robust microkernel principles. But its IPC was something that was unique for its time. It was based on mimicing the mechanics of a function call, but across two threads.

The recipient addressing of messages was not to thread/process IDs, but to 'channels/connections', much like inter-process entry points, exposed as symbolic names. The basic mechanism would go like this:

0. Receiver thread publishes a channel/connection point.
1. Sender sends message, becomes send-blocked, until..
2. Receiver explicitly accepts the message (kernel call for receive), at which moment the sender becomes reply-blocked. The act of accepting the message is when the data payload of the message is copied from the address space of the sender (conveniently blocked) to the receiver (doing the receive call).
3. The receiver reacts to the message, and then could choose to either reply with a data-payload reply message, or with a plain return-code reply message. Either way that would unblock the sender, allowing them to resume with the result of their original request.

As you can see, the sender practically did a function call outside of its process space, perhaps even across a network.

I know that with the acquisition of QSS by RIM, public access to QNX resources became much more limited, but one can still find portions of the documentation online:

http://www.swd.de/documents/manuals/neu ... el_en.html

ed: my bad, it appears sufficient design documentation is still found at the source (but not source code):

http://www.qnx.com/developers/docs/6.4. ... h/ipc.html


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