Project 3b: xv6 VM Layout


Some test cases can be found here


There are two objectives to this assignment:


In this project, you'll be changing xv6 to support a few features virtually every modern OS does. The first is causing an exception to occur when your program dereferences a null pointer; the second is rearranging the address space so as to place the stack at the high end. Sounds simple? Well, it mostly is. But there are a few details.


Part A: Null-pointer Dereference

In xv6, the VM system uses a simple two-level page table as discussed in class. As it currently is structured, user code is loaded into the very first part of the address space. Thus, if you dereference a null pointer, you will not see an exception (as you might expect); rather, you will see whatever code is the first bit of code in the program that is running. Try it and see!

Thus, the first thing you might do is create a program that dereferences a null pointer. It is simple! See if you can do it. Then run it on Linux as well as xv6, to see the difference.

Your job here will be to figure out how xv6 sets up a page table, and then change it to leave the first two pages (0x0 - 0x2000) unmapped. The code segment should be starting at 0x2000. Thus, once again, this project is mostly about understanding the code, and not writing very much. Look at how exec() works to better understand how address spaces get filled with code and in general initialized. That will get you most of the way.

You should also look at fork(), in particular the part where the address space of the child is created by copying the address space of the parent. What needs to change in there?

Remember that the first process is a little special and is constructed by the kernel directly? Take a look at userinit() and do not forget to update it too.

The rest of your task will be completed by looking through the code to figure out where there are checks or assumptions made about the address space. Think about what happens when you pass a parameter into the kernel, for example; if passing a pointer, the kernel needs to be very careful with it, to ensure you haven't passed it a bad pointer. How does it do this now? Does this code need to change in order to work in your new version of xv6?

One last hint: you'll have to look at the xv6 makefile as well. In there user programs are compiled so as to set their entry point (where the first instruction is) to 0. If you change xv6 to make the first two pages invalid, clearly the entry point will have to be the new beginning of the code segment. Thus, something in the makefile will need to change to reflect this as well.

You should be able to demonstrate what happens when user code tries to access a null pointer. If you do this part correctly, xv6 should trap and kill the process without too much trouble on your part.

Part B: Stack Rearrangement

The xv6 address space (after modifications from Part A) is set up like this:

heap (grows towards the high-end of the address space)
stack (fixed-sized, one page)
(2 unmapped pages)
ADDR = 0x0

In this part of the xv6 project, you'll rearrange the address space to look more like what we've discussed in class:

stack (at end of address space; grows backwards)
... (gap >= 5 pages)
heap (grows towards the high-end of the address space)
(2 unmapped pages)
ADDR = 0x0

This will take a little work on your part. First, you'll have to figure out where xv6 allocates and initializes the code, heap, and user stack; then, you'll have to figure out how to change the allocation to be in new places. You'll need to place the stack at the high-end of the xv6 user address space, instead of between the code and heap.

Some tricky parts: one thing you'll have to be very careful with is how xv6 currently tracks the size of a process's address space (currently with the sz field in the proc struct). There are a number of places in the code where this is used (e.g., to check whether an argument passed into the kernel is valid; to copy the address space). We recommend keeping this field to track the size of the code and heap, but doing some other accounting to track the stack, and changing all relevant code (i.e., that used to deal with sz) to now work with your new accounting.

You should also be wary of growing your heap and overwriting your stack. In this project, you should always leave 5 unallocated (invalid) pages between the stack and heap. These are reserved for supporting memory mapping segment in the future.

The high end of the xv6 user address space is 640KB (see the USERTOP value defined in the xv6 code). Thus your first stack page should live at 636KB-640KB.

One final part of this project, which is challenging: automatically growing the stack backwards when needed. Doing so would require you to see if a fault occurred on the page above the stack and then, instead of killing the offending process, allocating a new page, mapping it into the address space, and continuing to run.

Other Notes