Lab: page tables

In this lab you will explore page tables and modify them to to speed up certain system calls and to detect which pages have been accessed.

Before you start coding, read Chapter 3 of the xv6 book, and related files:

It may also help to consult the RISC-V privileged architecture manual.

To start the lab, switch to the pgtbl branch:

  $ git fetch
  $ git checkout pgtbl
  $ make clean

Speed up system calls

Some operating systems (e.g., Linux) speed up certain system calls by sharing data in a read-only region between userspace and the kernel. This eliminates the need for kernel crossings when performing these system calls. To help you learn how to insert mappings into a page table, your first task is to implement this optimization for the getpid() system call in xv6.

When each process is created, map one read-only page at USYSCALL (a VA defined in memlayout.h). At the start of this page, store a struct usyscall (also defined in memlayout.h), and initialize it to store the PID of the current process. For this lab, ugetpid() has been provided on the userspace side and will automatically use the USYSCALL mapping. You will receive full credit for this part of the lab if the ugetpid test case passes when running pgtbltest.

Some hints:

Which other xv6 system call(s) could be made faster using this shared page? Explain how.

Print a page table

To help you visualize RISC-V page tables, and perhaps to aid future debugging, your second task is to write a function that prints the contents of a page table.

Define a function called vmprint(). It should take a pagetable_t argument, and print that pagetable in the format described below. Insert if(p->pid==1) vmprint(p->pagetable) in exec.c just before the return argc, to print the first process's page table. You receive full credit for this part of the lab if you pass the pte printout test of make grade.

Now when you start xv6 it should print output like this, describing the page table of the first process at the point when it has just finished exec()ing init:

page table 0x0000000087f6e000
 ..0: pte 0x0000000021fda801 pa 0x0000000087f6a000
 .. ..0: pte 0x0000000021fda401 pa 0x0000000087f69000
 .. .. ..0: pte 0x0000000021fdac1f pa 0x0000000087f6b000
 .. .. ..1: pte 0x0000000021fda00f pa 0x0000000087f68000
 .. .. ..2: pte 0x0000000021fd9c1f pa 0x0000000087f67000
 ..255: pte 0x0000000021fdb401 pa 0x0000000087f6d000
 .. ..511: pte 0x0000000021fdb001 pa 0x0000000087f6c000
 .. .. ..509: pte 0x0000000021fdd813 pa 0x0000000087f76000
 .. .. ..510: pte 0x0000000021fddc07 pa 0x0000000087f77000
 .. .. ..511: pte 0x0000000020001c0b pa 0x0000000080007000
The first line displays the argument to vmprint. After that there is a line for each PTE, including PTEs that refer to page-table pages deeper in the tree. Each PTE line is indented by a number of " .." that indicates its depth in the tree. Each PTE line shows the PTE index in its page-table page, the pte bits, and the physical address extracted from the PTE. Don't print PTEs that are not valid. In the above example, the top-level page-table page has mappings for entries 0 and 255. The next level down for entry 0 has only index 0 mapped, and the bottom-level for that index 0 has entries 0, 1, and 2 mapped.

Your code might emit different physical addresses than those shown above. The number of entries and the virtual addresses should be the same.

Some hints:

Explain the output of vmprint in terms of Fig 3-4 from the text. What does page 0 contain? What is in page 2? When running in user mode, could the process read/write the memory mapped by page 1? What does the third to last page contain?

Detecting which pages have been accessed

Some garbage collectors (a form of automatic memory management) can benefit from information about which pages have been accessed (read or write). In this part of the lab, you will add a new feature to xv6 that detects and reports this information to userspace by inspecting the access bits in the RISC-V page table. The RISC-V hardware page walker marks these bits in the PTE whenever it resolves a TLB miss.

Your job is to implement pgaccess(), a system call that reports which pages have been accessed. The system call takes three arguments. First, it takes the starting virtual address of the first user page to check. Second, it takes the number of pages to check. Finally, it takes a user address to a buffer to store the results into a bitmask (a datastructure that uses one bit per page and where the first page corresponds to the least significant bit). You will receive full credit for this part of the lab if the pgaccess test case passes when running pgtbltest.

Some hints:

Submit the lab

This completes the lab. Make sure you pass all of the make grade tests. If this lab had questions, don't forget to write up your answers to the questions in answers-lab-name.txt. Commit your changes (including adding answers-lab-name.txt) and type make handin in the lab directory to hand in your lab.

Time spent

Create a new file, time.txt, and put in it a single integer, the number of hours you spent on the lab. Don't forget to git add and git commit the file.


You will turn in your assignments using the
submission website. You need to request once an API key from the submission website before you can turn in any assignments or labs.

After committing your final changes to the lab, type make handin to submit your lab.

$ git commit -am "ready to submit my lab"
[util c2e3c8b] ready to submit my lab
 2 files changed, 18 insertions(+), 2 deletions(-)

$ make handin
tar: Removing leading `/' from member names
Get an API key for yourself by visiting
  % Total    % Received % Xferd  Average Speed   Time    Time     Time  Current
                                 Dload  Upload   Total   Spent    Left  Speed
100 79258  100   239  100 79019    853   275k --:--:-- --:--:-- --:--:--  276k
make handin will store your API key in myapi.key. If you need to change your API key, just remove this file and let make handin generate it again (myapi.key must not include newline characters).

If you run make handin and you have either uncomitted changes or untracked files, you will see output similar to the following:

 M hello.c
?? bar.c
?? foo.pyc
Untracked files will not be handed in.  Continue? [y/N]
Inspect the above lines and make sure all files that your lab solution needs are tracked i.e. not listed in a line that begins with ??. You can cause git to track a new file that you create using git add filename.

If make handin does not work properly, try fixing the problem with the curl or Git commands. Or you can run make tarball. This will make a tar file for you, which you can then upload via our web interface.

Optional challenge exercises