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Stefan Kalkowski avatar

Exploring the ARMv8 system level

Recently I got the chance to explore the 64-bit ARM system level universe. Finally, there were resources left to implement support for the ARMv8 architecture in Genode's own hw kernel. In the following blog posts I'd like to summarize my insights.

For the first steps, I decided to take QEMU with the Raspberry Pi 3 model as foundation. At that time, I did not had a ARMv8-capable JTAG debugger. That is why using QEMU and its capabilities to inspect registers and memory seemed to be a good starting point. Additionally, the Raspberry Pi 3 model looked promising, because it is widely used. As it turned out, using QEMU proved sustainable, whereby taking the Raspberry Pi 3 model was a less fortunate choice. But, we'll come to that later.

Empty architecture closure

Adding the new architecture to the hw kernel was surprisingly easy. I've started to add dummy implementations for the interrupt controller and timer. I mimicked the system-call interface of x86_64 because it is already 64-bit wide, but changed the necessary register names used therein.

In contrast to the Raspberry Pi 1, which is already supported by Genode, the latest Pi 3 uses another UART device model. Luckily, Tomasz Gajewski already contributed a driver for it while working on running Genode on top of the Raspberry Pi 3 in 32-bit compatibility mode. Thereby, I could just re-use his driver, which worked perfectly fine.

Additional, empty implementations were added for the assembler entry paths of the kernel, core, and bootstrap, and the exception entry code. Whereby all these places were not literally empty but used an infinite loop in the form of:

 1: b 1b

Thereby, I could follow the progress of execution step-by-step.

Finally, I used the unmodified page-table implementation for the ARMv7 Large Physical Address Extensions as already used by our Cortex-A7 and Cortex-A15 platforms, and added a board description header for Raspberry Pi 3 that only contained the memory map of this board.

After creating Makefile library descriptions for startup code, syscalls, linker, core and bootstrap, I could finally compile and link a first system image that could be booted via QEMU.

In the next post, I'll write about how to debug system level startup code with QEMU.