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  This really should be a Linux-Kernel FAQ item...
( http://www.tux.org/lkml/ )

On Mon, Jul 09, 2001 at 01:01:17PM -0700, Adam Shand wrote:
> Linux 2.4 does support greater then 4GB of RAM with these caveats ...
>
> * It does this by supporting Intel's PAE (Physical Address Extension)
> features which are in all Pentium Pro and newer CPU's.

Carefull out there.

Check intel 386 family processors address mapping manuals.
You will see that the address calculated by combining "base"
and "segment" are in fact TRUNCATED at 32-bits before feeding
them to page mapping machinery --> There are no tricks at all
to have SIMULTANEOUS access to more than 4 GB of memory without
playing MMU mapping tricks -- which are painfully slow...

That is the origin of i386 architecture 4 GB virtual memory limit.

All that PAE mode does is to allow that 4 GB virtual space to be
mapped into larger physical space.

Compound that with unability to have separate user and kernel
mappings active at the same time (unlike e.g. Motorola 68000
family MMUs do), and the userspace can't have even that 4GB,
but is limited to at least 3.5/0.5 (user/kernel) split, more
commonly to 3.0/1.0 split.

With 64-bit processors (those that do addresses in 64-bit mode)
there are a plenty of bits to "waste" in these mappings. E.g.
one can have a 1:1 mapping in between kernel and user, with
2^63 bits address space for each. The number is mindbogglingly
large.. ( 2G * 4G = 8 000 000 T = 8 000 E )
(In reality e.g. Alphas do use "only" 43-bits of addresses in
these mappings, but even those are 1000+ times larger than 4G.)

> Thanks,
> Adam.

/Matti Aarnio
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