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SubjectRe: Intel P6 vs P7 system call performance

On Tue, 24 Dec 2002, Linus Torvalds wrote:

[That's old, I know. I'm slowly catching up on my email backlog after
almost 3 weeks away]

> Ok, one final optimization.
> We have traditionally held ES/DS constant at __KERNEL_DS in the kernel,
> and we've used that to avoid saving unnecessary segment registers over
> context switches etc.
> I realized that there is really no reason to use __KERNEL_DS for this, and
> that as far as the kernel is concerned, the only thing that matters is
> that it's a flat 32-bit segment. So we might as well make the kernel
> always load ES/DS with __USER_DS instead, which has the advantage that we
> can avoid one set of segment loads for the "sysenter/sysexit" case.
> (We still need to load ES/DS at entry to the kernel, since we cannot rely
> on user space not trying to do strange things. But once we load them with
> __USER_DS, we at least don't need to restore them on return to user mode
> any more, since "sysenter" only works in a flat 32-bit user mode anyway
> (*)).

We cannot rely either on userspace not setting NT bit in eflags. While
it won't cause an oops since the only instruction which ever depends on
it, iret, has a handler (which needs to be patched, see below),
I'm absolutely not convinced that all code paths are "NT safe" ;-)

For example, set NT and then execute sysenter with garbage in %eax, the
kernel will try to return (-ENOSYS) with iret and kill the task. As long
as it only allows a task to kill itself, it's not a big deal. But NT is
not cleared across task switches unless I miss something, and that looks
very dangerous.

It's so complex that I'm not sure that clearing NT in __switch_to is
sufficient, but clearing it in every sysenter path will make clock cycles
accountants scream (the only way is through popfl).

> This doesn't matter much for a P4 (surprisingly, a P4 does very well
> indeed on segment loads), but it does make a difference on PIII-class
> CPU's.
> This makes a PIII do a "getpid()" system call in something like 160
> cycles (a P4 is at 430 cycles, oh well).
> Ingo, would you mind taking a look at the patch, to see if you see any
> paths where we don't follow the new segment register rules. It looks like
> swsuspend isn't properly saving and restoring segment register contents.
> so that will need double-checking (it wasn't correct before either, so
> this doesn't make it any worse, at least).

I'm no Ingo, unfortunately, but you'll need at least the following patch
(the second hunk is only a typo fix) to the iret exception recovery code,
which used push and pops to get the smallest possible code size.

That's a minimal patch, let me know if you prefer to have a single copy of
the exception handler for all instances of RESTORE_ALL.

===== entry.S 1.49 vs edited =====
--- 1.49/arch/i386/kernel/entry.S Sat Jan 4 19:06:07 2003
+++ edited/entry.S Fri Jan 10 02:12:00 2003
@@ -126,10 +126,9 @@
addl $4, %esp; \
1: iret; \
.section .fixup,"ax"; \
-2: pushl %ss; \
- popl %ds; \
- pushl %ss; \
- popl %es; \
+2: movl $(__USER_DS), %edx; \
+ movl %edx, %ds; \
+ movl %edx, %es; \
pushl $11; \
call do_exit; \
.previous; \
@@ -225,7 +224,7 @@
movl TI_FLAGS(%ebx), %ecx # need_resched set ?
testb $_TIF_NEED_RESCHED, %cl
jz restore_all
- testl $IF_MASK,EFLAGS(%esp) # interrupts off (execption path) ?
+ testl $IF_MASK,EFLAGS(%esp) # interrupts off (exception path) ?
jz restore_all


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