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Memory on MIPS-based processors is broken into several segments, consuming the entire 32-address space. These segments are arranged as follows:

  • User Segment (USEG), 2 GB mapped and cached, addresses 0x0000 0000 through 0x7FFF FFFF
  • Kernel Segment 0 (KSEG0), 512 MB unmapped and cached, addresses 0x8000 0000 through 0x9FFF FFFF
  • Kernel Segment 1 (KSEG1), 512 MB unmapped and uncached, addresses 0xA000 0000 through 0xBFFF FFFF
  • Kernel Segment 2 (KSEG2), 1 GB mapped and cached, addresses 0xC000 0000 through 0xFFFF FFFF

Note that the WRT54GL only has 16 MB of main memory, so a 1-1 mapping is not be available above 0x..FF FFFF.

User Segment

The user segment of memory, or USEG, is the range of memory addresses from 0x0000 0000 through 0x7FFF FFFF. This memory is both mapped and cached, meaning that any attempt to access memory within this range will result in the hardware consulting the memory manager prior to access. Note that any attempted access in this range must with the CPU privilege level set to user mode (i.e. <math>Status(KSU) = 2</math>) or the processor must be in the exception state with the error level bit set (i.e. <math>Status(EXL) = 1</math>). In the latter case, all mappings turn into 1-1, so directly accessing these address is not recommended.

Under normal operation, when an address in this memory range is accessed, the processor will query the memory management unit is consulted for a mapping. In turn this will ask the translation lookaside buffer (TLB), and if no mapping is found cause a TLB load or store exception. When this exception occurs, the operating system is consulted and should write the correct mapping to the TLB and return from the exception handler.

User Segment under Xinu

Embedded Xinu has basic memory management as of the 2.0 release (stored in the mem/ directory). During initialization, the kernel allocates some amount of memory (defined in xinu.conf as UHEAP_SIZE) to act as the user memory heap. Once this memory is initialized, calls to malloc and free will use the user heap for memory allocation and automatically insert mappings into the system page table. All mappings are 1-1 since there is no backing store for a virtual memory subsystem, though it would be possible to provide each thread with a private address space this requires lots of memory overhead.

Exception code to handle TLB faults is in the tlbMissHandler function and simply performs a lookup of the faulting address in the system page table, checks to see if it is valid and in the correct address space, and inserts the mapping in the TLB hardware.

Kernel Segments

While the first part of memory is dedicated to the user segment, the remainder is the kernel segment. Unlike the user segment, the kernel segment is sub-divided into three segments with different memory access properties. Note that these properties can be very important if you are dealing with device drivers and/or hardware that uses direct memory access (DMA) because there may be caching considerations.

In brief:

  • KSEG0 uses unmapped and cached memory accesses,
  • KSEG1 uses unmapped and uncached memory accesses, and
  • KSEG2 uses mapped and cached memory accesses.

Kernel Segment 0

The first kernel segment, or KSEG0, is the range of memory addresses from 0x8000 0000 through 0x9FFF FFFF. This memory unmapped and cached, meaning that when the processor attempts to access an address in this range it will not consult the memory manager for a mapping, but will store and modifications in the on-chip memory cache. Note that when allocating memory for a device driver that will be using DMA, the caching effects could lead to major headaches. If memory is being given to a hardware backend it should be mapped into the range of KSEG1.

On many MIPS processors the first page (4096 bytes) of KSEG0 is considered to be reserved system space where small amounts of specialized code can be loaded for fast execution. Typically, this memory is used for exception handling and the following sections are reserved for the following:

  • 0x8000 0000 (32 instructions) is for the TLB exception handler,
  • 0x8000 0080 (32 instructions) is for the 64-bit TLB exception handler, and
  • 0x8000 0180 (32 instructions) is for the generic exception handler.

Other reserved portions of this memory page remain unknown.

After the reserved system page, the operating system is free to use memory however it sees fit.

KSEG0 under Xinu

Embedded Xinu uses KSEG0 extensively for kernel operations. As the WRT54GL uses a 32-bit MIPS processor, Embedded Xinu loads a quick TLB handler into memory at 0x8000 0000 and a generic exception handler at 0x8000 0180, both of these are limited to 32 instructions and jump to higher level C code when needed. It is important to note that Embedded Xinu also makes use of reserved memory starting at 0x8000 0200 to store an array of exception handler entry points (32-bit function pointers for 32 possible exceptions) and 0x8000 0280 to store an array of interrupt handler entry points (32-bit function pointers for 8 possible interrupts).

Xinu loads the kernel entry point beginning at 0x8000 1000, and upon booting begins execution at that address. Within Embedded Xinu, the memory segments are in the following order (as defined by ld.script): text, read-only data, data, and block started by symbol (BSS, uninitialized data). The kernel allocates a small kernel stack after the BSS segment and finally initializes a dynamic memory heap for the remaining physical memory addresses.

The kernel memory allocator (memget and memfree), will allocate memory from the kernel heap as requested. Since Embedded Xinu uses a single page table, all kernel addresses will be mapped read-only in all address spaces, giving a user thread the ability to read from but not write to kernel memory.

Kernel Segment 1

The second kernel segment, or KSEG1, is the range of memory addresses from 0xA000 0000 through 0xBFFF FFFF. This memory unmapped and uncached, meaning that when the processor attempts to access an address in this range it will not consult the memory manager for a mapping and it will bypass the on-chip memory cache for memory loads and stores.

By skipping the hardware cache, KSEG1 will see slower memory accesses because it must get data directly from the RAM. Because of this, it is not typical to use KSEG1 for normal kernel operations, rather this segment is useful for accessing memory that is mapped to some other hardware device on the platform. These mappings will either be pre-existing, so they are out-of-range of physical memory addresses, or they will be dynamically allocated memory that will be shared between the operating system and some hardware device.

KSEG1 under Xinu

Embedded Xinu uses several hardware devices that are mapped out-of-range of physical memory and some hardware devices that use dynamically allocated memory for sharing. Some devices on the WRT54GL that are beyond the range of physical memory are:

  • Broadcom I/O controllor registers at 0xB800 0000,
  • UART registers at 0xB800 0300 and 0xB800 0400,
  • Broadcom Ethernet 47xx registers at 0xB800 1000,
  • Broadcom Wireless LAN controller registers at 0xB800 5000,
  • Broadcom 47xx RoboSwitch registers at 0xB800 6000, and
  • Flash memory (4 MB) read mapped beginning at 0xBC00 0000.

Certain drivers (such as the Ethernet driver), also take advantage of shared memory between the operating system and the hardware. This requires the use of dynamically allocated kernel memory (originating in KSEG0), that has been mapped to KSEG1 address range. This is not problematic because both KSEG0 and KSEG1 use a 1-1 memory mapping. With the Ethernet driver of Embedded Xinu, the shared memory that is in KSEG1 hold the DMA descriptor rings and the Ethernet packet buffers to store the packets in.

Kernel Segment 2

The last segment of MIPS memory is located at 0xC000 0000 and ends at 0xFFFF FFFF, giving the kernel one gigabyte of fully mapped memory. Similar to the user segment, the Embedded XINU team has not looked extensively into the usefulness of this segment.

Flash Memory

File:Flash memory.png
Quick reference guide to Flash memory on XINU.

Unlike other devices on the system Flash memory is fully mapped, meaning it is possible to access every location of the four megabyte range by simply dereferencing a pointer between 0xBC00 0000 and 0xBC3F FFFF. Within Flash memory there are a number of notable addresses:

  • 0xBC00 1000: Generic backup NVRAM variables (if proper variables become corrupt, these are the values that will replace them).
  • 0xBC00 1E00: "True" MAC address of device, this is the mac address CFE will use during the boot process. Once the system is booted, the MAC address is not necessarily the same as the value stored here. The value is stored in ASCII as 6 colon separated octets for a total of 17 bytes.
  • 0xBC00 1F00: CFE Boot Version variable ("v3.7")
  • 0xBC00 2000: CFE code begins
  • 0xBC03 F400: Unique device ID, this is loaded into NVRAM variables as eou_device_id
  • 0xBC03 F408: Private key for device, also loaded into NVRAM variables as eou_private_key
  • 0xBC03 F508: Public key for device, also loaded into NVRAM variables as eou_public_key
  • 0xBC04 0000: XINU code, gzipped raw binary prefixed with a TRX header containing the length and a checksum among other data.
  • 0xBC06 0000: Beginning of XINU file system
  • 0xBC3F 8000: NVRAM variables are stored here, prefix with a padded length and checksum among other data for a 20 byte header. Each variable is stored as a name=value pair (as ASCII data) and separated by a single null character.


Sweetman, Dominic. See MIPS Run. San Francisco: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, 2007.