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Understanding the Linux Kernel by Marco Cesati, Daniel P. Bovet

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4.4. Initializing the Interrupt Descriptor Table

Now that you understand what the Intel processor does with interrupts and exceptions at the hardware level, we can move on to describe how the Interrupt Descriptor Table is initialized.

Remember that before the kernel enables the interrupts, it must load the initial address of the IDT table into the idtr register and initialize all the entries of that table. This activity is done while initializing the system (see Appendix A).

The int instruction allows a User Mode process to issue an interrupt signal having an arbitrary vector ranging from to 255. The initialization of the IDT must thus be done carefully, in order to block illegal interrupts and exceptions simulated by User Mode processes via int instructions. This can be achieved by setting the DPL field of the Interrupt or Trap Gate Descriptor to 0. If the process attempts to issue one of such interrupt signals, the control unit will check the CPL value against the DPL field and issue a "General protection" exception.

In a few cases, however, a User Mode process must be able to issue a programmed exception. To allow this, it is sufficient to set the DPL field of the corresponding Interrupt or Trap Gate Descriptors to 3; that is, as high as possible.

Let's now see how Linux implements this strategy.

4.4.1. Interrupt, Trap, and System Gates

As mentioned in Section 4.2.4, Intel provides three types of interrupt descriptors: Task, Interrupt, and Trap Gate Descriptors. Task Gate ...

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