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Understanding the Linux Kernel, 3rd Edition by Marco Cesati, Daniel P. Bovet

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Chapter 9. Process Address Space

As seen in the previous chapter, a kernel function gets dynamic memory in a fairly straightforward manner by invoking one of a variety of functions: _ _get_free_pages( ) or alloc_pages( ) to get pages from the zoned page frame allocator, kmem_cache_alloc( ) or kmalloc( ) to use the slab allocator for specialized or general-purpose objects, and vmalloc( ) or vmalloc_32( ) to get a noncontiguous memory area. If the request can be satisfied, each of these functions returns a page descriptor address or a linear address identifying the beginning of the allocated dynamic memory area.

These simple approaches work for two reasons:

  • The kernel is the highest-priority component of the operating system. If a kernel function makes a request for dynamic memory, it must have a valid reason to issue that request, and there is no point in trying to defer it.

  • The kernel trusts itself. All kernel functions are assumed to be error-free, so the kernel does not need to insert any protection against programming errors.

When allocating memory to User Mode processes, the situation is entirely different:

  • Process requests for dynamic memory are considered non-urgent. When a process's executable file is loaded, for instance, it is unlikely that the process will address all the pages of code in the near future. Similarly, when a process invokes malloc( ) to get additional dynamic memory, it doesn't mean the process will soon access all the additional memory obtained. Thus, as a general ...

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