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7.7 Task Address Space

The LDT selector and PDBR fields of the TSS give software systems designers flexibility in utilization of segment and page mapping features of the 80386. By appropriate choice of the segment and page mappings for each task, tasks may share address spaces, may have address spaces that are largely distinct from one another, or may have any degree of sharing between these two extremes.

The ability for tasks to have distinct address spaces is an important aspect of 80386 protection. A module in one task cannot interfere with a module in another task if the modules do not have access to the same address spaces. The flexible memory management features of the 80386 allow systems designers to assign areas of shared address space to those modules of different tasks that are designed to cooperate with each other.

7.7.1 Task Linear-to-Physical Space Mapping

The choices for arranging the linear-to-physical mappings of tasks fall into two general classes:
  1. One linear-to-physical mapping shared among all tasks.

    When paging is not enabled, this is the only possibility. Without page tables, all linear addresses map to the same physical addresses.

    When paging is enabled, this style of linear-to-physical mapping results from using one page directory for all tasks. The linear space utilized may exceed the physical space available if the operating system also implements page-level virtual memory.

  2. Several partially overlapping linear-to-physical mappings.

    This style is implemented by using a different page directory for each task. Because the PDBR (page directory base register) is loaded from the TSS with each task switch, each task may have a different page directory.

In theory, the linear address spaces of different tasks may map to completely distinct physical addresses. If the entries of different page directories point to different page tables and the page tables point to different pages of physical memory, then the tasks do not share any physical addresses.

In practice, some portion of the linear address spaces of all tasks must map to the same physical addresses. The task state segments must lie in a common space so that the mapping of TSS addresses does not change while the processor is reading and updating the TSSs during a task switch. The linear space mapped by the GDT should also be mapped to a common physical space; otherwise, the purpose of the GDT is defeated. Figure 7-6 shows how the linear spaces of two tasks can overlap in the physical space by sharing page tables.

7.7.2 Task Logical Address Space

By itself, a common linear-to-physical space mapping does not enable sharing of data among tasks. To share data, tasks must also have a common logical-to-linear space mapping; i.e., they must also have access to descriptors that point into a shared linear address space. There are three ways to create common logical-to-physical address-space mappings:
  1. Via the GDT. All tasks have access to the descriptors in the GDT. If those descriptors point into a linear-address space that is mapped to a common physical-address space for all tasks, then the tasks can share data and instructions.
  2. By sharing LDTs. Two or more tasks can use the same LDT if the LDT selectors in their TSSs select the same LDT segment. Those LDT-resident descriptors that point into a linear space that is mapped to a common physical space permit the tasks to share physical memory. This method of sharing is more selective than sharing by the GDT; the sharing can be limited to specific tasks. Other tasks in the system may have different LDTs that do not give them access to the shared areas.
  3. By descriptor aliases in LDTs. It is possible for certain descriptors of different LDTs to point to the same linear address space. If that linear address space is mapped to the same physical space by the page mapping of the tasks involved, these descriptors permit the tasks to share the common space. Such descriptors are commonly called "aliases". This method of sharing is even more selective than the prior two; other descriptors in the LDTs may point to distinct linear addresses or to linear addresses that are not shared.

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