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Based on kernel version 3.15.4. Page generated on 2014-07-07 08:59 EST.

1	Kernel mode NEON
2	================
3	
4	TL;DR summary
5	-------------
6	* Use only NEON instructions, or VFP instructions that don't rely on support
7	  code
8	* Isolate your NEON code in a separate compilation unit, and compile it with
9	  '-mfpu=neon -mfloat-abi=softfp'
10	* Put kernel_neon_begin() and kernel_neon_end() calls around the calls into your
11	  NEON code
12	* Don't sleep in your NEON code, and be aware that it will be executed with
13	  preemption disabled
14	
15	
16	Introduction
17	------------
18	It is possible to use NEON instructions (and in some cases, VFP instructions) in
19	code that runs in kernel mode. However, for performance reasons, the NEON/VFP
20	register file is not preserved and restored at every context switch or taken
21	exception like the normal register file is, so some manual intervention is
22	required. Furthermore, special care is required for code that may sleep [i.e.,
23	may call schedule()], as NEON or VFP instructions will be executed in a
24	non-preemptible section for reasons outlined below.
25	
26	
27	Lazy preserve and restore
28	-------------------------
29	The NEON/VFP register file is managed using lazy preserve (on UP systems) and
30	lazy restore (on both SMP and UP systems). This means that the register file is
31	kept 'live', and is only preserved and restored when multiple tasks are
32	contending for the NEON/VFP unit (or, in the SMP case, when a task migrates to
33	another core). Lazy restore is implemented by disabling the NEON/VFP unit after
34	every context switch, resulting in a trap when subsequently a NEON/VFP
35	instruction is issued, allowing the kernel to step in and perform the restore if
36	necessary.
37	
38	Any use of the NEON/VFP unit in kernel mode should not interfere with this, so
39	it is required to do an 'eager' preserve of the NEON/VFP register file, and
40	enable the NEON/VFP unit explicitly so no exceptions are generated on first
41	subsequent use. This is handled by the function kernel_neon_begin(), which
42	should be called before any kernel mode NEON or VFP instructions are issued.
43	Likewise, the NEON/VFP unit should be disabled again after use to make sure user
44	mode will hit the lazy restore trap upon next use. This is handled by the
45	function kernel_neon_end().
46	
47	
48	Interruptions in kernel mode
49	----------------------------
50	For reasons of performance and simplicity, it was decided that there shall be no
51	preserve/restore mechanism for the kernel mode NEON/VFP register contents. This
52	implies that interruptions of a kernel mode NEON section can only be allowed if
53	they are guaranteed not to touch the NEON/VFP registers. For this reason, the
54	following rules and restrictions apply in the kernel:
55	* NEON/VFP code is not allowed in interrupt context;
56	* NEON/VFP code is not allowed to sleep;
57	* NEON/VFP code is executed with preemption disabled.
58	
59	If latency is a concern, it is possible to put back to back calls to
60	kernel_neon_end() and kernel_neon_begin() in places in your code where none of
61	the NEON registers are live. (Additional calls to kernel_neon_begin() should be
62	reasonably cheap if no context switch occurred in the meantime)
63	
64	
65	VFP and support code
66	--------------------
67	Earlier versions of VFP (prior to version 3) rely on software support for things
68	like IEEE-754 compliant underflow handling etc. When the VFP unit needs such
69	software assistance, it signals the kernel by raising an undefined instruction
70	exception. The kernel responds by inspecting the VFP control registers and the
71	current instruction and arguments, and emulates the instruction in software.
72	
73	Such software assistance is currently not implemented for VFP instructions
74	executed in kernel mode. If such a condition is encountered, the kernel will
75	fail and generate an OOPS.
76	
77	
78	Separating NEON code from ordinary code
79	---------------------------------------
80	The compiler is not aware of the special significance of kernel_neon_begin() and
81	kernel_neon_end(), i.e., that it is only allowed to issue NEON/VFP instructions
82	between calls to these respective functions. Furthermore, GCC may generate NEON
83	instructions of its own at -O3 level if -mfpu=neon is selected, and even if the
84	kernel is currently compiled at -O2, future changes may result in NEON/VFP
85	instructions appearing in unexpected places if no special care is taken.
86	
87	Therefore, the recommended and only supported way of using NEON/VFP in the
88	kernel is by adhering to the following rules:
89	* isolate the NEON code in a separate compilation unit and compile it with
90	  '-mfpu=neon -mfloat-abi=softfp';
91	* issue the calls to kernel_neon_begin(), kernel_neon_end() as well as the calls
92	  into the unit containing the NEON code from a compilation unit which is *not*
93	  built with the GCC flag '-mfpu=neon' set.
94	
95	As the kernel is compiled with '-msoft-float', the above will guarantee that
96	both NEON and VFP instructions will only ever appear in designated compilation
97	units at any optimization level.
98	
99	
100	NEON assembler
101	--------------
102	NEON assembler is supported with no additional caveats as long as the rules
103	above are followed.
104	
105	
106	NEON code generated by GCC
107	--------------------------
108	The GCC option -ftree-vectorize (implied by -O3) tries to exploit implicit
109	parallelism, and generates NEON code from ordinary C source code. This is fully
110	supported as long as the rules above are followed.
111	
112	
113	NEON intrinsics
114	---------------
115	NEON intrinsics are also supported. However, as code using NEON intrinsics
116	relies on the GCC header <arm_neon.h>, (which #includes <stdint.h>), you should
117	observe the following in addition to the rules above:
118	* Compile the unit containing the NEON intrinsics with '-ffreestanding' so GCC
119	  uses its builtin version of <stdint.h> (this is a C99 header which the kernel
120	  does not supply);
121	* Include <arm_neon.h> last, or at least after <linux/types.h>
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