Hardware Machine Checks

Finally, let us briefly discuss the IPF's IA64 hardware aborts and interrupts. Whereas hangs and panics are normally associated with how the kernel handles the scenario, the firmware is in control during a Machine Check Abort (MCA) or INIT.

Work is under way for the IA64 kernel to handle INITs. An INIT is a Processor Abstraction Layer (PAL)-based interrupt where in essence a transfer of control has taken place from the OS to the hardware. This interrupt is serviced by PAL firmware, system firmware, or in some cases the OS. During an INIT, the System Abstraction Layer (SAL) checks for an OS INIT handler; if one is not present, a soft reset takes place. Some of the current Linux kernel releases have built-in support for the INIT handler, and if a dump utility is enabled, the kernel will perform a panic and create a memory dump. In addition to the dump, we can extract the processor registers from the Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI), which can enable us to determine the code of execution at the time of the INIT.

A hardware abort, better known on the IA64 platform as an MCA, tells the processors to save state and perform a hardware reset. Hardware normally is the cause; however, software can be the cause as well. Examples of such an abort would be any sort of double bit error (whether it be in memory bus, I/O bus, or CPU bus). The current kernel releases do not show any console output when the IA64 platform experiences an MCA; however, work is under way to remedy this issue.

The kernel is essentially independent of a hardware machine check. Other tools must be used to collect the savestate registers and isolate the hardware at fault. At the EFI prompt, the command errordump is used to collect savestate registers. At this point, the hardware vendor must be contacted to decode the dump and processor registers.

Linux Troubleshooting for System Administrators and Power Users
Real World Mac Maintenance and Backups
ISBN: 131855158
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2004
Pages: 129
Authors: Joe Kissell

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