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vdso is a virtual shared object that is created by the kernel and visible to user processes. It is very similar to PA-RISC Linux's GatewayPage mechanism, but instead of being exposed as magic constants, it uses standard (on Linux) ELF mechanisms for linking and loading.

One other advantage of vdso is that we can expose functions from the kernel with proper DWARF CFI information so that it becomes easier to unwind through them. This is useful for tools like gdb.

Kernel Implementation

The PA-RISC implementation is largely derived from the work on PPC done by benh.

vDSO support was added to kernel v5.18 in https://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/linux/kernel/git/torvalds/linux.git/commit/?id=df24e1783e6e0eb3dc0e3ba5a8df3bb0cc537408

First of all, we create a shared library during the kernel build process that contains the kernel functions we want to provide. These are linked into a .so, which we include into the kernel binary.

On startup, we determine the address of this included .so in kernel virtual space (vdso32_kbase) and pin it in memory.

Then we add a hook to the elf loader so that when the kernel starts an application, it will call arch_setup_additional_pages, which creates a new mapping to map the vdso into the memory space of the newly started application. We pass the location of the mapped vdso in an ELF AUX header (AT_SYSINFO_EHDR) to the dynamic linker.

Userspace Implementation

During startup the dynamic linker looks for an AT_SYSINFO_EHDR entry. If it is found, it will set a variable dl_sysinfo_dso that points to the value of that ELF AUX header.

In elf/rtld.c:dl_main(), if dl_sysinfo_dso is set, we will add a linkmap entry into the list that points to this vdso. This allows the dynamic linker to perform lookups into the vdso.

Next, in __libc_start_main(), we lookup and store pointers to all vdso symbols that glibc knows about. These are stored as void *__vdso_XXXX.

In the sysdep code, we define VSYSCALL entry points that uses these pointers to call the kernel vdso. The VSYSCALL() macro should fall back to a normal system call if the vdso entry point is not available. This allows glibc to work across old and new kernels.

For library functions that can use the vsyscall, we call INLINE_VSYSCALL() instead of SYSCALL().

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