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Understanding the Linux Virtual Memory Manager (Bruce Perens'' Open Source) [Paperback]

Mel Gorman

RRP: £41.99
Price: £34.27 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

29 April 2004 0131453483 978-0131453487 1

A programmer wanting to understand the workings of the Linux VM today literally has no choice but to study the kernel source code, line-by-line - an excruciatingly difficult and time-consuming task. This book dedicates itself to explaining, in detail, how the memory manager is implemented in Linux, thereby cutting down the time needed to understand it from many months to mere weeks. The Linux VM is the single most important component of the Linux kernel. The behavior of the VM affects all other kernel subsystems, and has a dramatic impact on overall system performance. This book is unique in that not only does it describe the Linux VM itself in unprecedented detail, it also includes the theoretical foundations for it which is of interest to both developers and students but has been omitted from recent Linux kernel related material. It is split into three parts. The first part begins with an introduction on how to approach reading the code of an open source project. It then provides a detailed description of the VM architecture with the aid of numerous diagrams and call graphs, which is suitable for people who need a clear understanding of how the VM functions. The second part is a detailed line-by-line description of the C source modules (source code commentary) that implement the VM in the Linux 2.4 kernel. The third part describes new features in the upcoming 2.6 kernel.

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From the Back Cover

Finally, a comprehensive guide to the Linux VM!

VM's behavior affects every Linux kernel subsystem and dramatically impacts overall performance. But until now, there was only one way to understand VM: study the poorly documented source one line at a time. Now there's an easier, faster alternative. This book describes VM in unprecedented detail, presenting both theoretical foundations and a line-by-line source code commentary. It systematically covers everything from physical memory description to out-of-memory management. Coverage includes:

  • Linux VM 2.4 architecture in depth-with diagrams and call graphs
  • Physical memory description, page tables, address spaces, and memory allocation
  • High memory, swapping, shared memory, and much more
  • Expert guidance for analyzing the code of any open source project
  • New Linux 2.6 kernel features in every chapter

Well organized and superbly written, Understanding the Linux Virtual Memory Manager will be indispensable to every kernel programmer and researcher.


Complete VM Learning Lab! Contains the author's new toolkit for exploring VM, including a browsable version of kernel source, CodeViz call graph generator; and VMRegress for analyzing and benchmarking VM. Also includes all code commentary in HTML, PDF, and plain text formats.

About the Author

MEL GORMAN specializes in documenting open source software. He holds a MSc in Computer Science from the University of Limerick, Ireland, and has served as an instructor there. He has worked as a system administrator, applications developer, and consultant, and has been researching Linux memory management for more than two years. Currently he is an applications developer with J2EE technologies at IBM, Dublin.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.5 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Non-trivial subject 8 May 2004
By W Boudville - Published on Amazon.com
A slightly unusual book from Prentice-Hall. If you peruse a list of their recent offerings, this book stands out as rather more specialised. Certainly, in general there is no shortage of linux books, from a variety of publishers. But typically such books are aimed at using linux or they describe applications built atop it. Whereas the technical ability and interest in actually understanding and changing any operating system (not just linux) acts as a tremendous barrier. Hence, the potential audience for Gorman's book is quite exclusive. An upside is that it reduces the potential competition from other authors and publishers.
Gorman is attempting an outreach to potential linux developers. The book has two parts. The first explains key concepts for the VMM. He quickly gets into the issues, with little preamble. In other words, you need at a minimum to be fluent in C, and have some acquaintance with the ideas of memory management, though not necessarily with linux.
Each algorithm in this book is not that intricate. As a rough guide to difficulty level, if you can understand a typical algorithm from the texts by Knuth or Aho or Sedgewick, then you should not have any trouble here.
The second part of the book has code listings with accompanying detailed commentary. This is different from, and substantially improves upon the inline comments, which are sparse to non-existent in the exampled code. To some of you who want to try changing code, the second part's annotations may be the crucial portions of the book. It is rare to see such extensive commentary of source code in book form.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nuts and bolts of Linux VM, not for beginners 1 May 2006
By G. Tamindijza - Published on Amazon.com
If the title of the book is a hint that it is not for the masses, then the additional information one is presented with is a definite confirmation of this fact.

The book is an in depth look into intricate workings of one of the most complicated and sophisticated parts of any OS that supports virtual memory concepts. As such, it is not an easy read for people who are not familiar with programming and general OS concepts, and since, to be honest, most people today do not fall into this category, this book has a very specific audience. In short, if you do not already know how TLB operates, do not even look at it.

The text itself is nicely organized, hierarchy is well defined, concepts explained. Detailed description of logic is supported by the code examples that are dissected in detail, and in my mind provide an excellent learning resource.

One drawback that caused 4 stars, instead of 5, is the lack of common terminology; rather, author explains in his own words some of the details. As such, these explanations tend to be unnecessarily complicated, burdened by the re-defining of the every day language that is used in a wrong way.

Overall, a very, very good resource on Linux VM, and a definite must for a serious kernel developer.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Meets its goal 18 July 2006
By rdf - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The book's goal "a detailed view of the Linux VM as implemented in 2.4.22" -- as I think the specification of the version to that level of detail indicates, it is not a theoretical exercise.

Given that goal the book is well structured, building up from from basic functionality and giving references to both theory and measurement as appropriate

There's ~500 pages of annotated source that's preceded by a clear ~200 page discussion of its functionality and behavior
0 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Book binded in reverse 10 Sep 2011
By Dheeraj Kandula - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It is funny that the whole book is printed and binded in the reverse order i.e. the last page is the first page and first page is the last one. I need to start reading from the back. I didnt notice this till now as I was busy reading other books and just started to read this book. I was so shocked and surprised that AMAZON sells such books. Hope they replace the copy with a good one.
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