Cooperative Multitasking

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This page is under construction! This page or section is a work in progress and may thus be incomplete. Its content may be changed in the near future.

This tutorial will cover the creation of a co-operative (not pre-emptive) kernel-level multitasking system. That is, kernel threads and processes. The code here is specific to the IA-32 architecture.



This header defines the function and types used in here. It's code is

#ifndef __TASK_H__
#define __TASK_H__

#include <stdint.h>

extern void initTasking();

typedef struct {
    uint32_t eax, ebx, ecx, edx, esi, edi, esp, ebp, eip, eflags, cr3;
} Registers;

typedef struct Task {
    Registers regs;
    struct Task *next;
} Task;

extern void initTasking();
extern void createTask(Task*, void(*)(), uint32_t, uint32_t*);

extern void yield(); // Switch task frontend
extern void switchTask(Registers *old, Registers *new); // The function which actually switches

#endif /* __TASK_H__ */


This file defines the actual wrappers that switchTask() uses, createTask() and yield():

#include "task.h"

static Task *runningTask;
static Task mainTask;
static Task otherTask;

static void otherMain() {
    printk("Hello multitasking world!"); // Not implemented here...

void initTasking() {
    // Get EFLAGS and CR3
    asm volatile("movl %%cr3, %%eax; movl %%eax, %0;":"=m"(mainTask.regs.cr3)::"%eax");
    asm volatile("pushfl; movl (%%esp), %%eax; movl %%eax, %0; popfl;":"=m"(mainTask.regs.eflags)::"%eax");

    createTask(&otherTask, otherMain, mainTask.regs.eflags, (uint32_t*)mainTask.regs.cr3); = &otherTask; = &mainTask;

    runningTask = &mainTask;

void createTask(Task *task, void (*main)(), uint32_t flags, uint32_t *pagedir) {
    task->regs.eax = 0;
    task->regs.ebx = 0;
    task->regs.ecx = 0;
    task->regs.edx = 0;
    task->regs.esi = 0;
    task->regs.edi = 0;
    task->regs.eflags = flags;
    task->regs.eip = (uint32_t) main;
    task->regs.cr3 = (uint32_t) pagedir;
    task->regs.esp = (uint32_t) allocPage() + 0x1000; // Not implemented here
    task->next = 0;

void yield() {
    Task *last = runningTask;
    runningTask = runningTask->next;
    switchTask(&last->regs, &runningTask->regs);


This is the file that actually changes between tasks. It defines a function, switchTask(), which does all the magic. It saves all registers to from and loads them from to. It is trickier than you might think. Its function prototype is

void switchTask(Registers *from, Registers *to);

Its code is

.section .text
.global switchTask
    mov %cr3, %eax #Push CR3
    push %eax
    mov 44(%esp), %eax #The first argument, where to save
    mov %ebx, 4(%eax)
    mov %ecx, 8(%eax)
    mov %edx, 12(%eax)
    mov %esi, 16(%eax)
    mov %edi, 20(%eax)
    mov 36(%esp), %ebx #EAX
    mov 40(%esp), %ecx #IP
    mov 20(%esp), %edx #ESP
    add $4, %edx #Remove the return value ;)
    mov 16(%esp), %esi #EBP
    mov 4(%esp), %edi #EFLAGS
    mov %ebx, (%eax)
    mov %edx, 24(%eax)
    mov %esi, 28(%eax)
    mov %ecx, 32(%eax)
    mov %edi, 36(%eax)
    pop %ebx #CR3
    mov %ebx, 40(%eax)
    push %ebx #Goodbye again ;)
    mov 48(%esp), %eax #Now it is the new object
    mov 4(%eax), %ebx #EBX
    mov 8(%eax), %ecx #ECX
    mov 12(%eax), %edx #EDX
    mov 16(%eax), %esi #ESI
    mov 20(%eax), %edi #EDI
    mov 28(%eax), %ebp #EBP
    push %eax
    mov 36(%eax), %eax #EFLAGS
    push %eax
    pop %eax
    mov 24(%eax), %esp #ESP
    push %eax
    mov 40(%eax), %eax #CR3
    mov %eax, %cr3
    pop %eax
    push %eax
    mov 32(%eax), %eax #EIP
    xchg (%esp), %eax #We do not have any more registers to use as tmp storage
    mov (%eax), %eax #EAX
    ret #This ends all!

Doing it

Put this on some source file

#include "task.h"

void doIt() {
    printk("Switching to otherTask... \n");
    printk("Returned to mainTask!\n");

Now, from your kernel_main() call doIt()!

Congratulations! You've just implement kernel multitasking!

(Note: Article on proper kernel multi-tasking coming soon)