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cpu-supplement: Document PowerPC SPRG0-2 usage

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PowerPC Specific Information

This chapter discusses the PowerPC architecture dependencies in this port of RTEMS. The PowerPC family has a wide variety of implementations by a range of vendors. Consequently, there are many, many CPU models within it.

It is highly recommended that the PowerPC RTEMS application developer obtain and become familiar with the documentation for the processor being used as well as the specification for the revision of the PowerPC architecture which corresponds to that processor.

PowerPC Architecture Documents

For information on the PowerPC architecture, refer to the following documents available from Motorola and IBM:

  • PowerPC Microprocessor Family: The Programming Environment (Motorola Document MPRPPCFPE-01).
  • IBM PPC403GB Embedded Controller User's Manual.
  • PoweRisControl MPC500 Family RCPU RISC Central Processing Unit Reference Manual (Motorola Document RCPUURM/AD).
  • PowerPC 601 RISC Microprocessor User's Manual (Motorola Document MPR601UM/AD).
  • PowerPC 603 RISC Microprocessor User's Manual (Motorola Document MPR603UM/AD).
  • PowerPC 603e RISC Microprocessor User's Manual (Motorola Document MPR603EUM/AD).
  • PowerPC 604 RISC Microprocessor User's Manual (Motorola Document MPR604UM/AD).
  • PowerPC MPC821 Portable Systems Microprocessor User's Manual (Motorola Document MPC821UM/AD).
  • PowerQUICC MPC860 User's Manual (Motorola Document MPC860UM/AD).

Motorola maintains an on-line electronic library for the PowerPC at the following URL:

This site has a a wealth of information and examples. Many of the manuals are available from that site in electronic format.

PowerPC Processor Simulator Information

PSIM is a program which emulates the Instruction Set Architecture of the PowerPC microprocessor family. It is reely available in source code form under the terms of the GNU General Public License (version 2 or later). PSIM can be integrated with the GNU Debugger (gdb) to execute and debug PowerPC executables on non-PowerPC hosts. PSIM supports the addition of user provided device models which can be used to allow one to develop and debug embedded applications using the simulator.

The latest version of PSIM is included in GDB and enabled on pre-built binaries provided by the RTEMS Project.

CPU Model Dependent Features

This section presents the set of features which vary across PowerPC implementations and are of importance to RTEMS. The set of CPU model feature macros are defined in the file cpukit/score/cpu/powerpc/powerpc.h based upon the particular CPU model specified on the compilation command line.


The macro PPC_ALIGNMENT is set to the PowerPC model's worst case alignment requirement for data types on a byte boundary. This value is used to derive the alignment restrictions for memory allocated from regions and partitions.

Cache Alignment

The macro PPC_CACHE_ALIGNMENT is set to the line size of the cache. It is used to align the entry point of critical routines so that as much code as possible can be retrieved with the initial read into cache. This is done for the interrupt handler as well as the context switch routines.

In addition, the "shortcut" data structure used by the PowerPC implementation to ease access to data elements frequently accessed by RTEMS routines implemented in assembly language is aligned using this value.

Maximum Interrupts

The macro PPC_INTERRUPT_MAX is set to the number of exception sources supported by this PowerPC model.

Has Double Precision Floating Point

The macro PPC_HAS_DOUBLE is set to 1 to indicate that the PowerPC model has support for double precision floating point numbers. This is important because the floating point registers need only be four bytes wide (not eight) if double precision is not supported.

Critical Interrupts

The macro PPC_HAS_RFCI is set to 1 to indicate that the PowerPC model has the Critical Interrupt capability as defined by the IBM 403 models.

Use Multiword Load/Store Instructions

The macro PPC_USE_MULTIPLE is set to 1 to indicate that multiword load and store instructions should be used to perform context switch operations. The relative efficiency of multiword load and store instructions versus an equivalent set of single word load and store instructions varies based upon the PowerPC model.

Instruction Cache Size

The macro PPC_I_CACHE is set to the size in bytes of the instruction cache.

Data Cache Size

The macro PPC_D_CACHE is set to the size in bytes of the data cache.

Debug Model

The macro PPC_DEBUG_MODEL is set to indicate the debug support features present in this CPU model. The following debug support feature sets are currently supported:

indicates that the single-step trace enable (SE) and branch trace enable (BE) bits in the MSR are supported by this CPU model.
indicates that only the single-step trace enable (SE) bit in the MSR is supported by this CPU model.
indicates that the debug exception enable (DE) bit in the MSR is supported by this CPU model. At this time, this particular debug feature set has only been seen in the IBM 4xx series.

Low Power Model

The macro PPC_LOW_POWER_MODE is set to indicate the low power model supported by this CPU model. The following low power modes are currently supported.

indicates that this CPU model has no low power mode support.
indicates that this CPU model follows the low power model defined for the PPC603e.


The following multilibs are available:

  1. .: 32-bit PowerPC with FPU
  2. nof: 32-bit PowerPC with software floating point support
  3. m403: Instruction set for PPC403 with FPU
  4. m505: Instruction set for MPC505 with FPU
  5. m603e: Instruction set for MPC603e with FPU
  6. m603e/nof: Instruction set for MPC603e with software floating point support
  7. m604: Instruction set for MPC604 with FPU
  8. m604/nof: Instruction set for MPC604 with software floating point support
  9. m860: Instruction set for MPC860 with FPU
  10. m7400: Instruction set for MPC7500 with FPU
  11. m7400/nof: Instruction set for MPC7500 with software floating point support
  12. m8540: Instruction set for e200, e500 and e500v2 cores with single-precision FPU and SPE
  13. m8540/gprsdouble: Instruction set for e200, e500 and e500v2 cores with double-precision FPU and SPE
  14. m8540/nof/nospe: Instruction set for e200, e500 and e500v2 cores with software floating point support and no SPE
  15. me6500/m32: 32-bit instruction set for e6500 core with FPU and AltiVec
  16. me6500/m32/nof/noaltivec: 32-bit instruction set for e6500 core with software floating point support and no AltiVec

Calling Conventions

RTEMS supports the Embedded Application Binary Interface (EABI) calling convention. Documentation for EABI is available by sending a message with a subject line of "EABI" to

Programming Model

This section discusses the programming model for the PowerPC architecture.

Non-Floating Point Registers

The PowerPC architecture defines thirty-two non-floating point registers directly visible to the programmer. In thirty-two bit implementations, each register is thirty-two bits wide. In sixty-four bit implementations, each register is sixty-four bits wide.

These registers are referred to as gpr0 to gpr31.

Some of the registers serve defined roles in the EABI programming model. The following table describes the role of each of these registers:

Register Name Alternate Name Description
r1 sp stack pointer
r2 na
global pointer to the Small
Constant Area (SDA2)
r3 - r12 na parameter and result passing
r13 na
global pointer to the Small
Data Area (SDA)

Floating Point Registers

The PowerPC architecture includes thirty-two, sixty-four bit floating point registers. All PowerPC floating point instructions interpret these registers as 32 double precision floating point registers, regardless of whether the processor has 64-bit or 32-bit implementation.

The floating point status and control register (fpscr) records exceptions and the type of result generated by floating-point operations. Additionally, it controls the rounding mode of operations and allows the reporting of floating exceptions to be enabled or disabled.

Special Registers

The PowerPC architecture includes a number of special registers which are critical to the programming model:

Special-Purpose Register General 0 (SPRG0)
On SMP configurations, this register contains the address of the per-CPU control of the processor.
Special-Purpose Register General 1 (SPRG1)
This register contains the interrupt stack pointer for the outer-most interrupt service routine.
Special-Purpose Register General 2 (SPRG2)
This register contains the address of interrupt stack area begin.
Machine State Register
The MSR contains the processor mode, power management mode, endian mode, exception information, privilege level, floating point available and floating point excepiton mode, address translation information and the exception prefix.
Link Register
The LR contains the return address after a function call. This register must be saved before a subsequent subroutine call can be made. The use of this register is discussed further in the Call and Return Mechanism section below.
Count Register
The CTR contains the iteration variable for some loops. It may also be used for indirect function calls and jumps.

Call and Return Mechanism

The PowerPC architecture supports a simple yet effective call and return mechanism. A subroutine is invoked via the "branch and link" (bl) and "brank and link absolute" (bla) instructions. This instructions place the return address in the Link Register (LR). The callee returns to the caller by executing a "branch unconditional to the link register" (blr) instruction. Thus the callee returns to the caller via a jump to the return address which is stored in the LR.

The previous contents of the LR are not automatically saved by either the bl or bla. It is the responsibility of the callee to save the contents of the LR before invoking another subroutine. If the callee invokes another subroutine, it must restore the LR before executing the blr instruction to return to the caller.

It is important to note that the PowerPC subroutine call and return mechanism does not automatically save and restore any registers.

The LR may be accessed as special purpose register 8 (SPR8) using the "move from special register" (mfspr) and "move to special register" (mtspr) instructions.

Calling Mechanism

All RTEMS directives are invoked using the regular PowerPC EABI calling convention via the bl or``bla`` instructions.

Register Usage

As discussed above, the call instruction does not automatically save any registers. It is the responsibility of the callee to save and restore any registers which must be preserved across subroutine calls. The callee is responsible for saving callee-preserved registers to the program stack and restoring them before returning to the caller.

Parameter Passing

RTEMS assumes that arguments are placed in the general purpose registers with the first argument in register 3 (r3), the second argument in general purpose register 4 (r4), and so forth until the seventh argument is in general purpose register 10 (r10). If there are more than seven arguments, then subsequent arguments are placed on the program stack. The following pseudo-code illustrates the typical sequence used to call a RTEMS directive with three (3) arguments:

load third argument into r5
load second argument into r4
load first argument into r3
invoke directive

Memory Model

Flat Memory Model

The PowerPC architecture supports a variety of memory models. RTEMS supports the PowerPC using a flat memory model with paging disabled. In this mode, the PowerPC automatically converts every address from a logical to a physical address each time it is used. The PowerPC uses information provided in the Block Address Translation (BAT) to convert these addresses.

Implementations of the PowerPC architecture may be thirty-two or sixty-four bit. The PowerPC architecture supports a flat thirty-two or sixty-four bit address space with addresses ranging from 0x00000000 to 0xFFFFFFFF (4 gigabytes) in thirty-two bit implementations or to 0xFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF in sixty-four bit implementations. Each address is represented by either a thirty-two bit or sixty-four bit value and is byte addressable. The address may be used to reference a single byte, half-word (2-bytes), word (4 bytes), or in sixty-four bit implementations a doubleword (8 bytes). Memory accesses within the address space are performed in big or little endian fashion by the PowerPC based upon the current setting of the Little-endian mode enable bit (LE) in the Machine State Register (MSR). While the processor is in big endian mode, memory accesses which are not properly aligned generate an "alignment exception" (vector offset 0x00600). In little endian mode, the PowerPC architecture does not require the processor to generate alignment exceptions.

The following table lists the alignment requirements for a variety of data accesses:

Data Type Alignment Requirement
byte 1
half-word 2
word 4
doubleword 8

Doubleword load and store operations are only available in PowerPC CPU models which are sixty-four bit implementations.

RTEMS does not directly support any PowerPC Memory Management Units, therefore, virtual memory or segmentation systems involving the PowerPC are not supported.

Interrupt Processing

Although RTEMS hides many of the processor dependent details of interrupt processing, it is important to understand how the RTEMS interrupt manager is mapped onto the processor's unique architecture. Discussed in this chapter are the PowerPC's interrupt response and control mechanisms as they pertain to RTEMS.

RTEMS and associated documentation uses the terms interrupt and vector. In the PowerPC architecture, these terms correspond to exception and exception handler, respectively. The terms will be used interchangeably in this manual.

Synchronous Versus Asynchronous Exceptions

In the PowerPC architecture exceptions can be either precise or imprecise and either synchronous or asynchronous. Asynchronous exceptions occur when an external event interrupts the processor. Synchronous exceptions are caused by the actions of an instruction. During an exception SRR0 is used to calculate where instruction processing should resume. All instructions prior to the resume instruction will have completed execution. SRR1 is used to store the machine status.

There are two asynchronous nonmaskable, highest-priority exceptions system reset and machine check. There are two asynchrononous maskable low-priority exceptions external interrupt and decrementer. Nonmaskable execptions are never delayed, therefore if two nonmaskable, asynchronous exceptions occur in immediate succession, the state information saved by the first exception may be overwritten when the subsequent exception occurs.

The PowerPC arcitecure defines one imprecise exception, the imprecise floating point enabled exception. All other synchronous exceptions are precise. The synchronization occuring during asynchronous precise exceptions conforms to the requirements for context synchronization.

Vectoring of Interrupt Handler

Upon determining that an exception can be taken the PowerPC automatically performs the following actions:

  • an instruction address is loaded into SRR0
  • bits 33-36 and 42-47 of SRR1 are loaded with information specific to the exception.
  • bits 0-32, 37-41, and 48-63 of SRR1 are loaded with corresponding bits from the MSR.
  • the MSR is set based upon the exception type.
  • instruction fetch and execution resumes, using the new MSR value, at a location specific to the execption type.

If the interrupt handler was installed as an RTEMS interrupt handler, then upon receipt of the interrupt, the processor passes control to the RTEMS interrupt handler which performs the following actions:

  • saves the state of the interrupted task on it's stack,
  • saves all registers which are not normally preserved by the calling sequence so the user's interrupt service routine can be written in a high-level language.
  • if this is the outermost (i.e. non-nested) interrupt, then the RTEMS interrupt handler switches from the current stack to the interrupt stack,
  • enables exceptions,
  • invokes the vectors to a user interrupt service routine (ISR).

Asynchronous interrupts are ignored while exceptions are disabled. Synchronous interrupts which occur while are disabled result in the CPU being forced into an error mode.

A nested interrupt is processed similarly with the exception that the current stack need not be switched to the interrupt stack.

Interrupt Levels

The PowerPC architecture supports only a single external asynchronous interrupt source. This interrupt source may be enabled and disabled via the External Interrupt Enable (EE) bit in the Machine State Register (MSR). Thus only two level (enabled and disabled) of external device interrupt priorities are directly supported by the PowerPC architecture.

Some PowerPC implementations include a Critical Interrupt capability which is often used to receive interrupts from high priority external devices.

The RTEMS interrupt level mapping scheme for the PowerPC is not a numeric level as on most RTEMS ports. It is a bit mapping in which the least three significiant bits of the interrupt level are mapped directly to the enabling of specific interrupt sources as follows:

Critical Interrupt
Setting bit 0 (the least significant bit) of the interrupt level enables the Critical Interrupt source, if it is available on this CPU model.
Machine Check
Setting bit 1 of the interrupt level enables Machine Check execptions.
External Interrupt
Setting bit 2 of the interrupt level enables External Interrupt execptions.

All other bits in the RTEMS task interrupt level are ignored.

Default Fatal Error Processing

The default fatal error handler for this architecture performs the following actions:

  • places the error code in r3, and
  • executes a trap instruction which results in a Program Exception.

If the Program Exception returns, then the following actions are performed:

  • disables all processor exceptions by loading a 0 into the MSR, and
  • goes into an infinite loop to simulate a halt processor instruction.

Symmetric Multiprocessing

SMP is supported. Available platforms are the Freescale QorIQ P series (e.g. P1020) and T series (e.g. T2080, T4240).

Thread-Local Storage

Thread-local storage is supported.

Board Support Packages

System Reset

An RTEMS based application is initiated or re-initiated when the PowerPC processor is reset. The PowerPC architecture defines a Reset Exception, but leaves the details of the CPU state as implementation specific. Please refer to the User's Manual for the CPU model in question.

In general, at power-up the PowerPC begin execution at address 0xFFF00100 in supervisor mode with all exceptions disabled. For soft resets, the CPU will vector to either 0xFFF00100 or 0x00000100 depending upon the setting of the Exception Prefix bit in the MSR. If during a soft reset, a Machine Check Exception occurs, then the CPU may execute a hard reset.

Processor Initialization

If this PowerPC implementation supports on-chip caching and this is to be utilized, then it should be enabled during the reset application initialization code. On-chip caching has been observed to prevent some emulators from working properly, so it may be necessary to run with caching disabled to use these emulators.

In addition to the requirements described in the*Board Support Packages* chapter of the RTEMS C Applications User's Manual for the reset code which is executed before the call to rtems_initialize_executive, the PowrePC version has the following specific requirements:

  • Must leave the PR bit of the Machine State Register (MSR) set to 0 so the PowerPC remains in the supervisor state.
  • Must set stack pointer (sp or r1) such that a minimum stack size of MINIMUM_STACK_SIZE bytes is provided for the RTEMS initialization sequence.
  • Must disable all external interrupts (i.e. clear the EI (EE) bit of the machine state register).
  • Must enable traps so window overflow and underflow conditions can be properly handled.
  • Must initialize the PowerPC's initial Exception Table with default handlers.
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