COS 318 : Operating system
Fall 2004, Princeton University
Project 1: Bootup Mechanism

Important Dates

Design Review: 9/20, 7:30-10:30pm
Project Due: 9/27, 11:59pm

Note about lab computers:

To log on to lab computers and arizona machine, you will need to use your OIT username/passwords.


The purpose of this project is to write the bootup code for a simple operating system that we will be developing for the rest of the semester.  Your job is to implement two programs: bootblock.s and createimage.c. The bootblock is the boot code that resides on the boot sector and its responsibility is to load the rest of the operating system image from other sectors into memory. The createimage code is a tool (in this case a Linux tool) to create a bootable operating system image including the bootblock and the rest of the operating system.

The "bootblock" and "createimage" from this assignment will be used throughout the semester.

We have provided code for project 1 for you to use as a starting point.  The code can be found on the princeton machines ( in either /u/cos318/1_pre/* (or the tarfile /u/cos318/1_pre.tar.  To untar the code type 'tar -xvf 1_pre.tar').  The 1_pre directory should contain six files:

Since our entire project will be using the USB flash disk, please do not read/modify the hard disk.

To sign up for the design review, please use online signup here.

Project Overview

First, this project requires a design review.  For the design review you are expected to have working print_char and print_string methods written in assembly and a reasonable design for the rest of the project.  The project itself can be split into two parts, the bootblock code and the boot image (created by createimage).  It is recommended that you get one part working before attempting the other part.

A PC can be booted up in two modes: cold boot or warm boot. Cold boot means you power down and power up the machine by pressing the power button of a PC. Warm boot means that you press <ctrl><alt><del> keys together. Either way, the PC will reset the processor and run a piece of code in the BIOS to try to read the first sector from the first bootable device. So you should set the computer to try to boot from the USB flash device if the computer BIOS supports that. Otherwise, it will try to read a sector from other bootable device (say 1st hard disk drive). Once this sector is read in, the CPU will jump to the beginning of the loaded code.  In this project, the bootup code will be in the so called real mode (instead of protected mode, see links for more information).

Bootblock Overview

The file bootblock.s should contain the code that will be written on the boot sector of USB flash disk. This has to be written in x86 assembly and should not exceed 512 bytes (1 sector). This code will be responsible for loading in the rest of the operating system, setting up a stack for the kernel and then invoking the kernel.  You are required to handle kernels of size up to 127 sectors.  You will get extra credit if your bootblock can handle sizes greater than 128 sectors. (Please read more about extra credit section if you are interested.)

The bootblock gets loaded at memory address 0x07c0:0000. Your bootblock should load the OS starting at 0x0000:1000. In real mode, you have 640 KBytes starting at 0x0000:0000. The low memory area has some system data like the interrupt vectors and BIOS data. So, to avoid overwriting them, you should only use memory above 0x0000:1000 for this assignment.

To design and implement this, you need to learn about x86 architecture, CPU resets and how to read a sector from the USB flash drive with BIOS (described below). We have provided you with a trivial and useless kernel (kernel.s) to test whether your implementation works.

Note: You can assume that the entire OS is less or equal to 127 sectors for this project. If you are working on your home machines rather than the lab machines, please make sure your program also run on lab machine before submit it because your TA will be testing your program on lab machine.

The links on the main page provide assistance in understanding x86 assembly language and architecture.  The precept will also give assistance in understanding these topics.

To test your bootblock you can use the createimage.given file.  Type './createimage.given --extended ./bootblock ./kernel' then 'cat image > /dev/sda' to copy the image onto the USB flash disk.

Note: On the lab machines, the USB flash disk will be detected as /dev/sda. But on other linux machines you might have, USB flash disk could be detected as /dev/sdb or even sd? depending on whether other SCSI devices are present in the system. Please be careful and make sure your USB flash disk is mounted on /dev/sda before saving the image to /dev/sda. Otherwise, you risk ruin your file system on your exististing hard disk.

Createimage Overview

This program is a Linux tool to create a bootable kernel image.  To make your life a bit easier, we have provided you with a man page in the man directory included in the project tarfile. You can view the man page by typing

man -M man createimage

Please ignore the "-vm" option for this project.

Essentially, createimage takes a bootloader and several executables and places them all into one image file.  The bootloader must be placed in the first sector, while all other executables should be placed at offset specified in the ELF header.  To read an ELF file use fopen, fread, and fseek (see man pages for descriptions).  The program header (figure 2-1 of the ELF Documentation) contains information about each segment in the ELF and should be used to determine the address at which to place the segment.  Be aware of the following:

One more thing you will have to do is to mark the USB flash disk as "bootable device". You will have to put a signature in the boot sector B(first sector) of the USB flash disk so that the BIOS will recognize this device as bootable. The signature consists of two bytes: "0x55 0xaa", and you will need to put this signature at the end of the boot sector at offset 0x1fe.

You should read:

Program Submission

Submit your final solution electronically on using the following command:

/u/cos318/bin/318submit 1 README Makefile bootblock.s createimage.c

The submit command copies your files to the directory /u/cos318/submit/UserLogin/number and lists all the files that you have submitted for assignment number. UserLogin is your user account name. If you execute submit after the project deadline, your files are placed in directory number_late. You can run submit more than once, and you can submit partial lists of files.

Each group needs to submit only one copy.  This means that only one of you needs to submit.

Assembly Language Examples

Please read the assembly language provided before reading this section.  The file bootblock_examples.s also contains several x86 assembly language examples.

Loading an segment:offset

The project will require you to load a number into a segment register to setup the stack and data segments.  The code segment register (CS) cannot be loaded directly, but instead only indirectly through a JMP type instruction.  When loading a value into the stack segment register (SS), interuppts are disabled for the next instruction, thus allowing you to set the stack pointer (SP).  As an example of setting up the segment registers for data, consider the following string copy:

# Setup the registers - see chapter 3 of Intel ISA reference volume 2
movw DATA_SEGMENT, %ax
movw %ax, %ds
movw %ax, %es

# Move a byte from one string to the other - implictly DS:SI to ES:DI

# The values in %si and %di are automatically incremented/decremented based on the DF flag

Display memory

For your design review you are required to implement routines that print to the screen.  During booting, you can write directly to the screen by writing to the display RAM which is mapped starting at 0xb800:0000. Each location on the screen requires two bytes---one to specify the attribute (Use 0x07) and the second for the character itself. The text screen is 80x25 characters. So, to write to i-th row and j-th column, you write the 2 bytes starting at offset ((i-1)*80+(j-1))*2.

So, the following code sequence writes the character 'K' (ascii 0x4b) to the top left corner of the screen.
movw 0xb800,%bx

movw %bx,%es

movw $0x074b,%es:(0x0)

This code sequence is very useful for debugging.

Useful BIOS Features
You are allowed to use these BIOS functions to complete this assignment.

BIOS Int 0x13 Function 2 (From Undocumented PC)

Reads a number of 512 bytes diskette sectors starting from a specified location. The data read is placed into RAM at the location specified by ES:BX. The buffer must be sufficiently large to hold the data AND must not cross a 64K linear address boundary. (For our project, for simplicity, you can assume cylinder number bits 6&7 is zero).

Called with:
ah = 2

al = number of sectors to read,

ch = cylinder number,  (lowest 8 bits of the 10-bit cylinder number, 0 based)

cl, bits 6&7 = cylinder number bits 8 and 9.

    bits 0-5   = starting sector number, 1 to 63

dh = starting head number, 0 to 255

dl = drive number, (0x80 + zero based hard driver number)  (Note: use dl = 0x80 for the first hard disk. For this project, if you want to boot USB flash disk on the lab machines, you can set dl to be 0x80 because on our lab machines, the USB flash disk will be treated as the first bootable hard disk with dl=0x80. On other machines, this might not be true since different BIOS could treat the USB flash disk as different devices like floppy disk, see note below for more information.)

es:bx = pointer where to place information read from diskette

ah = return status (0 if successful)

al = burst error length if ah = 11; undefined on most BIOSes for other ah return status values.

carry = 0 successful, = 1 if error occurred

Note: If you want to make your USB flash disk to boot on machines other than the lab machines, you may also need to save the register %dl at the begining of your bootloader code. The register %dl will contain the correct driver number corresponding to this USB boot device. (Because on different computer, the USB flash disk could be treated differently. We have seen on one computer with AMIBIOS, the USB boot device is being recognized as driver 0x0 rather than 0x80 on the lab machines.) So you can use the right dl value when you call the BIOS function calls.

BIOS Int 0x10 Function 0x0e (From Undocumented PC)

This function sends a character to the display at the current cursor position on the active display page. As necessary, it automatically wraps lines, scrolls and interprets some control characters for specific actions. Note : Linefeed is 0x0a and carriage return is 0x0d.

Called with:
ah = 0x0e

al = character to write

bh = active page number (Use 0x00)

bl = foreground color (graphics mode only) (Use 0x02)

character displayed

Extra credits

In order to get extra credits, your bootloader will need to be able to load more than 128 sectors. In order to do that, you will need to use another BIOS call listed below. With that BIOS call, you will be able to get the disk parameter and then read sector by sector to load more than 128 sectors.

BIOS Int 0x13 Function 8 (From Undocumented PC)

This function gets the drive parameters for the specified driver.
Called with:

ah = 8
dl = driver number (0x80 + zero based hard driver number)

if successful:

ah = 0

al = undefined
carry = 0
ch = maximum cylinder number (lowest 8 bits of the 10-bits cylinder number, 0 based)

cl, bits 6&7 = cylinder number bits 8 and 9.

    bits 0-5   = maximum sector number, 1 to 63

dh = maximum head number, 0 to 255

dl = number of drives

if failed (but at least one drive is active)

ah = 7
carry = 1
al = cx = dx = 0

if failed (because no hard disk exists)
ah = 1
carry = 1
al = bx = cx = dx = es = 0

COS318 Staff