No disagreement here
Posted Oct 5, 2007 1:10 UTC (Fri) by filker0
In reply to: Embedded is a special case
Parent article: Memory part 2: CPU caches
Embedded systems may outnumber general purpose PCs, but I doubt that any single platform
outnumbers them on its own. Also, far fewer programmers ever have a chance to program one.
Whether all programmers have to know how to deal with systems with 4 different types of RAM,
or demand paged high speed static RAM that is paged from a larger SDRAM, that in turn is paged
from NOR or NAND Flash by a separate microprocessor that implements a predictive pre-fetch.
Each platform is a special case.
A game engine such as the one you describe provides a virtual machine, and makes a heck of a
lot of sense. All you have to port, as you said, is the VM. (Not all VMs use byte-codes, afterall).
My current project (I'm the low-level platform guy) involves a lot of cache performance
optimization in the application level code -- aligning data on cache line boundaries, use of burst
DMA to do memory-to-memory transfers in parallel with continued code execution, and explicit
cache loading and flushes. But in our system, everything is deterministic (it has to be by the
rules of our industry). Determinism is extremely hard on a pipelined RISC architecture, and when
you add cache to the picture, it becomes almost impossible. In our case, though we need to
squeeze every drop of performance that we can, that comes second to it always taking the same
amount of time to do a specific operation.
Most programmers don't have to know the kind of cache details that game console and some
other embedded programmers (avionics, in my case) do. Still, I think it's good that more
programmers understand the concepts and techniques for improving cache performance in a
general multi-programming environment.
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