Re: USB transfer_buffer allocations on 64bit systems

From: Alan Stern
Date: Wed Apr 07 2010 - 10:59:53 EST

On Wed, 7 Apr 2010, Daniel Mack wrote:

> Hi,
> I was pointed to by
> Pedro Ribeiro, and unfortunately I'm pretty late in the game. I wasn't
> aware of that thread until yesterday.
> While the report is quite confusing, the reason seams pretty clear to me
> as I've been thru quite some time-demanding debugging of a very similar
> issue on Mac OS X. But I'm not totally sure whether we really hit the
> same issue here, so I'd like to have your opinions first.
> The problem is appearantly the way the transfer buffer is allocated in
> the drivers. In the snd-usb-caiaq driver, I used kzalloc() to get memory
> which works fine on 32bit systems. On x86_64, however, it seems that
> kzalloc() hands out memory beyond the 32bit addressable boundary, which
> the DMA controller of the 32bit PCI-connected EHCI controller is unable
> to write to or read from. Am I correct on this conclusion?

That seems like the right answer. You are correct that an EHCI
controller capable only of 32-bit memory accesses would not be able to
use a buffer above the 4 GB line.

> Depending on the condition of the memory management, things might work
> or not, and especially right after a reboot, there's a better chance to
> get lower memory.
> The fix is to use usb_buffer_alloc() for that purpose which ensures
> memory that is suitable for DMA. And on x86_64, this also means that the
> upper 32 bits of the address returned are all 0's.

That is not a good fix. usb_buffer_alloc() provides coherent memory,
which is not what we want. I believe the correct fix is to specify the
GFP_DMA32 flag in the kzalloc() call.

Of course, some EHCI hardware _is_ capable of using 64-bit addresses.
But not all, and other controller types aren't. In principle we could
create a new allocation routine, which would take a pointer to the USB
bus as an additional argument and use it to decide whether the memory
needs to lie below 4 GB. I'm not sure adding this extra complexity
would be worthwhile.

> If what I've stated is true, there are quite some more drivers affected
> by this issue.

Practically every USB driver, I should think. And maybe a lot of
non-USB drivers too.

> I collected a list of places where similar fixes are
> needed, and I can send patches if I get a thumbs-up.
> Pedro is currently testing a patch I sent out yesterday.

Good work -- it certainly would have taken me a long time to figure
this out.

Alan Stern

To unsubscribe from this list: send the line "unsubscribe linux-kernel" in
the body of a message to majordomo@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
More majordomo info at
Please read the FAQ at