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README on the IOBARRIER for CardEngine IO
Due to an unfortunate oversight when the Card Engines were designed,
the signals that control access to some peripherals, most notably the
SMC91C9111 ethernet controller, are not properly handled.
The symptom is that some back to back IO with the peripheral returns
unreliable data. With the SMC chip, you'll see errors about the bank
register being 'screwed'.
The cause is that the AEN signal to the SMC chip does not transition
for every memory access. It is driven through the CPLD from the CS7
line of the CPU's static memory controller which is optimized to
eliminate unnecessary transitions. Yet, the SMC requires a transition
for every write access. The Sharp website has more information about
the effect this power-conserving feature has on peripheral
The solution is to follow every write access to the SMC chip with an
access to another memory region that will force the CPU to release the
chip select line. It is important to guarantee that this access
forces the CPU off-chip. We map a page of SDRAM as if it were an
uncacheable IO device and read from it after every SMC IO write
Only this sequence is important. It does not matter that there is no
BARRIER IO before the access to the SMC chip because the AEN latch
only needs occurs after the SMC IO write cycle. The routines that
implement this work-around make an additional concession which is to
disable interrupts during the IO sequence. Other hardware devices
(the LogicPD CPLD) have registers in the same the physical memory
region as the SMC chip. An interrupt might allow an access to one of
those registers while SMC IO is being performed.
You might be tempted to think that we have to access another device
attached to the static memory controller, but the empirical evidence
indicates that this is not so. Mapping 0x00000000 (flash) and
0xc0000000 (SDRAM) appear to have the same effect. Using SDRAM seems
to be faster. Choosing to access an undecoded memory region is not
desirable as there is no way to know how that chip select will be used
in the future.