The book starts with an overview of Linux and the IA-64 architecture and then discusses each major subsystem of the kernel in more detail. Among others, there are separate chapters on how multi-tasking maps onto the underlying hardware, on the virtual memory subsystem, device support (programemd I/O, DMA & interrupts), symmetric multi-processing (SMP), and on the bootstrap procedure needed to bring a computer to live. These chapters place great emphasis not just on the "what", but also on the "how" and "why" of how Linux accomplishes its tasks. Each chapter has two primary components: the first describes the interfaces that the Linux kernel uses to abstract platform differences, and the second describes how these interfaces have been realized for IA-64. This structure makes the book useful not just to those readers interested specifically in IA-64 Linux, but also to anyone who would like to gain a better understanding of how Linux works on other platform.
Amazon 2008-12-06. Incredibly detailed coverage of both IA-64 as an architecture and Linux (2.4, unfortunately, and mid-to-early 2.4 at that) as an operating system. That having been said, without at least a semester's study of both operating systems and processor design, this book could be very frustrating -- readers without a thorough knowledge of memory hierarchies, instruction set architectures, and the hw/sw interface will be lost, despite the warm assurances of the introduction. I was skeptical, especially upon reading in the Foreward that "one of the authors (Mosberger --nick) is one of the few people who could pick up and lead Linux development", of the authorship -- bad books about Linux are plentiful (thanks largely to purveyors of filth like O'Reilly and their ilk), and Mosberger's not a major name on LKML. It becomes immediately obvious that Mosberger knows his shit inside and out, backwards and forewards -- the reason he's not all over LKML is because his code (and by that, I mean the ia64 port, since he runs it with a gentle fist of despotism) works well, lacks braindamage and is properly designed from the beginning. The ia64 patches flow smoothly to Linus's git tree and all is well.
The first chapter has some incredibly deep insights worth the price of a (used) copy alone. Don't be frightened off by the epic (pun intended, hah) second chapter; churn through it and trust that Mosberger will refer back as needed. By the time he's done reading this book's just amazingly thorough coverage (full chapters on performance monitoring, stack unwinding, device i/o, and booting -- well-written chapters, not afterthoughts -- were especially pleasing), a competent and motivated systems programmer ought be able to build a small UNIX kernel on ia64 from scratch.
My only regrets were that SMP was treated rather briefly (but that's not so much an ia64 topic, just a huge and looming topic over all of systems research), and that material not written by Mosberger (identified in the ACKs) is cut from a clearly lesser cloth. in terms of both quality and depth.
Kudos to the HP Technical Publishing line for their second success in as many samples!