I  thought I would put out a quick review of the book I referred to in yesterday’s post.  Here is a shot of the cover of ISBN 978-1466470033, bought on Amazon for $25 in September 2012 (now out of print though and listed as used thereon for the somewhat ridiculous markup of $974.11).

1466470038.01._SX450_SY635_SCLZZZZZZZ_

The third edition ISBN 978-1484921906 is out now, and costs under $20.

When the DEC Alpha processor first came out two decades ago as I was studying the MIPS R2000 in school, I naturally assumed I’d learn to program a 64-bit system in assembly someday. At the time I figured it’d be Intel’s rumored Merced architecture that they were developing alongside HP, but the eventual Itanium processor fizzled out right as it reached the server market. Customers just weren’t willing to gamble on the promised IA-64 software becoming available, not in the mature server business. The Alpha had never really taken off either (and eventually got killed by the HP merger after Compaq acquired DEC) so when Advanced Micro Devices quickly came out with their 64-bit architecture soon thereafter it seemed like a winner by default.

The “amd64” (as the Linux kernel refers to it) retained compatibility with the IA-32 instruction set so that users could still run all their old systems unmodified.  Intel soon followed suit with their own implementation of the “x86_64” architecture and while I prefer the AMD documentation set to Intel’s, neither takes a sufficiently tutorial approach for someone not raised on the architecture.

For those looking for a clean 64-bit assembly instruction set unburdened with 32-bit baggage let alone 16-bit, this book spends a minimum of time focusing on the legacy.  Registers may now be referred to by number, but since the architecture still isn’t fully orthogonal the lower-numbered ones are still referred to as rdx, rsi, etc.

Seyfarth’s book delivers on its promises for a very reasonably priced textbook of this quality.  After several chapters and well-contrived exercises, I felt about as comfortable formulating a solution in AMD64 as in ARM or MIPS.  I like the LaTeX look of the chapters as opposed to the typeset feel of a $100 text, and extra resources are available online at http://rayseyfarth.com/asm

One suggestion I have is that it is somewhat hard to read arbitrary 16-digit hex numbers in the examples.  C++14 allows the insertion of the tick digit separator inside hex (or any) literal constants now, so if there is any yasm syntax to break them up similarly I would suggest it for a possible fourth edition.

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