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[Tinycc-devel] TinyCC for bootstrapping (with patches)

From: Giovanni Mascellani
Subject: [Tinycc-devel] TinyCC for bootstrapping (with patches)
Date: Sun, 13 Jan 2019 17:02:38 +0100
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Dear TinyCC devs,

I am using TinyCC as a component of my asmc project[1], whose main aim
is to develop a bootstrapping operating system. Basically of this OS is
that at boot time there is only a minimal amount of compiled binary code
(called the "seed", currently around 15 KB for asmc). All the rest of
the system is provided in source code form, and the binary seed contains
just enough code to compile some of the source code, to obtain a more
powerful compiler, which can then be used to compile more of the source
code, and so on. Ideally, and in the far future, the idea is that at the
end of all this chain one has a working copy of Linux, with all the
userspace tools (and, yes, compilers!), without feeding to the computer
nothing more than the initial small binary seed (and the computer
firmware, unfortunately; removing this dependency would be nice, but
it's a future goal).

 [1] https://gitlab.com/giomasce/asmc/

As I said, currently TinyCC appears in this chain of compilers, since it
is an ideal component for this approach: it is written in rather simple
C, it is just one program (as opposed as a suite of many different and
complicated programs like GCC), but it supports in turn many of the
things that GCC supports, and the libtcc.h API is very useful and nice!

In order to fit TinyCC in asmc, I had to patch it a little bit. Many
changes are probably not fit for upstream tcc, but some might be. Since
I am here for the first time, I do not want to commit to mob without
having your approval first. In particular, for the moment I submit these
two changes to your attention:

1) The usage of read() in tccelf.c is wrong: the return result is nearly
never checked, so short reads go undetected. The attached patch fixes
this bug by recalling read() whenever needed. It must be pointed out
that my patch does not close all the bugs, because errors are still not
detected in most cases. But still there is an improvement, because at
least read()-s are correct even when short. The patch can also be seen
at [2].


2) I patched TinyCC so that it can be built by a compiler that does not
support floating point numbers (as is the case for the C compiler in
asmc that builds TinyCC). Basically I import in the TinyCC repository
the code from the Berkeley SoftFloat library[3] and replace each
operation between floating point numbers with the corresponding call to
SoftFloat. SoftFloat is licensed under a permissive BSD-style license,
so it should pose no problems to be linked with TinyCC. I also had to
take some code from musl (mainly to implement strtod and variants),
which is licensed under a MIT license.

 [3] http://www.jhauser.us/arithmetic/SoftFloat.html

In its current form the SoftFloat patch is totally not acceptable for
inclusion in mob. It is quite messy and I doubt it works properly for
non-Intel architectures. However, before fixing it up I would like to
know what is your opinion on including this feature in TinyCC. If would
definitely bring in a lot of new code, which might be against the KISS
philosophy that TinyCC has. On the other side it would make it possible
to emulate the correct floating point behaviour of the target even when
cross compiling (SoftFloat also has specific code for emulating ARM
behaviour, although I am not really sure what changes from Intel to
ARM), which is listed in TinyCC's TODO file[4] (although I believe that
file is pretty old, and I am not sure it reflects the project's current


So I would like to hear what you think on this. Keep in mind that the
SoftFloat patch does not modify the generated code, which still uses the
floating point opcodes. The change is only in the compiler itself.

I am not attaching the whole patch, because it would be uselessly large.
You can find it in my repository[5], if you want. In order to test it,
compile with "--extra-cflags=-DUSE_SOFTFLOAT". tcc should work as
before, but without using floating point instructions.

 [5] https://gitlab.com/giomasce/tinycc/tree/softfloat

Thanks for reading and for working on TinyCC, and please let me know
what you think of my patches.

Giovanni Mascellani <address@hidden>
Postdoc researcher - Université Libre de Bruxelles

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