Cliff Hacks Things.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Compiling Java for the Propeller

My spare time is pretty limited these days -- work takes up a lot of it. On the up-side, I got promoted.

Over the past few months, some of my spare time has been spent designing a Java compiler that targets the Parallax Propeller. A few hand-coded mockups have convinced me that it's feasible -- the only thing between that and making it a reality are the past 50 years of compiler research, which I never learned. :-)

So, I've spent time surfing Citeseer and gathering data. Between what I've learned and my Propeller experience, I've set some parameters for the first version: it will compile to Large Memory Model code rather than a custom interpreter, and will consume Java class files.

As of this evening I've got a prototype working, and have compiled/assembled/uploaded my first binary. The bullet points are as follows:

  • Converts Java 6 JVML to n-address linear IR using abstract evaluation. Assumes input is verifiable, which lets me skip some checking. (Why Java 6? Because it generates nice frame attributes and doesn't use jsr.)

  • Operates almost exclusively in SSA (actually CSSA).

  • Performs register allocation in SSA form, using a crippled-but-developing version of Pereira's algorithm. I've modified it to deal more gracefully with the Propeller's CISC-like two-address architecture.

  • Provides limited scalar optimizations -- the ones I've gotten around to writing. Copy folding, constant propagation, jump-to-flow-control elimination, etc.

  • Fantastically crappy code generator for now -- literally printf-based with no intelligent layout or peephole optimizations, as you'll see in the samples below.

  • None of the fun stuff, like garbage collection, works yet.

Here's sample input and output from one of my test suites

public class Input0 {
public int function(int x) {
int y = 0;
while (y < x) {
y ++;
return y;

And the output, in propasm syntax (a superset of Parallax):

mov r2, #0
rdlong PC, PC ' inlined jmp
long @@L23063136
add r2, #1
rdlong PC, PC ' inlined jmp
long @@L23063136
' [int r2:1] <- phi ssa.BasicBlock@c4bcdc:[int c0:0] ssa.BasicBlock@18fef3d:[int r2:2]
cmps r2, r1 wc wz
call #prim_lt
long @@L26210109
long @@L25763215
mov r0, r2
call #prim_return

The "call #prim_foo" instructions are calls to LMM kernel traps; plenty of other people have explained Propeller LMM in detail elsewhere, I won't repeat it. My code generator inlines LMM primitives in some cases, as it's done with jump here.

Some details of the calling conventions are apparent in the output: incoming arguments start at r0, and the returned value comes back in r0. These registers are real-live Propeller registers inside the LMM kernel, and I suspect I'll have room for a lot of them -- 32 or more -- so I'm using a RISC-like register calling convention, with link register.

Assuming work doesn't interfere, I'll post more as it develops.

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