Michael Zucchi

 B.E. (Comp. Sys. Eng.)

  also known as zed
  & handle of notzed


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Wednesday, 09 October 2013, 16:47

It works!

Just managed to get the relocating loader run it's first bit of code successfully:

~/src/elf-loader-1.0# ./reloc-test 
elf_reloc_core `e-test-reloc.elf' to core 0,0 at 0x18000-0x1ffff
dump of section headers
     Type            name                           addr     offset   size      entsz   link   info    addralign  flags
 00:  0 SHT_NULL                                    00000000 00000000 00000000       0       0       0 0000000
 01:  1 SHT_PROGBITS .init                          00000000 00000034 00000024       0       0       0 0000002 SHF_ALLOC SHF_EXECINSTR
 02:  4 SHT_RELA     .rela.init                     00000000 000047dc 00000030      12      36       1 0000004
 03:  1 SHT_PROGBITS .text                          00000000 00000060 00000398       0       0       0 0000016 SHF_ALLOC SHF_EXECINSTR
 04:  4 SHT_RELA     .rela.text                     00000000 0000480c 00000324      12      36       3 0000004
 05:  1 SHT_PROGBITS .fini                          00000000 000003f8 0000001a       0       0       0 0000002 SHF_ALLOC SHF_EXECINSTR
 06:  4 SHT_RELA     .rela.fini                     00000000 00004b30 00000018      12      36       5 0000004
 07:  1 SHT_PROGBITS .jcr                           00000000 00000414 00000004       0       0       0 0000004 SHF_WRITE SHF_ALLOC
 08:  1 SHT_PROGBITS .data                          00000000 00000418 00000458       0       0       0 0000008 SHF_WRITE SHF_ALLOC
 09:  4 SHT_RELA     .rela.data                     00000000 00004b48 0000003c      12      36       8 0000004
 10:  1 SHT_PROGBITS .ctors                         00000000 00000870 00000008       0       0       0 0000004 SHF_WRITE SHF_ALLOC
 11:  1 SHT_PROGBITS .dtors                         00000000 00000878 00000008       0       0       0 0000004 SHF_WRITE SHF_ALLOC
 12:  1 SHT_PROGBITS .tm_clone_table                00000000 00000880 00000000       0       0       0 0000004 SHF_WRITE SHF_ALLOC
 13:  1 SHT_PROGBITS .rodata                        00000000 00000880 00000004       0       0       0 0000004 SHF_ALLOC

 ... etc ...
actual loading of sections
 1: load .init                          on-core @ 00058  host 0x18058 36
 3: load .text                          on-core @ 00080  host 0x18080 920
 5: load .fini                          on-core @ 00418  host 0x18418 26
 7: load .jcr                           on-core @ 00434  host 0x18434 4
 8: load .data                          on-core @ 00438  host 0x18438 1112
10: load .ctors                         on-core @ 00890  host 0x18890 8
11: load .dtors                         on-core @ 00898  host 0x18898 8
12: load .tm_clone_table                on-core @ 008a0  host 0x188a0 0
13: load .rodata                        on-core @ 008a0  host 0x188a0 4
15: load IVT_RESET                          isr @ 00000
17: load RESERVED_CRT0                  on-core @ 008a4  host 0x188a4 12
19: load .rodata.str1.8                 on-core @ 008b0  host 0x188b0 8
20: load .bss                           on-core @ 008b8  host 0x188b8 8
core bss start = 008b8
21: load .bss.shared                  xshared @ 8e000000  host 0xb4e3e000 8

processing reloc hunks
      offset   symid  addend   type              section symval   symsize result                 name
 1:   00000004 000002 0000015c R_EPIPHANY_LOW          3 00000000       0 [fffe805c / 0000005c <= 000001dc] 
LOW p = 0x1805c <= low(000001dc) *p=0002000b <- 00121b8b
 1:   00000008 000002 0000015c R_EPIPHANY_HIGH         3 00000000       0 [fffe8060 / 00000060 <= 000001dc] 
HI  p = 0x18060 <=  hi(000001dc) *p=1002000b <- 1002000b
 1:   0000000e 000002 0000035c R_EPIPHANY_LOW          3 00000000       0 [fffe8066 / 00000066 <= 000003dc] 
LOW p = 0x18066 <= low(000003dc) *p=0002000b <- 00321b8b
 1:   00000012 000002 0000035c R_EPIPHANY_HIGH         3 00000000       0 [fffe806a / 0000006a <= 000003dc] 
HI  p = 0x1806a <=  hi(000003dc) *p=1002000b <- 1002000b
 3:   00000090 000008 00000000 R_EPIPHANY_LOW         12 00000000       0 [fffe8110 / 00000110 <= 000008a0] 
LOW p = 0x18110 <= low(000008a0) *p=0002000b <- 0082140b
 3:   00000094 0001af 00000003 R_EPIPHANY_LOW         12 00000000       0 [fffe8114 / 00000114 <= 000008a3] ___TMC_END__
LOW p = 0x18114 <= low(000008a3) *p=0002200b <- 0082346b

... etc ...

15:   00000000 0001a4 00000000 R_EPIPHANY_SIMM24      17 00000000      10 [fffe8000 / 00000000 <= 000008a4] .normal_start
SIMM24 reloc 00000000  000000e8 <- 000452e8
17:   00000000 0001a5 00000000 R_EPIPHANY_LOW          3 00000000     132 [fffe88a4 / 000008a4 <= 00000080] _epiphany_start
LOW p = 0x188a4 <= low(00000080) *p=0002600b <- 0002700b
17:   00000004 0001a5 00000000 R_EPIPHANY_HIGH         3 00000000     132 [fffe88a8 / 000008a8 <= 00000080] _epiphany_start
HI  p = 0x188a8 <=  hi(00000080) *p=1002600b <- 1002600b

running test code
find symbol _shared
 section base = 8e000000
shared address = 0xb4e3e000
 before 0,0 after 0,0
 before 0,1 after 1,1
 before 1,2 after 2,2
 before 2,3 after 3,3
 before 3,4 after 4,4

Not much to look at it but it shows it's relocating and linking properly and communicating between the host and the epu.

So that's only for a single core, now I have to go away and think about multi-core programmes.

Tagged parallella.
Tuesday, 01 October 2013, 20:48

Loading bits and pieces

Bit of a combination of work, life, weather, drink (hmm i think i damaged my speakers again oops), hayfever, and sleep has kept me from being able to concentrate enough to get much done but I have made some progress. I managed to get a little bit done tonight but i'm pretty much stuffed and need a break.

But what I do have working is most of a relocating loader which can take a file linked with -r and splat it anywhere in a given memory space and resolve all the references to create a runnable programme. I worked out the epiphany reloc types I required for a small test code and verified them with the disassembler.

I ran in to some strange problems with writing directly to epu and the shared memory block but now I look at the code it seems I forgot to reset/halt the epu first. So hopefully it was just the epu running random junk and crashing the computer and not something funny about the writes.

To work around that (before i spotted the error above) I just wrote to a separate 32k block in memory and then dump it to an assembly file (as .bytes) i can then compile to a binary ... on which i can run a disassembler (e-objdump) to verify that the reloc has been spliced into the code properly. And what I have working looks all pretty hunky dory. About the only thing missing are some of the c-runtime support variables and constants like the stack location. Oh and resolving the weak symbols but that's straightforward. Hmm, and the code support stuff like symbol resolution. So plenty left.

Runtime linking

Moving the architecture details from the linker to the loader provides some interesting possibilities although it also presents some problems.

As outlined last post the intention is to use the section names to assign data+code to different regions such as specific data banks, or shared or private external memory. But this can quickly turn into a non-trivial optimisation problem if any of the fixed regions start to overflow and you try to fit them in anyway. i.e. if you assign to bank1 and subsequently bank0 overflows, what then? It might still be possible to honour the bank targets by shifting things around, although all the linker does currently is fill from the start and just borks if anything overlaps. Right now i'm just processing sections as they arrive (which is fairly random straight from the compiler) but they can be processed in any order and/or a linker script used to clean it up.

Having it in the loader also means I run up against some of the C runtime support stuff which is hardcoded into the current linker scripts and runtime. e.g. the bss range and stack pointer. The current crt0 (bootstrap) code only initialises a single bss section although I intend to have many and the bootstrap code still needs to be be the one initialising it. So i'll probably need my own crt0/bootstrap stuff and work out how to get gcc to use it (gcc 'specs' files have always been an indecipherable and opaque mess to me, but i think i can just do it with a command line). But because everything is relocated dynamically the loader can initialise dynamic/complex structures and link them into the bootstrap code if necessary.

Linker scripts are still needed for some purposes but they can be far simpler. e.g. to put libc into external memory it's easiest just to use a linker script to rewrite the target sections appropriately. It's probably worth using it to order the sections a bit more sanely and strip out some of the weird section names.


The real bummer about all this is that gdb wont work as is on any binary loaded in this manner - there are no programe headers and the load addresses of every section are dynamically assigned at runtime (although this doesn't necessarily need to hold for the on-core code, it's necessary for any external code).

TBH I don't like the idea of trying to run gdb on a 64-core chip anyway and i've managed with printf's (or raster bars!) and hard system resets ever since I started coding so I can probably deal with it personally.

My intention isn't to create an alternative sdk anyway just to experiment with some low-level code for a change.

Updated handbook

After too many probing questions on the parallella forums Andreas of Adapteva has released an early draft of an updated epiphany handbook which has some pretty interesting newly documented stuff in it. Some of the cooler features include a separate oob signal bus capable of work-group-wide signalling and synchronisation, and a broadcast write feature. The latter is will be very useful for loading the same code on multiple cores for instance, and the former for some multi-core primitives like barrier.

Looking forward to exploring that stuff ... when i finally get to it.

Tagged parallella.
Saturday, 28 September 2013, 12:25

More ELF n stuff

Elf loader

I posted a simple elf loader for the parallella to the boards, but here's another link to it: elf-loader-0.0.tar.gz

This just handles the single-core case with nothing 'extra', it still requires special linker scripts and other foo.

It was really just a test to check some assumptions and fortunately they checked out.

A multi-loader?

I spent a few hours the night before trying to nut out a multi-core relocating loader but although I think I can pull it off it's kind of messy and it can't be made to do what I want it to.

The problem is that the linker will pull in all the library functions as static and although i can relocate per-core code to the per-cores, I need to copy all the static library functions used across all cores; and that just isn't going to be good enough given the tight memory.

What I really want is to have the linker create a specific binary for each core, ... but somehow handle multple cores too. But the problem is the linker will either whine or create redundant copies of any shared data structures.

So this morning I had a bit of an epiphany (pun intended) with the idea of using weak symbols. I can then define 'undefined' labels and just resolve them at load time. It does force me to use relocable code, but I need to anyway. Resolving and relocating a few undefined labels isn't that difficult and it's easy to tell if you failed.

That got me thinking a bit further and the way the linker is currently used isn't really that useful on the epiphany because it doesn't have an MMU. You can write code that sits on one core, or the same code that runs on multiple cores, but if you want to have multiple codes running on multiple cores each using private global memory - you're stuck with a huge headache of having to manually assign private memory ranges in the linker script! Might be acceptable for embedded programmers, but yeah, way too Commodore 64 for me these days.

But AmigaOS never had a problem running multiple code blocks it just relocated everything, even sparsely if that so happened. Simply ignoring all the elf-features designed for MMU capability makes a lot more sense than trying to shoe-horn them to fit. So does finding a better approach than using compile-time-fixed linker-defined memory map.

The solution

This is my first thoughts on how to solve this problem. I drop the notion of being able to target multiple cores within the one file but I get a pile of benefits.

I still have to nut out some C runtime issues and where the weak reference's concrete instantiations are defined, but I'm pretty confident this will work and moreover that it is a good solution.

Since all the code is relocable there's no reason to use position independent code (which the compiler doesn't support yet) and there's no reason to include platform-specific details inside the linker script. The linker script can be very simple and is just used to partition external sections between on-core and off-core memory.

Note that even though the code is statically linked this will allow multiple separate instances of the the c (or other) library to be loaded across multiple cores. This might waste a bit of space but is much easier than dynamic linking and solves all the concurrency issues.

Relocating is more work than not having to, but it's not much work. And if a 7mhz 68000 can do it fast enough to be practical, surely a 1Ghz ARM can too.

Update: Moved the location of the elf-loader distribution.

Tagged parallella.
Thursday, 26 September 2013, 17:49

EPU elf loader, reloc, etc.

I've come to the point where I need to start looking at placing different code on different epu's and having them talk to each other via on-chip writes ...

But the current SDK is a bit clunky here. One basically has to write custom linker scripts, custom loader calls, and then manually link various bits together either with custom compile-time steps or manual linking (or even hardcoded absolute addresses).

So ... i've been looking into writing my own loader which will take care of some of the issues:

  1. Allow symbolic lookup from host code, a-la OpenGLES;
  2. Allow standard C resolution of symbols across cores;
  3. Allow multi-core code to be loaded into different topologies/different hardware setups automatically.

Symbolic lookup

This is relatively straightforward and just involves a bit of poking around the ELF file. It's pretty straightforward and since ELF is designed for this kind of thing it takes very little code in the simple case.

Cross-core symbols

Fortunately the linker can do most of this, I just need a linker script but one that can be shared across multiple implementations.

My idea is to have the linker work against "virtual" cores which are simply 1MB apart in the address space. Section attributes can place code or data blocks into individual cores or shared memory or tls blocks.

Relocating loader

Because the cores are "virtual" the loader can then re-arrange them to suit the target topology and/or work-group. I'm going to rely on the linker creating relocatable code so i'm able to do this - basically it retains the reloc hunks in the final binary.

I'm not relying on position independent code for this - and actually that would just make life harder.

Linker too?

The problem is that the linker is going to spew if i try to put the same code into local blocks on different cores ... you know simple things like maths routines that really need to be local to the core. The alternative is to build a different complete binary for each core ... but then you're stuck with no way to automatically resolve addresses across cores and you're back where you started.

So it's going to have to get a lot more involved than just a simple load and reloc.

I'm just hoping i can somehow leverage/trick the linker into creating a single executable that has most of the linking work done, and then I'm able to finish it off at runtime without having to do everthing. Perhaps just duplicate all the sections common to all cores and then relocate and link in the per-core blocks.

Hmm, i think i need to think about this a bit more first.

Tagged parallella.
Wednesday, 25 September 2013, 17:33

Hmm, Valve, AMD, Nvidia?

Hmm, so have Valve and the Gabester finally managed to do what common sense and economics couldn't?

That is, get AMD and perhaps even Nvidia to start working on proper GPU drivers for Linux?

Nvidia just announced that they're going to start helping the GPL driver effort all of a sudden. AMD are teasing about a GNU/Linux and game related announcement in under 12 hours. And Valve's "SteamStation" is being announced one way or another in under 12 hours too.

I guess we'll know soon enough ... it'll give me something to read in the morning unless I wake up at 4am again ...

I'm most interested in what AMD have to announce. The best we can hope for is a properly-free reference implementation of GPU + HSA for AMD APU machines - this is probably in the realm of dreaming but you never know because it makes a hell of a lot of sense economically. And fits some of their HSA related rumblings. Add in a range of "desktop" parts from low to high powered to match and it could be an interesting day. HSA has the potential to be the biggest leap in IBM compatible PC architecture in history - even if it is just all the way back to 1995 (Amiga).

SteamOS is interesting to me beyond the GameOS potential. Having an 'under tv' option which isn't Sony, or XBMC, or Google has to be a good thing. Android is a pretty sucky 'spin' of GNU/Linux. The optimistic part of me also looks forward to the announcement of some sort of OpenGL based display mechanism that would finally fuck The X Window System and it's other shitty replacements right off into to the dustbin of history where they belong. Actually I take back what I said about being most interested in what AMD have to say, a replacement for X that isn't just X-again wayland or ubuntu-i-can't-believe-it's-not-linux's mir would be very, very welcome.

One hopes that Nvidia's announcement is also genuine (and also involved in Valve's announcement) and not just a cynical response to something AMD/Valve are expected to say. Because of nvidia's shithouse opencl support and performance on their mainstream parts, they are still "dead to me" - but that isn't a universal opinion.


Well ... that was unexpected. A proprietary game api? Oh-kay.

So I guess AMD want to play the market power card? After wrapping up all the consoles?

I thought the whole point of the HSA design was to improve the efficiency of existing apis ...

Still at this point there isn't enough details to really make much of a judgement call. No real info about Linux either, apart from an "importance" of cross-platform support (but that could mean anything).

I guess this was an announcment of game cards, and game cards are bought by game players and game players buy game cards based on game benchmarks ... and a smaller API could definitely make a big difference there.

So I guess we'll just have to continue to wait and see on the APU and HSA fronts, and the same goes for the steam-machine. Poo to that.

Tagged rants.
Monday, 23 September 2013, 15:59

Balanced, but fair?

So i've been following the xbone trainwreck over the last few months. It's been pretty entertaining, I like to see a company like m$ get their comeuppance. It's been a complete PR disaster, from the meaningless "180" to the technical specifications.

The FUD is stinking up the discourse a little though so here's a bit of fudbusting of my own.


Balance is an interesting term - but only if you've fucked up somewhere. Every system aims to be balanced within it's externally determined contraints - that's pretty much the whole point of systems engineering. It relates to the efficiency of a given design but says NOTHING WHATSOEVER about it's performance.

One of the main constraints is always cost and clearly that was one of the major factors in the xbone cpu design. Within the constraints of making a cheap machine it may well be balanced but it's certainly not as fast as the current competition.

m$ are trying to use the chief ps4 engineer's words against him in that he stated that they have more CU's than is strictly necessary for graphics - but the design is clearly intented to use the CU's for compute from the start. And in that scenario the xbone's gpu becomes unbalanced as it has inadequate ALU.

For the sort of developer that works on games I imagine GPU coding is really pretty easy. And with the capabilities of the new HSA-capable devices it should be efficient too - as soon as one has any sort of parallel job just chuck that routine on a GPU core instead of the cpu. Not catering for this seems short-sighted at best.

"Move engines"

These are just plain old DMA engines. Every decent personal computer has them since the Amiga 1000. They have them because they are useful but there's nothing particularly special or unique about them today and the AMD SOC in both consoles will have these - infact they will have several.

Even the beagleboard has a few of them (i can't remember if it's 2 or 4), and they can do rectangle copies, colour fill and even chroma-key. The CELL BE in the PS3 has a 16-deep DMA queue on each SPU - allowing up to 16 in-flight DMA operations PER SPU (i.e. 112 per CELL BE, not including other DMA engines). The epiphany core has 2 2-D DMA channels per EPU - or 32 independent channels for a 16-core chip.

They don't take too much hardware to implement either, just a couple of address registers, adders and a memory interface/arbiter (the biggest bit).

Hardware Scaler & "Display Planes"

i.e. overlays. Video hardware has had this sort of functionality for a couple of decades. IIRC even the lowly beagleboard has 3 "display planes" one of which has an alpha channel, and two of which can be scaled independently using high quality multi-tap filters and two of which support YUV input. Basically they're used for a mouse pointer and a video window, but they could be used for more.

Overlays are really useful if you have a low-bandwidth/low-performance system because of the "free" scaling and yuv conversion, but aren't going to make much of a difference on a machine like the xbone. For example even at 68GB/s one can read or write over 8000x1080P 32-bit frames per second, so you're looking at only a few percent maximum render time on a 50fps display for blending and scaling several separate display planes.

Good to have - sure, but no game-changer and certainly no unique 'value add'.

DRM & the 180

Personally I don't think anything much changed with their "180" on the DRM thing. DRM is still there, and even without a nightly parole check there are plenty of ways to have effectively the same thing. e.g. make a game pretty shit without being constantly on-line, tie a given disk to an account the first time you use it, and so on. And whatever they were planning could always be turned on at the flick of a switch at any future point in time (it needn't have to work with any game previously published, just with ones published after that point).

BTW Sony are really no better here despite all the free PR they wallowed in. Sure they never tried the really dumb idea of banning second hand sales of physical discs (it was an absurd idea anyway as much of they money you might make back from it would be swallowed in adminstration costs and given it would kill the used game market it would probably just end up being revenue negative). But they're making download-only attractive enough that people are foregoing their rights for convenience and the end result is pretty much the same.

All consoles have always been heavily laden with DRM - it was always one of their selling points to developers to negate the wide-spread sharing that everyone does on personal computers.

I can't see the difference...

This is just straight-up PR speak for "we don't expect the average (i.e. uneducateD) `consumer' to notice the difference".

Would you like some condescention with that?

It's all FUD and Games

The great thing about FUD is you don't even have to do much. Say a couple of things in the right places and you get ill-informed but well-intentioned people doing all your work for you. They don't even realise they've been manipulated.

We'd all let the games speak for themselves if we could actually see them ... but developers have to sign NDAs that wont let them talk about the differences, and rumours suggest they're not even allowed to show the games side-by-side at trade shows. So telling people to "see the games" is being very dishonest at best. It's just a FUD teqnique to try to get people locked in to buying their product. Once they get it home and see they've been sold a lemon few will be motivated to do anything about it, and if they get enough early adopters the network effects take over (this is why they're scambling so much even though they were clearly aiming for a 2014 launch - it has to be now or never, at least in their grand plan).

From what we can see the xbone was basically created as the end-game for their trojan horse in the home idea - a $700 hand-wavey remote control that you have to pay a subscription to use, and which monitors demographics and viewer reactions and serves advertisements appropriately. Playing games is only a secondary function - as can clearly be seen by the technical specifications.

If playing games was the primary function of the design then they simply "done fucked up". A company this big doesn't waste this much money over the course of a decade to fuck up at the end of it.

Tagged rants.
Thursday, 19 September 2013, 16:26

Anyone for dessert?

Made this yesterday and thought it looked nice enough to post ...

An unbaked cheesecake is not the sort of thing I normally make but it doesn't hurt to know how. I don't have a very sweet tooth but I don't mind sweet things that are supposed to be sweet (in limited amounts). Sister-in-law had bought the strawberries so I used them too.

I'd made a nicely tart lime cheesecake last week and at first I was just going to have this one vanilla but to the same basic recipe. But on the spoon it tasted too much like sweetened condensed milk (yuck) so i added some lime and so it ended up a sort of vanilla + tart yoghurt sort of flavour.

Tagged cooking.
Sunday, 15 September 2013, 10:44

So that DuskZ thing ...

After doing nothing with it for months I finally checked in all the DuskZ code I had sitting on my HDD.

Unfortunately its very much work in progress and I didn't do any cleaning up (other than check the licensing), so it's all just "as it was" right now. I think the last thing I added was animated tiles, and before that multiple-map support.

At least some of the code there is a decent quality, although not much use on it's own.

Is it dead or just pining?

I'm not sure when I will get time to work on it again - i'm either too busy or hungover lately and it's hard enough to get the time just to fit in social interaction or the garden with all other hacking i'm doing lately. Actually it's not so much the physical time as being able to fit it in mentally as one needs to devote quite a bit of mind-share to do a good job. Like most I'm usually more active during summer so maybe i'll have time to fit it in ...

Just going through the code checking the licenses did pique my interest a little bit but also made me realise I would need a good few days of switched-on thinking to be able to do the next bit of work, that is after I even work out where I was at.

An embedded database backend would definitely be high on the list for example.

Tagged dusk.
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