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dos.library changes

  • BPTR is always word-based
  • Changes to the handlers

STATUS: IMPLEMENTED (branch in SVN: branches/ABI_V1/trunk-DOS)

C struct field order changes

  • Some fields did not have the same order in the AROS includes as in the AmigaOS includes. Should mostly be fixed.

STATUS: IMPLEMENTED (branch in SVN: branches/ABI_V1/trunc-Misc); may need to be reviewed if it is complete.

The %ebx register

  • reserved on i386 as base for relative addressing and as libbase pointer passed to library functions

STATUS: IMPLEMENTED on hosted x86, native to be done (branch in SVN: branches/ABI_V1/trunk-rellibbase)

C library and ETask

  • The purpose of this change is to remove all arosc-specific extensions from the AROS Task structure. After the changes arosc.library will behave as any other shared library. It can then also be replaced with other C libraries if wanted. For the implementation I'm extending the auto-generated code from genmodule so it provides the features so that arosc.library can store all its state in its own per-opener/per-task libbase.

STATUS: IN PROGRESS (branches in SVN: branches/ABI_V1/trunk-genmodule_pob and branches/ABI_V1/trunk-arosc_etask; first big milestone is done as the iet_acpd field is removed from IntETask in arosc_etask branch).

dos.library compatibility

  • Switch everything to DOS packets and remove the current system based on devices. This has been heavily discussed on the mailing list. The current AROS implementation uses devices for message passing and the classic system used Port and DOS Packets. The latter is considered by many people as a hack on AmigaOS without fully following the rest of the OS internal structure. That's also reason why the alternative for AROS was developed in the first place. But it became clear that we'll have to implement a DOS packets interface anyway and thus the question became if we should have two alternative implementations in AROS. In the beginning I too was a big opponent of the DOS packets, mostly because the device interface allowed to run some code on the callers task and thus avoid task switches to reduce throughput. Using the PA_CALL and PA_FASTCALL feature of AROS ports the same could be achieved. In the end it was concluded that everything you could do with the device interface could also be done in the ports interface and vice versa and that having two systems next to each other is bloat.
  • In current implementation file handles and locks are the same and this should also be changed when switching to the DOS packets interface.


DECISION: A decision was made on 2008-11-13 to include this item in full scope into ABI_V1.

REMARKS: A proposal for decrease of scope and work needed was made:

Since the file systems we use today (SFS, AmberRAM, CDROM, FAT) are all package base (either via packet.handler or SFS packet emulation), why not instead of whole system change do the following:

  • add missing features to package.handler
  • migrate SFS to use packet.handler
  • all newly written modules need to be packet-based

Advantages: less work for 1.0, preparing for future change Disadvantages: this solution would probably not change until next major release

The validity of the proposal was not discussed.

Retest changes on x86 native

  • The changes in scope of ABI_V1 are implemented and tested on x86 hosted. Before the ABI_V1 can be considered completed, all changes need to be tested on the x86 native port


Write (i386) ABI reference manual

  • This will involve a lot of discussion on the mailing list to nail down the V1.0 version several APIs. During the writing of this manual a lot of things will pop up that have not be thought through yet, so ABI V1 and AROS 1.0 can only be released if this task is finished.

  • One of the important discussions is to clear out what is handled by the compiler and what is defined by the ABI of AROS itself. This border is quite vague at the moment.

  • We will have to go over all libraries and determine/document what a developer can or can't expect from all their functions. We should also be sure that all functions then also act as we describe in the ABI.

  • The manual will have to list all API that are not yet considered stable and should not be used by applications which want to be future-compatible:

    • kernel.resource
    • oop.library and HIDDs


SysBase location

  • Currently SysBase is a special global variable handled by the ELF loader; but some people don't seem to like it... I would like to keep it like that.

  • Another problem is that currently SysBase is one global pointer shared by all tasks. This is not SMP-compatible as we need a SysBase at least for each CPU/core separately:

    • Michal proposed to call a function every time you need SysBase.
    • Staf proposed to use virtual memory for that; e.g. that SysBase pointer has the same virtual address for each task but points to a different physical address for each CPU. Each task is allowed to access some fields of SysBase without using any exec calls. For example, it is allowed (or at least not forbidden) to access SysBase->ThisTask field, which would be different on different CPU cores. Having SysBase at fixed virtual address means, any task can cache the SysBase value and use it in any way. Each CPU core (or each Task if one prefers) would have it's own exclusive copy of SysBase - all of them at the same virtual address.
  • On topic of SMP: The "virtual" SysBase is just one tiny change among many others needed to make SMP work properly. Not to mention one of drawbacks of SMP on Amiga-like systems. The Forbid() call as well as Disable() has to block scheduler/interrupts on ALL CPUs.

  • Discussion on this topic


DECISION: A decision was made on 2008-11-25 to include this item into ABI_V1 implementing Staf suggestion about usage of MMU.

How to extend OS3.x shared libraries

  • Where to put AROS extension without hurting compatibility with future versions of MOS and/or AmigaOS ?


DECISION: A decision was made on 2008-12-04 to include this item into ABI_V1.

Varargs handling

  • stdarg.h, va_arg, SLOWSTACK_ARGS, ...
  • Is currently heavily discussed on the mailing list, but I myself don't have the time to delve into it. A summary of different proposals with some example code to see the effect on real code would be handy. My proposal is to switch to the startvalinear & co. from the adtools gcc compiler. This will use the same solution as is used for OS4. Advantage is that a limited change of code is needed to adapt this. Disadvantage is that the adtools gcc has to be used for compiling AROS.
  • A decision needs to be made whether we implement varags 'physically' the same on all architectures or we use the same macros/approach on every architecture, but this macro/approach can be implemented differently on each architecture. If the second approach is chosen, nothing has to be changed for i386. If the first approach is chosen (first proven possible) current code will have to be rewritten
  • More information on this topic


DECISION: A decision was made on 2008-12-10 to include this item into ABI_V1.

C library

  • no static version of arosc.library - This makes building arosc quite complex and all programs should be able to use the shared version anyway.

  • remove librom.a and arosc.library. arosc.library is split in three parts:

    • a std C subset that can be put in ROM as the first library, that thus does not need dos.library. This should then replace all usage of librom.a. This library is called stdc.library. It contains also the math functions which may make it too big for for example m68k ROMs.
    • a std C implementation of stdio is done as a light weight wrapper around AmigaOS file handles. The library is stdcio.library
    • Full POSIX implementation; possibly also including some BSD functions. This would then provide a (nearly) full POSIX implementation. This library should be optional and real Amiga programs should not need this library. The library is called posixc.library.
  • this change will influence all already compiled programs as arosc.library is gone.

  • a possibility to retain the compatibility by creating arosc2.library (new library) and reimplementing arosc.library as stub to arosc2.library was rejected - the ABI_V1 should be clean of such hacks

STATUS: IMPLEMENTED (branch in SVN: branches/ABI_V1/trunk-aroscsplit.)
Work is ongoing for debugging and merging in main trunk.

DECISION: A decision was made on 2008-12-14 to include this item into ABI_V1.

Topics not included in ABI_V1

exec: kernel.resource

  • This resource is meant to gather all arch and CPU-specific code for exec.library. This way exec.library would not need any arch-specific code but would use a call to kernel.resource functions when arch-specific information or actions are needed. This change can be delayed until after ABI V1.0 as exec.library is fixed; but programs that use the kernel.resource directly will not be compatible with the next iteration of the ABI


DECISION: A decision was made on 2008-11-28 not to require this item for ABI_V1 changes.

oop.library optimization

  • I think current oop.library and the hidds are still sub-optimal and need some more investigation. I think this work can wait till after ABI V1.0 and mentioning in the ABI V1.0 that programs that use oop.library or hidds directly won't be compatible with ABI V2.0.


DECISION: A decision was made on 2008-12-04 not to require this item for ABI_V1 changes

libcall.h/cpu.h clean-up

  • In my opinion, some cruft has been building up in these files and they could use a good discussion of what things can be removed and what things can be combined and then properly documented. Probably this does not impact the ABI so it may be delayed but changes to these files may cause source compatibility problems. E.g. programs will not compile any more with the new version if they depend on some specific features and need to be adapted but programs compiled with the old version will keep on running on AROS.


DECISION: A decision was made on 2008-12-04 not to require this item for ABI_V1 changes

C library headers

  • the current state of the headers is anything that is releasable or can be fixed; it is more a hacked together bunch of headers then a well thought out set.
  • Luckily this is not an ABI problem but a source compatibility problem. When we clean-up the header files we may introduce some compilation problems but when the source code is fixed the program should still run on all ABI V1.0 conforming systems.
  • This task IMO belongs in the SDK development department. We may want to introduce a SDK V1.0 somewhere in the future but this can happen after releasing ABI V1.0 and AROS V1.0.


DECISION: A decision was made on 2008-12-14 not to require this item for ABI_V1 changes

Technical details

Base relative variable addressing


For m68k the SAS/C compiler had the possibility to use the A4 register as a base address for accessing global variables. This way so called pure programs can be generated; these are programs that can be loaded once into memory and run several times. Every time when then the program is started, room is allocated for the variables and the A4 variable is set to the allocated memory. Such a feature is also needed on the i386 ABI.


Different options have been examined in the past to see how this feature could best be provided on i386. Currently it has been settled on using the %ebx register for this purpose. This is analog to the SYSV i386 ABI where %ebx can be reserved for use as global offset table (GOT) for position-independent code. The register has been reserved for this purpose by adding the -ffixed-ebx option to the gcc specs file. This means that gcc will not generate code that accesses the %ebx register, so it is reserved for other system use. The consequence is that you can't use the "b" constraint any more on inline asm in gcc for input or output arguments. This constraint would allow putting arguments in the %ebx register but gcc gives an error because it isn't supposed to use this register; inline asm statements of external code may thus need to be changed to work on AROS. Two macros (AROS_GET_RELBASE and AROS_SET_RELBASE) are defined to access this variable. These must to be defined by the cpu.h of a specific cpu, or you'll get a compile error. At the moment no patch for gcc is available for using the --baserel option on i386 for producing pure code for AROS. Feel free to implement it. At the moment on i386 this register is also used for passing the libbase pointer.

Other options

Other things have been considered for, and some even tested as, a good place to store the relbase. Here are some summaries:

  • A __relbase system global variable. Analog currently to the SysBase variable there would be a __relbase global variable where the value is provided by the ELF loader. This approach works but this path was left when %ebx was discovered and it's analogy to the SYSV usage of this register.
  • Registers %fs:n or %gs:n: Another possibility would be to use the i386 segment registers for accessing the relbase. Also here %ebx is currently considered a better solution. The impact of using the segment registers on a hosted version of AROS is not fully clear yet.
  • ThisTask->relbase. Could be an alternative but %ebx seems better.

The libbase changes


On m68k Amiga the A6 register was used for the pointer to the base address of a library structure. This A6 register was also not used for other code so anywhere in the code of a library you could access the libbase through this register without explicitly passing it to the function as a function argument.

The first i386 ABI put the libbase on the stack as last argument to the function. This approach has some disadvantages:

  • When you want to use the libbase in subfunctions of the library you need to pass the libbase to that subfunction. In the end this means that the libbase has to be added as an argument to all functions in a call chain of functions where the libbase is needed in the bottom function.
  • This way only a libbase can be used in function that use Amiga library style argument passing. It is difficult to use the libbase in libraries that use normal C argument passing, like for example arosc.library.
  • Current way of passing argument on i386 is incompatible with vararg functions as the libbase is put as last argument on the stack.
  • There has been comments of this approach on the efficiency due to the stack usage by the extra argument.

The goal for the ABI and the libbase would also be to be compatible with other compilers than gcc; for example the vbcc compiler. Another goal should be to make it very easy to port external libraries to AROS.


The current implementation in the ABI V1 branch (trunk/branches/ABI_V1) uses the %ebx register to pass the libbase to the library function. This register is also reserved for base relative addressing. As this register is currently reserved and not used by code generated by the compiler you could access it everywhere in the library code. AROS_GET_LIBBASE and AROS_SET_LIBBASE macros are defined to be able to access the libbase. These are by default defined as respectively AROS_GET_RELBASE and AROS_SET_RELBASE when they are not provided by the cpu.h include file for the cpu. When no cpu-specific versions of the AROS_L[HCPD] macros are defined, default versions are defined in aros/libcall.h that will use the AROS_GET_LIBBASE and AROS_SET_LIBBASE macros for passing the library base to the functions of a library.

Other solutions:

  • Use relbase for passing libbase: in the description of the base pointer for relative addressing different solutions are provided. These could all also be used for libbase passing. They could also be used even when another solution would be used

  • Use %eax register; two different approaches have been tried:

    • A first approach is to add a gcc attribute to the function for putting the first argument into a register and then passing the libbase as the first argument (the gcc attribute is __attribute((regparm(1)) ). The big disadvantage is that now the libbase is the first argument. This means that in warnings and errors the first normal parameter is reported as the second parameter and so on. This is very confusing for the programmer and that is why a better way was sought.
    • A second approach was to try to implement the AROS_LH macros fully in inline asm code that would push the arguments on the stack and call the function. This approach seemed to get very complex as now the rules for sizes of arguments have to be implemented in the macro itself. This approach was not further developed when work with the %ebx was started.

SysBase location proposal


Q: Why use the MMU? Just put it in thread local storage and don't worry about the MMU. Using the MMU to remap different instances to the same location means changing the MMU on every context switch.

A: TLS is used already. The TLS on x86_64 (well, it's not really thread local storage yet) is used to fetch SysBase and KernelBase. Keep in mind, however, that on SMP system, several SysBases would need to exist in parallel. Since some applications access SysBase fields, like SysBase->ThisTask directly, each SysBase would need to reflect the state of one CPU core. Now imagine the following pseudo code:

struct ExecBase *SysBase = TLS_GET(SysBase);
struct Task *me = SysBase->ThisTask;

If the task switch would happen between these two lines of code, and the task would migrate to another CPU (that might happen, depending on scheduler strategy used), the SysBase->ThisTask would not point to the right task. Yes, I do agree that such code sucks most. Only AROS (Amiga!) makes it possible ;)

Now, imagine we have a SysBase at some fixed virtual address, whereas each CPU maps different portion of physical address space there. If a task switch would happen between two lines of code mentioned above, nothing particular (nothing bad!) would happen. No matter what CPU the task runs on, it would always fetch the SysBase valid for the very CPU.

No, we would not need to change MMU table on every context switch. Every CPU would get it's own MMU map during the boot process. Moreover x86_64 needs MMU in 64-bit mode anyway.

Varargs proposal


The original API on 68k Amiga computers had variadic functions, like DoMethod. The implementation and use of those functions relied on the way compilers were placing the arguments to such functions. At the time these API functions were invented, arguments were placed on the stack right before the function was called.

Nowadays the placement of function arguments is often referred to as calling conventions and as such are defined in ABI documents. The ABI defines a common set of rules so binaries created by different compilers for the same CPU architecture that claim to support a certain ABI can be linked together. Today 68k and x86 are examples of architectures that still place arguments on the stack.

The X86_64 and PowerPc are examples of architectures that place a fixed number of arguments in registers and additional arguments are then placed on the stack of the caller of a function.


What does all that mean in practice? Look at the current implementation of DoMethod for x86:

IPTR DoMethod(Object* obj, IPTR MethodId, ...)
    return CALLHOOKPKT((struct Hook *) OCLASS(obj), obj, &MethodId);

DoMethod is used to call a method of an object belonging to a certain class (you need to know a little about OOP to understand all this). It is done by calling a hook function of that class. This hook function is actually the class dispatcher function that looks at the method Id and calls the corresponding method function with additional arguments given to DoMethod. A call to DoMethod can look like this:

Object* MyObject;
DoMethod(MyObject, MyId, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8);

For x86 all the arguments are placed on the stack. That means they are linearized in memory, as if they were the elements of an array or a struct. It can look like this:

Lower address
MyObject MyId 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

So if we take the address of MethodId inside of DoMethod we can access the additional actual arguments by using pointer arithmetic:

*(&MethodId + 2)

would reference the address were the number 2 is stored. This can also be done in a method function were we got the address of MethodId from the call to DoMethod.

For X86_64 and PowerPc it is impossible to do it this way. Remember the first arguments of DoMethod are passed in registers, up to 8 registers for PowerPc and 6 for X86_64. So if we take the address of MethodId the compiler puts the registers value holding MethodId onto the stack frame of DoMethod (not onto the stack frame of the caller of DoMethod where additional arguments were placed) and returns the address of that stack location. Then we add to that address and expect the number 2 at the resulting location, which actually is still in a register. What we get will normally simply lead to a crash, in real application code.


Normally, if you start searching for solutions to a problem, you first check what others have done. Well, there are MOS and OS4, both being successors of the original AmigaOS, running on PowerPc. They have solved this problem, both of them basically in the same way. But this is only one of the possible solutions. If possible, you want to choose from more solutions. The following is a list of solutions proposed on the AROS developer mailing list.

  • Throw away the variadic functions and use the ones that accept a pointer to a structure, i.e. use DoMethodA.
  • Use macros. With DoMethod not being a real function but a macro, its arguments can be serialized into a local array.
  • Use a patched compiler to always pass arguments to some special attributed functions on the stack .
  • Use macros from stdarg.h, i.e. va_start, va_end, va_copy, va_arg.
  • Use AROS' already existing SLOWSTACK macros.
  • Use assembler stubs that extend the callers stack frame to store the register arguments at the right position, then call the function (DoMethod). Upon function return all stack manipulations are reverted and control goes back to the function caller. Example of asm stub in PowerPC assembler.

Pros & Cons

  • Lots of code will have to be rewritten. People will probably not accept this decision. The original API had those functions we should support them as well.
  • Is already used at some places, but especially together with DoMethod there is a huge usage of stack space.
  • This is what MOS and OS4 did, and they failed to get the patches into the main gcc tree. I.e. the patch has to be done for every new gcc version in use. If we would use their compiler we'll be getting this work done for PowerPc for free and we'll have to do it for all the other architectures that pass args in registers on our own. We also had our own patch for the PowerPc port for some time and it worked well, but there were only few people working on PowerPc port. Maybe this was one of the reasons.
  • Is the only clean and standard way to do it. But it also requires a lot of work. Regarding DoMethod we'll need an additional variadic dispatcher for every class. Here va_arg and va_copy are used to get the arguments and call the methods with them.
  • Is what X86_64 and PowerPc are using at the moment. It is slow and there are potential buffer overruns because some of these use fixed size arrays.
  • This is a hack, because we are tinkering with stack frames but it works. It has already been tested on PowerPc together with DoMethod. An assembler stub would be needed for each architecture.

Example of assembler stub:

Copyright © 2008, The AROS Development Team. All rights reserved.
    $Id: abiv1.en 48056 2013-09-08 21:20:57Z verhaegs $

    Desc: alib variadic stubs
    Lang: english

#include "aros/ppc/asm.h"

#define AROS_VARIADIC_STUB(name, arg) \
    .globl name ;\
    _FUNCTION(name) ;\
    .set ext, 12*4 ; /* extend callers stack */ \
name: ;\
    lwz     11,           0(1)           ; /* get caller's stack back chain pointer */ \
    sub     11,             11,         1; /* calc current stack frame size */ \
    addi    11,             11,       ext; /* extend stack frame size */ \
    not     11,             11           ; /* create two's complement of */ \
    addi    11,             11,         1; /* extended stack frame size */ \
    mr      12,              1           ; /* move current stack pointer for later backup */ \
    lwz      1,           0(1)           ; /* load caller's stack back chain pointer */ \
    stwux    1,              1,        11; /* create the extended stack frame */ \
    lwz     11,      ext+ 4(1)           ; /* save caller's link register backup */\
    stw     11,      ext-24(1)           ;\
    lwz     11,      ext+ 0(1)           ; /* save caller's stack pointer */ \
    stw     11,      ext-28(1)           ;\
    stw     10,      ext+ 4(1)           ; /* save argument registers right below */ \
    stw      9,      ext+ 0(1)           ; /* additional arguments passed on the */ \
    stw      8,      ext- 4(1)           ; /* caller's stack frame */ \
    stw      7,      ext- 8(1)           ;\
    stw      6,      ext-12(1)           ;\
    stw      5,      ext-16(1)           ;\
    stw      4,      ext-20(1)           ;\
    stw     12,      ext-32(1)           ; /* save current stack pointer */ \
    mflr    12 ;\
    stw     12,      ext-36(1)           ; /* save link register */ \
    addi arg+3,              1, (arg+6)*4; /* save pointer to arguments in argument register */ \
    lis     11, __##name@ha              ; /* load address of variadic function */ \
    la      12, __##name@l(11)           ;\
    mtlr    12                           ;\
    blrl                                 ; /* call C part of variadic function */ \
    lwz     12,      ext-36(1)           ; /* restore link register */ \
    mtlr    12 ;\
    lwz     11,      ext-28(1)           ; /* restore caller's stack back chain pointer */ \
    stw     11,      ext+ 0(1)           ;\
    lwz     12,      ext-24(1)           ; /* restore caller's link register backup */ \
    stw     12,      ext+ 4(1)           ;\
    lwz      1,      ext-32(1)           ; /* restore current stack pointer */ \



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