It’s all about the compiler

Welcome back!

This week our focus was on the FlingOS compiler. We started with an introduction to the compilation process and the compiler itself. We also looked at the CI20 board and booted it up to observe its capabilities of running a full scale Linux operating system on it. This was very exciting!

Introduction to the compiler

I had spent some time learning how the intermediate language generated by MSBuild is translated into architecture specific assembly, especially how calls to methods are handled during this translation. I have observed the output of simple methods, such as adding two integers or displaying colour and text on screen for this purpose. I learned that understanding this process in the context of stack operations is particularly important, such as how arguments to methods and local variables are handled as well as how return values are passed back to the caller and how space is allocated for those return values.

After this introductory session, we jumped right into development tasks. This was related to shifting some architecture specific parts of the compiler into the x86 target architecture library. I learned that it is not desired to have a compiler which is architecture dependent because you may want to compile to different architectures using the same compiler. A generic compiler will make life easier when we port FlingOS onto MIPS.

Making a generic compiler

The task of shifting assembly generation from the compiler to the x86 architecture library has proven to be more difficult than I expected. I realised that I did not have the necessary insight into how the compiler functions at deeper levels. However, with some help from Ed, I was able to complete the tasks. As it turned out, I wasn’t actually that far off from the correct solution. Nevertheless, I felt that I was thrown in at the deep end, and since I almost drowned, Ed decided that I should spend some more time studying the compiler in more detail. He kindly produced a document explaining the structure of the compiler and how the different classes and methods are involved in the compilation process. I have been studying this document along with the code itself to gain a better understanding. By the end of the week, the compiler has been changed to a fully generic version and the MIPS target architecture library has been also added to the project by Ed. Although the actual implementations are yet to be completed in the coming weeks.

Plans for Week 4

Next week, I am going to be continuing to solidify my knowledge of the compiler and soon we will begin working on porting FlingOS onto the MIPS architecture.

See you all next week.


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