Venix emulation update

April 2020 Venix update

I've had a bit of spare time lately and have refocused back onto Venix.

I've found a number of bugs, implemented fork/exec (brokenly, but well enough to mine 'cc' for what commands it's trying to do) and I have a status update.


The biggest bug I fixed was in lseek. I'd forgotten to translate from the emulated FD to the host's FD. When I did that, a lot of things started working, including cpp, as and ld.

This means I have almost all of the toolchian working. c0 and copt aren't working (though I don't know how to use copt, so maybe it is). That's unfortunate, but we're close.

I can compile hello world on Venix, and then snag the .s file. Once I have that, I can assemble it in emulation and ld to produce a working binary (which also works in emulation). cpp also produces the same output as running on Venix.

So this is huge since things are so much faster on my host environment.


OK. Now that I have a working as on my box, I thought to go about recreating the .s files likely to have been on Venix. I started with crt0.s. I was able to disassemble the old one and use that to recreate a good .s file. It assembles almost to the same binary. The only difference is in the unused parts of the relocation entries. I don't know why that is, but it doesn't seem to affect things since I can generate the same hello world executable from either the stock crt0.o or the one that I've recreated. I'm guessing the differences don't matter.

Next Steps

I need to do a reorg to get proper fork/exec behavior. This will involve factoring out the memory, register sets and fd tables to their own context while retaining a process table, etc in the main application. Once I do that, I can make fork/exec work properly and maybe get cc working finally.

I need to fix sbrk for the c0 binary. It loads without a stack size, so that puts the stack at the end of memory. The program itself takes up 18k of text 59k of data/bss, which leaves just 5k for combined heap / stack. Emulated sbrk doesn't check for collisions, so c0 may fail due to not properly failing an sbrk request. There may be other details.

I should pass `basename $0` as arg0, rather than the whole path. This will save ~40 bytes on the initial stack.

I need to create the notion of a prefix directory so we search there first for existing files. This will allow cc to work not in a chroot since I've created a virtual chroot of sorts. Linux emulation on FreeBSD does this as well.

I should add a proper command line parser.

Finally, I'm going to start plowing through all the system calls to at least get those going in the restored libc sources.

Final Words

The project has made some nice progress and is coming along nicely. I've also done some investigations with using pcc to see if it generates better code or not. No assembler or loader appear to be around, unless I've missed something that Minix uses (which I may have). I do know it doesn't generate code that the Venix as(1) program can eat. Maybe I'll have to try creating a Venix back end... There's also a ia-16 project based on gcc6 that I have generating code, but it's ELF based so there'd be some work. I have it building on FreeBSD and it seems to be decent.

Finally, I went nuts looking for old versions of Kermit. I found a few. More on that in a different blog.

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