KallistiOS: FAQ





1. About this FAQ

We're going to stick to the most basic and commonly asked questions here. For really detailed stuff, you should look at the examples, read the KOS headers, and ask on the mailing list or IRC Channel.


2. Compiler / Setup

2.1. What KOS version should I use?

KOS 2.0.0, which was released on May 23, 2013 represents the first stable release of KOS in ten years time. It is a vast improvement over 1.2.0, and should be a good choice for anyone who wants to make sure nothing changes underneath of them at any point soon. If you're planning on making something and releasing it to the world, this might be a good choice.

Despite the "in development" warning signs all over it, the source code in the Git repository is also relatively stable. If you want to keep up with the latest and greatest features, then this is where you want to be.

There is pretty much no good reason to be using older versions for current development, and they probably won't work with more recent compiler versions anyway. You're welcome to do so, of course, but you probably won't find much help in doing so.

2.2. Why all this cruddy compilation, shell scripts, makefiles, oh my? Can't you just build it into a nice package so it's easy to set up?

Short answer: no. Longer answer: GCC is Unix software. It's more or less written to assume it will be compiled not only on each major platform, but on a specific version of a platform. So we *may* be able to produce nice pre-compiled packages for your platform, but they may also fail mysteriously due to dependencies. Dan tried that a few years back with KOSWIN and decided to give up on it.

That said, you will probably have the most luck if you are using someone's precompiled setup by getting the latest Cygwin (for win32), using an up to date Linux distribution, or with a recent Mac OS X.

2.3. What version of GCC do I need? Newlib? Binutils? KOS? Yikes!

Yes, it's all very confusing at first. Unfortunately there's not really a very easy way to simplify it all. The simplest answer here is to check the KOS web pages and ask around about what's working for people. My current setup (and thus the "canonical" one) is the following: sh-elf GCC 4.7.3 in kos threads mode, sh-elf binutils 2.23.2, newlib 2.0.0 (patched for KOS), and KOS the Git repository.

And to gather and build it all, We recommend the dc-chain Makefile that is included with KOS (in the utils/dc-chain directory). It has various scripts to download and unpack the latest tested pieces of everything (except KOS itself) and patch/build it. As long as you have a reasonably sane system with a working version of GCC (and the prerequisites to build GCC), it should "just work". As for GCC prerequisites (since they seem to be the most common problem), you'll need a normal POSIX-like environment and a couple of libraries (GNU Multiple Precision library, MPFR and MPC). More information on that can be found at the GCC Website Prerequisites page.

2.4. But.. but... I have GCC 10.30.4 that's newer, and I wanna use it!

That's great! You're on your own. Please join the mailing list and let us know how it works out for you, we might upgrade too. :) Until that time, the only supported config will be the one listed above because most of the KOS users and developers are using it, and it's been very well tested. Interim and older versions of GCC are known to have serious compilation bugs on the SH platform, and newer versions have a bad tendency to develop them.

2.5. Ok, I've got a compiler set up and I'm trying to build KOS. But it's giving me some error about not finding /Makefile.prefab and it quits pretty fast after starting to compile.

You probably haven't set up your environ.sh properly (or at all). Again check the KOS setup guide and make sure you have the right variables by typing "set" by itself and looking for lots of KOS_* variables. KOS_BASE should point to the base of your KOS tree (containing Makefile.prefab and such).

Newer versions try to detect this and spit a human-readable error.

2.6. I'm getting errors compiling things in utils. What to do?

It happens... that stuff is built for the host PC, not the DC. So sometimes your platform doesn't have the libraries it needs by default, it needs different flags, etc. Your best bet is to tinker around there and if you can't get it working, post on the mailing list. If it's anything besides genromfs, you can also probably just comment it out of the utils Makefile and go on with your life, at least to start with.

2.7. Why don't you make KOS use a normal make / make install system? What's with all the environment variables and build kludges?

Basically the initial goal was to make it as excruciatingly simple to set up as possible. Believe it or not, everyone hasn't used KOS since the dawn of the DC scene. ;) So a lot of people would want to just download it and try it, and not clutter up their compiler install. To that end, KOS also included its own libc, libm, and other pieces, and thus also needed special Makefiles to build your programs properly.

Nowadays, it's pretty much crushed all of its competition, so we've started to look towards making it more of an installable product, and duplicating less code. That's why it now uses an external Newlib for its libc and libm, and it conforms to more POSIX functions each release (to ease porting of unchanged libraries). So in a way, it makes more sense that it will eventually become something you can install into your compiler tree.

But due to inertia and being simpler to switch among KOS trees, we still have the environ.sh setup. It's really not too bad once you get used to it, and worse comes to worse, you can always just make KOS_BASE point to a place in your compiler tree. The GNU wrappers (kos-cc, kos-c++, etc) take care of adding all the necessary compilation parameters, so there is also no real need for a special Makefile anymore.

2.8. I have things like libpng installed on my machine already. Do I really need kos-ports still?

Yes, you do. There are two separate worlds involved in DC homebrew: your host PC and the target DC. These two words will appear over and over if you start looking into the tool chain, so learn them well! :) When you say you have libpng installed on your machine, that is a host library. It is very likely incompatible with the DC's processor and KOS' API. The reverse is true of target libraries in kos-ports.

Sometimes you can get away with mixing headers between the two worlds, but that's not very recommended. It's asking for trouble.


3. Getting Started With Code

3.1. The examples seem to be out of date or don't compile right. Where can I find some more up to date examples?

Unfortunately, right now you can't. The KOS 2.0.x API represents a fairly stable version, but it's been in flux for a long time; so chances are, sample code you come across on the net is out of date for the latest version.

That said, the examples all should compile, assuming you have compiled the entire kos-ports tree. If they don't let us know!

3.2. So how the @#%*@ do I figure out what I'm doing??

Whoa, calm down. Trust me, I know how you feel. :) The good news is, not all the news is gloomy. The "hello" example is still pretty valid, to get a basic project set up. If you want to do 3D, "parallax" and "tsunami" are both pretty modern. The "lua" examples should still work, for basic scripting support. And "ghettoplay-vorbis" under "sound" shows (if in a somewhat drunken-code fashion) how to get OGG playback working. There's not a very good example of the modern controller input API (maple) but the parallax and tsunami example trees have a bit, and you could grab a copy of the Feet of Fury public source release for that.

Hopefully the awful example situation will be rectified sooner or later!


4. Using KOS

4.1. What all is supported on the Dreamcast? What about peripheral X?

The answer is very likely "yes" these days. The main things not supported in the main tree are the light gun and the Dreamcast Karoke unit. The former of these has been mostly figured out. You can find patches to add the support by looking around a bit. The Dreamcast Karaoke unit, however, is an area that could still use some research.

Specifically, several previously stubborn pieces of networking hardware are now pretty much fully supported. The Broadband Adapter, LAN Adapter, and modem (up to 33.6Kbps) work quite well. Using the built-in network stack, you'll actually have more hardware support out of the box for LAN networking than pretty much any Sega official product. PPP support for the modem is pretty much stalled at this point, due to lack of time/interest.

Some homebrew peripherals are also supported, like the DC Navi rewritable flash BIOS and IDE adapter. These are enabled by setting subarch to "navi".

The more exotic peripherals are generally not supported. This includes things like the zip drive (did it even exist outside a lab?), and maracas (though these should mostly work as regular controllers).


5. Debugging

5.1. Is there a debugger?

Not really. You can build GDB and use the gdb stub over a serial connection to get rudimentary debugging, but it's not what you're going to be used to unless you're an olde Unix hacker(tm). :)

If in doubt, printf is your friend. ;)

5.2. My program crashed! Help! What can I do?

Well, first of all make sure you're getting the stdout output from KOS when you run your program. You'll know if you've got this.

Now then, there are four basic kinds of crashes: unexpected exit (including kernel panic), assertion failure, infinite loop, and exception.

For unexpected exit, just look at the stdout output. You can usually figure out what's going on there. If it doesn't give you enough info then try searching for the likely-looking error string in the KOS source tree. Sometimes the extra context helps.

For assertion failures, usually the message is pretty explanatory. You can compile with frame pointers enabled (check environ.sh files in the KOS_BASE dir) and get an actual stack trace for context. See "exception" below for more info on what to do with this.

For infinite loops, your main quest is to get your program to break so you can figure out where it's crashing. This is pretty easily accomplished by installing a controller callback. This is called any time the user presses a certain combination of buttons (assuming IRQs are enabled, which is usually). See the Parallax font example for an example of this. Once you have a crash, see "exceptions" below.

For exceptions, look for the PC and PR values. These are the code pointer to the instruction that caused the crash (or sometimes, the instruction after it), and the return address (i.e. one step up the stack). Use the sh-elf-addr2line utility to get a source location:

sh-elf-addr2line -e my.elf 8c010152

If it comes back with "???" then you've likely corrupted your stack pointer somewhere, or you jumped to an uninitialized function pointer, etc.

You can also check the assembly output:

sh-elf-objdump -d -S my.elf | less

Then type /^8c010152 (or whatever the address was) and hit enter. This should jump down to the place in the code where it died. Sometimes looking at the other registers in the exception output can help diagnose this.

If you really can't make any sense of how it got where it got or how the compiler generated some code, you *may* have a compiler bug. Go ahead and post to the KOS list about it.

You may also have a malloc issue. See below.

5.3. Are there tools to help find memory leaks, buffer overruns, etc?

Yes! You'll need to have built your own KOS to use it though.

You have two options: turning on debugging in the standard malloc, and replacing malloc with a debug version.

The former is definitely the recommended choice for most usage, and it's not a bad idea to leave it on while developing. Edit kernel/libc/koslib/malloc.c, and look at the #define's at the top. 'DEBUG' turns on internal checks in the malloc functions (mostly assert statements). These are basic and not too helpful unless you have a catastrophic failure. KM_DBG enables KOS memory debugging. This turns on "canary" zones before and after each block and tracks all allocated blocks in a linked list to find leaks. Combined with the INIT_MALLOCSTATS flag, you can see exactly where a piece of memory was allocated, which thread allocated it, the size, and so on. Using the sh-elf-addr2line util mentioned above, it's easy to hunt down where the leak happened. KM_DBG_VERBOSE is like a sledge hammer to KM_DBG's claw hammer. You have to enable both to make it work, and it prints to the console every single time a malloc related function is called. This obviously completely kills the speed of your program but it might help you find a stubborn problem.

The latter option, debug malloc, is the Hole Hawg to KM_DBG_VERBOSE's sledge hammer. The main thing it's good for is finding pieces of code that double-free blocks and code that writes to dangling pointers. It does this by never actually freeing any memory, but putting it on a "freed" list. Needless to say this is pretty worthless in a program of any size, but if you can track down the offending code to a small area it can be invaluable. It's enabled by commenting out malloc.o from kernel/libc/koslib/Makefile, and changing kernel/mm/Makefile to the second option.

On second thought, it looks like that 'mm' tree isn't even built in the latest KOS. So you're on your own if you want to try it. ;) If you get it working I'd love to get a patch.


6. KOS Hacking

6.1. What's the lay of the land on this thing?

KOS' source tree is organized into two top-level sections: kos and kos-ports.

The 'kos' tree contains KOS itself. This includes build utils and such. Everything in the 'kernel' tree will be built into libkallisti.a, which is linked into your program. Architecture/platform (arch) generic headers are located in 'include'.

Under 'kernel', things are split into arch-specific, and arch-generic parts. The arch-specific parts are in 'arch/<arch>', where the <arch> you're probably interested in is "dreamcast". Arch-generic pieces are just in the 'kernel' dir, organized by subsystem.

Inside the arch/<arch> dir (aka "the arch dir"), the organization is somewhat loose. But every arch will contain an 'include' dir, inside of which is an 'arch' dir (the contents of which are fairly uniform across different platforms) and a platform dir (the contents of which are very specific to the given platform). Also the arch dir contains a "kernel" dir that has arch-specific pieces that support the arch-generic part of the kernel.

The kos-ports tree simple contains directories with things to build. Any subdir of this dir which contains a "kos" dir is considered a port to be built. That top-level port dir (e.g. libjpeg) should include a Makefile built from the ports Makefile.prefab, and the "kos" dir should contain a *.cnf file for each arch that's supported. So e.g. a library could have a dreamcast.cnf which gives DC-specific built instructions. The rest of the structure of each port is specific to the port in question.

6.2. I did something cool. How can I submit a patch?

Yay! Doing my work for me, I like that. I like it so much that I'll often go to ridiculous lengths to clean up a bad patch for inclusion, depending on what it is. But it helps a lot if you follow these simple guidelines:

Please make the patch against the newest version possible. This could be a weekly snapshot or a copy of the subversion repo (the latter is obviously preferable, but I can live with the former).

Don't modify the file unnecessarily and try to conform to the style of the file(s) you're changing. I like to think of this as the "Minimum Necessary Change" principle (see: Asimov's End of Eternity :). If some change is not absolutely necessary, weed it out before submitting; if you don't, I'll have to! If you submit a patch that has what I consider to be gross C formatting, I'll likely run it through 'indent' and you may not like the result.

When building a patch, use the "-ruN" diff arguments. If you're diffing against a Git copy, use "git diff".

Submit patches to the patch tracker on SourceForge. This will add a permanent record of the patch that everyone can investigate to find the status of it, and it also sends a notification email to the KOS list so that a maintainer can look at it.


7. Licensing

7.1. What's the deal with the KOS licensing? Can I use it in my commercial game? Don't I need to pay for that?

It's simple; yes; and no, respectively. All of KOS itself (the pieces you link into your target DC app, and most of the host PC utils) are under the KOS license. This is basically a 3-clause BSD license with different author credits. The only responsibility you have is to credit the KOS authors somewhere in your program (either in the program itself or in your documentation). That's it, really! Even local modifications you make don't need to be submitted to us, though of course we'll appreciate it.

Though if you make interesting enough changes, it may be reverse engineered out or otherwise duplicated anyway ;)

Everything else is under its own license (namely, kos-ports). You should check the license of each of those items before using them. For example things that used to be part of KOS or its examples (like libkosh and libconio) are all KOS licensed. But some pieces (like the MP3 playback) are *GPL* licensed. Others, like plib, are LGPL with various exceptions.

Bottom line, it's pretty lenient and easy, but do a little due diligence first!



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