lxdream.org :: News
lxdream 0.9.1
released Jun 29
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Lxdream is an emulator for the Sega Dreamcast system, running on Linux and OS X. While it is still in heavy development (and many features are buggy or unimplemented), it is capable of running most demos and some games.
June 12th, 2010 by nkeynes
ISO9660 support update
Posted in Development

I recently discovered that there is in fact a very nice ISO9660 library out there already called, oddly enough, libisofs. I’m not sure why I didn’t come across it earlier, but in any case I’ve ripped out my half-baked ISO support and added a dependency on libisofs instead. It looks to be available prebuilt for most systems, so hopefully no major dramas there.

The on-the-fly ISO-building support is in now as well (mainly thanks to the above), at least for executables. You can now load binaries from either the gdrom dialog (which packages it into a MIL-CD disc image), or the ‘load binary’ dialog (which does what it always did). The command-line is also changed slightly – “lxdream mygame.elf” loads the program as a disc, and “lxdream -e mygame.elf” executes it directly.

Additionally, loading “binary” files (i.e. as generated from “sh-elf-objcopy -O binary”) is now supported (seeing as it turns out that this wasn’t working previously). Since there’s no reliable way to identify them from content, they have to end in “.bin” to be recognized though.

So with that out of the way, I think I might go back to poking at the renderer the next time I have a few free moments. One thing at a time…

February 25th, 2010 by nkeynes
CDROM work-in-progress
Posted in Development

The (hopefully last) major refactor of the cdrom host subsystem has finally landed in trunk – this shouldn’t be particularly user-visible at this point (unless I’ve broken something, which is entirely possible), although it does fix a few long-standing bugs that no-one ever ran into. Mostly this is to make things more flexible, so that I can add features without it becoming an even more tangled mess.

The first of these is the ability to boot from disc without actually needing the Dreamcast boot rom. This is in now, and is working for dclinux and (I think) most homebrew. As far as I know it doesn’t work for any commercial titles at the moment though. As a nice side-effect it boots faster too (as it doesn’t have the flashy logo¬† screen).

The other piece of work that this supports is on-the-fly construction of cdrom images – for example, taking a binary program and encapsulating it automatically in a bootable image. Also of interest is support for SBI “images”, which are basically filesystems-in-a-zip. This also makes it easier to add image formats like BIN/CUE and BIN/TOC, so I’ll probably add those in the near future as well.

In unrelated news, OS X 10.6 has been giving me a lot of grief – exception unwinding support seems to be subtly broken (worse, in a way that’s hard to detect with a simple configure test). I wasted far too much time trying to track down a memory corruption bug that eventually turned out to be coming from the unwinder as well *sigh*. So for the time being I’m going to settle for building on 10.5, and hopefully it’ll work on 10.6 as well. Incidentally, I’m intending to drop support for 10.4 for the next version unless someone screams really loudly – trunk hasn’t actually built on 10.4 in quite some time, and no one has complained¬† yet…

What’s new

  • CDROM host subsystem finally properly separated from the Dreamcast bits. Much better now
  • BIOS-less booting of discs. Most homebrew should be able to run now without the actual boot rom.
  • New -b command-line option to run without the BIOS even if it’s configured
October 28th, 2009 by nkeynes
Website upgraded
Posted in Website

We’re now (finally) up-to-date with everything on the site – let me know if I’ve inadvertently broken anything. I eventually gave up on the Trac option – the core system is nice enough, but it was going to take far too much work to get the plugins up to standard, in order to support everything that the current site does.

With respect to lxdream itself, unfortunately I’ve had precious little time to work on it this year as life just seems to keep getting busier and busier. I’m hopeful I might be able to pull together some kind of end-of-year release, but I can’t say whether or not that will actually happen.

July 5th, 2009 by nkeynes
Mailing lists
Posted in Development, Website

It’s been pointed out to me that lxdream currently lacks mailing lists, and that it might be a good idea to have some. I mean, sure we have the forums, but they aren’t really as convenient as email, are they? So since my esteemed webhost actually has mailman setup and ready to go, I’ve gone ahead and setup the standard lists with lxdream-users, lxdream-dev and lxdream-commit – click here to go to the subscription pages. Mercurial commits are already going to lxdream-commit (albeit HTML-only at the moment, using CVSspam for the notifications)

You can also monitor the repository through the RSS feed at http://www.lxdream.org/hg/lxdream/rss-log – whichever you prefer, but the mailing list has more detail (ie full diffs).

July 3rd, 2009 by nkeynes
Moving to Mercurial
Posted in Website

As of this evening, the public source tree is now being maintained in Mercurial at http://www.lxdream.org/hg/lxdream. The subversion repo will stay up for the immediate future for reference, but won’t receive any more updates. So if you’re following the development trunk, please install a copy of hg if you don’t already have it, and grab the new tree with hg clone http://www.lxdream.org/hg/lxdream

There’s a few reasons to change to a distributed system like Mercurial -

  • I can commit bits when they’re done, without needing to be online at the time
  • I can integrate changesets directly from other people, rather than just patches
  • It’s much easier to test changesets across multiple machines before it hits the public trunk

As for why Mercurial specifically – mainly because I have more experience with it personally, although it does still feel more mature to me than the alternatives at this stage.

I’ve been planning to switch over for quite a while actually, but it’s taken me far too much time to hack hgweb into something at least vaguely usable (it’s still missing a few important things from viewvc, but it’s a lot closer than when I started)

While I’m changing things anyway, I’m also exploring the possibility of moving the entire website into Trac – I’m not 100% convinced yet, but it’s one of the very few platforms that does offer pretty much everything we need in an integrated package (so all the tools would be fairly seamless). Migration will be… interesting though, and probably quite painful.

June 29th, 2009 by nkeynes
Lxdream 0.9.1 “Turtle” released
Posted in Releases

As promised, the 0.9.1 release is now out. It is somewhat faster than 0.9, the core is around 30-40% faster, and MMU performance is nearly an order of magnitude better, but rendering performance is still holding things back overall. There’s also (finally) preliminary VMU support for anyone who cares about that – you can attach them in the controller settings panel.

As always, it’s available from the download page, release notes are here. And to make things even easier for Debian users, there’s now an apt repository available – just add the following lines to your /etc/apt/sources.list:

    deb http://www.lxdream.org/debian unstable main
    deb-src http://www.lxdream.org/debian unstable main

and do apt-get update, apt-get install lxdream.

Next version we’ll try and attack the rendering performance problem…

What’s New

  • Lots of core performance improvements, especially in the MMU
  • VMU support (memory card only)
  • GDB remote debugging support
  • Quick-save states
  • LIRC driver
  • Now uses the ~/.lxdream directory (by default) to store runtime data
  • Audio + input drivers are now built as plugins
June 15th, 2009 by nkeynes
Been a bit quiet around here
Posted in Development

Not much really got done last month, seeing as I was away for nearly all of it, but I did get a few small tidy ups done. The new translation core is definitely on hold now for a while so I can get some other things done – I’ll get back to it at some unspecified point in the future.

So… I suppose what everyone’s waiting for: There will be a 0.9.1 in the next few weeks (also known as the “what do you mean we haven’t had a release in 8 months?!” release), which will be more or less current svn trunk + one more feature I’m working on at the moment.

Changes

  • Wahrhaft sent in a patch to add hotkey support, quick-save-states, and an LIRC input driver, thanks!
  • Refactored the gdrom support module to be a lot cleaner, and make it easier to add other MMC-based native drivers. I think a fixed a few bugs in the process as well.
  • Added ability to build drivers that require 3rd-party libs as dynamic objects rather than statically linked – this should make binary packaging a bit saner. On by default for now, configure –disable-shared to turn off.
  • GTK: Added GNOME desktop entry for more convenient desktop integration
  • OSX: Added fullscreen support (“er wait, the OSX port doesn’t do fullscreen?”)
March 24th, 2009 by nkeynes
GDB debugging support
Posted in Development

I was distracted by Anthony Green’s Moxie blog this last week and a bit, specifically by the bit about qemu gdb support. This seemed like a really good idea, not to mention being fairly simple to implement, so it’s in now for both the SH4 and ARM. The actual debug support just hangs off the existing debugging framework, so the work needed was really just to implement the protocol.

If you want to have a play with it, run lxdream with -g <port> to start an SH4 GDB listener on the given TCP port, or -G <port> to start an ARM GDB listener. Or both for that matter, although gdb is likely to be confused if you actually connect more than one debugger at a time. To note the obvious, you’ll need to build an sh-elf-gdb or arm-elf-gdb (respectively) for this; your system debugger is just going to get confused. Also worth noting is that GDB tends to default to big-endian if there’s no file loaded – you need to explicitly force it to little endian (“set endian little”).

It supports all the usual bells and whistles except watchpoints, which I’m looking into at the moment. They should be reasonably straightforward to implement now, and will have zero cost when they’re not being used. And as a nice side-effect of all this I can finally do a full implementation of the on-board UBC.

I probably should have done this a long time ago – It’s nice to have a full symbolic debugger without having to actually write one from scratch ^_^

March 1st, 2009 by nkeynes
No Feb release
Posted in Development

There’s not going to be a February release as originally scheduled – there’s just not enough ‘stuff’ ready to make it worthwhile in my opinion, and anyone looking for the latest has probably already pulled it from SVN. At the current (depressingly slow) velocity, there may be something releasable in April. We’ll see – I need to make sure the new SH4 translation core is solid, and make some decent headway on the PVR2 performance problems first.

Update-wise, we have a new SDL audio driver now, thanks to Wahrhaft, but otherwise not much of note to report at the moment. However, this might be a good time to note that there’s lot’s of other work that would be good to see done, but I’m simply not going to have time for any time soon – so if anyone out there is interested in contributing in any way, please let me know. There are some obvious areas that might be a good place to get started with lxdream -

  • OS X port – The base port is fairly stable, but there’s a number of outstanding issues, and the UI could no doubt be improved.
  • GTK UI – for that matter, the GTK UI isn’t very pretty either and could use some good UI design attention.
  • Audio subsystem – Current audio is almost obnoxiously bad, with plenty of bugs and missing features. Fortunately MAME has a fairly complete implementation that could be used for comparison and testing.
  • Translations – we have partial translations to german, spanish, italian, and portugese so far, which need to be updated for 0.9, and it would be great to support more languages as well. There are still some untranslated strings that need to be fixed as well.
  • SBI ‘image’ support, not to mention the many other bugs/enhancement requests in the issue tracker.

And of course, anyone interested in working on improving lxdream in any other way would be eagerly welcomed too ^_^.

February 10th, 2009 by nkeynes
Timing and update
Posted in Development

I’ve had some high-level performance numbers kicking around for a while – give or take a few percent they’re fairly consistent, at least for the work-loads that I’ve been profiling. So, expressed as seconds of real time per second of emulated time, the runtime looks something like this on my machine with current svn head (0.9 was quite a lot slower):

  • 695 ms – 3979 ms Rendering and display
  • 264 ms SH4 Translated code
  • 76 ms SH4 mem read/write
  • 55 ms SH4 support code
  • 64 ms AICA/ARM
  • 57 ms Tile accelerator
  • 45 ms Render Scene parsing
  • 9 ms Miscellaneous

SH4 total: 395 ms, All non-rendering: 570 ms, Grand total: 1.265s/4.549s. The two rendering numbers are for 2 otherwise fairly similar machines, one with a 9800GTX and the other with an 8600M GT (I’m sure you can guess which one is which). The times are also with TLB off (which still has an appreciable although lesser impact than previously)

By way of comparison, I’d originally budgeted for CPU along the following lines (although I was also targeting a much slower machine than I have now as well):

  • 50% SH4 emulation
  • 25% rendering
  • 25% everything else

Rendering performance is quite obviously atrocious at the moment and needs a lot of work, which may or may not make it into 0.9.1 at this stage. At the moment though I’m still focusing on SH4 performance – while we’re technically under budget already, one has to bear in mind that a) the SH4 is currently underclocked by a good bit, b) there’s a few things I will need to add for accuracy that are likely to hurt performance (possibly severely in some cases), and c) Given the rendering problems I’m now aiming for 50% rendering / 35% SH4 / 15% everything else, as this may be a more achievable target.

In the meantime, the new multi-pass translator is slowly taking shape, having gone through a few fairly major revisions by now. I’ve ended up with a fairly simple low-level 2-op IR that (mostly)?maps directly to the x86[0], plus a few ‘macro ops’ to express the handful of SH4 instructions that don’t have a simple representation on x86. I’m currently working on the x86 codegen backend, which should be ‘done’ sometime this week, so the whole caboodle may actually be fully working by the end of the month after all.

[0] Having said that, it’s not at all x86-specific, and it should be a heck of a lot easier to add other targets than with the old codebase. You know, should anyone actually want to do that…

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