January 2017

Boot crash fix, CPU updates, and a new debugger

Lots of changes have been pushed into the XGS repository since my last post.

Boot crash fixed

The bug causing the emulation to crash into the system monitor at startup has been fixed. It was not, as I had originally suspected, a CPU emulation bug. Instead it was a bug in the Mega2::buildLanguageCard() method, and a fairly obvious one in retrospect. Turns out it was mapping all sixteen $DnXX logical pages to the same physical page; needless to say this resulted in severe memory corruption!

CPU emulation updates

The latest code makes two major changes to the CPU emulation, though not in any way visible outside the code.

First, there is now a LogicEngineBase class that defines the executeOpcode() method as a virtual method. The LogicEngine template class inherits from this, and so now the emulator just stores a pointer to the current logic engine and calls it directly, instead of using a large set of nested if statements to pick it manually for every opcode. This actually turned out to be just as fast as my original “no virtual functions” implementation, and the code is cleaner too.

Second, the cpuRead and cpuWrite methods now take an extra parameter of type mem_access_t (defined in the M65816/types.h file). This tells the rest of the emulator exactly what a particular memory access is for:

  • Instruction fetches
  • Opcode fetches
  • Stack operations
  • Generic data

This was done to facilitate the new debugger, which has been decoupled from the CPU emulation and moved to its own module.

The new debugger

As I mentioned above, the debugger is has been moved out of the M65816 emulation and into its own module. In the new implementation the debugger monitors all calls to cpuRead and cpuWrite, and using the memory access type provided by the CPU it can decode instructions as well as monitor (or even modify!) other memory accesses. I made this change for a couple of reasons:

  1. Some of the things i want the debugger to eventually do would have required putting a lot of hooks inside M65816. The new debugger design hooks into exactly two places, and since it’s sitting “above” the CPU emulation it has a lot more control.
  2. I want a graphical UI for the debugger, but I don’t want to make M65816 depend on any GUI libraries.

At the moment the debugger only implements the instruction disassembly from the old version. Additional features will get added once I implement the GUI.



A new year and a new XGS

Well, it took a lot longer than I thought, but I’ve finally managed to roll out my first alpha prerelease of the XGS rewrite. At the moment only text mode is implemented, and the boot sequence does not yet complete properly, but it dos start up. Since this is at such an early stage of development I am not making this available as a tarball release. Those interested in playing with it can download it directly from the GitHub page.


Changes in this Version

The entire code base has been converted from C to C++, and heavily refactored so that the individual code modules correspond more closely to the individual pieces of the IIGS’s hardware.

All of the platform-specific drivers have been removed; instead, the code uses SDL2 for most platform-specific functions.

The emulation timing has been rewritten to use Linux timer FDs. This is currently the dependency that makes the code non-portable.

The CPU emulation has been completely rewritten. The new version is significantly easier to understand and debug than the old version, as all of the cryptic and convoluted C macros are gone. The opcode execution logic is now implemented in a C++ template which is used to generates individual classes optimized for specific combinations of memory and index width.

What’s Next

At the moment all of my energy is focused on fixing whatever issue or issues are causing the boot sequence to crash. This involves running both old and new XGS in debug mode and comparing the resulting execution traces.

Once the boot issue is fixed the keyboard handling needs a lot of love. The current implementation is only partially usable, especially since it fails to properly handle applying modifiers (shift & control) to key presses before putting them into the input buffer. As a result you can’t even type many characters, making it difficult to investigate problems and run tests within the emulation.