20150422 - Source-Less Programming : 2

Continuing with what will either be an insanely great or amazingly stupid project...

Making slow progress with bits of free-time after work, far enough thinking through the full editor design to continue building. Decided to ditch 64-bit long mode for 32-bit protected mode. Not planning on using the CPU for much other than driving more parallel friendly hardware... so this is mostly a question of limiting complexity. Don't need 16 registers and the REX prefix is too ugly for me to waste time on any more. The 32-bit mode uses much more friendly mov reg,[imm32] absolute addressing, also with ability to use [EBP+imm32] without an SIB byte (another thing I mostly avoid). Unfortunately still need relative addresses for branching. 32-bit protected mode thankfully doesn't require page tables unlike 64-bit long mode. Can still pad out instructions to 32-bits via reduntant segment selectors.

Source-Less Analog to Compile-Time Math?
Compile-time math is mostly for the purpose of self-documenting code: "const uint32_t willForgetHowICameUpWithThisNumber = startHere + 16 * sizeof(lemons);". The source-less analog is to write out the instructions to compute the value, execute that code at edit time, then have anotations for 32-bit data words which automatically pull from the result when building 32-bit words for opcode immediates for the new binary image.

Reduced Register Usage Via Self Modifying Code
Sure, kills the trace cache in two ways, what do I care. Sometimes the easist way to do something complex is to just modify the opcode immediates before calling into the function...

What Will Annotations Look Like?
The plan so far is for the editor to display a grid of 8x8 32-bit words. Each word is colored according to a tag annotation {data, absolute address, relative address, pull value}. Each word has two extra associated annotations {LABEL, NOTE}. Both are 5 6-bit character strings. Words in grid get drawn showing {LABEL, HEX VALUE, NOTE} as follows,


The LABEL provides a name for an address in memory (data or branch address). Words tagged with absolute or relative addresses or pull value show in the NOTE field the LABEL of the memory address they reference. Words tagged with data use NOTE to describe the opcode, or the immediate value. Editor when inserting a NOTE can grab the data value from other words with the same NOTE (so only need to manually assemble an opcode once). Edit-time insert new words, delete words, and move blocks of words, all just relink the entire edit copy of the binary image. ESC key updates a version number in the edit copy, which the excuting copy sees triggering it to replace itself with the edit copy.

Boot Strapping
I'm bootstrapping the editor in NASM in a way that I'll be able to see and edit later at run-time. This is a time consuming process to get started because instead of using NASM to assemble code, I need to manually write the machine code to get the 32-bit padded opcodes. Once enough of the editor is ready, I need a very tiny IDE/PATA driver to be able to store to the disk image. Then I can finish the rest of the editor in the editor. Then I'll also be self hosted outside the emulator and running directly on an old PC with a non-USB keyboard, but with a proper PCIe slot...