Call for Beta-testers Pharo ARM64 JIT

Dear happy Pharoers, 
Over the last months we have been working on the implementation of a MIT-licensed ARMv8 Just-In-Time compiler for Pharo VM.We are very happy with the advance on this subject, as we have not only implemented a new backend but we have added more than 2500 tests to the JIT, the primitives, code generation, plugins and the VM in general. In the process we fixed many problems. It shows that following the roadmap that was decided during General assembly of PharoDays, we have been investing in the Pharo VM and that our efforts are greatly paying off. Also, we are generating a lot of documentation and improving the process to really democratize the development of the VM. So Pharo is a better shape than ever on such matter and this opens a lot of possibility for the future. 


## Call for Beta-Testers


We would like to announce that a first version of our JIT backend is available for beta-testing for ARM Linux machines using Ubuntu. We are now entering into a beta testing stage of the VM and the image in Ubuntu ARM 64.We would like to invite you to our beta testing phase for the VM. If you’re interested in participating, please contact pablo.tesone@inria.fr.
The following sections give more details of the current status, and the following steps including Apple Silicon, Windows ARM64 and Linux Open Build System support.


## Current Status

Our objective is to have a running JIT for the new aarch64 architecture (ARM 64bits). This task includes not only a new backend for the JIT compiler but also adding support for external libraries, dependencies and the build process. This means having a working VM with comparable features as the one existing in Intel X64. We are targeting all the major operating systems running in this platform (Linux, OSX, Windows).Each of them present different restrictions and conditions.
This is the current status:

  • We implemented a full backend for the JIT compiler targeting aarch64.- All the image side was adapted to run on it, tested on Ubuntu ARM 64 bits. 
  • We added support for: Iceberg (Libgit) / Athens (Cairo) / SDL / GTK
  • We implemented a LibFFI-based FFI backend as the default one for Pharo 9 in aarch64 (next to come in all platforms). This opens the door to ease port the features to other platforms and OSes. 

## Following Steps and Open Betas: Linux Open Build System (OBS), Windows ARM64 and Apple Silicon

Linux Systems: In the following days, we will also support Raspbian (Debian) and Manjaro on ARM64. For doing so, we are pushing the last details in having a single Linux build system through OBS. So, if you want to start doing beta-testing of these versions please contact us. A public beta will be open in around two weeks.

Windows Systems: We have extended the build process to fully support Microsoft Visual Studio compilers and more flexibility to select the targets, also we are building it to run in Windows ARM. To correctly run the VM in Windows it is needed to build all dependencies for aarch64. In the following weeks, we expect to have a working Non-JIT version and a JIT version. The remaining points to have a JIT version are related with the build process as the API of the operating system has not changed from X64 to aarch64.

OSX Systems: Our third target is to have a working version for the newest Apple silicon. We are acquiring the corresponding hardware to test and to address the differences in the API exposed to JIT applications. As it is the case of the Windows VM, there is not need to change the machine code generation backend; but to compile external libraries, and particularities of the new OS version.

Thanks for your support, and again, if you like to start beta testing the VM please contact us. In the meantime, we will continue giving you news about the current state and where are we going. 
The consortium would like to particularly thank Schmidt Buro and Lifeware for their contracts. 
Regards,
Pablo in behalf of the Pharo Consortium Engineers

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