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iBCS Emulation for Linux
The Intel Binary Compatibility Specification, or iBCS, specifies the
interfaces between application programs and the surrounding operating
system environment for i386 based systems. There are however several
flavours of iBCS in use - SVR4, SVR3 plus several vendor specific
extensions to SVR3 which are slightly different and incompatible. The
iBCS emulator for Linux supports all flavours known so far.
SUPPORTED CPU ARCHITECTURES
* Intel 386/486/Pentium and compatibles
SUPPORTED BINARY FORMATS
* A.OUT (using standard Linux loader unless using BSD support)
* ELF (using standard Linux loader)
SUPPORTED OS EMULATIONS
* Sparc Solaris
* i386 BSD (386BSD, FreeBSD, NetBSD, BSDI/386)
- very alpha, very old.
* SVR4 (Interactive, Unixware, USL, Dell etc.)
* SVR3 generic
* SCO (SVR3 with extensions for symlinks and long filenames)
* SCO OpenServer 5
* Wyse V/386 (SVR3 with extensions for symlinks)
* Xenix V/386 (386 small model binaries only)
* Xenix 286
Unrecognised binaries will default to the Linux personality for ELF or
the SVR3 personality for COFF binaries. COFF binaries which have had
their .comment section completely removed will default to the SCO
personality. If there are non-standard extensions which require handling
a new personality may need creating in the emulator.
SUPPORTED SUBSYSTEM EMULATIONS
* SYSV IPC
* /dev/socksys socket interface as used by the Lachman STREAMS
based networking implementation.
* BSD and Wyse V/386 system call socket interface.
* /dev/spx STREAMS device (limited server support).
* XTI/TLI transports for TCP, UDP and related protocols - client
only (outgoing connections). Accepting connections untested.
Unix variants with non-standard extensions which are not SVr4, SCO or Wyse
will not be recognised and may fail unexpectedly. A new personality may
need to be built.
The recognition of COFF binaries is dependent on comment strings
embedded in the binary at compile time. If these strings are missing or
not as expected the binary will not be recognised correctly and may
fail unexpectedly. It is also possible that binaries from other systems
may be misrecognised although given the strings used this should be
Some Xenix functions are unimplemented, in particular Xenix semaphores.
SVr4 local connections are made using the same named pipes that linux
uses. SVr4 networking should be working if you use the libnsl.so and
libsocket.so shared libraries that come with the libc_s package.
There is little STREAMS support. Programs that rely on STREAMS features and
functionality may not work.
Programs, applications or packages which require modules or device drivers
to be linked in to the kernel will not work. Linux is *not* based on SYSV
code and does not have SYSV internals. The driver would need rewriting for
use under Linux.
The mail list for this project is located at email@example.com.
To subscribe send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with the text
"subscribe linux-ibcs2" in the body. This mailing list is also carried
on sme news servers as linux.ibcs2.
1. Extract the archive (you have already done this of course). It doesn't
matter where you put this source. You will need the "insmod" program
from the modutils archive to load the compiled emulator module
(available on all major Linux archive sites).
2. There may be optional patches - check the options in the Makefile and
the patches in the Patches directory. If you are using a non-current
2.1 kernel you should upgrade it. The 2.1 series is a development kernel
and liable to frequent changes. The kernel supported by iBCS is always
the current "stable" kernel release however it may work with one or
more contemporary development releases and may require a development
release in order to support some functionality.
# patch -d /usr/src/linux -p1 < Patches/<whatever>
3. Link or copy one of the architecture specific configurations
(CONFIG.i386, CONFIG.sparc etc.) to CONFIG and edit it to make
any changes you wish.
# cp CONFIG.i386 CONFIG
# vi CONFIG
4. Do a 'make' in the ibcs directory. A 'make install' will then
install the iBCS module in /usr/lib/modules/iBCS and the x286emul
Xenix 286 emulation overlay in /usr/lib/x286emul. The Xenix 286
overlay will only compile if you have an ELF development system
and have installed the a.out compiler support. If you have a
pre-ELF development system comment out the BINTYPE definition
at the beginning of x286emul/Makefile. If you are unable to
compile x286emul don't worry. It is *only* required if you need
to run Xenix 286 programs.
5. The interfaces to some subsystems occur at the device layer and thus
you need to create some device files in order to use them. A 'make
install' will create them automatically replacing any that you had
from a previous version of iBCS (which may be different from what
the current iBCS requires). You can recreate devices at any time
by doing a 'make devices' in the top level ibcs directory or by
running the MAKEDEV.ibcs script in /dev/.
6. Load the iBCS emulator using "modprobe iBCS". If it fails to load
the most likely explanations are that you either got the CONFIG
wrong or you compiled against a different kernel from the one
you are running. If iBCS loads successfully and you are running
kerneld you can "rmmod iBCS" again - kerneld will load it as
7. Run the SVr4, SCO or other x86 programs. Pay attention to the COMPAT
file, the HINTS file and any patches that may be in PROD.Patches.
Just because they are commercial doesn't make them perfect :-(.
The emulator has the ability to trace the events which it processes. The
program to enable the tracing function is contained in the Tools directory.
To make the trace utility, go to the Tools directory and do a make.
Run 'trace' with no arguments to get a list of capabilities. Full tracing
is enabled using 'trace all'. This is extremely verbose - you probably
want to kill syslogd and use 'tail -f' to dump /proc/kmsg directly to
a file as quickly as possible if you enable this.
If you have no intention of ever using the trace facilities (and will
never complain that something doesn't work) you can remove the IBCS_TRACE
option and recompile the emulator without the tracing facilities. This
makes the emulator about a third smaller but ensures that there is no
way for you to find out if program failures are directly due to faults
in the emulator.
Many programs require shared libraries. You can use the shared libraries
from an existing non-Linux system under Linux, but it is your responsibility
to check whether your license allows you to do this whether directly or
A shared libc is being developed by Eric Youngdale and can be compiled
both as ELF (for SVR4) and COFF (for SVR3/SCO). Replacements for
the SVR3/SCO libnsl_s and protlib_s are under development by Mike
Jagdis. All the available replacement shared libraries should be
available from the same place you got the iBCS module. The replacement
shared libraries are not perfect but largely usable.
The SVr4 X11 libraries are not part of this package, but precompiled
libraries for X11 can be obtained from the binary sites for XFree86.
No shared library replacements for COFF X libraries are currently
available. There are quite a few variations so many programs simply
don't use them. It is theoretically possible to recreate the necessary
jump tables and compile the relevant version of the X libraries.
(The X code is public anyway of course...)
If you find a program which produces warnings about unsupported syscalls
or ioctls please look at available header files and/or man pages and
try and identify what should be happening. If we know what the program
expects to happen we can emulate it.
If you find a program which runs but crashes at some point then try and
reproduce the problem. Once you can crash it at will you can generate
a trace of the relevant section. Run the program and bring it to a point
a little before it crashes then enable tracing in the emulator and dump
the trace to a file by running (on a different VT or xterm):
# killall syslogd syslogk klogd
# dmesg -c > /dev/null
# tail -f /proc/kmsg > /tmp/log &
# .../ibcs/Tools/trace all
Then do whatever it is that causes the crash, disable the emulator tracing
and kill the tail:
# .../ibcs/Tools/trace off
# killall tail
and examine the log.
If the program is trying to access a device that doesn't exist and whose
intended behaviour is not readily apparent (not all devices are devices,
take a look at /dev/socksys which implements the socket system calls
behind ioctls) you may wish to use the devtrace module. Firstly, if
you aren't using a recent (1.1.45+?) kernel you will need to edit the
file devtrace.c and define a fixed major number. Build the module
using 'make devtrace' and load it with insmod. If you left the major
number as zero look up the allocated number in /proc/devices then
create whatever device nodes your program is trying to access. The
devtrace module simply writes kernel syslog messages for all operations
performed on it and pretends that everything succeeds. This will
cause your program to die horribly but should leave you with enough
information to find out what was expected of the real device.
If you can fix the problem do so and post the fix to the IBCS2 mailing
list, otherwise post the *relevant* details you have - parts of the log
file, ioctl details, syscall details etc. Remember, it's better to post
too little initially and then post further details when asked than it
is to post too much and annoy people who may be able to help!
Until and unless the COFF X library is implemented, COFF X windows
applications probably will not work on this system. However statically
linked binaries will work. WordPerfect ship a statically linked
version of their SCO port which is known to work with Linux+iBCS.
For SVr4, you can obtain the X11 shared libraries from the binary
distribution sites of XFree86.
The Intel Binary Compatibility Specification, version 2 is described in
the "McGraw Hill book".
Intel Binary Compatibility Specification
1221 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
The McGraw Hill order desk can be reached on 1-800-722-4726 or
Vendor specific extensions were determined through a combination of
header files, man pages, manuals and the behaviour of existing programs.
To the best of my knowledge no developer of the iBCS emulator has ever
had access to controlled Unix source - never mind used it as a reference.
To be honest it probably wouldn't have helped...