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AmigaOS 4.0 - About OS4 - Miscellaneous

Motorola 680x0 emulators in AmigaOS4

For a long time Amigas have had the famous Motorola 680x0 processors as the central unit for execution. Unfortunately the time of the 680x0 series is passing in favor of other architectures. The new era of processors reached the Amiga some time ago, when expansion boards became available for extending the Classic systems with the raw power of a PowerPC processor.

In the old operating system (3.x) it was not possible to gain the full advantage of the new processors. The system itself and most of the applications required the original Motorola 680x0 processor. There was no 680x0 emulation available for the PowerPCs, so the 680x0 could not be "switched off".

Thus the new processors remained as a powerful, but mostly unused adjunct to the main 680x0 processor. "Native" PowerPC programs were rare, and every time a PowerPC program called the system, a so called "context switch" occurred between the 680x0 and PowerPC code, often causing a large performance penalty.

The new Amiga platform is based on the PowerPC processor family, therefore the new version of the AmigaOS has to smooth the transition from the 680x0 series, which is achieved by emulating the old processor architecture. The operating system itself is written almost 100 percent for the PowerPC processors, but the 680x0 legacy applications require an emulated 680x0 processor.

Emulators in OS4.0
In version 4.0 of AmigaOS, two different emulators were implemented; one is the successor of BlackBox emulation, it is an interpretive emulator, thus the emulation speed is mediocre. On the other hand it has a very low "reaction time", and is ideal for time critical parts, such as interrupts.

The other is Petunia, the "JIT emulator". A fast, but less compatible way of emulation of the legacy Motorola processors. It is intended mainly for emulating applications, and therefore, when execution of the application leaves the bounds of the application's code segment, emulation falls back to the interpretive method, where it does its job and returns to the JIT emulation again.

Dynamic recompilation (also called just-in-time compilation or simply JIT compilation) is a technique of translating foreign processor machine code to native machine code, "on the fly".

This technique is common nowadays, commonly applied in JAVA virtual machines, and it is also used with success in several emulators. In dynamic recompilation there is the possibility of runtime optimization of the emulated code by collecting statistics of the execution process. Therefore (theoretically) the final executed code can be even faster than the original code on its original processor.

Features of the emulated processor
Emulated opcodes:

  • all user and supervisor level opcodes of the Motorola 68040
  • all FPU opcodes of the Motorola 68881/68882
AmigaOS claims only 68020/68881 compatibility to applications because this is the safest compatibility level, but both emulators are compatible with the machine code up to the level of 68040/060 processors.

At compile time, a low level flag and branch control analysis allows on-the-fly optimizations of compiled code.

Removing the JIT emulator
Using the dynamic translation requires a lot more memory than the interpretive emulation. The translated code needs to be stored somewhere, not to mention the data collection tables.

If speed is not as important as the memory consumption of the system, then the JIT emulator can be removed, leaving the job to the interpretive emulator.

Thanks to the modular design of AmigaOS4 kickstart, all you need to do is edit the "Sys:Kickstart/Kicklayout" file, simply put a semicolon (;) at the beginning of the module line of Petunia.library.kmod. After rebooting the system from cold, the JIT emulator will not be reloaded. Make sure that you alter the appropriate configuration in the Kicklayout file, there may be several alternative configurations, with different names like "DefaultJIT", or "DefaultNoJIT".

Configuring the emulators
Petunia cooperates with a so called "black list". By default Petunia emulates every 680x0 program or library that is loaded by DOS.library/LoadSeg function, but if an executable or library shows incompatibilities with Petunia, then it can be explicitly inhibited from the dynamic recompilation by specifying it in a list file.

If an executable needs to be added to the list, then it can be done by extending the file "DEVS:applications.dos" with the Compatibility preferences program from the Prefs drawer of the system. Adding a program name to the list and checking it will prevent Petunia from emulating that program, and it will be interpreted instead by the built-in interpreter.

Removing a program from the list or unchecking (thus allowing Petunia to emulate it again) can be done with the same preferences program.

Please note: some programs consist of multiple executables (shared libraries, plugins). If you want to fully disable the translation of such programs, then every part must be added to the list.

For example to disable UnArc fully, you would have to add all files from libs:xad and also xadmaster.library to the list.

Disclaimer: Amiga Auckland have prepared the above information for the use of its members based on our experiences and as such is subject to revision at any time. Amiga Auckland cannot guarantee any of the information and cannot be held accountable for any issues that may result from using it.

Copyright 2005 Amiga Auckland Inc. All rights reserved.
Revised: December 15, 2005.