Older blog entries for rlougher (starting at number 5)


Finally all ready for Glastonbury. Leave tomorrow morning, and should arrive around midday.

Finishing the welding took longer than expected (it always does). Two new shock absorbers and a couple of brake pipes and the camper passed the MOT on Friday.

Today, I replaced the oil strainer (old VW aircooled engines don't have a modern oil filter) and changed the oil. Decided to change from monograde 30 weight to a modern 15W-50 multigrade. Opinions differ as to which is best (VW recommended monograde back in the early 70s but multigrades have improved considerably since then). I've used monograde for 2 years and I'll see if it runs better.

Glastonbury should be fun, but I'm keen to get back to JamVM. I'm not taking a laptop!

Syndicated 2008-06-25 01:06:00 (Updated 2008-06-25 01:25:13) from Robert Lougher

Flowers in your hair (or at least on your camper)

It's now a month since I finished working. I still have no regrets leaving -- this is the first real time I've had off for 4 and a half years, and I've only made a small dent in the amount of work that's built up in the last few years. In total, I've been working away from home for the past 7 years, and I'm getting to the age where I can't do it any longer.

Having said that, I will soon have to think about finding another job. I don't want to live off my savings for more than a few months. Maybe to the end of the summer. But I need to start to consider my options (which at present is not very much).

So what have I been doing for the last month? I've been restoring my old 1972 VW camper (it's almost as old as I am). I did quite a lot of welding for the MOT last year but the final finishing up was rushed due to lack of time. I've got yet more to do for the MOT this year, which is up just before Glastonbury (a long running music festival, for the non-UK readers). Taking an old hippy-wagon to Glastonbury is a lot of fun (I'm thinking about putting on a load of stick-on flowers for this year).

Last week I finished respraying the front in its original colours (orient blue over pastel white) and replaced the spare tyre with a VW symbol. This required longer than expected because the front panel needed welding and a new panel had to be welded in the left corner (it was all filler).

Tomorrow, I've got to finish removing the near-side inner sil, weld in a new one, and replace the rear jacking point. Then I've got to start on the outer sil. It should then be ready for the MOT (only 8 days remaining). I replaced the front jacking points and outriggers last year.

So what about JamVM? I'm still working on it in the evenings, as if I was still working. I'm currently still bogged down in a load of inlining interpreter optimisations that I've been prototyping for the last few months. I've now got to put everything back together and tidy things up for a release. With testing, this is still at least a month or so away.

Contrary to my previous posts, I'm no longer thinking about giving JamVM up. I've decided I do get sufficient "return" for my time to make it worthwile. Giving your time away for free when there's no money coming in is difficult, but I don't want to end up just another odd-jobber doing up his camper.

Syndicated 2008-06-12 01:22:00 (Updated 2008-06-12 02:28:19) from Robert Lougher

Third time lucky?

In JamVM 1.5.0 I released the "inlining interpreter" which copies code blocks together in a similar way to a simple JIT (but the code is compiled by gcc, rather than being generated natively as in a JIT). This achieved an impressive speed improvement and I've been keen to optimise it further.

The major thing which has been in my sights is the remaining dispatches between adjacent basic blocks. For instance the fallthrough edge of an "if" and across the edge caused by a jump target.

Currently, the unit of inlining is a basic block because this has only one entry point and one exit point. Blocks which contain instructions which need to be rewritten (quickening, e.g. after symbolic resolution) must be executed first using threaded dispatch. If we inlined across blocks we will end up with blocks with multiple entry and multiple exit points. In this case, depending on control flow, we may complete the block before all the block has been executed, or we may never reach the end of the block because a side exit is always taken. In the first case, inlining can't be done, and in the second inlining will never occur.

My first approach to solve this was simplistic, and was more of an experiment to "test the water". So I wasn't too surprised when it didn't yield any speed improvement.

My second attempt was much more complex (after inlining check the edges and create a longer block if the blocks across the edge are both inlined, and fix up internal targets). But this showed no significant general speed improvement (order of 2%) although specific microbenchmarks showed over 100%.

So for the last week I've been trying to explain the results. After some experiments I've come to the conclusion that it is due to instruction cache locality. Basically, the merged block (which may be merged many times) ends up in a different location to the non-mergeable blocks which remain in the initial position. Previously, inlining exhibited good cache locality due to blocks being allocated in execution order. This was destroyed by block merging. The effects of this counteracted the speed improvements leading to no change overall.

This was the position I was in on Friday (which added to my despondency). However, on the weekend I rethought the problem and came up with a third approach. I've partially implemented it and hopefully should be able to test it in a few days. Fingers crossed!

Syndicated 2008-04-28 15:07:00 (Updated 2008-04-28 17:01:27) from Robert Lougher

JamVM : back on the map

I feel like a kid who's thrown a tantrum and been rewarded with an ice-cream. In my last post I really thought I was asking a "serious and legitimate question" but it's difficult not to squirm when you get the praise you were secretly hoping for...

So I'm grateful to all those who replied. JamVM is firmly back on the map :)

Syndicated 2008-04-28 14:35:00 (Updated 2008-04-28 15:05:16) from Robert Lougher

JamVM : road to nowhere?

Change logs and development notes never give any insight into the wider whys and wherefores of a project. Perhaps that's for the better; stick to the facts, that's what engineers are good at. But as this is my first real post on JamVM (now that I know everything is working) I think it's appropriate.

I started JamVM because I stopped being paid to work on proprietary VMs (after leaving a suitable gap). Because of worries of tainting I started my own VM rather than helping out on another. For the same reason I never directly contributed to GNU Classpath either. Of course, I wanted to make it smaller than any other, and I also wanted to make it open-source.

I work on JamVM because I enjoy it. It's also nice to get the (occasional) positive email from users, and to see people using it on a whole variety of hardware. The download statistics are also still going up (last month downloads from sourceforge was over 1000 for the first time, and this doesn't include all the distros that package it and embedded buildroots).

The problem is I sometimes wonder whether I'm flogging a dead horse and I'd be better off contributing my time to something else. I'm not trying to throw my toys out of the pram either; this is a serious and legitimate question.

Of course, the reason is OpenJDK and to a lesser extent PhoneME. Java is now open-sourced, mostly unencumbered and finally packaged. At best am I wasting my time, and at worst am I fragmenting and confusing things? Opinions, dear readers, gratefully received.

I discussed this with Jeroen Frijters at FOSDEM. In danger of misrepresenting things due to alcohol abuse, the general upshot was "why care?". If you still enjoy doing it, then do it. So I am.

Syndicated 2008-04-25 16:29:00 (Updated 2008-04-25 17:40:06) from Robert Lougher

First Post!

With the orbits of the Java planets colliding I've decided it's about time that JamVM got a blog! It's only taken 5 years :)

Syndicated 2008-04-25 14:34:00 (Updated 2008-04-25 14:41:26) from Robert Lougher

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