Wednesday, May 12, 2010

LLVM projects you may not be aware of

All Mac and iPhone OS developers must by now be familiar with LLVM, the Low-Level Virtual Machine compiler that Apple has backed in preference to GCC (presumably at least partially because because GCC 4.5 is now a GPLv3 project, in addition to technical problems with improving the older compiler). You'll also be familiar with Clang, the modular C/ObjC/C++ lexer/parser that can be used as an LLVM front-end, or as a library for providing static analysis, refactoring and other code comprehension facilities. And of course MacRuby uses LLVM's optimisation libraries.

The LLVM umbrella also covers a number of other projects that Mac/iPhone developers may not yet have heard about, but which nonetheless are pretty cool. This post is just a little tour of some of those. There are other projects that have made use of LLVM code, but which aren't part of the compiler project - they are not the subject of this post.

LibC++ is a C++ library, targeting 100% compatibility with the C++0x (draft) standard.

KLEE looks very cool. It's a "symbolic execution tool", capable of automatically generating unit tests for software with high degrees of coverage (well over 90%). Additionally, given information about an application's constraints and requirements it can automatically discover bugs, generating failing tests to demonstrate the bug and become part of the test suite. There's a paper describing KLEE including a walkthrough of discovering a bug in tr, and tutorials in its use.

vmkit is a substrate layer for running bytecode. It takes high-level bytecode (currently JVM bytecode or IL, the bytecode of the .Net runtime) and translates it to IR, the LLVM intermediate representation. In doing so it can make use of LLVM's optimisations and make better decisions regarding garbage collection.