Julia Evans

How to call Rust from assembly, and vice versa

In the last few days I’ve been working on a kernel in Rust. This has entailed learning about linkers and foreign function interfaces and all kinds of things.

To learn this stuff, I read this guide to linkers, looked at the Rust foreign function interface tutorial, and asked a million questions on the Rust IRC channel.

Disclaimer: even more than usual, some of this is probably wrong.

So. Linkers.

I have assembly functions that I need to call from Rust, and Rust functions I need to call from assembly. Everything gets compiled to assembly eventually, so this is a reasonable thing to do. As far as I understand it, a function call is just jumping to an address in memory and putting some stuff on the stack and in registers, and the code doesn’t care at all if that address in memory comes from Rust or C or assembly or what.

Some terminology:

  • A calling convention is about how exactly the stuff gets put on the stack and in the registers. Rust and C have different calling conventions.
  • An object file is what you get when you compile some source code to a library (using gcc or nasm or rustc). It ends in .o
  • A symbol is an identifier in a program, like a variable or function name. Object files have a symbol table and can refer to symbols in other object files.
  • A linker (like ld) combines several object files into one binary, matching up their symbol tables.

Calling Rust from assembly

So here’s an assembly function that calls a Rust function:

global  _interrupt_handler_kbd_wrapper
extern _interrupt_handler_kbd

    call    _interrupt_handler_kbd

extern says that _interrupt_handler_kbd isn’t actually defined in this file, but that nasm shouldn’t worry about it when assembling – it’ll be fixed later. This is like a function declaration in C, except without the types.

I haven’t tested this yet so there’s probably something wrong with it. But it compiles.

Calling assembly from Rust

External functions are defined in Rust again using the extern keyword (sound familiar? =D).

I need to get the address of the _interrupt_handler_kbd_wrapper and idt_load functions in Rust, so I defined them like this:

extern {
    fn _interrupt_handler_kbd_wrapper ();
    fn idt_load(x: *IDTPointer);

You’ll notice that I needed to specify the types of the function’s arguments. These don’t have return values, but if they did I’d need to write those types too.

The type of _interrupt_handler_kbd_wrapper is extern "C" unsafe fn(). That’s pretty complicated, but let’s break it down:

  • extern means it’s defined in another object file.
  • "C" is the calling convention which we mentioned before.
  • We have no idea what the function could be doing, so it’s unsafe.

Then I can just call my extern functions like normal Rust functions.

Putting it together: the linker

I have a file named linker.ld that contains:


    . = 0x7e00;

    .text : {

Then I run

i386-elf-ld -T linker.ld runtime.o main.o isr_wrapper.o -o main.bin

where main.o is my Rust file and isr_wrapper.o is my assembly file. You’ll notice that now they have a .o extension – now they’re “object files” and they’re all assembly code.

This ld command puts main.o, runtime.o, and isr_wrapper.o together into one binary. Basically this matches up symbols with the same name and makes it work. If an extern function I declare in a file doesn’t exist, then I’ll get a linker error like this:

main.o: In function `main':
main.rc:(.text+0x1db): undefined reference to `_interrupt_handler_kbd_wrapper'

But this kind of linker error isn’t scary any more! It just means that _interrupt_handler_kbd_wrapper isn’t in the symbol table of any of the other object files we’re linking.

How to look at an object file’s symbol table

To see the symbols that are defined in isr_wrapper.o, I can use objdump like this:

bork@kiwi ~/w/h/rustboot> objdump -t isr_wrapper.o

isr_wrapper.o:     file format elf32-i386

00000000 l    df *ABS*  00000000 isr_wrapper.asm
00000000 l    d  .text  00000000 .text
00000000         *UND*  00000000 _interrupt_handler_kbd
00000000 g       .text  00000000 _interrupt_handler_kbd_wrapper
00000008 g       .text  00000000 idt_load

You can see here that I’ve defined _interrupt_handler_kbd_wrapper and idt_load, but that _interrupt_handler_kbd is undefined and needs to be defined in another file.

You can also use objdump -T to look at a dynamically linked .so file’s symbol table. We’re not talking about dynamic linking today =). For example objdump -T /usr/lib32/libm.so shows me the math library’s symbol table. COOL.

That’s all!

You may notice that it doesn’t really make sense to call _interrupt_handler_kbd_wrapper from Rust. I’m not actually calling it, I just need to refer to it so I can store its address.

Videos from PyData NYC are up! Day 35: Types in Rust, for beginners