Lisp on Debian/ARM

After reading Revenge of the Nerds I decided it was time to learn Lisp. Programming without some kind of real project is boring, so my plan is to write some web applications using jquery and Lisp (for the back end).

Since I have a Qnap TS-109 running 24×7 I thought it would make a good development machine and Lisp web server. It runs Debian 6.0, but running Lisp on it turned out to be a challenge.

Debian, Lisp and ASDF
Debian supports installing different implementations of (Common) Lisp. However, it seems to be tricky to find a version that installs a binary on Debian ARM.

Also, there is a package depency tool for lisp called ASDF. Lisp implementations should come with it.

The only Common Lisp that I managed to easily install (i.e. with apt-get) in Debain 6.0 ARM was GCL. But it is a version of GCL that is 5 years old, and it does not come with ASDF.

I spent much time trying to compile clisp, but in the end I ended up with:

  > ( / 6 3)
  > ( / 5 2)
  Segmentation Fault

Not so fun. Significant parts of clisp is written in assembly (both a good thing and a bad thing), and I was really not able to figure out if it was supposed to work on ARM EABI at all, or just on the old ARM ABI. So after much struggle I gave up clisp.

I managed to compile ECL from source. Not completely without hassle though. It comes with libffi, but I ended up with compilation errors (the processor does not support…). So, I downloaded libffi, compiled it myself and installed it in /opt/libffi. That was no problem, but I ended up making a symbolic link to include myself:

kvaser@kvaser:/opt/libffi$ ls -l
total 8
lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root   40 Mar 11 16:52 include -> /opt/libffi/lib/libffi-3.0.10rc9/include
drwxr-xr-x 4 root root 4096 Mar 11 16:37 lib
drwxr-xr-x 4 root root 4096 Mar 11 16:37 share

Now I configured ecl with:

CPPFLAGS=-I/opt/libffi/include LDFLAGS=-L/opt/libffi/lib ./configure --prefix=/opt/ecl --with-dffi=auto

That worked, and compiling went fine until ecl_min could not be executed, because it could not find I tried to fix that a while, but finally ended up making another symbolic link:

kvaser@kvaser:/usr/lib$ ls -l
lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root 31 Mar 11 19:56 -> /opt/libffi/lib/

After that, I ran make again to finish compilation. It went fine.

ECL, ASDF and cl-who
Now, where to put the Lisp http library cl-who? I copied the asd-file and the lisp-files to the ecl library folder and ran ecl as root:

kvaser@kvaser:~/lisp/cl-who-0.11.1$ sudo cp cl-who.asd /opt/ecl/lib/ecl-11.1.1/
kvaser@kvaser:~/lisp/cl-who-0.11.1$ sudo cp *.lisp /opt/ecl/lib/ecl-11.1.1/
kvaser@kvaser:~$ sudo /opt/ecl/bin/ecl
  ... ...
> (require 'asdf)

;;; Loading #P"/opt/ecl/lib/ecl-11.1.1/asdf.fas"
;;; Loading #P"/opt/ecl/lib/ecl-11.1.1/cmp.fas"
("ASDF" "CMP")

> (asdf:operate 'asdf:load-op :cl-who)    
  ... ...

Now, cl-who is compiled and installed, ready to use. Next time, it does not need to be compiled.

Hello LISP
I wrote a little Hello World program:

kvaser@kvaser:~/lisp$ cat hello.lisp 
(format T "Hello Lisp~%")
kvaser@kvaser:~/lisp$ /opt/ecl/bin/ecl -load hello.lisp 
;;; Loading "/home/kvaser/lisp/hello.lisp"
Hello Lisp

Quite good (except I already know the file was loaded and it disturbs my output, but whatever. How about compiling it?

kvaser@kvaser:~/lisp$ /opt/ecl/bin/ecl -compile hello.lisp 
;;; Loading #P"/opt/ecl/lib/ecl-11.1.1/cmp.fas"
;;; Compiling hello.lisp.
;;; OPTIMIZE levels: Safety=2, Space=0, Speed=3, Debug=0
;;; End of Pass 1.
;;; Note:
;;;   Invoking external command:
;;;   gcc -I. -I/opt/ecl/include/ -I/opt/libffi/include -D_GNU_SOURCE -D_FILE_OFFSET_BITS=64 -g -O2 -fPIC -Dlinux -O2 -w -c hello.c -o hello.o 
;;; Note:
;;;   Invoking external command:
;;;   gcc -o hello.fas -L/opt/ecl/lib/ /home/kvaser/lisp/hello.o -Wl,--rpath,/opt/ecl/lib/ -shared -L/opt/libffi/lib -L/opt/libffi/lib -lecl -lgmp -lgc -lffi -ldl -lm 
;;; Finished compiling hello.lisp.
kvaser@kvaser:~/lisp$ ls
cl-who-0.11.1  cl-who.tar.gz  hello.fas  hello.lisp
kvaser@kvaser:~/lisp$ ./hello.fas 
Segmentation fault
kvaser@kvaser:~/lisp$ /opt/ecl/bin/ecl -load hello.fas 
;;; Loading "/home/kvaser/lisp/hello.fas"
Hello Lisp

Ok, how to make a standalone executable?

> (compile-file "hello.lisp" :system-p t)
  ... ...

> (c:build-program "hello" :lisp-files '("hello.o"))
  ... ...
> (quit)
kvaser@kvaser:~/lisp$ ls
hello  hello.fas  hello.lisp  hello.o
kvaser@kvaser:~/lisp$ time ./hello
Hello Lisp

real	0m3.084s
user	0m2.920s
sys	0m0.160s
kvaser@kvaser:~/lisp$ time /opt/ecl/bin/ecl -load hello.fas 
;;; Loading "/home/kvaser/lisp/hello.fas"
Hello Lisp

real	0m3.127s
user	0m3.060s
sys	0m0.080s
kvaser@kvaser:~/lisp$ time /opt/ecl/bin/ecl -load hello.lisp
;;; Loading "/home/kvaser/lisp/hello.lisp"
Hello Lisp

real	0m3.113s
user	0m2.960s
sys	0m0.160s

Clearly, some overhead is involved in invoking ECL. I compared to C:

kvaser@kvaser:~/lisp$ cat hello.c 

int main(int argc, char **argv) {
	printf("Hello C\n");
kvaser@kvaser:~/lisp$ gcc -o hello_c hello.c 
kvaser@kvaser:~/lisp$ time ./hello_c 
Hello C

real	0m0.012s
user	0m0.010s
sys	0m0.000s

So, I can not use this method for CGI programming right away – each call to the webserver will take at least 3 seconds.

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