Compiling Java with GCJ
Using GCC to run a Java program is familiar to anyone who has used it for C or C++ programs. To compile the Java program MyJavaProg.java, type:
gcj -c -g -O MyJavaProg.java
To link it, use the command:
gcj --main=MyJavaProg -o MyJavaProg MyJavaProg.oThis is just like compiling a C++ program mycxxprog.cc:
g++ -c -g -O mycxxprog.ccand then linking to create an executable mycxxprog:
g++ -o mycxxprog mycxxprog.oThe only new aspect is the option --main=MyJavaProg. This is needed because it is common to write Java classes containing a main method that can be used for testing or small utilities. Thus, if you link a bunch of Java-compiled classes together, there may be many main methods, and you need to tell the linker which one should be called when the application starts.
You also have the option of compiling a set of Java classes into a shared library (.so file). In fact, the GCJ runtime system is compiled to a .so file. While the details of this belong in another article, if you are curious you can look at the Makefiles of Kawa (discussed below) to see how this works.
GCJ is not only a compiler. It is intended to be a complete Java environment with features similar to Sun's JDK. If you specify the -C option to gcj it will compile to standard .class files. Specifically, the goal is that gcj -C should be a plugin replacement for Sun's javac command.
GCJ comes with a bytecode interpreter (contributed by Kresten Krab Thorup) and has a fully functional ClassLoader. The standalone gij program works as a plugin replacement for Sun's java command.
GCJ works with libgcj, which is included in GCC 3.0. This runtime library includes the core runtime support, Hans Boehm's well-regarded conservative garbage collector, the bytecode interpreter and a large library of classes. For legal and technical reasons, GCJ cannot ship Sun's class library, so it has its own. The GNU Classpath Project now uses the same license and FSF copyright that libgcj and libstdc++ use, and classes are being merged between the two projects. We use the GPL but with the special exception that if you link libgcj with other files to produce an executable, this does not by itself cause the executable to be compiled by the GPL. Thus, even proprietary programs can be linked with the standard C++ or Java; runtime libraries.
The libgcj library includes most of the standard Java classes needed to run non-GUI applications, including all or most of the classes in the java.lang, java.io, java.util, java.net, java.security, java.sql and java.math packages. The major missing components are classes for doing graphics using AWT or Swing. Most of the higher-level AWT classes are implemented, but the lower-level peer classes are not complete enough to be useful. Volunteers are needed to help out.
Although you can do a lot using Java, sometimes you want to call libraries written in another language. This could be because you need to access low-level code that cannot be written to Java, an existing library provides functionality that you need and don't want to rewrite, or you need to do low-level performance hacks for speed. You can do all of these by declaring some Java methods to be native and, instead of writing a method body, provide an implementation in some other language. In 1997, Sun released the Java Native Interface (JNI), which is a standard for writing native methods in either C or C++. The main goal of JNI is portability in the sense that native methods written for one Java implementation should work with another Java implementation, without recompiling. This was designed for a closed-source, distributed-binaries world and is less valuable in a free-software context, especially because you do have to recompile if you change chips or the OS type.
To ensure JNI's portability, everything is done indirectly using a table of functions. This makes JNI very slow. Even worse, writing all these functions and following all the rules is tedious and error-prone. Although GCJ does support JNI, it also provides an alternative. The Compiled Native Interface (CNI, which could also stand for Cygnus Native Interface) is based on the idea that Java is basically a subset of C++ and that GCC uses the same calling convention for C++ and Java. So, what could be more natural than being able to write Java methods using C++ and using standard C++ syntax for access to Java fields and calls to Java methods? Because they use the same calling conventions and data layout, no conversion or magic glue is needed between C++ and Java.
Examples of CNI and JNI will have to wait for a future article. The GCJ manual (gcc.gnu.org/onlinedocs/gcj) covers CNI fairly well, and the libgcj sources include many examples.