Oct 032007

Recently I wanted to set up a testing server for the different virtualization techniques for Linux. For this I have an Asus P5LD2 mainboard with an Intel dual core Pentium D 3,2 GHz which supports the Virtual Machine Extensions (VMX). Thanks to this I can compile Xen with the ‘hvm’ USE-flag and run fully virtualized guest operating systems on my Xen supervisor. This means I could run nearly every i386 compatible operating system (even Windows 😉 ) in my Xen environment. Without such hardware every guest operating system has to have a Xen enabled kernel.

Another approach with the same result is the open source project QEMU. Its abstraction level is higher than with Xen and it can even emulate different target architectures from your current x86 host. So far x86_64, ARM, SPARC, PowerPC, MIPS and M68k target systems are supported. Its guest operating system does not need any single change to run on QEMU. This makes it very comfortable to test new live CDs or operating system images. But it is not so trivial to setup QEMU and Xen together on a Gentoo machine.

How to setup QEMU on 32bit Gentoo in Xen dom0?

If you compile Xen on a 32bit host you have to add ‘-mno-tls-direct-seg-refs’ to your CFLAGS. That is because the glibc TLS library is implemented in a way that will conflict with how Xen uses segment registers. For compiling the non-patched QEMU 0.9.0 you have to use a gcc version 3.x. The nowadays default gcc 4.x is not yet supported. After several compile failures I finally found to setup QEMU the following way:

1. For compiling gcc-3.x remove the ‘-mno-tls-direct-seg-refs’ from /etc/make.conf and set the ‘nossp’ and ‘nopie’ USE-flags. Otherwise gcc or later qemu will not compile.

2. Switch to gcc-3.x before compiling qemu-softmmu, qemu-user and qemu. In my case it’s: gcc-config i686-pc-linux-gnu-3.3.6

3. Check your CFLAGS again because the optimization flags for gcc 4.x are not always backwards compatible to gcc-3.x. In my case the make.conf looks like this:

# gcc-3.x
CFLAGS="-march=pentium4 -O2 -pipe -fomit-frame-pointer -mno-tls-direct-seg-refs"

# gcc-4.x for compiling gcc-3.3
#CFLAGS="-march=prescott -O2 -pipe -fomit-frame-pointer"

# gcc-4.x
#CFLAGS="-march=prescott -O2 -pipe -fomit-frame-pointer -mno-tls-direct-seg-refs"

4. Now you can compile QEMU. Do not forget to switch back to your original CFLAGS and gcc-4.x after successfully emerging QEMU. I recommend to you to also build the QEMU kernel accelerator module kqemu which has to be compiled with the same compiler as the kernel itself.

Now Xen and QEMU are able to run whatever operating system image you give them. Have fun with playing around…

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