2. Building the Memory Pool System

2.1. Introduction

This document describes the various ways in which you can build the MPS, its libraries, and the tests and tools that come with it.

You may be building the MPS for a number of different purposes.

2.2. Getting hold of the MPS Kit

Download the latest MPS Kit release from http://www.ravenbrook.com/project/mps/release/.

2.3. Compiling the MPS for your project

It is easy to compile the MPS. You can do it separately, or include the source in your own project’s build system. This section describes compilation in terms of command lines, but you can equally add the files to a project in an IDE.

The MPS also comes with Makefiles and IDE project files for building libraries, tools, and tests. See “Building the MPS for development”.

2.3.1. Compiling for production

In the simplest case, you can compile the MPS to an object file with just:

cc -c mps.c           (Unix/macOS)
cl /c mps.c           (Windows)

This will build a “hot” variety (for production) object file for use with mps.h. You can greatly improve performance by allowing global optimization, for example:

cc -O2 -c mps.c       (Unix/macOS)
cl /O2 /c mps.c       (Windows)

2.3.2. Compiling for debugging

You can get a “cool” variety MPS (with more internal checking, for debugging and development) with:

cc -g -DCONFIG_VAR_COOL -c mps.c    (Unix/macOS)
cl /Zi /DCONFIG_VAR_COOL /c mps.c   (Windows)

2.3.3. Optimizing for your object format

If you are using your own object format, you will also get improved performance by allowing the compiler to do global optimizations between it and the MPS. So if your format implementation is in, say, myformat.c, then you could make a file mymps.c containing:

#include "mps.c"
#include "myformat.c"


cc -O2 -c mymps.c     (Unix/macOS)
cl /O2 /c mymps.c     (Windows)

This will get your format code inlined with the MPS garbage collector.

2.3.4. Compiling without the C library

If you’re building the MPS for an environment without the standard C library, you can exclude the plinth component of the MPS with:

cl /Gs /DCONFIG_PLINTH_NONE /c mps.c

but you must then provide your own implementation of mpslib.h. You can base this on the ANSI plinth in mpsliban.c.

If you want to do anything beyond these simple cases, use the MPS build as described in the section “Building the MPS for development” below.

2.4. Building the MPS for development

If you’re making modifications to the MPS itself, want to build MPS libraries for linking, or want to build MPS tests and tools, you should use the MPS build. This uses makefiles or Xcode projects.

2.4.1. Prerequisites

For Unix-like platforms you will need the GNU Make tool. Some platforms (such as Linux) have GNU Make as their default make tool. For others you will need to get and install it. (It’s available free from ftp://ftp.gnu.org/gnu/make/.) On FreeBSD this can be done as root with pkg_add -r gmake.

On Windows platforms the NMAKE tool is used. This comes with Microsoft Visual Studio C++ or the Microsoft Windows SDK.

On macOS the MPS is built using Xcode, either by opening mps.xcodeproj with the Xcode app, or using the command-line “xcodebuild” tool, installed from Xcode → Preferences → Downloads → Components → Command Line Tools.

2.4.2. Platforms

The MPS uses a six-character platform code to express a combination of operating system, CPU architecture, and compiler toolchain. Each six-character code breaks down into three pairs of characters, like this:


Where OS denotes the operating system, AR the CPU architecture, and CT the compiler toolchain. Here are the platforms that we have regular access to and on which the MPS works well:

Platform OS Architecture Compiler Makefile
fri3gc FreeBSD IA-32 GCC fri3gc.gmk
fri3ll FreeBSD IA-32 Clang fri3ll.gmk
fri6gc FreeBSD x86-64 GCC fri6gc.gmk
fri6ll FreeBSD x86-64 Clang fri6ll.gmk
lii3gc Linux IA-32 GCC lii3gc.gmk
lii6gc Linux x86-64 GCC lii6gc.gmk
lii6ll Linux x86-64 Clang lii6ll.gmk
w3i3mv Windows IA-32 Microsoft C w3i3mv.nmk
w3i6mv Windows x86-64 Microsoft C w3i6mv.nmk
xci3ll macOS IA-32 Clang mps.xcodeproj
xci6ll macOS x86-64 Clang mps.xcodeproj

Historically, the MPS worked on a much wider variety of platforms, and still could: IRIX, OSF/1 (Tru64), Solaris, SunOS, Classic Mac OS; MIPS, PowerPC, ALPHA, SPARC v8, SPARC v9; Metrowerks Codewarrior, SunPro C, Digital C, EGCS, Pelles C. If you are interested in support on any of these platforms or any new platforms, please contact Ravenbrook at mps-questions@ravenbrook.com.

2.4.3. Running make

To build all MPS targets on Unix-like platforms, change to the code directory and run the command:

make -f <makefile>

where make is the command for GNU Make. (Sometimes this will be gmake or gnumake.)

To build just one target, run:

make -f <makefile> <target>

To build a restricted set of targets for just one variety, run:

make -f <makefile> 'VARIETY=<variety>' <target>

For example, to build just the “cool” variety of the amcss test on 64-bit Linux with Clang:

gmake -f lii6ll.gmk VARIETY=cool amcss

On Windows platforms you need to run the “Visual Studio Command Prompt” from the Start menu. Then run one of these commands:

nmake /f w3i3mv.nmk         (32-bit)
nmake /f w3i6mv.nmk         (64-bit)

You will need to switch your build environment between 32-bit and 64-bit using Microsoft’s setenv command, for example, setenv /x86 or setenv /x64.

To build just one target, run one of these commands:

nmake /f w3i3mv.nmk <target>         (32-bit)
nmake /f w3i6mv.nmk <target>         (64-bit)

On macOS (64-bit only), you can build from the command line with:


On most platforms, the output of the build goes to a directory named after the platform (e.g. lii6ll) so that you can share the source tree across platforms. On macOS the output goes in a directory called xc. Building generates mps.a or mps.lib or equivalent, a library of object code which you can link with your application, subject to the MPS licensing conditions. It also generates a number of test programs, such as amcss (a stress test for the Automatic Mostly-Copying pool class) and tools such as mpseventcnv (for decoding telemetry logs).

2.5. Installing the Memory Pool System

Unix-like platforms can use the GNU Autoconf configure script in the root directory of the MPS Kit to generate a Makefile that can build and install the MPS. For example:

./configure --prefix=/opt/mps
make install

will install the MPS public headers in /opt/mps/include, the libraries in /opt/mps/lib etc.

There is currently no automatic way to “install” the MPS on Windows.

On any platform, you can install by copying the libraries built by the make to, for example, /usr/local/lib, and all the headers beginning with mps to /usr/local/include.

Note, however, that you may get better performance by using the method described in the section “Optimizing for your object format” above.

2.5.1. mpseventsql

The MPS Kit can build a command-line program mpseventsql that loads a diagnostic stream of events into a SQLite3 database for processing. In order to build this program, you need to install the SQLite3 development resources.

  • On macOS, SQLite3 is pre-installed, so this tool builds by default.

  • On Linux, you need to install the libsqlite3-dev package:

    apt-get install libsqlite3-dev

    and then re-run ./configure and make as described above.

  • On FreeBSD, you need to build and install the databases/sqlite3 port from the ports collection:

    cd /usr/ports/databases/sqlite3
    make install clean

    and then re-run ./configure and make as described above.

  • On Windows, you should visit the SQLite Download Page and download the sqlite-amalgamation ZIP archive. (At time of writing this is the first download on the page.) When you unzip the archive, you’ll find it contains files named sqlite3.c and sqlite3.h. Copy these two files into the code directory in the MPS Kit. Then in the “Visual Studio Command Prompt”, visit the code directory and run one of these commands:

    nmake /f w3i3mv.nmk mpseventsql.exe         (32-bit)
    nmake /f w3i6mv.nmk mpseventsql.exe         (64-bit)