Cross-Compiling Splash-3

How to cross-compile the Splash-3 benchmark for use with gem5

Something happened which I never thought would: Someone was trying to use my MSci project for similar work. I always assumed the project would only ever be read by my supervisor and the second marker, so having someone else be interested was really exciting!

As part of this, the person ran into the same problems I had, e.g. gem5 can be finicky to set up, configuring the Linux kernel is a daunting task, and cross-compiling is more like repeatedly hitting things with a hammer until it eventually (hopefully) works.

When I was doing my MSci project, I used the Splash-3 benchmark. However, I also cheated a bit in terms of cross-compiling it: I had a native ARMv8 dev-board available which, when cross-compiling got difficult, I used to compile the benchmark and then simply copied over the files, thereby avoiding cross-compiling altogether. This is obviously not always an option, so I decided to have a more serious go at trying to get this working. After all, papers seemed to use it with similar setups to mine, so it had to be possible, right?

Preparation and initial setup

Before we get started, the following setup is assumed:

  • OS: Linux of some variant
  • Guest platform (where we are cross-compiling from): x86_64
  • Host platform (where we are cross-compiling to): ARMv8
  • Some sort of cross-compiling toolchain, e.g. the GNU cross-toolchain for A-profile cores, stored in its own directory (I keep mine in $HOME/xtools).

For convenience, I also like to

export ARMv8_XTOOLS="$HOME/xtools/gcc-arm-10.2-2020.11-x86_64-aarch64-none-linux-gnu/bin/aarch64-none-linux-gnu-"

which defines an environment variable ARMv8_XTOOLS to more easily be able to access the toolchain. (The exact value will be different if you’re using a different cross-compiling toolchain). With this, to run gcc simply run:

$ ${ARMv8_XTOOLS}gcc --version

It should give you:

aarch64-none-linux-gnu-gcc (GNU Toolchain for the A-profile Architecture 10.2-2020.11 (arm-10.16)) 10.2.1 20201103
Copyright (C) 2020 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
This is free software; see the source for copying conditions.  There is NO

Clone the Splash-3 benchmark and cd into the top directory:

$ git clone
$ cd Splash-3

You used to have to make some changes to a number of Makefiles, but this has been fixed as of this PR and so the repository should be mostly be good to go immediately. However, the volrend benchmark is extra finicky to get working, so we need to do something else first.

Cross-compiling libtiff

The volrend benchmark relies on libtiff. Unfortunately, the version included with Splash-3 does not like being cross-compiled. This can be fixed by downloading and cross-compiling a version from the official website (thanks to Chris Sakalis for that idea).

From the root of the Splash-3 repo, start by cd-ing into the codes/apps/volrend/ directory. Then download, copy, and unzip a recent version of libtiff from the official download page.

This extracts a tiff-version directory, which I like to rename to libtiff-version, just to keep things consistent:

$ mv -v {,lib}tiff-<version>
$ cd libtiff-<version>

(Replacing <version> with the version number you downloaded.)

Create an install directory in which to put the cross-compiled library (the name doesn’t matter, as long as you keep it consistent):

$ mkdir install_dir

To configure libtiff for cross-compiling, without shared libraries, and using a custom install path, run:

$ PATH="$(dirname ${ARMv8_XTOOLS}):${PATH}" \
    ./configure --disable-shared --host="aarch64-none-linux-gnu" \
    prefix="${PWD}/install_dir" exec_prefix="${PWD}/install_dir"


  • PATH="$(dirname ${ARMv8_XTOOLS}):${PATH}" – sets the PATH (where the shell looks for executables, checking the first path first) to include the cross-compile toolchain directory (obtained using dirname). We could export this new PATH and then restore it when we’re done, but since it’s only for a couple of instructions, I prefer to do this.
  • ./configure – runs the included configure script.
  • --disable-shared – disables the use of shared libraries. This can be critical for use with things like gem5 where the shared libraries may not be available on the virtual disk.
  • --host="aarch64-none-linux-gnu" – specifies the name of the platform we are cross-compiling for. A useful hint is the prefix of all the executables in the cross-compile toolchain.
  • prefix="${PWD}/install_dir" exec_prefix="${PWD}/install_dir" – specifies that we want the results to be installed in the install_dir directory in the current directory.

Then, to actually compile and install, run:

$ PATH="$(dirname ${ARMv8_XTOOLS}):${PATH}" \
    make prefix="${PWD}/install_dir" exec_prefix="${PWD}/install_dir"

$ PATH="$(dirname ${ARMv8_XTOOLS}):${PATH}" \
    make install prefix="${PWD}/install_dir" exec_prefix="${PWD}/install_dir"

Depending on your hardware, the initial make may take a couple of minutes.

Patching volrend

To use the new libtiff with volrend, we need to make a couple of changes:

  • If you haven’t already, cd back up from libtiff-<version> to volrend:
    $ cd ..
  • Delete (or move, if you prefer that) the old libtiff:
    $ rm -rf libtiff
    (note the omission of <version>, do not delete your new version!)
  • Create a symlink to the custom libtiff install directory so that volrend still finds the expected libraries (this is slightly hacky, but it works):
    $ ln -sv libtiff-<version>/install_dir/lib libtiff
  • Modify the volrend Makefile to not destroy the work we just did, and to correctly compile and link against the new libtiff:
    • Remove libtiff/libtiff.a from OBJS.
    • In CFLAGS, change -I./libtiff to -I./libtiff/../include (not the prettiest, I know; feel free to leave a comment in the website repo discussion if you have a better idea) and append to the end of line: -ltiff -lm.
    • In LDFLAGS, append to the end of the line: -lm.
    • Remove the libtiff/libtiff.a target and its recipe.
    • Add an all target depending on $(OBJS) which compiles VOLREND:
      all: $(OBJS)
        $(MAKE) VOLREND
    • Remove the $(MAKE) -C libtiff clean line from the clean target’s recipe.
    • (If you feel unsure about making the changes above yourself, here is a patch you can apply by copying it to the codes directory and running
      $ patch -p0 < splash3-volrend-makefile-patch.diff
      from the codes directory.)

Cross-compiling Splash-3 (finally)

Having configured and cross-compiled an entirely different, but necessary, thing and made some modifications to integrate it, we can now finally cross-compile Splash-3.

If you haven’t already, cd back up to the codes directory.

As with libtiff, we need to disable shared libraries since they may not be available on gem5. To do this, append -static to CFLAGS in Makefile.config.

Now we then get to reap the fruits of doing the tedious setup: Just run


And everything should (hopefully) just compile nicely.

I hope this was helpful. Trying to figure out other people’s build process in order to do something slightly convoluted can be frustrating, but then finally seeing the make output just scroll by without any problems is great! ^^

Thomas Ekström Hansen
Thomas Ekström Hansen
PhD student in Computer Science

My interests include information visualisation, formal methods, and low-level programming.