Linux "Hello world" in no_std Rust

The Rust-glibc example used glibc, which provided Rust with OS APIs. In this section, the goal is to write the same "Hello world" program without any libc. It must rely only on RISC-V Linux ABI, reimplementing the required OS API as we need it, just like the GNU assembly "Hello world".

This section is inspired by Embeddonomicon. It takes the Linux process sandbox as a kind of an "embedded" environment, with complete control over memory, without any external code, with only Linux ABI as its "hardware". A custom runtime will be grown as we go.

Tools and references

Ensure that rustup is installed.

Make sure that a rustc target riscv64gc-unknown-none-elf is installed:

$ rustup target add riscv64gc-unknown-none-elf

Unlike riscv64gc-unknown-linux-gnu, it assumes a "baremetal" environment and does not try to link any libraries.

cargo-binutils is not strictly necessary, but it's nice to have cargo objdump and cargo nm:

$ cargo install cargo-binutils


The minimal no_std binary

$ cargo init --name hello-nostd

Set the default target and runner in .cargo/config.toml:

target = "riscv64gc-unknown-none-elf"   # build for this target by default

[target.riscv64gc-unknown-none-elf]     # configuration for this target
runner = "qemu-riscv64"                 # for `cargo run` to work on x86_64

Set src/ to be #![no_main] and #![no_std].

A no_std environment still requires at least two basic runtime mechanisms, both related to Rust panicking:

  • what to do when unwinding the stack on panic. This is implemented by a #[lang = "eh_personality"] function or just by waiving it off in Cargo.toml:

    panic = "abort"
    panic = "abort"

    Although: riscv64gc-unknown-none-elf assumes "panic-strategy": "abort" by default.

  • a #[panic_handler] function to execute when panic happened and the stack was unwound successfully:


    fn panic_handler(_panic: &core::panic::PanicInfo) -> ! {
        loop {}           // for now, just hang to satisfy the typechecker.

#![no_main] means that we should also remove fn main(). We'll get back to it later.

The binary that can be built at this stage does not actually contain any executable code.

$ cargo run
'cargo run' terminated by signal SIGSEGV (Address boundary error)

$ cargo objdump --release -- -d | rustfilt
hello-nostd:    file format elf64-littleriscv

A minimal executable that exits successfully

The output of cargo rustc -- -Z unstable-options --print target-spec-json suggests that riscv64-unknown-none-elf uses rust.lld as its default linker. I did not dig into details, but I guessed that its default linker script uses a _start symbol as its entrypoint.

Reading the Rust inline assembly guide and translating the knowledge from the assembly "Hello world", we get this:

#![feature(start)]              // to enable #[start]

fn main() {
use core::arch::asm;            // to use asm!()

fn panic_handler(_panic: &core::panic::PanicInfo) -> ! {
    loop {}

#[no_mangle]                    // for linker to be able to see `_start`
pub unsafe extern "C"           // everything about this function is unsafe!
fn _start() -> ! {              // does not return
        in("a7") 93,            // __NR_exit
        in("a0") 0,             // status code 0
    )                           // `noreturn` assigns this block the return type `!`

Writing to stdout

fn main() {
fn _start() -> ! {
    static HELLO: &[u8] = b"Hello world!\n";

        in("a7") 64,                    // __NR_write
        in("a0") 1,                     // STDOUT_FILENO
        in("a1") HELLO.as_ptr().addr(), // #![feature(strict_provenance)]
        in("a2") HELLO.len(),
        options(readonly),              // expect no changes to memory


Tidying up: linux-rt and its linker script



Getting the JSON spec of the current rustc target (requires nightly):

cargo rustc -- -Z unstable-options --print target-spec-json

$ cargo rustc -- -Z unstable-options --print target-spec-json
   Compiling hello-nostd v0.1.0 (/home/user/code/learn/eval/rvemu/riscv/hello-nostd)
  "arch": "riscv64",
  "code-model": "medium",
  "cpu": "generic-rv64",
  "data-layout": "e-m:e-p:64:64-i64:64-i128:128-n64-S128",
  "eh-frame-header": false,
  "emit-debug-gdb-scripts": false,
  "features": "+m,+a,+f,+d,+c",
  "is-builtin": true,
  "linker": "rust-lld",
  "linker-flavor": "ld.lld",
  "llvm-abiname": "lp64d",
  "llvm-target": "riscv64",
  "max-atomic-width": 64,
  "panic-strategy": "abort",
  "relocation-model": "static",
  "target-pointer-width": "64"