The Embedded Working Group Newsletter - 2

This is the second bi-weekly newsletter of the Embedded WG where we highlight new progress, celebrate cool projects, thank the community, and advertise projects that need help!

If you want to mention something in the next newsletter, make sure to leave a comment on the issue.


Embedded Projects

If you have an embedded project or blog post you would like to have featured in the Embedded WG Newsletter, make sure to mention it on the tracking issue for the next newsletter, we would love to show it off!

embedded-hal drivers

This is a list of recently released drivers that are part of the Weekly Driver Initiative. There are currently 5 Released Drivers, 14 WIP Drivers, and lots of TODOs!

embedded-hal Board/Chip Support Crates


Help Wanted

If you have an embedded project that could use contributors or maintainers, leave a comment for the next newsletter!

Special Feature: The Embedded WG at the 2018 Rust All Hands

This week 15 or so Rust teams/working groups met for the Rust All Hands event in Berlin. Some members of the embedded WG were present and we had a chance to talk to the compiler, core and infra teams.

These are the highlights of our talks.

Embedded Rust on stable

We had previously identified 3 unstable features / issues that tie embedded development to the nightly channel in We talked to the other Rust teams about the possibility of addressing these issues in time for the 2018 edition release and the conclusion was that they thought that the timeline was possible. These are the 3 unstable features we are referring to:

Unstable Feature #1: xargo

We'll ship a rust-std component (pre-compiled core+compiler-builtins) for the thumb* and msp430 targets. This removes the need for xargo so people will be able to do something like the following to cross compile to ARM Cortex-M:

rustup target add thumb7m-none-eabi
cargo build --target thumbv7m-none-eabi

Tracking issue: rust-lang/rust#49382.

Unstable Feature #2: compiler-builtins

extern crate compiler_builtins is unstable to directly use. The fix we have decided on is to inject that as part of the prelude you get from #![no_std].

So, today #![no_std] expands to something like this:

extern crate core;

With our change the expansion will run like this:

extern crate core;

// but this doesn't #![feature(compiler_builtins_lib)]
extern crate compiler_builtins;

In the future we might want to merge compiler-builtins into core but that requires more effort and can still be done if we do the #![no_std] prelude approach right now.

Tracking issue: rust-lang/rust#49380

Unstable Feature #3: panic_fmt

There's an accepted RFC (#2070) for a stable mechanism to select the behavior of panic! in no_std context, and there's a know issue where the arguments of panic_fmt are kept in the binary even when they are unused by the panic_fmt implementation (cf. rust-lang/embedded-wg#41).

The main concern here was whether we'll be able to fix the binary size problem with the accepted design or if we'll need some new design. The compiler team thinks that this can be fixed with the existing design using MIR only rlibs but it's unlikely this will get fixed in time for the edition release. nagisa will likely propose an alternate solution that involves having Cargo select the panic provider crate.

Non critical unstable features

There are some other unstable features that don't prevent you from doing embedded development, however they come up often when doing no-std development. We had a chat with people on the compiler team about them.

Unstable Feature #4: const fn

This feature has been proposed for stabilization (cf. rust-lang/rust#24111).

Unstable Feature #5: asm!

Background: Some assembly operations can be implemented as external assembly files that are then called into using FFI; other ops though do need to be inlined into the function from which they are called to prevent losing semantics. Using external assembly file can be done on the stable channel. The second type of operation requires the unstable asm! macro.

The compiler team is not 100% sure on whether they want to stabilize inline assembly for the edition release. The embedded WG has proposed an alternative proposal: expose some assembly operations that need to be inlined as "Rust intrinsics" -- in a similar fashion to how SIMD is being implemented; these intrinsics would be in the core::asm::$ARCH module and they could either be implemented by lowering to a LLVM intrinsic or using inline assembly. For example:

pub mod asm {
    pub mod arm {
        pub fn cpsid() {
            unsafe {
                asm!("cpsid i" ::: "memory" : "volatile");

These would be stable APIs with an unstable implementation. If LLVM assembler syntax changes, the implementations of these functions would have to be updated.

The embedded WG will submit an RFC proposing the asm module and that will include a list of assembly operations that (a) are common and (b) need to be inlined for different architectures.

Unstable Feature #6: #[used]

This experimental feature has been in the compiler for a while and it's required in some scenarios when using LTO to prevent the compiler from dead-stripping some function / static that needs to be in the final binary.

We'll try to get it stabilized by the edition release but it's not a high priority feature.

Stability of the Embedded Targets

We don't only want to make embedded Rust possible on stable; we also want to make sure the embedded targets don't regress. So we are going to add tests to rust-lang/rust CI to make sure regression block PRs from landing.

That effectively will make some of the embedded targets into the tier 1 platform. The core team is fine with adding the thumb* targets (ARM Cortex-M) to tier 1. Less maintained, still in development and not fully mature targets like AVR, MSP430 and RISCV will become tier 2 -- they'll be tested but won't block PRs and rust-std binaries will be produced but it's not guaranteed there will be binaries available for all nightly / beta / stable releases.

We'll open an issue to discuss with the infra team the exact tests we want to add and track progress on that, but have already told them about the kind of tests we want to add and they thought those kind of tests are possible to implement. The kind of tests we discussed were:

LLVM backends that are not yet in rustc

There are two embedded LLVM backends that have not yet been enabled in rustc for different reasons: AVR and RISCV.

In the case of AVR the main reason is that some LLVM codegen bugs prevent you from building core for AVR. These bugs are related to 128-bit integers and formatting floats. The libs team discussed this some time ago and they decided they are fine with landing arch specific #[cfg] attributes to remove 128-bit integers and other things like float APIs.

In the case of RISCV the LLVM backend is currently under active development and our current version of LLVM doesn't fully support RISCV. We would have to backport several patches to make RISCV work on our LLVM version. The core team feels OK with backporting those patches as long as they have already landed in upstream LLVM, and are not still under review.


Getting tooling for e.g. binary inspection (e.g. objdump) can be hard on some platforms (e.g. Windows) specially for architecture which currently are not too widely used (e.g. RISCV). We can improve the situation here by shipping llvm tools with the Rust toolchain -- with one set of those tools you can inspect all the architectures that Rust supports. These are the thoughts of the core / infra team regarding this:

The Embedded Rust Book

We decided on an initial audience for the embedded book; we will be targeting people that know some embedded stuff and some Rust. The main reason for this is that if someone knows one and not the other then they can go and read existing Rust documentation or the Discovery book and then read the embedded book. For more details check rust-lang-nursery/embedded-wg#56.