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Welcome to Open Dylan!

This file is intended to give you a basic hint as to how to start hacking on Open Dylan and what is and is not included in the Open Source version.

What Was Open Sourced

Everything except for the files necessary to build Windows installers has been Open Sourced.

Open Dylan uses the Memory Pool System (MPS) from Ravenbrook, Limited to do its memory management. The MPS is available from Ravenbrook at and must be downloaded and built separately.

How to Build on Linux

Install the latest binary release of Open Dylan from

git clone --recursive   # get submodules too
export SRCDIR=`pwd`/opendylan        # must be absolute path!
export BUILDDIR=<your build dir>

Build the MPS (see below).


$SRCDIR/configure --with-mps=/path/to/mps-kit                   [1][2]
            # you must call configure with absolute path!

Your new Dylan compiler will be in $BUILDDIR/Bootstrap.2/bin/dylan-compiler

[1] Note that the directory --with-mps wants here is the one containing the
"code" directory. If you downloaded the MPS kit from Ravenbrook this would be, for example, "--with-mps=/path/to/mps-kit-1.106.2".
[2] Ubuntu note: In Ubuntu 6.06 I (cgay) had to install the XML::Parser module via
"cpan -i XML::Parser", which blew up because expat.h was not found, so first "sudo apt-get install libexpat-dev". --cgay 20061104

How to Build on Windows

Make sure to have required tools installed: namely Debugging tools for Windows, a C compiler (PellesC or VC6) and Microsoft Platform SDK.

You also need to have opendylan installed.

Download the MPS zip from and unpack that.

Open a shell (windows command processor), there set the environment variable SDK4MEMORY_POOL_SYSTEM to <where you unpacked MPS>.

Please keep in mind that paths with whitespaces are not well supported.

Go to admin\builds and do a:

build-release.bat <target-dir> /sources <git-checkout>\sources /internal

This will do a 4-stage bootstrap, in the end there will be a complete IDE in <target-dir>.

Building an installer:

Requires nsis from and the HTML help workshop (to generate the chm).

Go to packages\win32-nsis, read Build.txt and follow the instructions. Make sure you are using the same command shell as used for building Open Dylan.

How to Build on Darwin or Mac OS X

Install the latest binary release of Open Dylan from Ensure the release's bin directory is in your path.

Install the expat library, followed by the XML::Parser Perl module. For the expat library, you can use a package manager like MacPorts or Fink. For the XML::Parser module, use CPAN:

sudo cpan XML::Parser

Install the Boehm garbage collection library. On the Mac, Open Dylan uses that instead of the MPS library. You can use a package manager or download, make, and install it directly. I (agent) have used the following configure settings:

./configure --enable-parallel-mark --enable-threads=posix
  --enable-large-config --enable-gc-debug USE_I686_PREFETCH=1

Download the Open Dylan source tree, containing this file and the "sources" directory, from, as described on

In the directory of the downloaded source tree, run these commands (set the prefix to whatever you want, and set the correct path to the Boehm GC libraries):

./configure --prefix=/usr/local/opendylan --with-gc=/usr/local
sudo make install

Ignore any errors printed by The build process may freeze or crash. If several minutes pass without any progress, cancel the build with ^C. Simply re-run the last command to resume building. After installation is complete, don't forget to remove the binary release's bin directory from your path.

To avoid installing the release in the prefix location, replace the "sudo make install" command with "make bootstrap-stage-3". The final compiler will be put in the Bootstrap.3 directory in your source tree.

Building for 64 Bits

You can build Open Dylan for 64 bits, but it is not functional yet. The 64-bit compiler will crash when run. That said, to build the 64-bit compiler, ensure you have installed a compatible Boehm garbage collection library, include the --with-arch option in the configure command, and make the 2-stage-bootstrap or 3-stage-bootstrap target:

./configure --prefix=/usr/local/opendylan --with-gc=/usr/local --with-arch=x86_64
make 3-stage-bootstrap

In addition, you will need to include the -arch x86_64 option whenever you build a Dylan library:

dylan-compiler -build -arch x86_64 my-project.lid

General Build Instructions

If you encounter problems during the build, please refer to the log files that are written in the 'logs' directory under each bootstrap stage build directory.

Note that when building Open Dylan 1.0 beta 5 or later using the 1.0 beta 4 binary release, you must NOT make the 2-stage-bootstrap or 3-stage-bootstrap targets. They will fail with a "bogus float" or some other error. Make the default target as described above (the 1-stage-bootstrap target).

Building the MPS

The Open Dylan garbage collector is the Memory Pool System (MPS), from Ravenbrook, Ltd. Download version 1.100.1 (or greater) of the MPS from Ravenbrook at and extract it to some directory. cd to the 'code' subdirectory in the MPS sources and build the mmdw target:


nmake /k /f w3i3mv.nmk mmdw.lib
copy *.h+w3i3mv\ci\mmdw.lib %OPENDYLAN%\sources\lib\run-time\pentium-win32


make -f lii4gc.gmk mmdw.a mpsplan.a

The actual makefile you use may differ depending on your platform.
See the readme.txt file in the MPS distribution for a list.

The build products will be picked up by
assuming you pass the appropriate value for --with-mps.

glibc >=2.3 and linux kernel >= 2.6 required

For MPS 1.106.2 I (cgay) encountered this problem on Ubuntu 7.10: The solution
was to replace

   #define _POSIX_C_SOURCE 1


  #define _XOPEN_SOURCE 500

in both prmcli.h and pthrdext.c.  The comments in the above URL
weren't explicit about that.

For MPS 1.108.0 I (cgay) encountered this problem on Ubuntu 11.04:

  cc1: warnings being treated as errors
  protlii3.c: In function ‘sigHandle’:
  protlii3.c:115:3: error: case label is not an integer constant expression
  protlii3.c:116:3: error: case label is not an integer constant expression
  make[2]: *** [lii4gc/hi/protlii3.o] Error 1
  make[1]: *** [target] Error 2
  make: *** [mmdw.a] Error 2

To work around it edit gc.gmk to remove -Werror from CFLAGSCOMPILER.

The main point to notice here is that you don't just build the default target, as described in the MPS documentation. You must build mmdw.lib or mmdw.a instead.

The above instructions use the ci, "cool internal" variant of the MPS on Windows. On Linux, MPS_VARIANT=hi is specified in opendylan/sources/lib/run-time/pentium-linux/ The ci variant does quite a lot of sanity checks all over, which heavily impacts performance, up to a factor of three in total application runtime. If you're looking for performance figures, use the hi, "hot internal", or even wi, "white-hot internal" releases.

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