I couldn't find a step-by-step tutorial explaining the process of developing iOS applications in Haskell, so after finally getting "Hello World" to run on an iPhone, I decided to write this tutorial. I should also credit Lőry, who did the iOS side of the work.
The basic overview of what we're going to do in this tutorial is the following:
- Write the backend of our application in Haskell
- Create FFI bindings for our backend
- Use Jhc to compile the Haskell code into vanilla C
- Write the front-end using the official iOS SDK, using Objective-C
- Create wrappers on the Objective-C side to make resource managment easier
- Compile and link it all using Objective-C and C compilers targeting the iOS devices
Writing the backend in Haskell
For this tutorial, we will simulate an intricate Haskell backend with the a simple function. For your real application, this is where you go all out with your Haskell-fu.
module Engine where import Data.Char (ord) engine :: String -> Either String [Int] engine s | length s < 10 = Left "String not long enough" | otherwise = Right $ map ord s
To interface our backend with the frontend developed in Objective-C (or C or C++ or...), we need to represent the input and output of our Haskell function in terms of simple C types. For the function engine, a straightforward API would be, in pseudo-C:
bool engine (in string s, out string error, out int result)
Of course, we have to use char *'s for strings, and pointers for out parameters and arrays, so our real API will be:
int engine (char* s, char* *error, int* *result, int *result_length)
with engine returning 0 on success (Right) and non-zero on failure (Left).
The Haskell FFI representation of this signature is:
foreign export ccall "engine" engineC :: CString -> Ptr CString -> Ptr (Ptr CInt) -> Ptr CInt -> IO CInt
The next step requires us to actually define engineC that does all the necessary marshalling. We simply evaluate engine and then set the appropriate out-parameters.
module Engine.FFI (engineC) where import Foreign import Foreign.C import Control.Monad (zipWithM_) foreign export ccall "engine" engineC :: CString -> Ptr CString -> Ptr (Ptr CInt) -> Ptr CInt -> IO CInt engineC s ptrErr ptrptrResult ptrLen = do s' <- peekCString s case engine s' of Left err -> do cErr <- newCString err poke ptrErr cErr return 1 Right result -> do pokeList ptrptrResult ptrLen $ map fromIntegral result return 0 pokeList :: Storable a => Ptr (Ptr a) -> Ptr CInt -> [a] -> IO (Ptr a) pokeList ptrptrList ptrLen xs = do let len = length xs ptr <- mallocBytes $ len * elemSize let ptrs = iterate (`plusPtr` elemSize) ptr zipWithM_ poke ptrs xs poke ptrptrList ptr poke ptrLen $ fromIntegral len return ptr where elemSize = sizeOf $ head xs
Compiling Haskell to C
The next step is compiling our Haskell project into C, so that we can use Apple's SDK to compile that for the iPhone, and also call engine from other code, like the Objective-C parts that make up the frontend.
Unlike GHC, Jhc doesn't compile individual modules. Instead, it compiles every used definition (but only those) and the runtime into a single C source file. Although we are not going to run our Haskell program directly, and instead call to it from the frontend, Jhc still needs a main function in the source code. So let's create a Main module which we will compile with Jhc:
module Main where import Engine.FFI main :: IO () main = return ()
We can compile this module into a C file containing the code for engineC and everything else it uses (including imported packages):
The -fffi flag turns on FFI support and makes Jhc generate the engine function from the foreign export declaration and the definition of engineC. Note that there is no name clash between engine the C function (defined as engineC in Haskell-land) and engine the Haskell definition. I think in this particular example it is cleaner to use the same name for both.
The -fjgc flag generates GC code. Note that we will also need to enable the GC code in the next step, when compiling the C sources.
The --cross -mle32 flags are important because they instruct Jhc to target little-endian, 32-bit CPUs which is what the ARM is.
Compiling the generated C source code
Everything up to this point can be done without Apple's SDK, and in fact you can run Jhc on any platform you wish. From here on, however, we will use the iOS SDK to compile to ARM.
To compile EngineMain.jhc.c, we first need to set some preprocessor macros:
- _JHC_GC=_JHC_GC_JGC (turns on the generated GC code)
- _JHC_STANDALONE=0 (this disables the main function defined in our module)
You also need some important C compiler flags (you can ignore the warning settings if you'd like):
-marm is very important because otherwise, GCC (or Clang) and Jhc step on each other's toes, leading to strange crashes seemingly out of nowhere.
Creating the frontend and accessing the backend
You can use the standard SDK to create the frontend; I will not cover that here in detail. You also need to create a header file containing the signature of our exported function. The code generated by Jhc also contains initialization and finalization routines that need to be called before and after calling any functions defined in Haskell:
extern void hs_init (int *argc, char **argv); extern void hs_exit (void); extern int engine (char* s, char* *msgError, int* *result, int *len);
cactus 2011-02-21 21:01:04
Thanks for the link to ghc-iphone. I saw the empty directory on haskell.org and thought it was an abandoned project.
We actually ended up using ghc-iphone instead of jhc, because jhc kept failing with mysterious internal errors when trying to use Parsec.