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README file for the CHICKEN Scheme system
(c) 2008-2019, The CHICKEN Team
(c) 2000-2007, Felix L. Winkelmann
CHICKEN is a Scheme-to-C compiler supporting the language
features as defined in the 'Revised^5 Report on
Scheme'. Separate compilation is supported and full
tail-recursion and efficient first-class continuations are
Some things that CHICKEN has to offer:
1. CHICKEN generates quite portable C code and compiled files
generated by it (including itself) should work without any
changes on DOS, Windows, most UNIX-like platforms, and with
minor changes on other systems.
2. The whole package is distributed under a BSD style license
and as such is free to use and modify as long as you agree
to its terms.
3. Linkage to C modules and C library functions is
straightforward. Compiled programs can easily be embedded
into existing C code.
4. Loads of extra libraries.
Note: Should you have any trouble in setting up and using
CHICKEN, please ask questions on the CHICKEN users mailing
list. Check http://wiki.call-cc.org/discussion-groups for
information on how to subscribe to CHICKEN mailing lists.
Building CHICKEN requires GNU Make. Other "make" derivates are
not supported. If you are using a Windows system and do not
have GNU Make, download
It contains a precompiled set of UNIX utilities, which among
other useful tools contains "make".
Configuration and customization of the build process is done by
either setting makefile variables on the "make" command line or
by editing the platform-specific makefile.
2.1. Building from a release tarball
To build CHICKEN, first extract the archive ("tar xzf
chicken-.tar.gz" on UNIX or use your favorite
extraction program on Windows), then change to the
chicken- directory and invoke "make" like this:
make PLATFORM= PREFIX=
where "PLATFORM" specifies on what kind of system CHICKEN
shall be built and "PREFIX" specifies where the executables
and libraries shall be installed. Out-of-directory builds are
currently not supported, so you must be in the toplevel source
directory to invoke "make".
Enter "make" without any options to see a list of supported
Note that parallel builds (using the "-j" make(1) option) are
If you invoke "make" later with different configuration parameters,
it is advisable to run:
make PLATFORM= confclean
to remove old configuration files.
2.2. Building from Git
If you build CHICKEN directly from the development sources out
of the git repository, you will need a "chicken" executable to
generate the compiled C files from the Scheme library sources.
If you are building in a checkout where you have built other
versions of chicken, you need to make sure that all traces of
the previous build are removed. "make clean" is insufficient,
and you should do the following:
make PLATFORM= spotless
You will need to have a "chicken" binary installed, ideally
from the development snapshot tarball that is closest to the
git version you are trying to build (significantly older or
newer ones are unlikely to work), and then use that chicken
to build from your git sources. Installing this CHICKEN is
recommended, if necessary you can install it to a temporary
location in your homedir for example.
Then, to build you can run:
make PLATFORM= CHICKEN=/bin/chicken
In some cases, the sources may have diverged enough to
become unbuildable even with the snapshot. Then you'll need
to first build a bootstrapping compiler with the installed
CHICKEN and then use that to build the version from git.
See the "Bootstrapping" section below.
2.3. Finishing the installation
If CHICKEN is built successfully, you can install it on your
system by entering
make PLATFORM= PREFIX= install
"PREFIX" defaults to "/usr/local". Note that the PREFIX is
compiled into several CHICKEN tools and must be the same
while building the system and during installation.
To install CHICKEN for a particular PREFIX on a different
location, set the "DESTDIR" variable in addition to "PREFIX":
It designates the directory where the files are installed
2.4. Verifying your installation is correct
You can check whether CHICKEN is functioning correctly by
where are all the variables you used while building
This will run the test scripts, which show a lot of output.
The only thing that matters is the exit status at the end.
If it exits with status 0, everything is fine, if it exits
with a nonzero status, the failing test's output should be
the final lines before Make's "error; exit" output. If the
check fails on unmodified sources, please file a bugreport.
2.5. Optional features
You can further enable various optional features by adding
one or more of the following variables to the "make"
Disable optimizations in compiled C code and enable
Build only static versions of the runtime library, compiler
Additional options that should be passed to `chicken' when
building the system.
Override built-in C compiler optimization options. Available
for debug or release build.
A prefix to prepend to the names of all generated executables.
This allows having multiple CHICKEN versions in your PATH
(but note that they have to be installed at different locations).
A suffix to be appended to the names of all generated executables.
A "-" name prefix to use for the C compiler to to
use to compile the runtime system and executables. Set this variable
if you want to compile CHICKEN for a different architecture than
the one on which you are building it.
Similar to "HOSTSYSTEM", but specifies the name
prefix to use for compiling code with the "csc" compiler
driver. This is required for creating a "cross chicken", a
specially built CHICKEN that invokes a cross C compiler to
build the final binaries. You will need a cross compiled
runtime system by building a version of CHICKEN with the
"HOST" option mentioned above. More information about this
process and the variables that you should set are provided
in the manual (see the "Cross development" chapter).
Specifies that CHICKEN should be built outside of its source
tree. The SRCDIR variable indicates the location of the
CHICKEN source tree. The executables and object files will
be generated in the current directory.
If set, this directory overrides the location where
extensions along with their metadata are stored. Normally
this will be equivalent to "/lib/chicken/".
When VARDIR is specified, extensions will be stored in
"/chicken/", conforming to the FHS.
If you build CHICKEN often, passing all those make variables
can get annoying. An alternative is to create a configuration
file defining the required variables and passing
"CONFIG=" to make(1).
Even simpler is editing the included "config.make"
and just invoke make(1) without any extra parameters.
You can select an alternative compiler by setting this variable.
The default compiler is "gcc". CHICKEN can be built with the
LLVM version of gcc and with "clang", the LLVM-based C compiler,
just set C_COMPILER to "llvm-gcc" or "clang".
Selects the linker to be used for creating executables and
dynamic libraries from compiled C code. This should normally
be the same as C_COMPILER.
This variable allows you to profile (parts of) CHICKEN itself.
Just pass in a whitespace-separated list of objects, without
the .scm-extension. (An "object" here is an individual
.scm-file which gets compiled to a .c-file)
To build with profiling support, run "make spotless" first.
Be warned that this is a highly experimental option and
profiling doesn't work for every component of CHICKEN.
2.6. Uninstalling CHICKEN
To remove CHICKEN from your file-system, enter (probably as
make PLATFORM= PREFIX= uninstall
(If you gave DESTDIR during installation, you have to pass
the same setting to "make" when uninstalling)
2.7. What gets installed
These files will be installed under the prefix given during
build and installation:
| |-- chicken
| |-- chicken-install
| |-- chicken-profile
| |-- chicken-status
| |-- chicken-uninstall
| |-- libchicken.dll (Windows)
| |-- csc
| |-- csi
| |-- feathers.bat (Windows)
| `-- feathers (Unix)
| `-- chicken
| |-- chicken-config.h
| `-- chicken.h
| |-- chicken
| | `-- 9
| | |-- chicken.base.import.so
| | |-- chicken.bitwise.import.so
| | |-- chicken.blob.import.so
| | |-- chicken.compiler.user-pass.import.so
| | |-- chicken.condition.import.so
| | |-- chicken.continuation.import.so
| | |-- chicken.csi.import.so
| | |-- chicken.errno.import.so
| | |-- chicken.eval.import.so
| | |-- chicken.file.import.so
| | |-- chicken.file.posix.import.so
| | |-- chicken.fixnum.import.so
| | |-- chicken.flonum.import.so
| | |-- chicken.foreign.import.so
| | |-- chicken.format.import.so
| | |-- chicken.gc.import.so
| | |-- chicken.internal.import.so
| | |-- chicken.io.import.so
| | |-- chicken.irregex.import.so
| | |-- chicken.keyword.import.so
| | |-- chicken.load.import.so
| | |-- chicken.locative.import.so
| | |-- chicken.memory.import.so
| | |-- chicken.memory.representation.import.so
| | |-- chicken.pathname.import.so
| | |-- chicken.platform.import.so
| | |-- chicken.plist.import.so
| | |-- chicken.port.import.so
| | |-- chicken.pretty-print.import.so
| | |-- chicken.process.import.so
| | |-- chicken.process.signal.import.so
| | |-- chicken.process-context.import.so
| | |-- chicken.process-context.posix.import.so
| | |-- chicken.random.import.so
| | |-- chicken.repl.import.so
| | |-- chicken.sort.import.so
| | |-- chicken.string.import.so
| | |-- chicken.read-syntax.import.so
| | |-- chicken.syntax.import.so
| | |-- chicken.tcp.import.so
| | |-- chicken.time.import.so
| | |-- chicken.time.posix.import.so
| | |-- modules.db
| | |-- srfi-4.import.so
| | `-- types.db
| |-- libchicken.a
| |-- libchicken.dll.a (Windows)
| |-- libchicken.dylib (Macintosh)
| |-- libchicken.so -> libchicken.so.9 (Unix)
| `-- libchicken.so.9 (Unix)
| |-- doc
| | |-- LICENSE
| | |-- README
| | |-- DEPRECATED
| | |-- mac.r (Macintosh)
| | |-- CHICKEN.icns (Macintosh)
| | |-- manual-html
| | |-- chicken.png
| | |-- feathers.tcl
| | `-- *.html
| `-- setup.defaults
Documentation can be found in the directory
PREFIX/share/chicken/doc in HTML format. The manual is
maintained in a wiki at http://wiki.call-cc.org. Go there to
read the most up to date documentation.
A large number of extension libraries for CHICKEN are
available at http://wiki.call-cc.org/eggs. You can
automatically download, compile and install extensions with
the "chicken-install" program. See the CHICKEN User's Manual
for more information.
A selection of 3rd party libraries, together with source and
binary packages for tools helpful for development with CHICKEN
are also available at:
5. Platform issues
- The Android SDK and NDK are required. Make sure you have
set up a project and have a suitable NDK toolchain
available. You will have to override the make(1) variable
C_COMPILER to contain the correct compiler; see
docs/STANDALONE-TOOLCHAIN.html in your NDK root for notes
on how to call the correct compiler. You will also need to
override the ARCH variable to match the device you're
targeting. The build will produce a libchicken.so that
can then be integrated into your project as a prebuilt
shared library. See the android section on
http://wiki.call-cc.org/embedding for a complete example.
- It is possible to use eggs, by copying them into the right
place and probably renaming the files. This is somewhat
awkward and requires various hacks to make the
loading/linking of eggs work. It may be easier to build
the eggs you need manually and linking them statically to
- By default debug-logging is enabled and written to the
- *BSD system users *must* use GNU make ("gmake") - the makefiles
can not be processed by BSD make.
- On NetBSD it might be possible that compilation fails with a
"virtual memory exhausted error". Try the following:
% unlimit datasize
- When using -deploy on NetBSD, currently the kernel only
supports running the program through its absolute path,
otherwise you will get an error message stating:
execname not specified in AUX vector: No such file or directory
Deployed binaries can also be run without an explicit path,
through $PATH; only relative pathnames do not work.
- Using external libraries on NetBSD may also be easier, if
you add the following definitions to `Makefile.bsd':
C_COMPILER_OPTIONS += -I/usr/pkg/lib
LINKER_OPTIONS += -L/usr/pkg/lib -Wl,-R/usr/pkg/lib
Note that this may cause build-problems, if you already have
an existing CHICKEN installation in the /usr/pkg prefix.
- If you want to build Linux binaries which use the "X32 ABI",
you can pass ARCH=x32 on the Make command line.
- There have been reports where the library directory
"/usr/lib64" could not be found at build-time on a Fedora
12 system. If you build a 64-bit version of CHICKEN and
the library directory is set incorrectly, you can override
it by passing "LIBDIR=/usr/lib64" as an additional
argument when you invoke "make".
- By default, CHICKEN is build with the GNU C compiler (`gcc').
To use the SunPro C compiler (`cc') instead, pass
to the "make" invocation.
- Older versions of Solaris have a bug in ld.so that causes
trouble with dynamic loading. Patching Solaris fixes the
problem. Solaris 7 needs patch 106950-18. Solaris 8 has an
equivalent patch, 109147-16.
You can find out if you have these patches installed by
% showrev -p | grep 106950 # solaris 7
% showrev -p | grep 109147 # solaris 8
Mac OS X:
- The build currently assumes the Xcode application path is
"/Applications/Xcode.app/", with the C compiler and build
tools being located in the "Contents/Developer/usr/bin"
subdirectories, respectively. To override these locations,
set XCODE_DEVELOPER and XCODE_TOOL_PATH on the make(3)
- CHICKEN will normally select a 32-bit or 64-bit build
automatically when you use the normal build step:
Specifically, the defaults are:
10.6: 64-bit (32-bit on original Core Duo, circa early 2006)
On 10.5, you can optionally build in 64-bit mode on machines
released in late 2006 or later (i.e. with a Core 2 Duo or Xeon
CPU), by specifying ARCH=x86-64:
make PLATFORM=macosx ARCH=x86-64
- Universal binaries: On 10.4 and 10.5 only, CHICKEN and its eggs
can be built as universal binaries which will work on either
Intel or PowerPC. Most users will not want to do this.
For 10.4 universal build:
make PLATFORM=macosx ARCH=universal
For 10.5 universal build:
make C_COMPILER=gcc-4.0 PLATFORM=macosx ARCH=universal
For 10.6 and later, universal builds are not supported.
- On 10.3 and earlier, you must first install `dlcompat'
which can be found at http://distfiles.macports.org/dlcompat/.
- Make sure the "XCODE_PATH" setting is correct (see
Makefile.ios), it defaults to "/Applications/Xcode.app".
- The paths for the the various build tools changed between
Xcode 4 and 5. The makefile used for iOS builds of CHICKEN
assume Xcode 5 is used. If you are using Xcode 4, override
the XCODE_TOOLPATH and C_COMPILER make-variables providing
the correct paths, see Makefile.ios for suggestions.
- The iOS build is static (iOS doesn't support dynamic
loading of executable code). Only the runtime library
(libchicken.a) is of interest. To use it, integrate
libchicken.a in your Xcode project and use a normal MacOS
build to compile your Scheme sources into C files, adding
them to you project.
- Core library units must by accessed via "(declare (uses
...))" and "(import ...)", "require", "require-library",
"require-extension" and "use" will not work, due to the
reasons mentioned above.
- As dynamic loading is not supported, eggs can not be used
as usual, you will have to compile them manually and
integrate what you need into your project.
- If you want to build for the iPhone Simulator, override
the ARCH and XCODE_SDK variables accordingly, see also in
Makefile.ios for suggestions.
- On Windows, mingw32, and
Cygwin are supported (Microsoft Visual Studio is *NOT*).
Makefiles for mingw under MSYS and the Windows shell are
provided (`Makefile.mingw-msys' and `Makefile.mingw').
Please also read the notes below.
- When installing under the mingw-msys platform, PREFIX must be an
absolute path name (i.e. it must include the drive letter) and
must use forward slashes (no backward slashes), for example
- When installing under mingw, with a windows shell
("cmd.exe"), pass an absolute pathname (including the
drive letter) as PREFIX and use forward slashes. If you
are building the sources from git, use backslashes to
specify the path to `chicken' (the "CHICKEN" variable).
- When installing under mingw without MSYS, make sure that the
MSYS tools (in case you have some of them, in particular the
sh.exe UNIX shell) are *NOT* visible in your PATH.
- 64-bit Windows is supported, invoke mingw32-make with the
"ARCH=x86-64" argument (this is currently not detected
automatically). The build has been tested on Windows 7
with the SJLJ binary package from "MinGW-builds", which
can be found here:
- Cygwin will not be able to find the chicken shared libraries
until Windows is rebooted.
- During "make check" you may see these intermittent errors:
ld.exe: cannot open output file a.out: Permission denied
When this happens, the virusscanner is holding open
the file of the previous test while the compiler is
preparing the next test.
To work around this in Windows Defender (the default),
disable "realtime protection" under tools->options.
- CHICKEN is built with the GNU C compiler (`gcc'). IBM's XL
C compiler is not supported at this time.
- AIX users *must* use GNU make ("gmake") - the makefiles can not be
processed with IBM's version of make.
- Deployment doesn't work. See manual/Deployment for more details.
- The AIX linker may occasionally show warnings of the form:
ld: 0711-783 WARNING: TOC overflow. TOC size: 66656
Maximum size: 65536
Extra instructions are being generated for each reference to a TOC
symbol if the symbol is in the TOC overflow area.
Such messages indicate that lookups for some symbols in the
effected library/executable may be somewhat slower at runtime as an
auxiliary symbol table is needed to accommodate all of the symbols.
- The AIX assembler may show warnings of the form:
/tmp//ccycPGzK.s: line 527244: 1252-171 The displacement must be
greater than or equal to -32768 and less than or equal to 32767.
This is a known issue between the GNU toolchain and IBM's assembler:
The problem arises because the PPC architecture cannot perform jumps
to addresses that differ more than what a 16-bit integer can
represent. Adding support for IBM's XL C compiler may resolve this
Instructing gcc to optimize the size of generated code (-Os)
mitigates this to some degree, but very large C files may still be
uncompilable. This is known to affect the html-tags egg.
- The default GCC compiler is too old to support the -fwrapv
option. You can either remove the flag from Makefile.haiku,
use a newer GCC, or supply your own C_COMPILER_OPTIONS on
the Make command line.
- The default Haiku BFS file system only supports timestamps
with a granularity of one second. This may cause trouble
with pregenerated release or development snapshot tarballs
due to the way files are pre-translated to C. You'll either
need to have CHICKEN installed, or touch the
build-version.c file before building.
To build a bootstrapping compiler yourself, get the most
recent development snapshot tarball from
http://code.call-cc.org, unpack it, build and install it.
Then change to the directory containing the git code and run:
make PLATFORM= CHICKEN= \
This will produce a statically linked binary with the name
"chicken-boot[.exe]" that can be given as the value of the
"CHICKEN" argument when invoking make(1). Note that the path
to an existing `chicken' binary must be given to use it for
compiling the Scheme code of the runtime-system and compiler.
"scripts/bootstrap.sh" automates this process; use this script
if you are unsure how to build from the repository sources. It
downloads the necessary development snapshot with wget(1) and
builds the boot-chicken that you can use to compile the
development sources. The invocation is:
scripts/bootstrap.sh PLATFORM= ...
You can add additional parameters if you like to customize the
build, but this should not be necessary. Note that your current
working directory must be the root directory of the CHICKEN
git(1) repository. Once the boot-chicken is built, proceed by
invoking make(1) as described above (in 2.2, Building from Git),
with the additional parameter:
make CHICKEN=./chicken-boot ...
7. Emacs support
See http://wiki.call-cc.org/emacs for tips and links to emacs
extensions for Scheme and CHICKEN programming.
8. Compatibility notes
In CHICKEN 4, the macro system has been reimplemented
completely and provides module system, which has considerably
more flexibility and power, but will require the
re-implementation of macros in code that previously was used
with CHICKEN 3. Notably, `define-macro' is not available
anymore. See the manual on how to translate such macros to
low-level hygienic macros or ask on the CHICKEN mailing list.
9. What's next?
If you find any bugs, or want to report a problem, please send
a detailed bug report.
If you have any more questions or problems (even the slightest
problems, or the most stupid questions), then please subscribe
to the "chicken-users"
mailing list and ask for help. It will be answered.