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E 0.8.17a

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Variants and Subsets of E
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Download by Platforms & Versions

Earlier versions of E have been tested and run on MSWindows (95, 98 FE, 98 SE, NT, 2K), Linux, Solaris, FreeBSD, and now Mac OS X (which is really a FreeBSD platform with its own GUI toolkit and JDK). It should run on other UNIX platforms as well, given an adequate version of Java and bash (see below). It should also run without problems on MSWindows ME, but as far as we are aware, no one has tried this. If you experience any problems, or have any other informative experiences, please let me know, or report a bug.

The Installing links below describe how to install, and run various forms of the binary distribution. The Building links describe how to build E from the source release. The Download links will download each corresponding form of the release to your machine.

MSWindows 9x/ME/NT/2k
(zip files)
Unix & Unix-like Platforms
Now supporting Mac OS X!
(tar.gz files)


Highlights of this Version

Towards a distributed Updoc

Prior to this release, Updoc ran (mostly) sequentially, doing only one test script at a time. What we've had in mind from the beginning is being able to run test scripts in parallel. The website already contains many updoc scripts, which have caught several bugs. Before doing a release, we'd like to rerun all our regression tests, using all our available idle machines. This release introduces a new service -- the evalServerPool -- that stands between Updoc and a set of evalServers. The evalServerPool honors requests for evalServers, allocates them to clients (like Updoc), and reallocates them to later clients when the earlier clients are done.

This release closes bugs

Updoc must again walk directory trees
Updoc internal terminology needs fixing
Updoc needs to be split into emakers
revisit "promise" vs "vow" etc.


Updoc currently makes only limited use of the potential parallelism, still running only one test script at a time. Multi-vat test scripts (like the Introducing Remote Objects page) do make use of all the parallelism the evalServerPool has to offer.

The evalServerPool and its clients (currently only Updoc) are designed to recover from the loss of an evalServer, and reschedule the test script to be done using the remaining resources. This hasn't yet been tested.

The evalServerPool does not yet correctly recover from the loss of a client -- those evalServers allocated to that client are not yet released back to the pool if the client disconnects. Under such circumstances, you must restart the evalServerPool.

Elmer's and eBrowser's "run" buttons should also be clients of the evalServerPool, but this hasn't happened yet. Likewise, the interactive command line interpreter invoked by the shell command "e --interact" (or just "e") should likewise be implemented as clients of the evalServerPool.

The Updoc pages will be updated to explain how to use the new Updoc and evalServerPool.

This work is primarily by Terry Stanley, thanks!

Variants and Subsets of E

A complete E system is persistent, distributed, and capability-secure both within and between processes. Incomplete variants of E are tagged by which of these features are left out.

Feature Prefix if
feature is absent
What it stands for







capability security

capability security


Distributed Application Framework
Forsaking Encryption

A non-persistent E is called time-local since an object only exist as long as its hosting process does. A non-distributed E is called space-local if an object and all references to it only exist within its hosting process.

E by definition provides distributed capability-security -- the ability for objects in mutually suspicious processes to safely cooperate. If it looks like E and it quacks like E, it might be a duck; but if it doesn't provide distributed capability security, it's not E. A system that's otherwise equivalent to E, but doesn't provide distributed capability security, is called daffE. A distributed E can only be implemented by means of strong crypto, of course, for which we are using code derived from the Cryptix library (in accord with the terms of their open-source license). In a space-local system, no distributed insecurity can arise, so such a system would be an sl-E rather than an sl-daffE.

E is designed to provide local capabillity-security -- the ability for mutually suspicious objects hosted by the same process to safely cooperate, and the use of capability discipline to determine which of its hosting process's authorities it may exercise. Such objects could be executing untrusted code -- code that the hosting process (or its owner) doesn't need to fully trust.

This is a "complete" release of E. "complete" is in quotes, because both the persistence and the distribution leave much to be desired, as explained here. However, these are close enough that this release that doesn't need qualifiers in its name.


Versions & Types of Java

In refering to various versions of Java, we follow Sun's terminology and numbering. A Java Runtime, or jre, is adequate to run standard Java binary programs (class files & resources). A Java Development Kit, or jdk, is adequate both to build a program from sources and to run it. A jdk is a superset of the corresponding jre, and their version numbers are always in synch. Each successive version of the jdk/jre from Sun effectively defines a new version of the Java & JVM standards, except that Sun has introduced a numbering inconsistency: The Java/JVM 2.x standard corresponds to Sun's jdk/jre 1.2.x. We ignore this inconsistency and refer to both as 1.2.x.

This version of E requires a jre >= 1.3.1. E no longer supports Java < 1.3.1. To build E from sources, a corresponding jdk is required.

Note: E does not install correctly when using JDK1.4beta on Windows2000 -- it fails to exec the "winfo.exe" executable, used during install time to gather info about your Windows system. It seems to be a more general problem in execing executables. If you experience this problem, we suggest you install using a JDK1.3.* or a JDK >= JDK1.4.0-rc. ("rc" means "release candidate" and is post-beta.) Once installed, E should work fine with any JDK >= 1.3.1, except for the inability to exec other programs if you're using the 1.4 beta.

Some places to get a jre or jdk:

Mac OS X
already included
already included


To build E requires a bash available as "/bin/bash". If bash is unavailable for your platform, it seems to work better than it should to make a symbolic link from "/bin/bash" to "/bin/sh". If you try this and run into problems, please report these problems.

To run the E driver script "e" requires a bash >= 2.01 available on your PATH, and the env program available as /usr/bin/env. The E driver script is required (and must also be on your PATH) in order to be able to run E scripts (*.e files) directly as executables. To check your bash version, type


to your bash shell. A bash (2.05 as of this writing) for Mac OS X is available for download from Savage Transcendental Studios.

On Windows, both bash and env are available as part of the Cygwin distribution, as explained below.

Build-Only Dependencies

If you are only installing E from a binary distribution, or only rebuilding the Java portion for your own use, you can ignore this section. However, if you wish to build an E distribution from sources, then you will need the equivalent of the following tools as well.

The Cygwin Distribution

The E building process relies on a number of UNIX tools. These are available for Windows from Cygnus Support as the Cygwin package. If you wish to build E on Windows, you should download and install a version >= 1.0.

BYacc/Java (Berkeley Yacc for Java)

The E source distribution contains the executable binary program byaccj.exe for Windows, and byaccj for Linux/386/glibc. These are actually BYacc/Java from Bob Jamison and others. BYacc/Java is the Berkeley Yacc program extended with a "-j" flag and others for producing Java output. BYacc/Java is covered by the Berkeley License. The sources to byaccj are bundled with the E sources, and byaccj is optionally made as part of making E.

BYacc/Java is only needed if you wish to remake the parsers as part of making E. Usually, this is only necessary of you wish to edit the *.y files in the source tree (term.y and e.y). Since BYacc/Java is a C program, it was causing porting headaches, and most people interested in rebuilding E won't need to rebuild the parsers anyway. So we've added a switch: If you set the environment variable "MAKE_PARSERS" to "true" before running "make", then make will try to build BYacc/Java on your system, and then use it to rebuild the parsers. Otherwise, it will just use the parsers included in the source tree.

Zip Files

Our build process packs up the *.zip files in the distribution by using Info-Zip's highy portable, and highly ported, zip program. Info-Zip's zipping tools are open-sourced with a license that seems to resemble the X11 license, but before redistributing it, you should read it for yourself. The E distributions do not bundle in these tools.

Environment Variables

The following are the main environment variables controlling building, and normally the only ones you will need to be aware of if something goes wrong. Others variables are documented in the various makefiles, especially

  • OSTYPE - To determine whether we are compiling on the Cygwin platform, we check whether this is set to either "cygwin" or "cygwin32" (both have been encountered). If so, we set CYGWINOS to "1". All other conditionals test CYGWINOS.

  • CYGWINOS - See above. If you actually are on a Cygwin environment, but OSTYPE has yet a different value, you probably shouldn't change it for fear of screwing something else up. So just set CYGWINOS to "1" yourself.

  • JAVA_HOME - If set, it should be set to the directory where the JDK is installed. This is used to find certain executables and jar files that come with the JDK distribution.

    If not set, then the needed executables (eg, "java") are assumed to be on the PATH, and the jar files directly known to the makefiles are assumed to be adequate for building. This is known to work when compiling with javac, and known not to work when compiling with jikes 1.15. See below.

  • JAVAC - If set, should be set to executable for the Java compiler. The Java compiler is assumed to be command line compatible with javac or jikes. If the executable is on the PATH, then simple names (like "javac") can be used rather than full pathnames. This can also include some initial compiler options to appear before the others. I normally build with JAVAC set to "jikes +E +F". I'm using Jikes 1.15, and at least that version needs to be provided with the JDK's rt.jar file as an explicit component of the -classpath argument. The makefiles do this automatically if JAVA_HOME is set to the JDK's install directory.

    If not set, this defaults to either "javac" or "$(JAVA_HOME)/bin/javac", depending on whether JAVA_HOME is set.

  • JAVACMD - If set, should be set to an executable for running Java that's command-line compatible with the JDK's "java" executable.

    If not set, this defaults to either "java" or "$(JAVA_HOME)/jre/bin/java" depending on whether JAVA_HOME is set.

  • JAVADOC - If set, should be set to an executable for generating Javadoc documentation that's command-line compatible with the JDK's "javadoc" executable.

    If not set, this defaults to either "javadoc" or "$(JAVA_HOME)/bin/javadoc" depending on whether JAVA_HOME is set.

  • MAKE_PARSERS - E contains a small number (two as of this writing) of *.y files, which are compiled into parsers written in Java using BYacc/Java (see above). The generated parsers are included in the source distribution as sources, even though technically they are not, because most people interested in rebuilding E will not care to rebuild these parsers.

    Those that do wish to rebuild these parsers should set MAKE_PARSERS to "true". This will cause the BYacc/Java executable, byaccj, to be rebuilt from sources, and will cause these parsers to be rebuild from their *.y files using byaccj. The BYacc/Java sources seem to have problems compiling on some platforms. If you encounter such problems, and especially if you figure out how to fix it, please let us know.

    If not set, this defaults to not rebuilding byaccj or the parsers, but just using the generated parsers included in the source distribution as sources.

If there are better or more conventional ways to control these building issues, please let us know.
Unless stated otherwise, all text on this page which is either unattributed or by Mark S. Miller is hereby placed in the public domain.
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