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Recompiling code for Windows 8 ARM

I've been a bit busy on non-coding stuff as of late, but I did manage to get some time to install the Windows 8 Developer Preview natively. Previously I had been running it on a VirtualBox VM, which worked but only supported non-accelerated video and was prone to heavy freezing for minutes at a time. After a few tries at installing before I figured out that the BIOS had to be forced to boot the DVD in UEFI mode to install on a GPT-formatted disk -- strangely, a problem I didn't have with Windows 7 x64 -- I got it installed and happily it runs much more smoothly on real hardware.

The last time I tried the Developer Preview, I compiled some small snippets with the Visual Studio 11 Express preview that was included. Loading a full Win32 project revealed a big problem: the VS11 Express preview doesn't have support for loading non-Metro C++ projects. I ended up installing the full Visual Studio 11 Developer Preview to fix that. After a few hours of download and installation -- and a bit of Disgaea 4 levelling in the meantime -- I loaded the solution I had previously converted to VS2010, upgraded it to the v110 toolset, and started an ARM build.

ARM build?

Truth be told, I don't know if I'll bother actually compiling anything for Windows 8 ARM. Between the current signed-only requirement for Metro apps, the uncertainly around whether Windows ARM will support desktop apps and whether WinRT can be used from desktop apps, what APIs will be able for ARM, and simply whether any of the Windows ARM devices will be worth buying it's not clear whether it'll be a hospitable environment for what I do. There's also the issue of actually having a device to test on, since code you can't run is virtually guaranteed broken. However, building for ARM has another beneficial side effect, which is to flush out unguarded x86-isms in a code base, and being able to do so with Visual C++ is much easier than doing so with another compiler or on another platform. I've done a decent amount of x64 and also some PPC, so I did have a good idea of what to expect going in. For the most part it went smoothly, but some problems I ran into:

The showstopper was when I got link errors on comctl32.lib, and then after fixing that shlwapi.lib. Game over, missing essential libs for a desktop app. Oh well. At least it only took a few minutes to get the main codebase building, since I had already done a lot of the gruntwork for AMD64/x64. What this tells me is that if you've done reasonable diligence to keep x86/x64isms low in your code, that rebuilding it for ARM with VC11 is going to be pretty painless. Availablility of APIs could potentially be a lot more painful but we won't know how much for sure until the official API list for Windows 8 ARM is released.


This blog was originally open for comments when this entry was first posted, but was later closed and then removed due to spam and after a migration away from the original blog software. Unfortunately, it would have been a lot of work to reformat the comments to republish them. The author thanks everyone who posted comments and added to the discussion.