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Starting My Rust Journey

With a few things coming together, I have finally decided to look into yet another programming language. On the one hand learning a new language is usually a good way to broaden the fundamenetal understanding of programming, but this time I do have a specific goal in mind that I want to reach.

Only recently I have been looking at various 32 bit Cortex-M ARM micro-controllers with the vendor provided C programming environments. Knowing modern programming languages like Haskell, OCaml or Go got me so frustrated with these environments that I decided to find a modern language also fit for this embedded space and no, I don't think Python is the answer to every problem just as Java wasn't. Ultimately, I would like to see a functional programming language in this space, but I am open to other approaches fitting the embedded space.

Being an FSF Emacs user for decades, I am also averse to these proprietary programming environments that may have some nice features but ultimately only try to lock the developer into a vendor controlled ecosystem. Usually they are all Eclipse based anyway but are incompatible with one another. It gives me the shivers installing the n-th copy of Eclipse for yet another Cortex-M based micro-controller and I really wonder how we ended up in this very frustrating assembly of walled in environments.

So this is the start of a small series of posts that evaluate how easy it will be to setup a programming environment on GNU/Linux for Rust based on GNU Emacs. Ultimately I want to target micro-controllers without a full GNU/Linux system running on them, so the aim is to also get a cross-compilation setup working.

Rust Logo

As the The Rust Programming Language book is available online, it doesn't really make sense for me to do a real Rust introduction in this mini-series and so I will try to concentrate on the aspects that go beyond this book. For myself I decided to not only read the book on-line, but also buy the book at a local book store and thus have the best of both world. I still enjoy reading a book, but for the examples it is nice to have the text available in a window next to the IDE. In case you think alike but don't have a nice local book store that you want to support, then you may want to consider ordering it through Bookzilla where 5% of the price will go the Free Software Foundation Europe rather than buying it through Amazon which does not even pay taxes let alone support any causes beyond pure profit.

Installing the base tool chain by default is done in a per-user fashion so every user has full control over all aspects over it. A provided script makes this a no-brainer:

[dzu@harry ~]$ lsb_release -d
Description:  Ubuntu 18.04.2 LTS
[dzu@harry ~]$ curl -sSf | sh
info: downloading installer

Welcome to Rust!

This will download and install the official compiler for the Rust programming
language, and its package manager, Cargo.

It will add the cargo, rustc, rustup and other commands to Cargo's bin
directory, located at:


This path will then be added to your PATH environment variable by modifying the
profile file located at:


You can uninstall at any time with rustup self uninstall and these changes will
be reverted.

Current installation options:

   default host triple: x86_64-unknown-linux-gnu
     default toolchain: stable
  modify PATH variable: yes

1) Proceed with installation (default)
2) Customize installation
3) Cancel installation

info: syncing channel updates for 'stable-x86_64-unknown-linux-gnu'
info: latest update on 2019-01-17, rust version 1.32.0 (9fda7c223 2019-01-16)
info: downloading component 'rustc'
 79.5 MiB /  79.5 MiB (100 %)   6.4 MiB/s ETA:   0 s
info: downloading component 'rust-std'
 54.3 MiB /  54.3 MiB (100 %)   6.3 MiB/s ETA:   0 s
info: downloading component 'cargo'
info: downloading component 'rust-docs'
  8.5 MiB /   8.5 MiB (100 %)   6.5 MiB/s ETA:   0 s
info: installing component 'rustc'
info: installing component 'rust-std'
info: installing component 'cargo'
info: installing component 'rust-docs'
info: default toolchain set to 'stable'

  stable installed - rustc 1.32.0 (9fda7c223 2019-01-16)

Rust is installed now. Great!

To get started you need Cargo's bin directory ($HOME/.cargo/bin) in your PATH
environment variable. Next time you log in this will be done automatically.

To configure your current shell run source $HOME/.cargo/env
[dzu@harry ~]$

As described, this installs the tool-chain below $HOME/.cargo/bin and modifies your $HOME/.profile to source $HOME/.cargo/env to set this up in interactive shells. So on a subsequent session, you do not have to do anything, but for the current shell we run this only once to be able to continue:

[dzu@harry ~]$ . .cargo/env
[dzu@harry ~]$

This gives us easy access to the following command-line tools which we will encounter individually some time further into our journey:

[dzu@harry ~]$ ls ~/.cargo/bin
cargo  cargo-clippy  cargo-fmt  rls  rustc  rustdoc  rustfmt  rust-gdb  rust-lldb  rustup
[dzu@harry ~]$

One of the drawbacks of such a local install like what we just did is that there is no documentation that our man command (and thus apropos) will find:

[dzu@harry ~]$ man cargo
No manual entry for cargo
See 'man 7 undocumented' for help when manual pages are not available.
[dzu@harry ~]$

There is however the nice rustup tool that we will use shortly to update our installation. Beyond that, it also includes ways to get to more detailed documentation. Viewing the man page for cargo can thus be done with:

[dzu@harry ~]$ rustup man cargo

You can easily see the list of all available man pages:

[dzu@harry ~]$ ls /home/dzu/.rustup/toolchains/stable-x86_64-unknown-linux-gnu/share/man/man1/
cargo.1        cargo-fetch.1              cargo-new.1      cargo-rustc.1      cargo-version.1
cargo-bench.1  cargo-generate-lockfile.1  cargo-owner.1    cargo-rustdoc.1    cargo-yank.1
cargo-build.1  cargo-init.1               cargo-package.1  cargo-search.1     rustc.1
cargo-check.1  cargo-install.1            cargo-pkgid.1    cargo-test.1       rustdoc.1
cargo-clean.1  cargo-login.1              cargo-publish.1  cargo-uninstall.1
cargo-doc.1    cargo-metadata.1           cargo-run.1      cargo-update.1
[dzu@harry ~]$

There is even a whole copy of the Rust Programming Language book installed locally. Accessing it in your browser is simple:

[dzu@harry ~]$ rustup doc --book

Before moving on, we ensure that the script really installed the latest and greatest rust tool-chain by using the rustup :

[dzu@harry ~]$ rustup update
info: syncing channel updates for 'stable-x86_64-unknown-linux-gnu'
info: checking for self-updates

  stable-x86_64-unknown-linux-gnu unchanged - rustc 1.32.0 (9fda7c223 2019-01-16)

[dzu@harry ~]$

Ok, so now that we now that we are playing with the latest and greatest Rust, let's create our first little project. Note that I'm immediately jumping ahead by using cargo. After all, one of the reasons I wanted to look into Rust is to get away from the makefile madness of C:

[dzu@harry rust]$ cargo new hello_cargo
     Created binary (application) `hello_cargo` package
[dzu@harry rust]$

As simple as that. Let's take a look at what we got:

[dzu@harry rust]$ ls -lR hello_cargo/
total 8
-rw-rw-r-- 1 dzu dzu  134 Feb 24 21:27 Cargo.toml
drwxrwxr-x 2 dzu dzu 4096 Feb 24 21:27 src

total 4
-rw-rw-r-- 1 dzu dzu 45 Feb 24 21:27
[dzu@harry rust]$ cd hello_cargo/
[dzu@harry hello_cargo (master)]$

As you can see by my git aware PS1 prompt, cargo even initialized a git repository for us!

Having checked the contents of the source, let's run our first example right away:

[dzu@harry hello_cargo (master)]$ cat src/
fn main() {
    println!("Hello, world!");
[dzu@harry hello_cargo (master)]$ cargo run
   Compiling hello_cargo v0.1.0 (/home/dzu/src/rust/hello_cargo)
    Finished dev [unoptimized + debuginfo] target(s) in 0.38s
     Running `target/debug/hello_cargo`
Hello, world!
[dzu@harry hello_cargo (master)]$

I sure am impressed with the smoothness of this initial contact. Let's see how easy it is to setup Emacs as an IDE on top of this command line machinery in the next part.


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