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Computing scrypt using C

Section Goal
  • learn how to cross-compile C code, including 3rd-party libraries, so that it can be used in a Cartesi Machine
  • implement a program in C using the libscrypt library to validate Dogecoin and Litecoin block headers

Libscrypt C library

As discussed in the technical background, the Dogecoin/Litecoin proof-of-work hash must be computed using the scrypt algorithm. In this tutorial, we will implement this computation in C, making use of the well-established libscrypt library.

Before we begin, let's first switch to the dogecoin-hash/cartesi-machine directory:

cd cartesi-machine

Now, download the library source code into a subdirectory called libscrypt. The easiest way to do that is by cloning the library's GitHub repository using git. In case you don't already have git installed, run:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install git

And then, download the library's source code by typing:

git clone

As explained in detail by the Cartesi Machine target perspective section, to generate binary executables from C code that can run inside a Cartesi Machine we need to cross-compile that code targeting the machine's RISC-V architecture. This can be done using tools available in the cartesi/playground Docker image.

As such, let's start by jumping into the playground, making sure to map the current directory:

docker run -it --rm \
-e USER=$(id -u -n) \
-e GROUP=$(id -g -n) \
-e UID=$(id -u) \
-e GID=$(id -g) \
-v `pwd`:/home/$(id -u -n) \
-w /home/$(id -u -n) \
--name playground \
cartesi/playground:0.5.0 /bin/bash

On another terminal window, run the command to download make and proceed with the rest from the first terminal window:

docker exec -it playground apt-get update
docker exec -it playground apt-get install make

As usual for C projects, the libscrypt library is intended to be built using the make command, which will follow the specifications layed out in its Makefile. In this context, we need to set up some changes to the environment, so that the library is built with the intended cross-compiler for RISC-V, using adequate parameters:

export CC=riscv64-cartesi-linux-gnu-gcc
export CFLAGS_EXTRA="-Wl,-rpath=. -O2 -Wall -g"
export PATH=$PATH:~/

The CC environment variable above stands for "C compiler", and is actually used inside the Makefile to allow a specific compiler to be configured instead of the standard gcc tool. In this context, riscv64-cartesi-linux-gnu-gcc is the name of the appropriate cross-compiler available in the playground, which is capable of producing output targeting the Cartesi Machine's RISC-V architecture. Aside from that, we also define the CFLAGS_EXTRA variable exactly as it is already specified in libscrypt's Makefile, but removing the unsupported flag "-fstack-protector". Finally, we set the PATH to include the playground's home directory, which is mapped to the dogecoin-hash/cartesi-machine directory outside of the playground Docker.

The PATH setting is actually done just to help us work around a limitation in libscrypt's Makefile, which unfortunately does not provide an environment variable to configure which archiver tool to use. Since the Makefile forcibly always uses the command ar, we will fix this limitation by creating an executable script called ar in the current home directory (now included in the PATH) that simply calls the appropriate RISC-V utility instead.

As such, first create the ar file and make it executable:

touch ar
chmod +x ar

And now place the following contents into it:

/opt/riscv/riscv64-cartesi-linux-gnu/bin/riscv64-cartesi-linux-gnu-ar "$@"

With that set, we are at last ready to build the library. This can now be done by simply switching into the libscrypt directory and running the make command:

cd libscrypt

After the command completes, the appropriate shared library will have been generated.

Finally, move back to the playground's home directory by typing:

cd ..

Dogecoin/Litecoin scrypt computation

Now that the libscrypt library has been built, we can implement our application-specific code. Namely, this code will read input data for a block header and call the library to compute the appropriate scrypt hash using the parameters defined by the Dogecoin/Litecoin specification and discussed in the technical background.

In the playground's home directory (mapped to dogecoin-hash/cartesi-machine/), create a file called scrypt-hash.c with the following contents:

#include <stdlib.h>
#include <string.h>
#include <stdio.h>
#include <errno.h>

#include "libscrypt/libscrypt.h"

* Swaps bytes of a given buffer, effectively performing a big-endian to/from little-endian conversion
void swap_bytes(uint8_t *buf, int buf_size)
for (int i = 0; i < buf_size/2; i++)
uint8_t temp = buf[i];
buf[i] = buf[buf_size-i-1];
buf[buf_size-i-1] = temp;

int main(int argc, char *argv[])
// general definitions for scrypt hash, as defined by the Litecoin specification
// ref:
const int INPUT_SIZE = 80; // block header data: concatenation of Version, Prev Hash, Merkle Root, Timestamp, Bits, Nonce
const int OUTPUT_SIZE = 32; // hash output size
const int N = 1024;
const int r = 1;
const int p = 1;

// reads input/output args
if (argc != 3)
fprintf(stderr, "ERROR: expected 2 arguments, one for input and another for output, but received %d.\n", argc-1);
char *inputFilename = argv[1];
char *outputFilename = argv[2];

// defines input and output buffers
uint8_t input[INPUT_SIZE];
uint8_t output[OUTPUT_SIZE];

// reads input data
printf("Reading input data...\n");
FILE *inputFile = fopen(inputFilename, "rb");
if (inputFile == NULL)
fprintf(stderr, "ERROR: could not open input file '%s' reading.\n", inputFilename);
int freadRet = fread(input, sizeof(uint8_t), INPUT_SIZE, inputFile);
if (freadRet < INPUT_SIZE)
fprintf(stderr, "ERROR: could only read %d bytes from input file '%s' - should have read %d bytes.\n", freadRet, inputFilename, INPUT_SIZE);

// converts input from big-endian to little-endian, considering each sub-part
// - Version (4 bytes)
// - Previous hash (32 bytes)
// - Merkle root (32 bytes)
// - Timestamp (4 bytes)
// - Bits (target in compact form) (4 bytes)
// - Nonce (4 bytes)
swap_bytes(input, 4);
swap_bytes(input+4, 32);
swap_bytes(input+36, 32);
swap_bytes(input+68, 4);
swap_bytes(input+72, 4);
swap_bytes(input+76, 4);

printf("Computing scrypt hash...\n");
int retval = libscrypt_scrypt(input, INPUT_SIZE, input, INPUT_SIZE, N, r, p, output, OUTPUT_SIZE);
if(retval != 0)
fprintf(stderr, "ERROR COMPUTING SCRYPT HASH: return value is %d", retval);

// converts output from little-endian to big-endian
swap_bytes(output, OUTPUT_SIZE);

// writes output data
printf("Writing computed scrypt hash to output...\n");
FILE *outputFile = fopen(outputFilename, "wb");
if (outputFile == NULL)
fprintf(stderr, "ERROR: could not open output file '%s' for writing.\n", outputFilename);
int fwriteRet = fwrite(output, sizeof(uint8_t), OUTPUT_SIZE, outputFile);
if (fwriteRet < OUTPUT_SIZE)
fprintf(stderr, "ERROR: could only write %d bytes to output file '%s' - should have written %d bytes.\n", fwriteRet, outputFilename, OUTPUT_SIZE);

return 0;

In general terms, the above code will do the following:

  1. Read 80 bytes from the input file specified by the program's first argument
  2. Convert the input bytes from big-endian (used in Solidity) to little-endian (used in most processor architectures, including x86 and RISC-V)
  3. Effectively run the scrypt algorithm using the libscrypt library
  4. Convert the result back from little-endian to big-endian
  5. Write the final 32 bytes output to the file specified by the program's second argument

In effect, the core of the program is the following line, which calls the libscrypt library with the appropriate data and parameters:

int retval = libscrypt_scrypt(input, INPUT_SIZE, input, INPUT_SIZE, N, r, p, output, OUTPUT_SIZE)

As documented in file libscrypt/libscrypt.h, the above method call passes the input data, the "salt" (defined in the Litecoin specification as being equal to the input), the pre-defined N, r and p parameters, and finally the output buffer where the resulting hash should be stored.

Once the code is ready, we can finally cross-compile it to the RISC-V target architecture, linking it to the libscrypt shared library:

riscv64-cartesi-linux-gnu-gcc -O2 -o scrypt-hash scrypt-hash.c -Wl,-rpath=. -Llibscrypt -lscrypt

The above command will generate an executable file called scrypt-hash in the current directory. However, since it has been built for the RISC-V architecture, this program cannot be executed directly from the command line, but rather from inside a Cartesi Machine, as we'll see in the next section.

As a curiosity, we can actually check out some interesting information about the generated file by typing:

file scrypt-hash

Which should give us the following output, confirming that the executable has been generated for the RISC-V architecture:

scrypt-hash: ELF 64-bit LSB executable, UCB RISC-V, version 1 (SYSV), dynamically linked, interpreter /lib/, for GNU/Linux 5.5.19, with debug_info, not stripped

In practice, C code development would normally take place in the user's native environment, making use of resources such as integrated development environments (IDEs), debuggers, profilers and whatnot. Only when the code is ready and tested would it typically be the time to cross-compile it to the target architecture.

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The Cartesi Project is commissioned by the Cartesi Foundation.

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