[Dwarf-Discuss] qualifier modifier type tags vs type signatures

Mark Wielaard mjw at redhat.com
Thu Sep 25 08:18:23 PDT 2014


Hi,

This came up on the gcc list when extending the number of DWARF type
qualifier modifiers that are handled. But the issue can be shown with
just const and volatile.

The issue is that there is no ordering constraint on the type qualifier
modifier tags (they can appear in any order), but the type signature
computation for type units depends on an flattened ordered DIE tree to
get the same signature for the same type from different compile units.

This seems to only cause a missed opportunity of optimizing when using
type units (the type cannot be merged). But maybe there are more subtle
issues if the same type from different compilation units create
different type unit signatures?

Take for example these two compile units, which both define the same
type struct s, but also have some different types:

1)

int a;
const int b;
volatile const c;

struct s
{
  const volatile int i;
} s;

Here GCC would create a const type that points to an int and a volatile
type that points to that const type. When constructing the DWARF
representation of the struct s, it sees it already has a type DIE for
const volatile int and reuses that. So in this case the DIE chain for
the s.i type comes out as:
DW_TAG_volatile_type -> DW_TAG_const_type -> DW_TAG_base_type

2)

int a;
volatile int b;
volatile const c;

struct s
{
  const volatile int i;
} s;

Here GCC would create a volatile type that points to an int and a const
type that points to that volatile type. When constructing the DWARF
representation of the struct s, it again sees it already has a type DIE
for const volatile int and reuses that. So in this case the DIE chain
for the s.i type comes out as:
DW_TAG_const_type -> DW_TAG_volatile_type -> DW_TAG_base_type

The result is that the flattened description of struct s as used by the
type signature computation is different in these two compile units. And
so the MD5 hash used as signature will differ.

I think what GCC does when constructing the DIE type trees is correct.
It creates the most efficient type tree in both compile units. To create
type trees that look the same in flattened form in both compile units it
would have to add extra type trees (a volatile -> int in one or a const
-> int in the other) that aren't used otherwise. And it cannot really
know which ordering is preferred across all compilation units up front.

But it is somewhat unfortunate that it causes the type units to come out
with different signatures meaning they cannot be merged.

What would be the best way to solve this? I see a couple of options:

0) Don't change anything. It is just a missed optimization.

1) DWARF could prescribe an ordering to use when multiple qualifiers
type tags are in used. This might cause producers to create some extra
type trees if different subsets of type qualifiers are used, but if type
units are used, it might lead to a couple more types to share the same
signature.

2) The Type Signature Computation could be changed to understand that
type qualifier tags pointing to each other need to be sorted first. This
makes the algorithm a little trickier, but means less different type
trees in the compile units.

3) DWARF(v5) could deprecate nested type qualifier modifiers as separate
tags and replace them with one DW_TAG_qualified_type tag with either
separate DW_AT_const|volatile|restrict|atomic flag attributes or a
DW_AT_qualifiers attribute that indicates the combined qualifiers
(const, volatile, restrict, atomic). That removes the whole ordering
issues, so it doesn't matter in which order the DIE chain is flattened.

Ideas and/or opinions?

Thanks,

Mark


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