lclint-interest message 51

From Thu Mar 21 12:01:19 1996
Date: Wed, 20 Mar 1996 16:09:21 -0800 (PST)
From: "Albert L. Ting" 
Subject: garbage collection checks?

When writing C code for a system which uses garbage collection, such
as a Scheme interpreter, there are a number of rules which must be
followed.  I am not sure if LCLint can be be used to catch violations
of these rules.  Maybe you can help me determine the best use of
LCLint in this situation.

A garbage collection package typically has a top-level data structure
like this:

	typedef DATA __DATA {
	    int f1,f2,f3;
	} DATA;
	typedef DATAPTR *DATA;

	DATA gc_arr[MAX_SIZE];

	struct __lock {
	    DATAPTR *lock;            
	    struct __lock *next;
	} *gc_locks;

The garbage collector has an internal array of DATA'S (gc_arr).
Whenever I need new DATA, I call the garbage collection package.
It will return a pointer to the first available space in the array.

If there is no available space in the array, garbage collection
occurs.  This is done by first scanning gc_locks, a link list of
pointers to pointers to an element in gc_arr (lock).  For each lock,
it marks the associated entry in gc_arr.  It then frees up any entries
in gc_arr that were not marked.  Next, for optimization reasons, the
array is reorganized.  Finally, it updates all locks in the gc_lock
list to point to the new index in gc_arr.

While this allows me to not worry about freeing memory locations, it
does have other types of problems.  Below is one such example:

	DATAPTR func (DATAPTR a,b,c) {
	   DATAPTR res;

/*	   Lock(&c);  */
	   res = func1(a,b);
	   res = func2(c,res);
/*	   Unlock(&c);  */

Both func1 and func2 creates new DATAPTR by calling the garbage
collection package.  Since what 'c' is pointing to could change after
calling func1, it needs to be 'locked' so that 'c' is always pointing
to the correct location.  With out the lock, 'c' could be pointing to
a stale DATAPTR.

It would be nice if lclint could detect this be recognizing if a previous
function call could cause garbage collection.

I also have a related problem that's more subtle.  Below is the same
code as before by nesting the function calls:

	DATAPTR func (DATAPTR a,b,c) {
	   DATAPTR res;

	   res = func2(c,func1(a,b));

The C language does not specify the order of parameter evaluation.  So
for the above situation, 'c' could be pushed onto the parameter stack
before calling func1.  If a garbage collection occurs, 'c' would be
updated appropriately but not the copy that's on the parameter stack.
Therefore, func2 would receive an stale copy of 'c'.  In this situation,
I need to make sure no function calls that affects garbage collection
are passed directly as parameters.

Another subtle problem are assignments.  Assume the garbage collector
supports array of DATAPTRs.

	DATAPTR func (DATAPTR a,b,c) {
	   DATAPTR res[2];

	   LockArray(&res,2);   /* lock a two element array */
	   res[0] = func1(a,b);
	   res[1] = func2(c,res[0]);
	   Unlock(&c); UnlockArray(&res);

Depending on the C compiler, the index to res[1] could already be
stored in a register before a garbage collection occurs in func2.  It
would then store the results of func2 in a stale address location
rather than the current location that res[1] is pointing to.


VLSI Libraries Incorporated has moved!

Albert L. M. Ting * * phone:408-487-5327 * fax:408-453-3500
VLSI Libraries Incorporated, 2077 Gateway Place, Suite 300, San Jose, CA 95110

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University of Virginia, Computer Science