Problem report: Struct aliasing problem causes Thread_Ready_Chain corruption in

Ralf Corsepius ralf.corsepius at
Thu Dec 7 15:53:12 UTC 2006

On Thu, 2006-12-07 at 09:47 +0100, Wolfram Wadepohl wrote:
> Till Straumann schrieb:
> > I agree with Linus' sentiment, too. The problem, however,
> > is (repeating mantra) that this is not just some weirdo
> > gcc optimization that can be switched off. It is the C99 *standard*.
> > Even if you can switch this off for gcc today, there is no
> > guarantee that you will be able to in the future or on other
> > compilers. If we want to produce C99 compliant code then
> > we must comply with the alias rule. period.
> > Steven Johnson wrote:
> >>I have been quietly following this thread, but I find the whole 
> >>-fstrict-aliasing/-fnostrict-aliasing issue to be very disturbing.  
> >>Luckily my program isn't built with -O2 or I probably would have been 
> >>tracking untold numbers of strange bugs in known working code.  For 
> >>the C language to change so that a pointer (regardless of the pointer 
> >>type used to reference that memory) no longer points to a known piece 
> >>of memory, in a predictable way is whacked.
> >>
> >>I for one do not look forward to adding __attribute__ ((may_alias)) to 
> >>the hundreds of places where I change the way I address memory using 
> >>pointers.  It is a monumental waste of time, prone to error and in my 
> >>opinion putting in declarations to fix a broken compiler 
> >>optimisation.  When a compiler optimisation breaks a fundamental 
> >>aspect of C that has existed since the beginnings of the language, 
> >>then I consider that optimisation to be broken, and not the code 
> >>itself.  I will be adding -fno-strict-aliasing to all of my builds in 
> >>future, and I will be making sure RTEMS (and all of the other Open 
> >>Source libraries I use) builds with -fno-strict-aliasing, regardless 
> >>of what is ultimately decided here),  I just don't want the headache.  
> >>In my opinion you wouldn't be fixing RTEMS by adding these 
> >>declarations or changing the code, you would be working around a 
> >>broken compiler.  The other OS's that use -fno-strict-aliasing are (in 
> >>my opinion) doing the right thing.  I also fail to see how the option 
> >>could yield any tangible benefits on performance that would warrant 
> >>the pain and difficulty it causes.
> >>
> >>But that is my 2c.
> Hi all,
> i've follwed the discussion on the list. As a user of RTEMS building 
> comercial *embedded* applications with high availability the only short 
> term solution is to use -fno-strict-aliasing for the whole program 
> including all RTEMS parts.
> Till is right in telling us the gcc optimization (weird or not) *is* C99 
> standard. 
I agree with Till and you.

> Following this argumentation and expecting that 
> -fno-strict-aliasing will be dropped eventually and also considering that 
> we write embedded code dealing with real hardware i ask the question if C 
> is the right language to implement these applications in the future. A 
> programming language forcing me to consider what machine code the compiler 
> will eventually produce is not worth using for *embedded* programming.
Well, let me put this way: There are people having tried to (ab-)use C
as macro assembler. C99 (probably under the influence of C++) has voided
this aspect to a large extend and shifted to a different level of
programming languages (more into Pascal's direction).

As most high level applications don't apply such "assembler like"
features, so they aren't really affected. And those highlevel
application which do (esp. some GUI toolkits) are facing similar issues
as we are.

> In general and from an academic point of view Ralf is totally right; the 
> standard is clear and the code should be fixed. A proper data model, well 
> designed from base on,  will hopefully not produce aliasing problems. But 
> is this always possible and adequate in real work? It shuold be for basic 
> technology like RTOS or general libraries like newlib!
I think so, but ... as we currently all are experiencing, the "C as
macro assembler times" seem to be over.

> In fact the current RTEMS code is not in the shape that aliasing is not 
> considered as a problem. It has grown over more than a decade of years.
> Is this the time for a complete rewrite?
Frankly speaking, I think, at least some very basic parts/types RTEMS
are in need of a redesign/rewrite. IMO, introducing "type strictness"
and related to it, to "properly-typed" APIs is in dire need.

RTEMS definitely has weaknesses related to these areas. Therefore, I
would expect a large amount of the issues related to "strict aliasing"
and "strict alignment" to collapse, once they would be addressed.

>  Can we fix it?
I hope so, but do not expect this to happen any time soon.

>  What piece of work 
> can i do, as a user with limited knowledge of kernel functonality?
Good question.

ATM, from my point of view, people being familiar with certain flavors
of asm who could identify aliasing showing effects on RTEMS code would
be helpful. I have been trying to identify files being affected by
strict-aliasing and meanwhile have a list consisting of ca. 20000 object
(Note: *.o not *.c!) files (out of ca. 70000) from RTEMS-4.8, which are
affected by aliasing.

Now, identifying those which really are broken by aliasing would be
necessary. So far, apart of Peer's/Thomas's case [1], I haven't found
any :)


[1] Which meanwhile is supposed to be worked-around.

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