Version 3 (modified by nfrisby, 4 years ago) (diff)




For unfortunate reasons I don't fully understand (#5355, #5292), the host compiler and plugins have distinct copies of global variables (unless the host compiler dynamically loads libHSghc, eg on Windows; see the next section). The current workaround is CoreMonad.reinitializeGlobals, which every plugin is supposed to call at the beginning of its install routine. This function overwrites the plugin's global variables with the corresponding values of the host compiler's. It requires a little plumbing to make this work but not much, and the plugin author sees only reinitializeGlobals.

The long-term plan is to eventually totally avoid having two separate images of the ghc library and then redefine reinitializeGlobals = return ().

So the plugin author is instructed to write this:

install :: [CommandLineOption] -> [CoreToDo] -> CoreM [CoreToDo]
install opts todos = do

This mechanism is currently used for some StaticFlags, some Linker state, and some DynFlags. I just recently added (partial) support for the FastString table.


If the ghc executable itself dynamically links against libHSghc, then the entire reinitializeGlobals mechanism is unnecessary! In that case, both the host compiler and its plugins link against the dynamic libHSghc, which contains the sole set of mutable global variables.

As of commit b7126674 (~mid-March 2013), the ghc executable dynamically loads libHSghc by default. This snippet from mk/ shows the default behavior as of 163de25813d12764aa5ded1666af7c06fee0d67e.

# Use the dynamic way when building programs in the GHC tree. In
# particular, this means that GHCi will use DLLs rather than loading
# object files directly.
ifeq "$(TargetOS_CPP)" "mingw32"                     # <---- this means Windows
# This doesn't work on Windows yet
else ifeq "$(TargetOS_CPP)" "freebsd"
# FreeBSD cannot do proper resolution for $ORIGIN (due to a bug in
# rtld(1)), so disable it by default (see #7819).
else ifeq "$(PlatformSupportsSharedLibs)" "NO"

NB also that the *-llvm presents in set DYNAMIC_GHC_PROGRAMS = NO as of 163de25813d12764aa5ded1666af7c06fee0d67e (~July 2013).


All the FastStrings created during compilation are memoized in a hash table. For speedy comparison, each string is associated with a unique, which is allocated linearly whenever a FastString is created that has no corresponding entry in the hash table. This involves two pieces of global state, which are held in the same global variable.

data FastStringTable =
     {-# UNPACK #-} !Int
     (MutableArray# RealWorld [FastString])
{-# NOINLINE string_table #-}
string_table :: IORef FastStringTable

The Problem with FastString.string_table

During its use, the FastString table increments the !Int argument. reinitializeGlobals alone is incapable of supporting this appropriately; it was designed to only copy global variables' values from the host compiler to the plugin, never in the opposite direction.

Option 1: The General Solution

Ideally, we would extend the reinitializeGlobals mechanism to additionally support information flow from the plugin back to the host compiler. However, it's a high priority that this whole mechanism remain as transparent as possible: we'd really like to just rip it out in the future without breaking any code.

Unfortunately, the current interface — just calling reinitializeGlobals at the top of install — is insufficient for this reverse information flow. We'd have to change the interface to something like:

install :: [CommandLineOption] -> [CoreToDo] -> CoreM [CoreToDo]
install opts todos = workaroundGlobals $ do

This function would do three things:

1) call reinitializeGlobals ASAP, just like now

2) call reverseReinitializeGlobals at the end of the install routine; this new function would stash the values of the plugin's globals in a new, otherwise unused Writer output of !CoreM.

3) similarly wrap every PluginPass contained in the result of install

We'd also have to add some logic around the host compiler's calls to the plugin in order to copy the stashed values back into the host compiler's globals.

(This suffers from the same laziness issues as Option 2 below, so check that out too.)

Overall, this seems like overkill. I performed a bunch of greps in search of global variables in the code base:

# find possible top-level declarations of an IORef, MVar, some sort of pointer, global
$ find .. -type f -exec grep -nHE -e '^[^ ].*:: *IORef' {} /dev/null \;
$ find .. -type f -exec grep -nHE -e '^[^ ].*:: *MVar' {} /dev/null \;
$ find .. -type f -exec grep -nHE -e '^[^ ].*:: *[^ ]*Ptr' {} /dev/null \;
$ find .. -type f -exec grep -nHw -e global {} /dev/null \;

(also for unsafe[^ ]*IO, inlinePerformIO, and unsafeInterleaveM)

Legitimate hits:

  • these three use the GLOBAL_VAR macro and were already supported by reinitializeGlobals: StaticFlags, DynFlags, Linker
  • my focus: FastString.string_table
  • I don't know what these are for: Panic.interruptTargetThread, InteractiveEval.noBreakStablePtr

Of all these global variables, I think only string_table needs information flow from the plugin back to the compiler.

Option 2: The Lighterweight Workaround

For FastString.string_table, I think we can avoid changing the reinitializeGlobals interface. In this case, we can recover the appropriate Int value by scanning the hash table every time we return from the plugin: the Int is just a cache of the table's size (…right?).

This wouldn't affect the plugin API, but it would still require the extra logic around the compiler's calls to plugins.

Unfortunately, the FastString interface uses unsafePerformIO, so unless the plugin forces all of its FastStrings before returning to the compiler, this wouldn't fix the issue. (Option 1 has this same problem.)

So the rule would be: if your plugin might allocate new FastStrings, be sure to force them before returning to the compiler. (Same for Option 1.)

Option 3: The Full Low-Level Hack

Can we do some dirty low-level pointer copying so that the plugin's FastString.string_table CAF is a IND_STATIC pointing to the compiler's FastString.string_table CAF?

This would be the least invasive approach wrt the GHC source code by far and it would have no rules for the plugin author to worry about.

Option 4: Do Nothing

For FastString.string_table, the lack of reverse information flow probably doesn't matter. I suspect the most common case just involves looking up FastStrings in the table, not actually creating new ones.

Even if the plugin does create FastStrings, it looks like the only thing that is downstream from the core2core pipeline and also is (indirectly) sensitive to a FastString's unique is GHCI. Everything else downstream of the plugins just uses the unique associated with Names — OccStrings are pretty much ignored after the renamer.

So the rule would be: if your plugin might allocate new FastStrings, be warned that GHCI might not work quite right.