Sunday, June 18, 2006

Using GNU lightning on an Intel Mac

GNU lightning is a library that generates assembly language code at run-time. This is an useful tool for writing a Just-In-Time compiler.

While your jit compiled code will work on most systems, you will probably experience crash under Mac OS X with an EXC_BAD_INSTRUCTION exception on a movdqa %xmm0,32(%esp) instruction. The reason if this crash may seem obscure but is in fact simple: on Mac OS X, the stack must be 16-byte aligned at the point of function calls. This is documented in the Mac OS X ABI Function Call Guide.

So, how to fix this problem ? Align the stack manually by jit compiling special instructions before every function call depending on the number of parameters pushed ? This is quite tedious. A better solution is to use gcc's -mstackrealign switch.

Here is the documentation of this option:

Realign the stack at entry. On the Intel x86, the -mstackrealign option will generate an alternate prologue/epilogue that realigns
the runtime stack. This supports mixing legacy codes that keep a 4-byte aligned stack with modern codes that keep a 16-byte stack for SSE compatibility. The alternate prologue and epilogue are slower and bigger than the regular ones, and they require one dedicated register for the entire function. This also lowers the number of registers available if used in conjunction with the "regparm" attribute. Nested functions encountered while -mstackrealign is on will generate warnings, and they will not realign the stack when called.

Enjoy, your program is not crashing anymore. :-)

keywords: GNU lightning, Intel Mac, crash, EXC_BAD_INSTRUCTION, movdqa xmm0

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for this tip. I spent countless hours fighting against stack alignment problems in a SSE optimized C code called by python ctypes and the -mstackrealign gcc option seems to have fixed all of them without having to change the source code.