Sunday, July 23, 2006

current projects

I've been working on various bits of compiler work for Apple lately. A lot of the public work that's been seen has been of the cleanup variety - fixing up testcase failures from previous releases. However, I've also been working on some bugs relating to the object file format. We've made some recent maneuvers toward having a more sane definition in the toolchain - moving toward linker generated gots and plts, but for a great deal of the existing toolchains this would require a lot of work.

In my previous work I hadn't needed to work around limitations in the object file format - at least not in any great degree. Sure the MIPS ABI could use some changes, and there definitely aren't enough bits in the elf flags field for all of the various instruction sets or processors for the target. In the grand scheme of things these are small peanuts. Mach-O (or macho) is the format that was chosen at work about the time that work on OS X was begun.

Mach-O isn't very flexible. The object file format contains bitfields, not the least of which is for relocations. There are 4 bits of relocations available to a single architecture. For those of you counting at home this gives you 16 relocations. The fact that mach-o by default defines five of them leaves an architecture 11 additional relocations that you can define. Under ELF even the x86 port has 38 relocations, including the ones for TLS. The PowerPC mach-o port is out of relocations completely and yet if we had another 4 bits we probably couldn't do all of the TLS relocations we should have. If we want to get rid of the the compiler generated stubs, or have compiler generated thread-local storage a new way of defining relocations is needed. Or we could move to ELF.

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