[lldb-dev] LLDB expression parser presentation

Sean Callanan scallanan at apple.com
Fri Aug 16 18:12:43 PDT 2013

This is the outline of a brief presentation I gave on the LLDB expression parser.
I’ve included some “thorny issues;” if we resolve these, the expression parser will get a lot better.
Please let me know if you have any questions.

Class layout
	The master - ClangExpressionParser manages Clang and LLVM to compile a single expression
	Its minions:
		ClangExpression - a unit of parseable code
			ClangUserExpression - specialized for the case where we’re using the “expr” command
		ExpressionSourceCode - handles wrapping
		ClangASTSource - resolves external variables
			ClangExpressionDeclMap - specialized for the current frame (if stopped at a particular location in the program being debugged)
		IRForTarget - rewrites IR
		ASTResultSynthesizer - makes the result
		IRMemoryMap - manages memory that may or may be in the program being debugged, or may be simulated by LLDB
			IRExecutionUnit - specialized to be able to interact with the JIT

Basic Expression Flow
	User enters the expression: (lldb) expr a + 2
	We wrap the expression: void expr(arg *) { a + 2; }

		We wrap differently based on expression context.
		If stopped in a C++ instance method, we wrap as $__lldb_class::$__lldb_expr(void *)
		If stopped in an Objective-C instance method, we wrap as an Objective-C category
		If stopped in regular C code, we wrap as $__lldb_expr(void*)
		But we always parse in Objective-C++ mode.

		Typical wrapped expression:
			#define … // custom definitions provided by LLDB or the user
			$__lldb_class::$__lldb_expr // __lldb_class resolves to the type of *this in the current frame
				(void *$__lldb_arg)
				// expression text goes here

	We resolve externals: “a” => int &a;

		This happens via a question-and-answer process with the Clang compiler through the clang::ExternalASTSource interface
		FindExternalVisibleDeclsByName searches for “globals” (globals from the perspective of the expression; these may be locals in the current stack frame)
		FindExternalLexicalDecls searches a single struct for all entities of a particular type
		CompleteType ensures that a single struct has all of its contents
		(These are useful because we lazily complete structs, providing a forward declaration first and only filling it in when needed)		

		clang::ASTImporter is responsible for transferring Decls from one ASTContext (e.g., the ASTContext for a DWARF file) to another (e.g., the AST context for an expression)
		Our ClangASTImporter manages many of these (“Minions"), because there are many separate DWARF files containing debug information.
		We need to be able to remember where things came from.

	We add the result: static int ret = a + 2;

		This happens at the Clang AST level
		We handle Lvalues and Rvalues differently.
		For Lvalues, we store a pointer to them: T *$__result_ptr = …
		For Rvalues, we store the value itself: static T $__result = … // static ensures the expression doesn’t try to use a register or something silly like that
		We also store persistent types at this stage, e.g. struct $my_foo { int a; int b; }

	We rewrite the IR: *(arg+0) = *(arg+8)+2

		The IR as emitted by Clang’s CodeGen expects all external variables to be in symbols
		This is inconvenient if they are e.g. in registers, since you can’t link against a register
		This is also inconvenient for expression re-use, for example as a breakpoint condition… we’d have to re-link each time
		Our solution is to indirect variables through a struct passed into the expression (void *$__lldb_arg)

		Materializer’s job is to put all variables that aren’t referred to by symbols into this struct
		It will create temporary storage as necessary (e.g., to hold a variable value that was in a register)
		After the expression runs, a Dematerializer takes down all temporary storage, and ensures that variables are updated to reflect the expression’s side effects

		The IRForTarget class does various cleanup to help RTDyldMemoryManager (ideally much of this shouldn’t be necessary)
		It resolves all external symbols to avoid forcing RTDyldMemoryManager to resolve symbols
		It creates a string and float literal pool so RTDyldMemoryManager doesn’t have to relocate the constant pool
		It strips off nasty Objective-C metadata so RTDyldMemoryManager doesn’t have to look at it

	We interpret or execute the result: (int)$0 = 6

		IRExecutionUnit contains a module and the (real or simulated) memory it uses
		IRInterpreter can interpret a module without ever running the underlying process
		It emulates IR instructions one by one
		It uses lldb_private::Scalar to hold intermediate values, which is kinda limiting (no vectors, no FP math)
		IRExecutionUnit simulates memory allocation etc. so we can do a lot of pointer magic

		If the IRInterpreter can’t run, the MCJIT produces machine code and LLDB runs it
		IRExecutionUnit vends a custom JITMemoryManager implementation
		It remembers memory allocations and where functions were placed
		After JIT, all sections are placed into the target and we report their new locations with mapSectionAddress

Selected Thorny Issues (concentrating on JIT-related issues)
	Make the MCJIT more robust so we can rely on it more
		Support all Mach-O and ELF relocation types
		Don’t assume resolved symbols are in the current process
		Don’t assume addresses fit into void*s
	Make the IRInterpreter support all data types and instructions
		Completely replace the LLVM interpreter!


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