[llvm-dev] Linker Option support for ELF

Rui Ueyama via llvm-dev llvm-dev at lists.llvm.org
Sat Jan 6 18:55:16 PST 2018

On Sat, Jan 6, 2018 at 8:56 AM, Saleem Abdulrasool <compnerd at compnerd.org>

> On Fri, Jan 5, 2018 at 2:30 AM Rui Ueyama <ruiu at google.com> wrote:
>> Thank you for starting the discussion thread.
>> In general I'm in favor of the proposal. Defining a generic way to convey
>> some information from the compiler to the linker is useful, and it looks
>> like it is just a historical reason that the ELF lacks the feature at the
>> moment.
>> This is a scenario in which the feature is useful: when you include
>> math.h, a compiler (which is driven by some pragma) could added `-lm` to
>> the note section so that a linker automatically links libm.
>> I think I'm also in favor of the format, which is essentially runs of
>> null-terminated strings (*1) that are basically opaque to compilers.
> Yes.  However, I think I want to clarify that we want this to be
> completely opaque to the backend.  The front end could possibly have some
> enhancements to make this better.  But, that will be a separate change, and
> that discussion should take place then.  We shouldn’t paint ourselves into
> a corner.  Basically, I think that there is some legitimate concerns here,
> but they would not be handled at this layer, but above.
> However, you should define as a spec what options are allowed and what
>> their semantics are. We should not accept arbitrary linker options because
>> semantics of some linker options cannot be clearly defined when they appear
>> as embedded options. Just saying "this feature allows you to embed linker
>> options to object files" is too weak as a specification. You need to
>> clearly define a list of options that will be supported by linkers with
>> their clear semantics.
> Personally, I would like to see the ability to add support for additional
> options without having to modify the compiler.  That said, I think that
> there are options which can be scary (e.g. -nopie).  I think that the
> linker should make the decision of what it supports and error out on
> others.  This allows for us to enhance the support over time without a huge
> overhead.  As a starting point, I think that -l and -L are two that would
> be interesting.  I can see -u being useful as well, but the point is that
> we can slowly grow the support after consideration by delaying the
> validation of the options.

I think no one including me opposed the idea of designing the feature so
that new options can be added without having to modify the compiler. That's
fine to me.

What I said is that you still have to specify a list of options that are
allowed in the "linker options" section in your *specification*. Your
specification is incomplete and underspecified if it doesn't explicitly
list linker options with their semantics. If you don't do that, people
would start using arbitrary linker options whose semantics are vague/that
are dangerous/that are simply wrong (e.g. unclosed `-whole-archive`
option) after
you would implement the feature. We really shouldn't let that mess happen.

Concretely, which options do you want to use? I could imagine everyone
wants to use `-l`. `-L` is arguable because I do not see an obvious reason
to add a search path from the compiler. You mentioned `-u`. Is there any
other flag that you have in your mind?

(*1) One of the big annoyances that I noticed when I was implementing the
>> same feature for COFF is that the COFF's .drctve section that contains
>> linker options have to be tokenized in the same way as the Windows command
>> line does. So it needs to interpret double quotes and backslashes correctly
>> especially when handling space-containing pathnames. This is a design
>> failure that a COFF file contains just a single string instead of runs of
>> strings that have already been tokenized.
> I think that there is room for refinement on this.  The best part is that
> the refinement for that is delayed!  It would be best done in the front end
> IMO, and we can actually  further discuss and design the feature there.  I
> don’t think that we need to be completely blind to the issues we have seen,
> but we shouldn’t over constrain either.
> On Thu, Jan 4, 2018 at 9:02 AM, Saleem Abdulrasool via llvm-dev <
>> llvm-dev at lists.llvm.org> wrote:
>>> Hello all,
>>> There was some interest from a number of a few people about adding
>>> support for embedded linker options to ELF.  This would be an extension
>>> that requires linker support to actually work, but has significant prior
>>> art with PE/COFF as well as MachO both having support for this.
>>> The desire here is to actually add support to LLVM to pass along the
>>> necessary information into the object file.  In order to keep this focused
>>> on that, this thread is specifically for the *backend*, we are not
>>> discussing how to get the information to the backend here at all, but
>>> assuming that the information is present in the same LLVM IR encoding
>>> (llvm.linker-options module metadata string).
>>> In order to have compatibility with existing linkers, I am suggesting
>>> the use of an ELF note.  These are implicitly dropped by the linker so we
>>> can be certain that the options will not end up in the final binary even if
>>> the extension is not supported.  The payload would be a 4-byte version
>>> identifier (to allow future enhancements) and a null-terminated string of
>>> options.
>>> This allows for the backend to be entirely oblivious to the data as the
>>> other backends and allows for extensions in the future without having to
>>> teach the backend anything about the new functionality (again, something
>>> which both of the other file formats support).
>>> As an example of how this can be useful, it would help with Swift
>>> support on Linux where currently the linker options are pushed into a
>>> custom section, and a secondary program is used to extract the options from
>>> this section prior to the linker being invoked.  This adds a lot of
>>> complexity to the driver as well as additional tools being invoked in the
>>> build chain slowing down the build.
>>> --
>>> Saleem Abdulrasool
>>> compnerd (at) compnerd (dot) org
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> LLVM Developers mailing list
>>> llvm-dev at lists.llvm.org
>>> http://lists.llvm.org/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/llvm-dev
>>> --
> Saleem Abdulrasool
> compnerd (at) compnerd (dot) org
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