[llvm-dev] Linker Option support for ELF

Don Hinton via llvm-dev llvm-dev at lists.llvm.org
Sun Jan 7 16:35:49 PST 2018

Btw, apple has support for "Linker Options" as module flags.  Is there a
reason not to use a similar mechanism?

void addLinkerOptions(Module &M) {
#ifdef __APPLE__
      llvm::Module::AppendUnique, "Linker Options",



On Sun, Jan 7, 2018 at 11:59 AM, Saleem Abdulrasool via llvm-dev <
llvm-dev at lists.llvm.org> wrote:

> On Jan 6, 2018, at 4:33 PM, Sean Silva <chisophugis at gmail.com> wrote:
> On Jan 6, 2018 12:05 PM, "Saleem Abdulrasool via llvm-dev" <
> llvm-dev at lists.llvm.org> wrote:
> On Jan 5, 2018, at 4:35 PM, Cary Coutant <ccoutant at gmail.com> wrote:
> 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.
> Glad to have you chime in; I know that you have quit a bit of experience
> from binutils and gold.  I really would love to see this support be
> implemented there too, and having your input is certainly valuable.
> I agree that this would be a very useful addition to ELF. I've always
> wanted to reach the point where you could just type "ld main.o" and
> have all the dependencies automatically linked in. (Go kind of
> achieves this, I think.)
> Excellent!  I think that everyone agrees that this is a useful extension
> to add.
> I'm not in favor of using yet another note section, however. SHT_NOTE
> sections are intended for the use of "off-axis" tools, not for
> something the linker would need to look for. I don't want to have the
> linker parsing individual note entries looking for notes of interest
> to itself, and then having to decide whether to edit those entries out
> of the larger section, or merge them together. And I also don't want
> to key off of individual section names -- the linker is not supposed
> to have to care about the section name. There should be a new section
> type for this feature. This is  the kind of extension that ELF was
> designed for.
> I’m really not tied to the note approach of implementing this.  I am
> (admittedly) abusing the notes due to a couple of behavioral aspects of
> them.  So, the main things to realize is that this information is embedded
> into the object files that are built.  The information should be processed
> by the linker and then *discarded*, none of it should be in the final
> binary (unless it is a relocatable link).  I’m concerned about linkers
> which do not support this feature preserving the contents.  Now, this could
> very well be a misconception on my part.  If that is the case, then, I
> would say that this needs to be entirely reworked, because then adding the
> section sounds much nicer.
> Wouldn't a special section type trigger an "unrecognized section type"
> error for linkers that don't support it?
> Yeah, that is possible.  Compatibility problem exists with ld64, and are
> handled by means of `-mlinker-version`.  I don’t know how others feel about
> bringing that flag over to other platforms.  We could force the use of a
> new section and bring along `-mlinker-version` and base it on that or
> silently drop the flags (sounds slightly unexpected).  Or we could abuse
> the notes and not have to worry about the compatibility problem (which is
> why my initial work went that route).  Again, I’m not tied to the exact
> mechanism we use to provide compatibility, though my personal preference
> tends to be go with the nicer solution for longer term (which does feel
> like the `-mlinker-version` + custom section, but I’m worried about the
> silent dropping of flags).  Perhaps there is a better solution that I
> haven’t considered.
> -- Sean Silva
> 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.
> (*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 too would like to keep the linker from having to tokenize the
> strings. I kind of agree with Rafael that there should be defined tags
> and values, much like a .dynamic section, but I wouldn't want to have
> values pointing to strings in yet another section, so I'd prefer
> something in between that and a free-form null-terminated string. I
> also wouldn't want to open up the complete list of linker options, so
> I'd prefer a defined list of tags in string form that could easily be
> augmented without additional backend support. We could start with,
> perhaps, "lib" to inject a library (a la "-l"), "file" to inject an
> object file by full name, and "path" to provide a search path (a la
> "-L"). I don't think an equivalent for "-u" would be needed, since the
> compiler can simply generate an undef symbol for that case. For the
> section format, I'd suggest a series of null-terminated strings,
> alternating between tags and values, so that no quote or escape
> parsing is necessary.
> Sounds like we agree on the direction: we don’t want  the backend to be
> involved in adding new options, we don’t think that all options make sense
> but want to be able to add options still.  As to the `-u` option, Im
> thinking about cases were an unreferenced symbol would like to be preserved
> with `—gc-sections` and being built with `-ffunction-sections` and/or
> `-fdata-sections`.
> So, after discussing some of the items, we ended up somewhere in-between.
> My current proposal is a semi-pre-tokenized linker response file.
> Basically, each option/parameter “pair” would be a single string entry in
> an array of string values.  The only difference is instead of TLV entries,
> it is simply the raw entry.  My resistance to the TLV really is driven more
> by the LLVM IR (which I suppose is possible to alter):
> https://llvm.org/docs/LangRef.html#automatic-linker-flags-named-metadata
> For the header files, a simple syntax like
>   #pragma linker_directive "lib" "m"
> would provide the extensibility needed to add new tags with no
> additional support in the front end or back end.
> I *really* wish to avoid this discussion right now.  I am happy to loop
> you into a subsequent thread discussing that.  I figure that this will be a
> much more contentious issue as syntax is something everyone has differing
> opinions on.  I’m trying to split this work into three distinct pieces: the
> frontend support to emit the information, the backend to emit this into the
> object, and the linker to use it.
> As an aside, personally, I was thinking more along the lines of `#pragma
> comment(lib, “m”)`.
> -cary
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