[cfe-dev] [lldb-dev] What does "debugger tuning" mean?

Greg Clayton gclayton at apple.com
Fri May 1 13:36:51 PDT 2015

Sounds reasonable to me.

A few more things that vote for debugger tuning:

- LLDB doesn't like to have DWARF that has a class A that inherits from class B, but only a forward declaration of class B is provided.
- LLDB wants the .apple_XXX accelerator tables, GDB wants .debug_pubnames/.debug_pubtypes

So it would be great to have a "-debugger" flag that could be specified


Not sure on the option name, but I do like the idea.


> On May 1, 2015, at 1:06 PM, Robinson, Paul <Paul_Robinson at playstation.sony.com> wrote:
> This is basically a reboot of the previous thread titled
>  About the "debugger target"
> except that "target" was really too strong a term for what I had intended
> to use this feature for.  "Debugger tuning" is more like it.  You don't
> need to have read the previous thread, I'll recap here.
> Fundamentally, Clang/LLVM uses DWARF as the specification for the _format_
> of information provided by the compiler to a variety of "consumers," which
> primarily means debuggers (but not exclusively).  [For a long time it was 
> the only format supported by LLVM. Lately, Microsoft debug info has started
> appearing, but being a less widely used format, the issues that DWARF runs 
> into aren't a concern for that format.  So "debugger tuning" is unlikely
> to be an issue for Microsoft debug info.]
> DWARF is a permissive standard, meaning that it does not rigidly require
> that source-language construct X must be described using the DWARF 
> construct Y.  Instead, DWARF says something more like, "If you have a 
> source construct that means something like X, here's a mechanism Y that 
> you could use to describe it."  While this gives compilers a lot of nice 
> flexibility, it does mean that there's a lot of wiggle room for how a 
> compiler describes something and in how a debugger interprets that 
> description.  Compilers and debuggers therefore need to do a bit of 
> negotiation in determining how the debug-info "contract" will work, when 
> it comes to nitty-gritty details.  DWARF itself (the standard, as well 
> as the committee that owns the standard) refuses to get involved in this 
> negotiation, referring to all that as "quality of implementation issues."
> It is readily apparent that different debuggers have different ideas
> about certain DWARF features, for example whether they are useful or
> irrelevant, or whether a certain source construct should be described
> this way or that way.  As these generally fall into the QOI realm, the
> DWARF spec itself is no help, and it comes down to a matter of opinion
> about whether "the debugger should just know this" or "the compiler
> really ought to just emit it that way."
> Clang/LLVM is in the position of being a compiler that wants to support
> several different debuggers, all of which have slightly different ideas
> about what they want from the DWARF info for a program.  Our first line
> of defense of course is the DWARF standard itself, but as we've seen,
> that is not a universally definitive reference.
> LLVM already emits DWARF slightly differently for different *targets*;
> primarily Darwin, in a few cases PS4.  But in at least some cases, the
> target is just a (somewhat unreliable) proxy for which *debugger* the
> compiler expects to be consuming the DWARF.  The most instructive case
> is the exact DWARF expression used to describe the location of a thread-
> local variable.  DWARF v3 defined an operator to find the base address
> of the thread-local storage area; however, GDB has never learned to
> recognize it.  Therefore, for targets where we "know" GDB isn't used,
> we can emit the standard operator; for targets where GDB *might* be
> used, we need to emit the equivalent (non-standard) GNU operator.
> It would be semantically more meaningful to base decisions like this on
> whether we expected the debugger to be X or Y or Z.  Therefore I've
> proposed (http://reviews.llvm.org/D8506) a "debugger tuning" option that
> will make the reasoning behind these choices more obvious, and ultimately
> give users a way to control the tuning themselves, when the platform's
> default isn't what they want. (I'll have a follow-up patch exposing the
> tuning option to the Clang driver.)
> So, what kinds of things should be based on the debugger tuning option?
> Are there still things that should be based on the target platform?
> Simplest to consider these questions together, because it is often clear
> which criterion is important if you consider (a) the same debugger run
> on different targets, versus (b) different debuggers running on the same
> target.  Basically, if the same debugger on different targets wants to
> have something a certain way, that's probably a debugger-tuning thing.
> And if different debuggers on the same target doesn't mean you should
> change how the DWARF looks, that's likely a platform-specific thing.
> The most obvious example of a debugger-tuning consideration is the TLS
> operator mentioned above. That's something that GDB insists on having.
> (It turns out that the standard operator was defined in DWARF 3, so we
> also have to emit the GNU operator if we're producing DWARF 2.  Tuning
> considerations don't trump what the standard says.)
> Another example would be .debug_pubnames and .debug_pubtypes sections.
> Currently these default to omitted for Darwin and PS4, but included
> everywhere else. My initial patch for "tuning" changes the PS4 platform
> criterion to the SCE debugger predicate; quite likely the "not Darwin"
> criterion ought to be "not LLDB" or in other words "on for GDB only."
> And having the code actually reflect the correct semantic purpose seems
> like an overall goodness.
> An example of a target-dependent feature might be the .debug_aranges
> section. As it happens, we don't emit this section by default, because
> apparently no debugger finds it useful, although there's a command-line 
> option (-gdwarf-aranges) for it.  But, for PS4 we do want to emit it, 
> because we have non-debugger tools that find it useful.  We haven't yet 
> done the work to make that change on llvm.org, but it's on the list.
> I would conditionalize this on the target, not the debugger, because
> the debugger is not why we want to generate the section.
> Okay, so I've been pretty long-winded about all this, can I possibly
> codify it all into a reasonably succinct set of guidelines?  (which 
> ought to be committed to the repo somewhere, although whether it's as
> a lump of text in a docs webpage or a lump of commentary in some source
> file is not clear; opinions welcome.)
> o Emit standard DWARF if possible.
> o Omitting standard DWARF features that nobody uses is fine.
>  (example: DW_AT_sibling)
> o Extensions are okay, but think about the circumstances where they 
>  would be useful (versus just wasting space).  These are probably a
>  debugger tuning decision, but might be a target-based decision.
>  (example: DW_AT_APPLE_* attributes)
> o If some debugger can't tolerate some piece of standard DWARF, that's
>  a missing feature or a bug in the debugger.  Accommodating that in
>  the compiler is a debugger tuning decision.
>  (example: DW_OP_form_tls_address not understood by GDB)
> o If some debugger has no use for some piece of standard DWARF, and
>  it saves space to omit it, that's a debugger tuning decision.
>  (example: .debug_pubnames/.debug_pubtypes sections)
> o If a debugger wants things a certain way regardless of the target,
>  that's probably a debugger tuning decision.
> o If "system" software on a target (other than the debugger) wants
>  things a certain way regardless of which debugger you're using,
>  that's NOT a debugger tuning decision, but a target-based decision.
>  (example: .debug_aranges section)
> Let me know if this all seems reasonable, and especially if you have
> a good idea where to keep the guidelines.
> Thanks,
> --paulr
> _______________________________________________
> lldb-dev mailing list
> lldb-dev at cs.uiuc.edu
> http://lists.cs.uiuc.edu/mailman/listinfo/lldb-dev

More information about the cfe-dev mailing list