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

Adrian Prantl aprantl at apple.com
Fri Jun 5 10:44:36 PDT 2015

> On Jun 4, 2015, at 4:35 PM, Robinson, Paul <Paul_Robinson at playstation.sony.com> wrote:
> After far too long being distracted by other things, I'm getting back to
> this.
> To recap, today we have a handful of feature flags in the DwarfDebug
> class which control various bits of DWARF; these feature flags can mostly
> be set by command-line flags or front-ends, but otherwise tend to have
> target-based defaults.
> The proposal is to introduce a "debugger tuning" option, which will allow
> us to fine-tune DWARF output based on what various debuggers prefer to 
> see, or conversely leave out things they don't care about.  This replaces 
> the current tactic of assuming debugger features are tied to the target, 
> which is at best incomplete and at worst wrong.  By making the expected 
> debugger explicit, we separate the concerns about target versus debugger, 
> and clarify the intent of decisions made based on one or the other factor.
> The main debuggers of interest to the LLVM community are:
> - GDB, the old warhorse
> - LLDB, the new kid on the block
> - SCE, for lack of a better name for Sony's debugger
>  (SCE = Sony Computer Entertainment; this debugger supports various
>  game consoles so we're unwilling to call it the PS4 debugger, and
>  it doesn't really have a name per se.)
> Given a particular "debugger tuning" we can set the feature flags based
> more obviously and clearly on the toolchain component that most cares
> about the features, i.e. the debugger.  Code to actually emit DWARF in
> one way or another would still rely on the feature flags.
> While there is a patch up for review (http://reviews.llvm.org/D8506)
> some of the questions raised there might be better discussed on the list,
> which is what I'm doing now.
> Q1. Will the debugger tuning override individual feature flags?
> A1. No. Tuning for a debugger will "unpack" into defaults for the various
> feature flags, but individual command-line options for those feature flags
> will still have the last word.
> Q2. You based the DWARF TLS opcode choice on debugger tuning, but that is
> a GDB bug rather than a real "tuning" thing.
> A2. True. Basing it on tuning seems to me less bad than leaving it based
> on target, which is what we have now.  I'm okay with reverting that bit; 
> I don't want "tuning" to get misconstrued as "it's just a way to work 
> around debugger bugs" because it's not.

I agree that having a workaround for a bug in a specific debugger tied to a target is clearly wrong for all the reasons cited in the second paragraph. We shouldn’t be doing that.

Personally I don’t have a problem with making workarounds a (small) part of the debugger tuning, because they really are something that is tied to a specific debugger.

As a user I expect `clang -g` with no further options to produce a binary for my current system with debug info that can be understood by the system debugger. One way to achieve this is that a target implies a debugger tuning setting, which then enables the workarounds for that debugger.

Workarounds may be more short-lived than other debugger tuning options, however: How do we handle a workaround for a bug in GDB 7 that is fixed in GDB 8?

> Q3. If I want my target to have a particular debugger tuning by default,
> how do I make that happen?
> A3. To date, this has been done with explicit triple-based tests in the
> DwarfDebug class constructor. If there's a smoother way to make this a 
> target-based parameter, which DwarfDebug can query, that works for me.
> The debugger-to-use seems more closely tied to OS than to the target 
> architecture, and LLVM's existing Target-based stuff is primarily aligned
> with architecture, making it a less natural fit.  Suggestions welcome, as
> I find it hard to keep straight all the various ways that target-specific 
> things get specified.
> Q4. Should LLVM default to "no special tuning" rather than a particular
> debugger?
> A4. That does feel like an attractive idea, however it would be a
> noticeable change in responsibility from what we have today (which is
> basically GDB everywhere except Darwin and PS4, as a decision made by

I think that FreeBSD is also using (or at least moving towards) LLDB as the system debugger.

> LLVM).  If LLVM doesn't set a default, then it would be up to each 
> front-end to explicitly set the default, and that is not a responsibility 
> they're really expecting to have.
> I did experiment with "no special tuning" as the default, and once I
> realized that meant "emit optional but standardized stuff" i.e. the
> pubnames/pubtypes sections, only one test failed, which had been expecting
> the triple to determine whether those sections appeared.
> Of course that's only the tests, it says nothing about the actual user 
> experience.  It's not like I tried running the GDB suite in a "no special 
> tuning" mode.
> The whole "how should the tuning default work?" question seems like it 
> needs a broader discussion. There really seem to be three options.
> - In the DwarfDebug constructor.  This is where it is (in effect) now, as
> a series of triple-based checks.  My initial patch left it there, more 
> explicitly, but still as a series of triple-based checks; basically the 
> patch made it possible to override, but the defaulting worked the same way 
> as before.
> - In some Target class.  The problem with this (as noted above) is that 
> Target is well-aligned with architecture, and poorly aligned with OS, 
> while the choice of default debugger is basically an OS kind of thing.  
> I confess when it comes to Target stuff, I quickly get lost in the twisty 
> maze of little passages all different, so any suggestions here of (a) a 
> way to make this OS-based decision (b) in a way that DwarfDebug can query,
> would be very welcome.
> - In each front-end/tool (not LLVM).  Again as noted above, this is not a 
> decision that front-ends/tools are making today, and adding this to their 
> list of responsibilities might be inappropriate.
> Opinions about the appropriate way to do the defaulting?
> Thanks,
> --paulr

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