[llvm-dev] [RFC][binutils] Machine-readable output from Binutils - possible GSOC project?

Steven Wu via llvm-dev llvm-dev at lists.llvm.org
Mon Jan 20 11:39:18 PST 2020

I think a machine readable format can be helpful to many users. I have seen many regex in the build system or binary analysis tools trying to parse the output of `otool` (llvm-objdump). That is really error-prone and makes tuning the output of binutils tools impossible.

Binding for scripting language sounds nice but it is often not enough to prevent the people from taking the shortcut (try to avoid building llvm or add extra dependencies, or allow them to use the language of their choice).

If you want to start working on this, I will suggest starting with something like architectures/symbol table/section info. Those are more commonly parsed by regex than some other information like disassembly.


> On Jan 14, 2020, at 3:24 AM, David Chisnall via llvm-dev <llvm-dev at lists.llvm.org> wrote:
> On 10/01/2020 11:55, James Henderson via llvm-dev wrote:
>> Hi all,
>> I was giving some thought as to possible project ideas I could propose for this year’s Google Summer of Code, with regards to the LLVM Binutils. One idea that I had was something discussed at last year’s Euro LLVM developer meeting, namely machine-readable output from the LLVM Binutils. Before I actually start advertising this as an open project, I wanted to ask a few questions:
>> 1. Are people still interested in this? If so, what is the typical use
>>    case you’d use the result of this project for? Why would this be
>>    better than the existing llvm-readobj output (if applicable)?
>> 2. Which tool(s) and feature(s) would you most want this for? I
>>    personally think this should just be another output style for
>>    llvm-readobj. Does anybody have any different opinion there?
>> 3. Is there any additional tooling in relation to this project that you
>>    think would be important to be a part of this project, e.g. a lit
>>    function to query the output?
>> 4. How might this interact with obj2yaml? Could the new output
>>    ultimately be used to replace it?
>> 5. Is there a priority for a specific format (e.g. ELF, DWARF, COFF)?
>> 6. Would anybody be interested in co-mentoring such a project?
> I wonder if machine-readable output from the tools is actually the correct approach.  When I have needed something similar, for example when parsing traces from a CPU debug interface and mapping them to places in the object code, I have used the same underlying libraries that these tools use in LLVM to get much richer output.
> When I have done so, I have found that there is a huge amount of boilerplate involved.  I would be much more interested in moving a lot of the logic in these tools into some higher-level (API-stable) library abstractions (with scripting-language bindings) and then reimplementing the tools in terms of those libraries.
> If at all possible, I'd rather not use these via a serialisation format.
> For example, consider the disassembly bit.  There are three steps:
> 1. The binary encoding of the instruction.
> 2. The semantic decoding of the operation, the input and output operands, including information about the kind of instruction (e.g. branch, load, store).
> 3. The text representation.
> A lot of the things where I've wanted machine-readable objdump output, I've wanted part of 2.  Consider this line from objdump:
> 16bed:       48 83 c3 01             add    $0x1,%rbx
> It has an address in the binary, the hex of the instruction, and the formatted assembly for the instruction.  The first two are pretty easy to encode in something like YAML, but would the last bit be just a string?  A format string with some more explicit values?  Would that be sufficient to know that this is an operation that reads and writes %rbx, uses a constant as another operand, and does not modify memory or control flow?
> David
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