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14. Coding

This chapter covers topics that are lower-level than the major algorithms of GDB.

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14.1 Cleanups

Cleanups are a structured way to deal with things that need to be done later.

When your code does something (e.g., xmalloc some memory, or open a file) that needs to be undone later (e.g., xfree the memory or close the file), it can make a cleanup. The cleanup will be done at some future point: when the command is finished and control returns to the top level; when an error occurs and the stack is unwound; or when your code decides it's time to explicitly perform cleanups. Alternatively you can elect to discard the cleanups you created.


struct cleanup *old_chain;
Declare a variable which will hold a cleanup chain handle.

old_chain = make_cleanup (function, arg);
Make a cleanup which will cause function to be called with arg (a char *) later. The result, old_chain, is a handle that can later be passed to do_cleanups or discard_cleanups. Unless you are going to call do_cleanups or discard_cleanups, you can ignore the result from make_cleanup.

do_cleanups (old_chain);
Do all cleanups added to the chain since the corresponding make_cleanup call was made.

discard_cleanups (old_chain);
Same as do_cleanups except that it just removes the cleanups from the chain and does not call the specified functions.

Cleanups are implemented as a chain. The handle returned by make_cleanups includes the cleanup passed to the call and any later cleanups appended to the chain (but not yet discarded or performed). E.g.:

make_cleanup (a, 0); 
  struct cleanup *old = make_cleanup (b, 0); 
  make_cleanup (c, 0)
  do_cleanups (old);

will call c() and b() but will not call a(). The cleanup that calls a() will remain in the cleanup chain, and will be done later unless otherwise discarded.

Your function should explicitly do or discard the cleanups it creates. Failing to do this leads to non-deterministic behavior since the caller will arbitrarily do or discard your functions cleanups. This need leads to two common cleanup styles.

The first style is try/finally. Before it exits, your code-block calls do_cleanups with the old cleanup chain and thus ensures that your code-block's cleanups are always performed. For instance, the following code-segment avoids a memory leak problem (even when error is called and a forced stack unwind occurs) by ensuring that the xfree will always be called:

struct cleanup *old = make_cleanup (null_cleanup, 0);
data = xmalloc (sizeof blah);
make_cleanup (xfree, data);
... blah blah ...
do_cleanups (old);

The second style is try/except. Before it exits, your code-block calls discard_cleanups with the old cleanup chain and thus ensures that any created cleanups are not performed. For instance, the following code segment, ensures that the file will be closed but only if there is an error:

FILE *file = fopen ("afile", "r");
struct cleanup *old = make_cleanup (close_file, file);
... blah blah ...
discard_cleanups (old);
return file;

Some functions, e.g., fputs_filtered() or error(), specify that they "should not be called when cleanups are not in place". This means that any actions you need to reverse in the case of an error or interruption must be on the cleanup chain before you call these functions, since they might never return to your code (they `longjmp' instead).

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14.2 Per-architecture module data

The multi-arch framework includes a mechanism for adding module specific per-architecture data-pointers to the struct gdbarch architecture object.

A module registers one or more per-architecture data-pointers using:

Function: struct gdbarch_data *gdbarch_data_register_pre_init (gdbarch_data_pre_init_ftype *pre_init)
pre_init is used to, on-demand, allocate an initial value for a per-architecture data-pointer using the architecture's obstack (passed in as a parameter). Since pre_init can be called during architecture creation, it is not parameterized with the architecture. and must not call modules that use per-architecture data.

Function: struct gdbarch_data *gdbarch_data_register_post_init (gdbarch_data_post_init_ftype *post_init)
post_init is used to obtain an initial value for a per-architecture data-pointer after. Since post_init is always called after architecture creation, it both receives the fully initialized architecture and is free to call modules that use per-architecture data (care needs to be taken to ensure that those other modules do not try to call back to this module as that will create in cycles in the initialization call graph).

These functions return a struct gdbarch_data that is used to identify the per-architecture data-pointer added for that module.

The per-architecture data-pointer is accessed using the function:

Function: void *gdbarch_data (struct gdbarch *gdbarch, struct gdbarch_data *data_handle)
Given the architecture arch and module data handle data_handle (returned by gdbarch_data_register_pre_init or gdbarch_data_register_post_init), this function returns the current value of the per-architecture data-pointer. If the data pointer is NULL, it is first initialized by calling the corresponding pre_init or post_init method.

The examples below assume the following definitions:

struct nozel { int total; };
static struct gdbarch_data *nozel_handle;

A module can extend the architecture vector, adding additional per-architecture data, using the pre_init method. The module's per-architecture data is then initialized during architecture creation.

In the below, the module's per-architecture nozel is added. An architecture can specify its nozel by calling set_gdbarch_nozel from gdbarch_init.

static void *
nozel_pre_init (struct obstack *obstack)
  struct nozel *data = OBSTACK_ZALLOC (obstack, struct nozel);
  return data;

extern void
set_gdbarch_nozel (struct gdbarch *gdbarch, int total)
  struct nozel *data = gdbarch_data (gdbarch, nozel_handle);
  data->total = nozel;

A module can on-demand create architecture dependant data structures using post_init.

In the below, the nozel's total is computed on-demand by nozel_post_init using information obtained from the architecture.

static void *
nozel_post_init (struct gdbarch *gdbarch)
  struct nozel *data = GDBARCH_OBSTACK_ZALLOC (gdbarch, struct nozel);
  nozel->total = gdbarch... (gdbarch);
  return data;

extern int
nozel_total (struct gdbarch *gdbarch)
  struct nozel *data = gdbarch_data (gdbarch, nozel_handle);
  return data->total;

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14.3 Wrapping Output Lines

Output that goes through printf_filtered or fputs_filtered or fputs_demangled needs only to have calls to wrap_here added in places that would be good breaking points. The utility routines will take care of actually wrapping if the line width is exceeded.

The argument to wrap_here is an indentation string which is printed only if the line breaks there. This argument is saved away and used later. It must remain valid until the next call to wrap_here or until a newline has been printed through the *_filtered functions. Don't pass in a local variable and then return!

It is usually best to call wrap_here after printing a comma or space. If you call it before printing a space, make sure that your indentation properly accounts for the leading space that will print if the line wraps there.

Any function or set of functions that produce filtered output must finish by printing a newline, to flush the wrap buffer, before switching to unfiltered (printf) output. Symbol reading routines that print warnings are a good example.

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14.4 GDB Coding Standards

GDB follows the GNU coding standards, as described in `etc/standards.texi'. This file is also available for anonymous FTP from GNU archive sites. GDB takes a strict interpretation of the standard; in general, when the GNU standard recommends a practice but does not require it, GDB requires it.

GDB follows an additional set of coding standards specific to GDB, as described in the following sections.

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14.4.1 ISO C

GDB assumes an ISO/IEC 9899:1990 (a.k.a. ISO C90) compliant compiler.

GDB does not assume an ISO C or POSIX compliant C library.

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14.4.2 Memory Management

GDB does not use the functions malloc, realloc, calloc, free and asprintf.

GDB uses the functions xmalloc, xrealloc and xcalloc when allocating memory. Unlike malloc et.al. these functions do not return when the memory pool is empty. Instead, they unwind the stack using cleanups. These functions return NULL when requested to allocate a chunk of memory of size zero.

Pragmatics: By using these functions, the need to check every memory allocation is removed. These functions provide portable behavior.

GDB does not use the function free.

GDB uses the function xfree to return memory to the memory pool. Consistent with ISO-C, this function ignores a request to free a NULL pointer.

Pragmatics: On some systems free fails when passed a NULL pointer.

GDB can use the non-portable function alloca for the allocation of small temporary values (such as strings).

Pragmatics: This function is very non-portable. Some systems restrict the memory being allocated to no more than a few kilobytes.

GDB uses the string function xstrdup and the print function xstrprintf.

Pragmatics: asprintf and strdup can fail. Print functions such as sprintf are very prone to buffer overflow errors.

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14.4.3 Compiler Warnings

With few exceptions, developers should avoid the configuration option `--disable-werror' when building GDB. The exceptions are listed in the file `gdb/MAINTAINERS'. The default, when building with GCC, is `--enable-werror'.

This option causes GDB (when built using GCC) to be compiled with a carefully selected list of compiler warning flags. Any warnings from those flags are treated as errors.

The current list of warning flags includes:

Recommended GCC warnings.


GCC 3.x (and later) and C99 allow declarations mixed with code, but GCC 2.x and C89 do not.


Non-literal format strings, with a few exceptions, are bugs - they might contain unintended user-supplied format specifiers. Since GDB uses the format printf attribute on all printf like functions this checks not just printf calls but also calls to functions such as fprintf_unfiltered.

In version 4.0, GCC began warning about pointer argument passing or assignment even when the source and destination differed only in signedness. However, most GDB code doesn't distinguish carefully between char and unsigned char. In early 2006 the GDB developers decided correcting these warnings wasn't worth the time it would take.

Due to the way that GDB is implemented many functions have unused parameters. Consequently this warning is avoided. The macro ATTRIBUTE_UNUSED is not used as it leads to false negatives --- it is not an error to have ATTRIBUTE_UNUSED on a parameter that is being used.

These are warnings which might be useful for GDB, but are currently too noisy to enable with `-Werror'.

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14.4.4 Formatting

The standard GNU recommendations for formatting must be followed strictly.

A function declaration should not have its name in column zero. A function definition should have its name in column zero.

/* Declaration */
static void foo (void);
/* Definition */
foo (void)

Pragmatics: This simplifies scripting. Function definitions can be found using `^function-name'.

There must be a space between a function or macro name and the opening parenthesis of its argument list (except for macro definitions, as required by C). There must not be a space after an open paren/bracket or before a close paren/bracket.

While additional whitespace is generally helpful for reading, do not use more than one blank line to separate blocks, and avoid adding whitespace after the end of a program line (as of 1/99, some 600 lines had whitespace after the semicolon). Excess whitespace causes difficulties for diff and patch utilities.

Pointers are declared using the traditional K&R C style:

void *foo;

and not:

void * foo;
void* foo;

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The standard GNU requirements on comments must be followed strictly.

Block comments must appear in the following form, with no /*- or */-only lines, and no leading *:

/* Wait for control to return from inferior to debugger.  If inferior
   gets a signal, we may decide to start it up again instead of
   returning.  That is why there is a loop in this function.  When
   this function actually returns it means the inferior should be left
   stopped and GDB should read more commands.  */

(Note that this format is encouraged by Emacs; tabbing for a multi-line comment works correctly, and M-q fills the block consistently.)

Put a blank line between the block comments preceding function or variable definitions, and the definition itself.

In general, put function-body comments on lines by themselves, rather than trying to fit them into the 20 characters left at the end of a line, since either the comment or the code will inevitably get longer than will fit, and then somebody will have to move it anyhow.

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14.4.6 C Usage

Code must not depend on the sizes of C data types, the format of the host's floating point numbers, the alignment of anything, or the order of evaluation of expressions.

Use functions freely. There are only a handful of compute-bound areas in GDB that might be affected by the overhead of a function call, mainly in symbol reading. Most of GDB's performance is limited by the target interface (whether serial line or system call).

However, use functions with moderation. A thousand one-line functions are just as hard to understand as a single thousand-line function.

Macros are bad, M'kay. (But if you have to use a macro, make sure that the macro arguments are protected with parentheses.)

Declarations like `struct foo *' should be used in preference to declarations like `typedef struct foo { ... } *foo_ptr'.

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14.4.7 Function Prototypes

Prototypes must be used when both declaring and defining a function. Prototypes for GDB functions must include both the argument type and name, with the name matching that used in the actual function definition.

All external functions should have a declaration in a header file that callers include, except for _initialize_* functions, which must be external so that `init.c' construction works, but shouldn't be visible to random source files.

Where a source file needs a forward declaration of a static function, that declaration must appear in a block near the top of the source file.

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14.4.8 Internal Error Recovery

During its execution, GDB can encounter two types of errors. User errors and internal errors. User errors include not only a user entering an incorrect command but also problems arising from corrupt object files and system errors when interacting with the target. Internal errors include situations where GDB has detected, at run time, a corrupt or erroneous situation.

When reporting an internal error, GDB uses internal_error and gdb_assert.

GDB must not call abort or assert.

Pragmatics: There is no internal_warning function. Either the code detected a user error, recovered from it and issued a warning or the code failed to correctly recover from the user error and issued an internal_error.

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14.4.9 File Names

Any file used when building the core of GDB must be in lower case. Any file used when building the core of GDB must be 8.3 unique. These requirements apply to both source and generated files.

Pragmatics: The core of GDB must be buildable on many platforms including DJGPP and MacOS/HFS. Every time an unfriendly file is introduced to the build process both `Makefile.in' and `configure.in' need to be modified accordingly. Compare the convoluted conversion process needed to transform `COPYING' into `copying.c' with the conversion needed to transform `version.in' into `version.c'.

Any file non 8.3 compliant file (that is not used when building the core of GDB) must be added to `gdb/config/djgpp/fnchange.lst'.

Pragmatics: This is clearly a compromise.

When GDB has a local version of a system header file (ex `string.h') the file name based on the POSIX header prefixed with `gdb_' (`gdb_string.h'). These headers should be relatively independent: they should use only macros defined by `configure', the compiler, or the host; they should include only system headers; they should refer only to system types. They may be shared between multiple programs, e.g. GDB and GDBSERVER.

For other files `-' is used as the separator.

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14.4.10 Include Files

A `.c' file should include `defs.h' first.

A `.c' file should directly include the .h file of every declaration and/or definition it directly refers to. It cannot rely on indirect inclusion.

A `.h' file should directly include the .h file of every declaration and/or definition it directly refers to. It cannot rely on indirect inclusion. Exception: The file `defs.h' does not need to be directly included.

An external declaration should only appear in one include file.

An external declaration should never appear in a .c file. Exception: a declaration for the _initialize function that pacifies `-Wmissing-declaration'.

A typedef definition should only appear in one include file.

An opaque struct declaration can appear in multiple `.h' files. Where possible, a `.h' file should use an opaque struct declaration instead of an include.

All `.h' files should be wrapped in:

header body

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14.4.11 Clean Design and Portable Implementation

In addition to getting the syntax right, there's the little question of semantics. Some things are done in certain ways in GDB because long experience has shown that the more obvious ways caused various kinds of trouble.

You can't assume the byte order of anything that comes from a target (including values, object files, and instructions). Such things must be byte-swapped using SWAP_TARGET_AND_HOST in GDB, or one of the swap routines defined in `bfd.h', such as bfd_get_32.

You can't assume that you know what interface is being used to talk to the target system. All references to the target must go through the current target_ops vector.

You can't assume that the host and target machines are the same machine (except in the "native" support modules). In particular, you can't assume that the target machine's header files will be available on the host machine. Target code must bring along its own header files -- written from scratch or explicitly donated by their owner, to avoid copyright problems.

Insertion of new #ifdef's will be frowned upon. It's much better to write the code portably than to conditionalize it for various systems.

New #ifdef's which test for specific compilers or manufacturers or operating systems are unacceptable. All #ifdef's should test for features. The information about which configurations contain which features should be segregated into the configuration files. Experience has proven far too often that a feature unique to one particular system often creeps into other systems; and that a conditional based on some predefined macro for your current system will become worthless over time, as new versions of your system come out that behave differently with regard to this feature.

Adding code that handles specific architectures, operating systems, target interfaces, or hosts, is not acceptable in generic code.

One particularly notorious area where system dependencies tend to creep in is handling of file names. The mainline GDB code assumes Posix semantics of file names: absolute file names begin with a forward slash `/', slashes are used to separate leading directories, case-sensitive file names. These assumptions are not necessarily true on non-Posix systems such as MS-Windows. To avoid system-dependent code where you need to take apart or construct a file name, use the following portable macros:

This preprocessing symbol is defined to a non-zero value on hosts whose filesystems belong to the MS-DOS/MS-Windows family. Use this symbol to write conditional code which should only be compiled for such hosts.

Evaluates to a non-zero value if c is a directory separator character. On Unix and GNU/Linux systems, only a slash `/' is such a character, but on Windows, both `/' and `\' will pass.

Evaluates to a non-zero value if file is an absolute file name. For Unix and GNU/Linux hosts, a name which begins with a slash `/' is absolute. On DOS and Windows, `d:/foo' and `x:\bar' are also absolute file names.

Calls a function which compares file names f1 and f2 as appropriate for the underlying host filesystem. For Posix systems, this simply calls strcmp; on case-insensitive filesystems it will call strcasecmp instead.

Evaluates to a character which separates directories in PATH-style lists, typically held in environment variables. This character is `:' on Unix, `;' on DOS and Windows.

This evaluates to a constant string you should use to produce an absolute filename from leading directories and the file's basename. SLASH_STRING is "/" on most systems, but might be "\\" for some Windows-based ports.

In addition to using these macros, be sure to use portable library functions whenever possible. For example, to extract a directory or a basename part from a file name, use the dirname and basename library functions (available in libiberty for platforms which don't provide them), instead of searching for a slash with strrchr.

Another way to generalize GDB along a particular interface is with an attribute struct. For example, GDB has been generalized to handle multiple kinds of remote interfaces--not by #ifdefs everywhere, but by defining the target_ops structure and having a current target (as well as a stack of targets below it, for memory references). Whenever something needs to be done that depends on which remote interface we are using, a flag in the current target_ops structure is tested (e.g., target_has_stack), or a function is called through a pointer in the current target_ops structure. In this way, when a new remote interface is added, only one module needs to be touched--the one that actually implements the new remote interface. Other examples of attribute-structs are BFD access to multiple kinds of object file formats, or GDB's access to multiple source languages.

Please avoid duplicating code. For example, in GDB 3.x all the code interfacing between ptrace and the rest of GDB was duplicated in `*-dep.c', and so changing something was very painful. In GDB 4.x, these have all been consolidated into `infptrace.c'. `infptrace.c' can deal with variations between systems the same way any system-independent file would (hooks, #if defined, etc.), and machines which are radically different don't need to use `infptrace.c' at all.

All debugging code must be controllable using the `set debug module' command. Do not use printf to print trace messages. Use fprintf_unfiltered(gdb_stdlog, .... Do not use #ifdef DEBUG.

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