debuigging LTO builds


Link-Time Optimizationis a way to unlock many interprocedural optimizations across modules (across .c files). Normally these optimizations applied within a file.

It is a great opportunity to get smaller and faster programs for free: dead code elimination and inliner sees the whole program. And it is also an endless pit of bugs you can get yourself into without an easy way to debug it: changes in one .c file can expose surprising behaviour in another .c file. That is not very friendly to printf debugging technique.

But not all hope is lost! We can get a lot of detail back from the compiler if something goes wrong.

This post will focus on build-time debugging (opposed to run-time debugging).

Simple example

Let’s see what we can infer just by looking at how gcc builds a tiny example.

// one-two.c
int  one(void) { return 1; }
int  two(void) { return 2; }
// three-four.c
int three(void) { return 3; }
int  four(void) { return 4; }
// main.c
extern int  one(void);
extern int four(void);
int main() { return one() + four(); }

Here we defined three modules where each has a redundant unused function. Let’s see what ends up being in the final binary.

$ gcc -O1    -flto -c one-two.c    -o one-two.o
$ gcc -O1 -fno-lto -c three-four.c -o three-four.o
$ gcc -O1    -flto -c main.c       -o main.o
$ gcc        -flto    main.o one-two.o three-four.o -o main
./main; echo $?

I built one-two.c with LTO bytecode and three-four.c without LTO bytecode. Both files are otherwise symmetric.

$ objdump -d main
0000000000001125 <main>:
    1125: 48 83 ec 08          sub    $0x8,%rsp
    1129: e8 0e 00 00 00       callq  113c <four>
    112e: 83 c0 01             add    $0x1,%eax
    1131: 48 83 c4 08          add    $0x8,%rsp
    1135: c3                   retq

0000000000001136 <three>:
    1136: b8 03 00 00 00       mov    $0x3,%eax
    113b: c3                   retq

000000000000113c <four>:
    113c: b8 04 00 00 00       mov    $0x4,%eax
    1141: c3                   retq

A few things happened here:

  1. one() function from one-two.c was inlined directly into main as add $0x1,%eax
  2. two()’s assembly code was not generated at all
  3. redundant unused three() body was generated
  4. four() was not inlined into main() and is left as callq four

Let’s check how internal representation looks like for LTO objects with lto-dump:

$ lto-dump -list main.o
Type   Visibility  Size  Name
function  default     0  one
function  default     0  four
function  default     3  main

$ lto-dump -dump-body=main main.o
Gimple Body of Function: main
main ()
  <bb 2> [local count: 1073741824]:
  _1 = one ();
  _2 = four ();
  _6 = _1 + _2;
  return _6;

$ lto-dump -dump-body=one one-two.o
Gimple Body of Function: one
one ()
  <bb 2> [local count: 1073741824]:
  return 1;

Here we see direct intermediate representation of main() function. Both function calls are present. Variable assignments like _6 = _1 + _2; are very verbose, but also very simple.

For large programs it’s frequently very hard to say which symbols come from where, where they are defined and whether bytecode (IR) version is available for LTO. You can peek at resolution files left by -save-temps gcc flag:

$ gcc -flto main.o one-two.o three-four.o -o main -save-temps
$ cat -- *.res
main.o 3
191 b0674bfb5d86b316 PREVAILING_DEF main
194 b0674bfb5d86b316 RESOLVED_EXEC four
196 b0674bfb5d86b316 RESOLVED_IR one
one-two.o 2
190 e8fe3cc27eebcea2 PREVAILING_DEF_IRONLY one
192 e8fe3cc27eebcea2 PREVAILING_DEF_IRONLY two

In the output we see:

And so on. Some numbers are count of entries in the lists, some are type numbers.

Check out lto-dump’s source code at;a=blob;f=gcc/lto/lto-dump.c#l61 and man lto-dump. I think it’s worth documenting more things in the manual.

There is a minor wart here: the exact name of .res file is hard to predict: I suspect very easy to fix.

We can also get the call graph of references:

$ lto-dump -callgraph *.o
digraph symtab {
    "main/0" -> "four/2"
    "main/0" -> "one/4"

$ lto-dump -callgraph *.o | dot -Tsvg -o cg.svg

Real world example

In Andrew reported a mysterious LTO-only link failure of gcc itself. It should not happen as gcc is regularily tested on LTO build. And yet:

ld: gcc-10.1.0/temp/genmatch.NlicMk.ltrans2.ltrans.o:
  in function `main':
      undefined reference to `libintl_dgettext'

Looks like a simple error of trying to use undefined libintl_dgettext symbol. The only annoyance is that it’s unclear what actually tries to pull that undefined symbol in. ltrans2.ltrans.o is a large intermediate object file pulled together from many small object files.

To simpligy the problem we can enable debugging symbols when building gcc.

Gentoo provides an easy way to do it:

$ STAGE1_CFLAGS="$(portageq envvar CFLAGS) -ggdb3" STAGE1_CXXFLAGS="$(portageq envvar CXXFLAGS) -ggdb3" emerge -v1 sys-devel/gcc
..././prev-gcc/xg++ ... -o build/genmatch ... ./../intl/libintl.a

ld: /tmp/genmatch.FJdDDJ.ltrans2.ltrans.o: in function `main':
    undefined reference to `libintl_dgettext'

Now we can see where that reference comes from: libcpp/files.c:1439. Rerunning above /xg++ command with appended -save-temps generates useful res file:

$ ..././prev-gcc/xg++ ... -o build/genmatch ... ./../intl/libintl.a -save-temps
$ cat -- *.res | fgrep libintl_dgettext

No references. How come? Let’s see how that symbol is defined and how it gets called:

# call site
$ prev-gcc/lto-dump -list libcpp/files.o  | fgrep dgettext
function  default     0  *libintl_dgettext

$ prev-gcc/lto-dump -list -demangle libcpp/files.o  | fgrep dgettext
function  default     0  dgettext

# definition site
$ prev-gcc/lto-dump -list intl/dgettext.o  | fgrep dgettext
function  default     3  libintl_dgettext
$ prev-gcc/lto-dump -list -demangle intl/dgettext.o  | fgrep dgettext
function  default     3  libintl_dgettext

Here is my interpretation of the above:

  1. Definition site looks at expected: it’s a nice libintl_dgettext symbol.
  2. Call site is strange: depending on -demangle option it completely changes it’s name.

This means dgettext’s prototype is not a typical prototype you would expect:

extern char *dgettext (const char *__domainname, const char *__msgid)
   __asm__ ("libintl_dgettext");

It’s a gcc extension (TODO: which one?) to emit references to dgettext C function via libintl_dgettext assembly labels.

gcc’s linker plugin does not know that libintl_dgettext reference exists as LTO phase is ran before an assempler phase. gcc currently does not nderstand effect of the assembly symbol mangling.

Thus the fix here is either avoid assembly or disable LTO for all callers of this __asm__’y declaration. suggests a proof-of-concept style workaround to avoid __asm__ symbols in libintl.

--- a/intl/libgnuintl.h
+++ b/intl/libgnuintl.h
@@ -84,25 +84,25 @@ extern "C" {
    Since Solaris gettext() behaves differently than GNU gettext(), this
    would be unacceptable.

    The redirection happens by default through macros in C, so that &gettext
    is independent of the compilation unit, but through inline functions in
    C++, in order not to interfere with the name mangling of class fields or
    class methods called 'gettext'.  */

    If he doesn't, we choose the method.  A third possible method is
    _INTL_REDIRECT_ASM, supported only by GCC.  */
-# if __GNUC__ >= 2 && !defined __APPLE_CC__ && (defined __STDC__ || defined __cplusplus)
+# if __GNUC__ >= 2 && !defined __APPLE_CC__ && (defined __STDC__ || defined __cplusplus) && USE_ASM_ALIASES_THAT_BREAK_LTO
 # else
 #  ifdef __cplusplus
 #  else
 #  endif
 # endif
 /* Auxiliary macros.  */
 # define _INTL_ASM(cname) __asm__ (_INTL_ASMNAME (__USER_LABEL_PREFIX__, #cname))

Parting words

lto-dump and resolution files make it very easy to debug LTO build failures and explore LTO build process and there are a few useful hints:

Have fun!

Posted on May 19, 2020
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