[Pre-RFC]: Inline assembly


Being in the middle of determining whether more assembly blocks than the two I already found are broken in the Firefox code base, I’d like to note how much of a massive footgun input, output and clobber definitions are, when they could be derived from the assembly itself. This was not possible in the old GCC model where a C file is preprocessed, then compiled into assembly, and then translated by an assembler into machine code, but in the LLVM model, where the LLVM framework contains the assembler, this could be treated differently. It is a bummer that clang doesn’t for GCC style assembly (at least not now; at the very minimum, I wish it had a warning about misplaced inputs/outputs, and missing clobbers), but it actually does for MSVC style assembly, which doesn’t come with inputs, outputs, and clobbers. There’s a chunk of code in clang that parses the assembly, and generates inputs, outputs and clobbers from that.

You might say that people writing assembly should write their inputs, outputs and clobbers correctly, but the fact that I was able to find problems in two different third-party code bases used in Firefox, one of which is 8 years old, and that it went undetected for so long is telling. And it only causes problems when things align in a certain way. That is, those things that I found in Firefox… they just happen to have been fine so far, but enabling LTO made things go in unexpected ways. And where it’s the most interesting is that it didn’t even break consistently on all platforms because things were not aligning the same way on all platforms. So, like, the last one I’m dealing with at the moment only happened in a visible way on mac, although it could very well happen on linux, but didn’t. That’s why I’m doing a more systemic scan, now.


I’d love to have rustc scan assembly and attempt to give warnings if the clobbers seem incomplete. I don’t think we can do that in the completely general case (consider code that saves and restores a register), but we could provide best-effort warnings for common cases.

I don’t, however, see how we could handle most cases of inputs or outputs.


The consensus on previous threads regarding inline asm has been to expose a low-level API first, on top of which other people can build high-level APIs such as ones that automatically derive constraints from the assembly text.


FWIW, the two cases I fixed in Firefox were, in large part, bad input/outputs (to be specific, variables declared as input, but modified by the assembly ; like a count decremented in a loop ; those need to be declared as output instead with a + modifier)


Ah, I see. Yeah, those would either need to become clobbers or (earlyclobber) input-outputs.


The downside to this approach is that the high-level stuff needs to have its own assembler parser and database of instructions, which LLVM already has.


It wouldn’t be breaking to add auto-clobbers later, though, would it? As anything that wouldn’t be already specifying the clobbers would be UB. So not providing them now is a conservative first step that also doesn’t require all of that work yet.


Could you please link this code? I went looking for it but couldn’t find it, though I am not all that familiar with clang’s internal organization so I may have looked in the wrong places.



I agree with @glandium, it is really hard to write GCC-style input/output/clobbers lists correctly even if you know exactly what you’re doing. I don’t have much experience with MSVC-style asm blocks but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there were a bunch of unwritten rules you have to follow to make that do the Right Thing, as well.

Anything rustc and/or clippy can do to catch mistakes ahead of time would be valuable.