Friday, May 27, 2011

Using LD_DEBUG to examine application startup (linking best practices part 3)

Part 3 of the series on best practices for linking C/C++ applications is up. This sections focuses on using LD_DEBUG to examine application startup.

The paper talks about the options LD_DEBUG=init which shows the initialisation and finalisation stages of an applications run, and LD_DEBUG=bindings which shows how the symbols are bound between the application and libraries.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Best practices for linking - part 2

Part 2 of the article on library linking best practices is up on OTN. This is a relatively short read about ensuring that the library records its dependencies.

The relevant options are:

  • -z defs which will cause the linker to report any unresolved symbols found in the library. This is the default for applications, but is not the default for libraries. Using this flag requires that all the libraries that are required for successful linking are listed on the link line. Doing this will ensure that the library will fail to link rather than fail at runtime.
  • The command ldd -U -r will report if the library (or executable) is linked to libraries that it does not use. This is helpful in ensuring that the minimal number of libraries are loaded in order for an application to run.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Profiling running applications

Sometimes you want to profile an application, but you either want to profile it after it has started running, or you want to profile it for part of a run. There are a couple of approaches that enable you to do this.

If you want to profile a running application, then there is the option (-P <pid>) for collect to attach to a PID:

$ collect -P <pid>

Behind the scenes this generates a script and passes the script to dbx, which attaches to the process, starts profiling, and then stops profiling after about 5 minutes. If your application is sensitive to being stopped for dbx to attach, then this is not the best way to go. The alternative approach is to start the application under collect, then collect the profile over the period of interest.

The flag -y <signal> will run the application under collect, but collect will not gather any data until profiling is enabled by sending the selected signal to the application. Here's an example of doing this:

First of all we need an application that runs for a bit of time. Since the compiler doesn't optimise out floating point operations unless the flag -fsimple is used, we can quickly write an app that spends a long time doing nothing:

$ more slow.c
int main()
  double d=0.0;
  for (int i=0;i<10000000000; i++) {d+=d;}

$ cc -g slow.c

The next step is to run the application under collect with the option -y SIGUSR1 to indicate that collect should not start collecting data until it receives the signal USR1.

$ collect -y SIGUSR1 ./a.out &
[1] 1187
Creating experiment database ...

If we look at the generated experiment we can see that it exists, but it contains no data.

$ er_print -func
Functions sorted by metric: Exclusive User CPU Time

Excl.     Incl.      Name
User CPU  User CPU
 sec.      sec.
0.        0.         

To start gathering data we send SIGUSR1 to the application, sending the signal again stops data collection. Sending the signal twice we can collect two seconds of data:

$ kill -SIGUSR1 1187;sleep 2;kill -SIGUSR1 1187
$ er_print -func
Functions sorted by metric: Exclusive User CPU Time

Excl.     Incl.      Name
User CPU  User CPU
 sec.      sec.
2.001     2.001      
2.001     2.001      main
0.        2.001      _start

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Best practices for linking libraries (part 1)

A while ago I was looking into some application start up problems. The problem turned out to be an issue relating to the order in which the libraries were loaded and initialised. It seemed to me that this was a rather tricky area, and it would be very helpful to document the best practices around it. I thought this would be a quick couple of pages, but it turned out to be a rather high page count, and I ended up working on the document with Steve Clamage (with Rod Evans helping out).

The first part of the document is available. This section covers basic linker good practices. Using -L and -R rather than LD_LIBRARY_PATH, generating relocatable code etc. The key take aways are:

  • Use -L to specify the path to where the libraries can be found at compile time.
  • Use -R to specify the location of the libraries at run time.
  • Use the token $ORIGIN to specify a relative path for the libraries' location. This avoids the need to have a hard-coded location where the libraries can be found.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Calling functions

I was looking at some code today and it reminded me of a very common performance issue - reloading data around calls. Suppose I have some code like:

int variable;

void function(int *array)
  for (i=0; i<1000; i++)
     if (variable==1) 

You might be surprised to find that "variable" is reloaded very iteration of the loop. The reason for this is that the loop calls another function - either func1() or func2() and the compiler knows that the function might change the value of "variable" - so to be correct it needs to be reloaded.

This problem can be fixed by caching a local copy of the variable. The compiler "knows" that local (or stack based) variables don't get modified by function calls.

However, the problem is more general than this, in C++ you might observe a reloading of variables that are members of objects - for similar reasons. The general rule for avoiding this is to examine every load or store in the hot region of code to check whether it is necessary, or whether it has been introduced because of a function call.