[Python-Dev] cpython: Using 'long double' to force this structure to be worst case aligned is no

Antoine Pitrou solipsis at pitrou.net
Tue Dec 11 08:16:27 CET 2012

On Tue, 11 Dec 2012 03:05:19 +0100 (CET)
gregory.p.smith <python-checkins at python.org> wrote:
>   Using 'long double' to force this structure to be worst case aligned is no
> longer required as of Python 2.5+ when the gc_refs changed from an int (4
> bytes) to a Py_ssize_t (8 bytes) as the minimum size is 16 bytes.
> The use of a 'long double' triggered a warning by Clang trunk's
> Undefined-Behavior Sanitizer as on many platforms a long double requires
> 16-byte alignment but the Python memory allocator only guarantees 8 byte
> alignment.
> So our code would allocate and use these structures with technically improper
> alignment.  Though it didn't matter since the 'dummy' field is never used.
> This silences that warning.
> Spelunking into code history, the double was added in 2001 to force better
> alignment on some platforms and changed to a long double in 2002 to appease
> Tru64.  That issue should no loner be present since the upgrade from int to
> Py_ssize_t where the minimum structure size increased to 16 (unless anyone
> knows of a platform where ssize_t is 4 bytes?)

What?? Every 32-bit platform has a 4 bytes ssize_t (and size_t).

> We can probably get rid of the double and this union hack all together today.
> That is a slightly more invasive change that can be left for later.

How do you suggest to get rid of it? Some platforms still have strict
alignment rules and we must enforce that PyObjects (*) are always
aligned to the largest possible alignment, since a PyObject-derived
struct can hold arbitrary C types.

(*) GC-enabled PyObjects, anyway. Others will be naturally aligned
thanks to the memory allocator.

What's more, I think you shouldn't be doing this kind of change in a
bugfix release. It might break compiled C extensions since you are
changing some characteristics of object layout (although you would
probably only break those extensions which access the GC header, which
is probably not many of them). Resource consumption improvements
generally go only into the next feature release.



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