LLVM Project News and Details from the Trenches

Monday, November 30, 2015

New ELF Linker from the LLVM Project

We have been working hard for a few months now to rewrite the ELF support in lld, the LLVM linker. We are happy to announce that it has reached a significant milestone: it is now able to bootstrap LLVM, Clang, and itself and pass all tests on x86-64 Linux and FreeBSD with the speed expected of an LLVM project.

ELF is the standard file format for executables on Unix-like systems, such as Linux and BSDs. GNU ld and GNU gold are commonly used linkers for such systems today. In many use cases, the linker is a black box for which only speed matters. Depending on program size, linking a program takes from tens of milliseconds to more than a minute. We designed the new linker so that it runs as fast as possible. Although no serious benchmarking or optimization has been conducted yet, it is consistently observed that the new lld links the LLVM/Clang/lld executables in about half the time of GNU gold. Generated executables are roughly the same size. lld is not at feature parity with gold yet, so it is too early to make a conclusion, but we are working hard to maintain or improve lld’s speed while adding more features.

lld is command-line compatible with GNU ld so that it can be used as a drop-in replacement. This does not necessarily mean that we are implementing all the features of the GNU linkers in the same way as they did. Some features are no longer relevant for modern Unix-like systems and can be removed. Some other features can be implemented in more efficient ways than those in the traditional linkers. Writing a new linker from scratch is a rare occasion. We take advantage of this opportunity to simplify the linker while keeping compatibility with the existing linkers for normal use.

The new ELF linker is a relatively small program which currently consists of about 7000 lines of C++ code. It is based on the same design as the PE/COFF (Windows) support in lld, so the design document for the PE/COFF support is directly applicable to the ELF support.

The older ELF support still exists in lld repository in parallel with the new one. Please be careful to not confuse the two. They are separated at the top directory and do not share code. You can run the new linker with ld.lld command or by passing -fuse-ld=lld to Clang when linking.

We are still working on implementing remaining functionality such as improved linker script support or improved support for architectures beyond x86_64. If you are interested in the new linker, try it out for yourself.

LLVM Weekly - #100, Nov 30th 2015

Welcome to the one hundredth issue of LLVM Weekly, a weekly newsletter (published every Monday) covering developments in LLVM, Clang, and related projects. LLVM Weekly is brought to you by Alex Bradbury. Subscribe to future issues at http://llvmweekly.org and pass it on to anyone else you think may be interested. Please send any tips or feedback to asb@asbradbury.org, or @llvmweekly or @asbradbury on Twitter.

Eagle-eyed readers will note we've now reached issue 100, marking 100 weeks of uninterrupted service and of course meaning there's just 28 weeks to go until an important numerical milestone.

The canonical home for this issue can be found here at llvmweekly.org.

Monday, November 23, 2015

LLVM Weekly - #99, Nov 23rd 2015

Welcome to the ninety-ninth issue of LLVM Weekly, a weekly newsletter (published every Monday) covering developments in LLVM, Clang, and related projects. LLVM Weekly is brought to you by Alex Bradbury. Subscribe to future issues at http://llvmweekly.org and pass it on to anyone else you think may be interested. Please send any tips or feedback to asb@asbradbury.org, or @llvmweekly or @asbradbury on Twitter.

The canonical home for this issue can be found here at llvmweekly.org.

Monday, November 16, 2015

LLVM Weekly - #98, Nov 16th 2015

Welcome to the ninety-eighth issue of LLVM Weekly, a weekly newsletter (published every Monday) covering developments in LLVM, Clang, and related projects. LLVM Weekly is brought to you by Alex Bradbury. Subscribe to future issues at http://llvmweekly.org and pass it on to anyone else you think may be interested. Please send any tips or feedback to asb@asbradbury.org, or @llvmweekly or @asbradbury on Twitter.

This week's issue comes to you from Vienna where I'm just about to head home from a short break (so apologies if it's a little later than usual and perhaps a little less detailed). I'll admit that nobody has actually written in to beg that LLVM Weekly share travel tips, but I will say that Vienna is a beautiful city that's provided lots to do over the past few days. If you're visiting, I can strongly recommend Salm Bräu for good beer and food.

The canonical home for this issue can be found here at llvmweekly.org.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Reduce Your Testcases with Bugpoint and Custom Scripts

LLVM provides many useful command line tools to handle bitcode: opt is the most widely known and is used to run individual passes on an IR module, and llc invokes the backend to generate an assembly or object file from an IR module. Less known but very powerful is bugpoint, the automatic test case reduction tool, that should be part of every developer's toolbox.

The bugpoint tool helps to reduce an input IR file while preserving some interesting behavior, usually a compiler crash or a miscompile. Multiple strategies are involved in the reduction of the test case (shuffling instructions, modifying the control flow, etc.), but because it is oblivious to the LLVM passes and the individual backend specificities, "it may appear to do stupid things or miss obvious simplifications", as stated in the official description. The documentation gives some insights on the strategies that can be involved by bugpoint, but the details are beyond the scope of this post.

Read on to learn how you can use the power of bugpoint to solve some non-obvious problems.

Monday, November 9, 2015

LLVM Weekly - #97, Nov 9th 2015

Welcome to the ninety-seventh issue of LLVM Weekly, a weekly newsletter (published every Monday) covering developments in LLVM, Clang, and related projects. LLVM Weekly is brought to you by Alex Bradbury. Subscribe to future issues at http://llvmweekly.org and pass it on to anyone else you think may be interested. Please send any tips or feedback to asb@asbradbury.org, or @llvmweekly or @asbradbury on Twitter.

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Monday, November 2, 2015

LLVM Weekly - #96, Nov 2nd 2015

Welcome to the ninety-sixth issue of LLVM Weekly, a weekly newsletter (published every Monday) covering developments in LLVM, Clang, and related projects. LLVM Weekly is brought to you by Alex Bradbury. Subscribe to future issues at http://llvmweekly.org and pass it on to anyone else you think may be interested. Please send any tips or feedback to asb@asbradbury.org, or @llvmweekly or @asbradbury on Twitter.

The canonical home for this issue can be found here at llvmweekly.org.