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Examining the User-Reported Issues With Upgrading From GCC 4.7 To 4.8 148

Nerval's Lobster writes "Developer and editor Jeff Cogswell writes: 'When I set out to review how different compilers generate possibly different assembly code (specifically for vectorized and multicore code), I noticed a possible anomaly when comparing two recent versions of the g++ compiler, 4.7 and 4.8. When I mentioned my concerns, at least one user commented that he also had a codebase that ran fine after compiling with 4.6 and 4.7, but not with 4.8.' So he decided to explore the difference and see if there was a problem between 4.7 and 4.8.1, and found a number of issues, most related to optimization. Does this mean 4.8 is flawed, or that you shouldn't use it? 'Not at all,' he concluded. 'You can certainly use 4.8,' provided you keep in mind the occasional bug in the system."
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Examining the User-Reported Issues With Upgrading From GCC 4.7 To 4.8

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  • Affects me (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 20, 2014 @01:15PM (#46015101)

    One of the projects I work on will compile and run perfectly with GCC 4.6 and any recent version of Clang. However, compiling under GCC 4.7 or 4.8 causes the program to crash, seemingly at random. We have received several bug reports about this and, until we can track down all the possible causes, we have to tell people to use older versions of GCC (or Clang). Individual users are typically fine with this, but Linux distributions standardize on one version of GCC (usually the latest one) and they can't/won't change, meaning they're shipping binaries of our project known to be bad.

  • Re:Duh? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CadentOrange ( 2429626 ) on Monday January 20, 2014 @01:15PM (#46015103)
    It's by Jeff Cogswell. I ignore any of the "articles" he writes as they're either misleading bullshit or chock full of Captain Obvious statements.
  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Monday January 20, 2014 @01:51PM (#46015517) Journal

    Add to that, when we test compiler optimisations we do it on some body of code, on some set of microarchitectures, and enable it if it is a net benefit over our sample set. We don't (and can't) test every possible combination of code and microarchitectures. One of my favourite stories in this regard is actually a CPU optimisation rather than a compiler one. A newer generation of ARM core improved the branch predictor, and most things got faster. One core library used by a certain mobile phone OS got noticeably slower. It turned out that in the old CPU, the wrong branch was being predicted at a specific point that caused a load instruction to be speculatively executed and then discarded. When they improved the prediction, the correct path was taken. The value of the load was required some time later in this case. The bad behaviour was costing them a pipeline flush, but pulling the data into the cache. The good behaviour was causing them to block for a memory read. A stall of a dozen or so cycles became a stall of a hundred or so cycles, even though the new behaviour was effectively better.

    For compilers, you'll see similar problems. A few years ago, I found that my Smalltalk compiler was generating faster code than gcc for a fibonacci microbenchmark. It turned out that gcc just happened to hit a pathological case for cache layout in their code, which was triggering a load of instruction cache misses. Trivial tweaks to the C code made it an order of magnitude faster.

    If you really care about performance for your code, you should be regularly building it with the trunk revision of your favourite compiler and reporting regressions early. Once there's a test case, we have something to work with.

  • by gnasher719 ( 869701 ) on Monday January 20, 2014 @01:58PM (#46015581)

    I think I've seen two in twenty years. So they happen, but not often, and usually only when they run into very unusual code.

    That's about my rate. Including one where the compiler gave a warning, which didn't match the actual C code, but did match the code generated by the compiler. But add a few occasions where a few people did swear it was a compiler bug and were proved wrong. One where converting -sizeof (int) to "long" produced a value of 65534. One (many years ago) where actually Sun compiler engineers explained sequence points to us :-( One where the same header file was included with different #defines which changed the size of a struct - for that one I could have killed someone.

  • by chaim79 ( 898507 ) on Monday January 20, 2014 @02:39PM (#46015989) Homepage

    I wonder how many crashes/bugs in software are actually the result of bugs in the compiler?

    I think I've seen two in twenty years. So they happen, but not often, and usually only when they run into very unusual code.

    You see them more often in the Embedded world than on full computers. A big one I ran into recently was with Freescale 68HC12, an ancient processor and compiler. It would randomly decide if incrementing or decrementing (var++; or var--;) would be done as integer increment/decrement (add/subtract 1) or pointer increment/decrement (add/subtract 2). We had a lot of interesting bugs where it would randomly decide that a for loop would do pointer math instead of integer math and we'd skip half the work.

    This was very recent, and with latest patches (for some definition of latest... they were concentrating on their new eclipse based IDE with it's GCC compiler so this one wasn't being worked on).

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