From 8e8c3213c819540972ec7788d3db42764736360d Mon Sep 17 00:00:00 2001 From: Ralf Jung Date: Tue, 24 Jul 2018 23:26:17 +0200 Subject: [PATCH] more on pointers in integer variables --- ralf/_posts/2018-07-24-pointers-and-bytes.md | 25 ++++++++++++++++---- 1 file changed, 20 insertions(+), 5 deletions(-) diff --git a/ralf/_posts/2018-07-24-pointers-and-bytes.md b/ralf/_posts/2018-07-24-pointers-and-bytes.md index b3a74c4..29cc24e 100644 --- a/ralf/_posts/2018-07-24-pointers-and-bytes.md +++ b/ralf/_posts/2018-07-24-pointers-and-bytes.md @@ -130,12 +130,27 @@ It turns out (and miri shows) that this model can get us very far. We always remember which allocation a pointer points to, so we can differentiate a pointer "one past the end" of one allocation from a pointer to the beginning of another allocation. That's how miri can detect that our second example (with `&x[8]`) is UB. +## The Model Falls Apart + In this model, pointers are not integers, but they are at least simple. However, this simple model starts to fall apart once you consider pointer-integer casts. -In miri, casting a pointer to an integer does not actually do anything, we now just have an integer variable whose value is a pointer (i.e., an allocation-offset pair). -Multiplying that integer by 2 leads to an error, because it is entirely unclear what it means to multiply such a pair by 2. +In miri, casting a pointer to an integer does not actually do anything, we now just have an integer variable (i.e., its *type* says it is an integer) whose *value* is a pointer (i.e., an allocation-offset pair).[^3] +However, multiplying that "integer" by 2 leads to an error, because it is entirely unclear what it means to multiply such an abstract pointer by 2. + +[^3]: This disconnect between the type and the value may seem somewhat strange, but we are actually not very concerned with *types* at this point. Types serve to classify values with the goal of establishing certain guarantees about a program, so we can only really start talking about types once we are done defining our set of values and program behaviors. Still, this means there are safe programs that miri cannot execute, such as `(Box::new(0).into_raw() as usize) * 2`. To avoid trouble with multiplication, I proposed to only allow "normal" integer values for integer types when doing [compile-time function evaluation]({{ site.baseurl }}{% post_url 2018-07-19-const %}). However, this makes pointer-integer casts an unsafe operation, because they do not actually produce a "fully operational" integer. + +This is the most lazy thing to do, and we do it because it is not clear what else to do -- in our abstract machine, there is no single coherent "address space" that all allocations live in, that we could use to map every pointer to a distinct integer. +Every allocation is just identified by a (unobservable) ID. +We could now start to enrich this model with extra data like a base address for each allocation, and somehow use that when casting integer back to pointers... but that's where it gets really complicated, and anyway discussing such a model is not the point of this post. +The point it to discuss the *need* for such a model. +If you are interested, I suggest you read [this paper](http://www.cis.upenn.edu/%7Estevez/papers/KHM+15.pdf) that explores the above idea of adding a base address. + +Long story short, pointer-integer casts are messy and hard to define formally when also considering optimizations like we discussed above. +There is a conflict between the high-level view that is required to enable optimizations, and the low-level view that is required to explain casting a pointer to an integer and back. +We mostly just ignore the problem in miri and opportunistically do as much as we can, given the simple model we are working with. A full definition of a language like C++ or Rust of course cannot take this shortcut, it has to explain what really happens here. -To my knowledge, no satisfying solution exists, but we are [getting](http://www.cis.upenn.edu/%7Estevez/papers/KHM+15.pdf) [closer](http://sf.snu.ac.kr/publications/llvmtwin.pdf). +To my knowledge, no satisfying solution exists, but academic research is [getting closer](http://sf.snu.ac.kr/publications/llvmtwin.pdf). + This is why pointers are not simple, either. ## From Pointers to Bytes @@ -198,9 +213,9 @@ int test() { } {% endhighlight %} With `Uninit`, we can easily argue that `x` is either `Uninit` or `1`, and since replacing `Uninit` by `1` is okay, the optimization is easily justified. -Without `Uninit`, however, `x` is either "some arbitrary bit pattern" or `1`, and doing the same optimization becomes much harder to justify.[^3] +Without `Uninit`, however, `x` is either "some arbitrary bit pattern" or `1`, and doing the same optimization becomes much harder to justify.[^4] -[^3]: We could argue that we can reorder when the non-deterministic choice is made, but then we have to prove that the hard to analyze code does not observe `x`. `Uninit` avoids that unnecessary extra proof burden. +[^4]: We could argue that we can reorder when the non-deterministic choice is made, but then we have to prove that the hard to analyze code does not observe `x`. `Uninit` avoids that unnecessary extra proof burden. Finally, `Uninit` is also a better choice for interpreters like miri. Such interpreters have a hard time dealing with operations of the form "just choose any of these values" (i.e., non-deterministic operations), because if they want to fully explore all possible program executions, that means they have to try every possible value. -- 2.20.1