Issue 230120.2: Clarifications for Location Descriptions
Section various, pg various
This proposal is editorial in nature: it does not intend to change the meaning of any DWARF constructs, but merely to clarify aspects of DWARF expression evaluation that were unclear to the teams implementing DWARF consumers.
The changes proposed below alter the taxonomy of location descriptions.
In Section 2.6 Location Descriptions, in the first (non-normative) paragraph, change "whose location changes over the object's lifetime" to "whose location changes over the object's lifetime, and may reside at multiple locations simultaneously during parts of an object's lifetime."
Replace these paragraphs:
Information about the location of program objects is provided by location descriptions. Location descriptions can be either of two forms:
Single location descriptions...
With the following:
Information about the location of program objects is provided by location descriptions.
Location descriptions can consist of one or more single location descriptions.
A single location description specifies the location storage that holds a program object and a position within the location storage where the program object starts. The position within the location storage is expressed as a bit offset relative to the start of the location storage.
A location storage is a linear stream of bits that can hold values. Each location storage has a size in bits and can be accessed using a zero-based bit offset. The ordering of bits within a location storage uses the bit numbering and direction conventions that are appropriate to the current language on the target architecture.
There are five kinds of location storage:
memory location storage
Corresponds to the target architecture memory address spaces.
register location storage
Corresponds to the target architecture registers.
implicit location storage
Corresponds to fixed values that can only be read.
undefined location storage
Indicates no value is available and therefore cannot be read or written.
composite location storage
Allows a mixture of these where some bits come from one location storage and some from another location storage, or from disjoint parts of the same location storage.
[For further discussion...] It may be better to add an implicit pointer location storage kind used by the DW_OP_implicit_pointer operation. It would specify the debugger information entry and byte offset provided by the operations.
Location descriptions are a language independent representation of addressing rules.
They can be the result of evaluating a debugger information entry attribute that specifies an operation expression of arbitrary complexity. In this usage they can describe the location of an object as long as its lifetime is either static or the same as the lexical block (see 3.5 Lexical Block Entries) that owns it, and it does not move during its lifetime.
They can be the result of evaluating a debugger information entry attribute that specifies a location list expression. In this usage they can describe the location of an object that has a limited lifetime, changes its location during its lifetime, or has multiple locations over part or all of its lifetime.
If a location description has more than one single location description, the DWARF expression is ill-formed if the object value held in each single location description’s position within the associated location storage is not the same value, except for the parts of the value that are uninitialized.
A location description that has more than one single location description can only be created by a location list expression that has overlapping program location ranges, or certain expression operations that act on a location description that has more than one single location description. There are no operation expression operations that can directly create a location description with more than one single location description.
A location description with more than one single location description can be used to describe objects that reside in more than one piece of storage at the same time. An object may have more than one location as a result of optimization. For example, a value that is only read may be promoted from memory to a register for some region of code, but later code may revert to reading the value from memory as the register may be used for other purposes. For the code region where the value is in a register, any change to the object value must be made in both the register and the memory so both regions of code will read the updated value.
A consumer of a location description with more than one single location description can read the object’s value from any of the single location descriptions (since they all refer to location storage that has the same value), but must write any changed value to all the single location descriptions.
Updating a location description L by a bit offset B is defined as adding the value of B to the bit offset of each single location description SL of L. It is an evaluation error if the updated bit offset of any SL is less than 0 or greater than or equal to the size of the location storage specified by SL.
The evaluation of an expression may require context elements to create a location description. If such a location description is accessed, the storage it denotes is that associated with the context element values specified when the location description was created, which may differ from the context at the time it is accessed.
For example, creating a register location description requires the thread context: the location storage is for the specified register of that thread. Creating a memory location description for an address space may required a thread context: the location storage is the memory associated with that thread.
If any of the context elements required to create a location description change, the location description becomes invalid and accessing it is undefined.
Examples of context that can invalidate a location description are:
The thread context is required and execution causes the thread to terminate.
The call frame context is required and further execution causes the call frame to return to the calling frame.
The program location is required and further execution of the thread occurs. That could change the location list entry or call frame information entry that applies.
An operation uses call frame information:
Any of the frames used in the virtual call frame unwinding return.
The top call frame is used, the program location is used to select the call frame information entry, and further execution of the thread occurs.
A DWARF expression can be used to compute a location description for an object. A subsequent DWARF expression evaluation can be given the object location description as the object context or initial stack context to compute a component of the object. The final result is undefined if the object location description becomes invalid between the two expression evaluations.
A change of a thread’s program location may not make a location description invalid, yet may still render it as no longer meaningful. Accessing such a location description, or using it as the object context or initial stack context of an expression evaluation, may produce an undefined result.
For example, a location description may specify a register that no longer holds the intended program object after a program location change. One way to avoid such problems is to recompute location descriptions associated with threads when their program locations change.
Remove the top-level Section 2.6.1 Single Location Descriptions and 220.127.116.11 Simple Location Descriptions, and promote the subsections of 18.104.22.168 to the level of 2.6.1 (i.e., 22.214.171.124.1 becomes 2.6.1).
In Section 126.96.36.199.1 (now 2.6.1), change “Empty Location Descriptions” to “Undefined Location Description Operations,” and replace the single paragraph in that section with the following:
The undefined location storage represents a piece or all of an object that is present in the source but not in the object code (perhaps due to optimization). Neither reading nor writing to the undefined location storage is meaningful.
An undefined location description specifies the undefined location storage. There is no concept of the size of the undefined location storage, nor of a bit offset for an undefined location description. The DW_OP_*piece operations can implicitly specify an undefined location description, allowing any size and offset to be specified, and results in a part with all undefined bits.
Promote Section 188.8.131.52 Composite Location Descriptions up one level, so that it becomes Section 2.6.5.
Renumber Section 2.6.2 Location Lists to become 2.6.6.