[Top][All Lists]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Integral structs

From: Jose E. Marchesi
Subject: Integral structs
Date: Sun, 19 Jul 2020 23:07:00 +0200
User-agent: Gnus/5.13 (Gnus v5.13) Emacs/28.0.50 (gnu/linux)

Hi people!

This weekend I finally implemented support for the so-called "integral
structs".  I am working on an applied pokology post about it, but it
will take some time so I thought I would introduce them here in a quick

Basically, when we structure data using Poke structs, arrays and the
like, we often use the same structure than a C programmer would use.
For example, to model ELF RELA structures, which are defined in C like:

   typedef struct
     Elf64_Addr r_offset;   /* Address */
     Elf64_Xword r_info;    /* Relocation type and symbol index */
     Elf64_Sxword r_addend; /* Addend */
   } Elf64_Rela;

we could use something like this in Poke:

   deftype Elf64_Rela =
       Elf64_Addr r_offset;
       Elf64_Xword r_info;
       Elf64_Sxword r_addend;

Here the Poke struct type is pretty equivalent to the C incarnation.  In
both cases the fields are always stored in the given order, regardless
of endianness or any other consideration.

However, there are situations where stored integral values are to be
interpreted as composite data.  This is the case of the r_info field
above, which is a 64-bit unsigned integer (Elf64_Xword) which is itself
composed by several fields, depicted here:

   63                                          0
   |       r_sym          |      r_type          |
   MSB                                         LSB

In order to support this kind of composition of integers, C programmers
usually resort to either bit masking (most often) or to the often
obscure and undefined behaviour-prone C bit fields.  In the case of ELF,
the GNU implementations define a few macros to access these

   #define ELF64_R_SYM(i)         ((i) >> 32)
   #define ELF64_R_TYPE(i)        ((i) & 0xffffffff)
   #define ELF64_R_INFO(sym,type) ((((Elf64_Xword) (sym)) << 32) + (type))

Where ELF64_R_SYM and ELF64_R_TYPE are used to extract the fields from
an r_info, and ELF64_R_INFO is used to compose it.  This is typical of C
data structures.

We could of course mimic the C implementation in Poke:

   defun Elf64_R_Sym = (Elf64_Xword i) uint<32>:
      { return i .>> 32; }
   defun Elf64_R_Type = (Elf64_Xword i) uint<32>:
      { return i & 0xffff_ffff; }
   defun Elf64_R_Info = (uint<32> sym, uint<32> type) Elf64_Xword:
      { return sym as Elf64_Xword <<. 32 + type; }

However, this approach has a huge disadvantage: since we are not able to
encode the logic of these "sub-fields" in proper Poke fields, they
become second class citizens, with all that implies: no constraints on
their own, can't be auto-completed, can't be assigned individually, etc

But starting today we can use "integral structs"!  These are structs
that are defined exactly like your garden variety Poke structs, with a
small addition:

   deftype Elf64_RelInfo =
     struct uint<64>
       uint<32> r_sym;
       uint<32> r_type;

Note the uint<64> addition after `struct'.  This can be any integer type
(signed or unsigned).  The fields of an integral struct should be
integral themselves, and the total size occupied by the fields should be
the same size than the one declared in the struct's integer type.  This
is checked and enforced by the compiler.

The Elf64 RELA in Poke can then be encoded like:

   deftype Elf64_Rela =
       Elf64_Addr r_offset;
       struct uint<64>
         uint<32> r_sym;
         uint<32> r_type;
       } r_info;
       Elf64_Sxword r_addend;

When an integral struct is mapped from some IO space, the total number
of bytes occupied by the struct is read as a single integer value, and
then the values of the fields are extracted from it.  That is what makes
it different with respect a normal Poke struct.

Consider for example we have the following sequence of bytes in our IO
space (like a file):

   0x10 0x20 0x30 0x40  0x50 0x60 0x70 0x80

Let's see what happens when we map the integral struct above, in both
big and little endian:

   (poke) .set endian big
   (poke) Elf64_RelInfo @ 0#B
   Elf64_RelInfo {

   (poke) .set endian little
   Elf64_RelInfo {

For comparison, this is what happens when we do the same with an
"equivalent" (not really) non-integral struct operating on the same

   deftype Elf64_RelInfoBogus =
       uint<32> r_sym;
       uint<32> r_type;

We would get:

   (poke) .set endian big
   (poke) Elf64_RelInfoBogus @ 0#B
   Elf64_RelInfoBogus {

   (poke) .set endian little
   (poke) Elf64_RelInfoBogus @ 0#B
   Elf64_RelInfoBogus {

In this case, and unlike with integral structs, the endianness impacts
the bytes of the individual fields, not of the whole struct.

As you can see, integral structs can be used to denote a lot of common
idioms in data structures and this includes a lot of what is sometimes
denoted in C bit field.  However, one should be cautious when
"translating" C structures to Poke, especially when the C programmer has
not been careful and incurres in sometimes obscure
implementation-defined behavior.  An integral struct is not always the
right abstraction to use when we see a C bit field!

As an example of the above, consider the following C struct:

   struct regs
     __u8 dst_reg:4;
     __u8 src_reg:4;

Certain virtual architecture uses that data layout to store registers in
instructions (no comment.)  Thing is, in bit fields like the above with
sub-byte field sizes, the ordering of the fields is not clearly defined,
and ultimately is up to the compiler, i.e. to lore and tradition.  As it
happens, GCC encodes src_reg in the most significant nibble of the byte
and dst_reg in the least significant nibble of the byte when compiling
for a little-endian target, and the other way around when compiling for
a little-endian target. (I may have had that wrong, I always get

How could we encode the C struct regs in Poke?  Let's see.

A normal Poke struct clearly won't do it:

   deftype RegsBogus1 =
       uint<4> src;
       uint<4> dst;

The reason being, the ordering of src and dst does not change when you
switch endianness (since this is Poke, we can in fact talk about real
ordering of bits)... remember, poke is WYPYWIG (what you poke is what
you get) ;)

What about an integral struct?

deftype RegsBogus2 =
  struct uint<8>
    uint<4> src;
    uint<4> dst;

This won't work either.  In fact, the net effect of the normal decoding
of the normal struct type RegsBogus1 and the
map-an-integer-and-extract-fields decoding of the integral struct
RegsBogus2 is in this case totally equivalent.

A solution is to use a normal struct, and field labels:

   deftype RegsBogus =
       defvar little_p = (get_endian == ENDIAN_LITTLE);

       uint<8> src @ !little_p * 4#b;
       uint<8> dst @ little_p * 4#b;

Now you may be wondering: is there anything particular in a field
defined in an integral struct?  The answer is: no, not at all.  These
are regular, first-class fields.  Likewise, integral structs are
perfectly regular structs.  And of course, since this is poke, you can
have integral structs of say, 11 bits, or 3 bits, map them at offsets
not aligned to bytes, and all the typical poke-atrocities that we enjoy
so much.

However, there exist a few restrictions, some of them fundamental, the
others to be lifted eventually:

- There are no integral unions.  This is a fundamental limitation and
  will stay like that.

- Integral structs an only have integral fields.

- No labels are allowed in the fields of integral structs.  This is not
  a fundamental limitation, and may be supported at some point.

- No integral structs are supported inside other integral structs.  This
  is purely because of lazyness on my part.  This will be eventually

- No optional fields are supported in integral structs.  Support for
  this is actually partially implemented (the mapper supports them but
  not the writer) and most probably will be completed one of these days.


My intention is to add support for casts from/to integral structs
to/from integers, so we can do things like:

   rel.r_info as uint<64>

And also automatic promotions in arithmetic operators, like:

   rel.r_info + 20 * rel.r_info.r_type

Nice huh :D
Happy poking friends!

reply via email to

[Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread]