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From: Linus Torvalds <>
To: Kernel Mailing List <>
Subject: Sparse "context" checking..
Date: Sat, 30 Oct 2004 20:20:53 -0700 (PDT)
Message-ID: <> (raw)

I just committed the patches to the kernel to start supporting a new 
automated correctness check that I added to sparse: the counting of static 
"code context" information.

The sparse infrastructure is pretty agnostic, and you can count pretty 
much anything you want, but it's designed to test that the entry and exit 
contexts match, and that no path through a function is ever entered with 
conflicting contexts.

In particular, this is designed for doing things like matching up a "lock" 
with the pairing "unlock", and right now that's exactly what the code 
does: it makes each spinlock count as "+1" in the context, and each 
spinunlock count as "-1", and then hopefully it should all add up.

It doesn't always, of course. Since it's a purely static analyser, it's 
unhappy about code like

	int fn(arg)
		if (arg)
		if (arg)

because the code is not statically deterministic, and the stuff in between 
can be called with or without a lock held. That said, this has long been 
frowned upon, and there aren't that many cases where it happens.

Right now the counting is only enabled if you use sparse, and add the 
"-Wcontext" flag to the sparse command line by hand - and the spinlocks 
have only been annotated for the SMP case, so right now it only works for 
CONFIG_SMP. Details, details.

Also, since sparse does purely local decisions, if you actually _intend_
to grab a lock in one function and release it in another, you need to tell
sparse so, by annotating the function that acquires the lock (with
"__acquires(lockname)") and the function that releases it (with, surprise
surprise, "__releases(lockname)") in the declaration. That tells sparse to
update the context in the callers appropriately, but it also tells sparse
to expect the proper entry/exit contexts for the annotated functions

I haven't done the annotation for any functions yet, so expect warnings. 
If you do a checking run, the warnings will look something like:

	  CHECK   kernel/resource.c
	kernel/resource.c:59:13: warning: context imbalance in 'r_start' - wrong count at exit
	kernel/resource.c:69:13: warning: context imbalance in 'r_stop' - unexpected unlock

which just shows that "r_start" acquired a lock, and sparse didn't expect 
it to, while "r_stop" released a lock that sparse hadn't realized it had. 
In this case, the cause is pretty obvious, and the annotations are equally 

A more complicated case is

	  CHECK   kernel/sys.c
	kernel/sys.c:465:2: warning: context imbalance in 'sys_reboot' - different lock contexts for basic block

where that "different lock contexts" warning means that sparse determined
that some code in that function was reachable with two different lock
contexts. In this case it's actually harmless, since what happens in this 
case is that the code after rebooting the machine is unreachable, and 
sparse just doesn't understand that.

But in other cases it's more fundamental, and the lock imbalance is due to
dynamic data that sparse just can't understand. The warning in that case 
can be disabled by hand, but there doesn't seem to be that many of them. A 
full kernel build for me has about 200 warnings, and most of them seem to 
be the benign kind (ie the kind above where one function acquires the lock 
and another releases it, and they just haven't been annotated as such).

The sparse thing could be extended to _any_ context that wants pairing, 
and I just wanted to let people know about this in case they find it 


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Thread overview: 4+ messages / expand[flat|nested]  mbox.gz  Atom feed  top
2004-10-31  3:20 Linus Torvalds [this message]
2004-10-31  4:11 ` Roland Dreier
2004-10-31  5:03   ` Linus Torvalds
2004-11-11 19:38 ` Greg KH

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