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SubjectRe: [PATCH 2.6.17-rc6 7/9] Remove some of the kmemleak false positives

* Pekka J Enberg <penberg@cs.Helsinki.FI> wrote:

> Hi Ingo,
> On Mon, 12 Jun 2006, Ingo Molnar wrote:
> > i dont know - i feel uneasy about the 'any pointer' method - it has a
> > high potential for false negatives, especially for structures that
> > contain strings (or other random data), etc.
> Is that a problem in practice? Structures that contain data are
> usually allocated from the slab. There needs to be a link to that
> struct from the gc roots to get a false negative. Or am I missing
> something here?

you should think of this in terms of a 'graph of data', where each node
is a block of memory. The edges between nodes are represented by
pointers. The graph roots from .data/bss, but it may go indefinitely
into dynamically allocated blocks as well - just think of a hash-list
where the hash list table is in .data, but all the chain entries are in
allocated blocks and the chaining can be arbitrarily deep.

Furtermore, each block of data has a couple of fields within it that
contain 'outgoing pointers', and each block of data has a couple of
addresses associated with it that are valid targets for 'incoming

The task of kmemleak is to find orphan blocks of memory - the ones that
are not connected to the graph via any edge. For that it starts scanning
in .data/bss and recursively searches through the blocks of memory
(marking all scanned blocks, to avoid circular walking of the graph)
until it has walked the whole graph. Blocks that were registered but
were not touched during this recursive walking are the leaks.

Currently kmemleak does not track the per-block position of 'outgoing
pointers': it assumes that all fields within a block may be an outgoing
pointer. This is a source of false negatives. (fields that do not
contain a real pointer might accidentally contain a value that is
interpreted as a false edge - falsely connecting a leaked block to the

Kmemleak does recognize 'incoming pointers' via the offsetof tracking
method, but it's limited in that it is not a type-accurate method
either: it tracks per-size offsets, so two types accidentally having the
same size merges their 'possible incoming pointer offset' lists, which
introduces false negatives. (a pointer may be considered an incoming
edge while in reality the pointer is not validly pointing into this

The full matching that was suggested before would further weaken the
'incoming pointers' logic and would introduce yet another source of
false negatives: we'd match every block pointer against every possible
target address that points to within another block.

My suggestion would be to attempt to achieve perfect matches: annotate
structures to figure out the offset of pointers, and thus to figure out
the precise source addresses and a precise list of valid target
addresses. This is a quite elaborate task to pull off though, and i'm
not sure it's possible without intolerable maintainance overhead, but we
should consider it nevertheless. It will also be _much_ faster, because
per block we'd only have to scan a handful of outgoing pointers.

Perhaps a hybrid method could be used: by default we assume the most
lenient structure: if the block type is 'unknown' (which is the default
for not-yet-annotated structures) then we'd assume that all fields are
pointers, and that they could all be targets too.

Once a structure is annotated, the scope of scanning is drastically
reduced: only the annotated fields are scanned for pointers (and at that
point we'd also _enforce_ that those pointers do indeed point to valid
blocks of memory - i.e. this would also serve as a pointer-correctness
checker), and annotated blocks will also restrict the scope of 'incoming

Naturally, there would be two types of annotations: one that finetunes
the scanning of outgoing pointers to happen only for fields that are
true pointers, and one that finetunes incoming pointer matching to only
those addresses within the block that program logic allows. All in a
strictly per-type manner.

This also means that by default we'd have no false positives at all, but
that there is a capable annotation method to reduce the amount of false
negatives, in a gradual and managable way - down to zero if everything
is annotated.

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