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SubjectRe: [PATCH 2.6.17-rc6 7/9] Remove some of the kmemleak false positives
On 13/06/06, Ingo Molnar <> wrote:
> * 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.

Nice description, I should add it to the kmemleak doc :-)

> 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
> graph.)

That's correct but it might not be a real issue in practice. Many
people use the Boehm's GC and haven't complained about the amount of
false negatives (AFAIK, there is even a proposal to include it in the
next C++ standard).

> 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
> structure)

The number of collisions would need to be investigated. On my system,
there are 158 distinct sizeof values generated by container_of. Of
this, 90 have at least two aliases (incoming pointer offsets). I'm not
sure how many different structures are in the kernel but I can't find
an easy (gcc magic) way to get a unique id for a type (apart from
modifying all the container_of calls and add a 4th argument - maybe a
string with the name of the type).

> 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.

That's correct.

> 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.

The problem would be simpler if you get a reliable typeid. If we
consider the sizeof method, a script could scan the kernel and
generate a list of sizeof-pointer_offset pairs which is added to a
radix tree (similar to the aliases tree we have) at boot time. But
this would assume adding the memleak_padding() call not only for
incoming pointers but also for outgoing ones. The method, however,
would eliminate the need for annotating each structure in the kernel.

> This also means that by default we'd have no false positives at all,

You can still have a scenario like this - a pointer is freed but the
value remains in a valid member; it is afterwards re-allocated and
leaks but the value is found in a previous allocation. I think it's a
very low risk for this to happen and not worth the hassle.

> 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.

I'm not sure this could be achieved in a maintainable way, at least
not without support from the compiler.

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