section attribute producing invalid sized sections

Brian Dessent
Sat Nov 29 06:19:00 GMT 2008

Noah W wrote:

> I have attached a small test that demonstrates this. The size of the struct
> is 24 bytes. If I place 3 structs in to the section the size calculated by
> the difference between __start_ and __stop_ is 88, 16 more than I would
> expect.

The extra size is the padding added to keep each struct aligned to a 16-
byte boundary as required by the ABI.  You can easily see what's going 
on by looking at the assembly output that gcc produces with -S:

        .file   "tc.c"
        .section        section_test,"aw",@progbits
        .align 16
        .type   entry_C.1557, @object
        .size   entry_C.1557, 24
        .zero   24
        .align 16
        .type   entry_B.1556, @object
        .size   entry_B.1556, 24
        .zero   24
        .align 16
        .type   entry_A.1555, @object
        .size   entry_A.1555, 24
        .zero   24
.globl main
        .type   main, @function
        ; and so on...

(Note when visually inspecting the assembly output you can add -fno-
asynchronous-unwind-tables to remove a lot of the clutter, but obviously 
don't use that when compiling unless you know that it's safe.)

You can alter the default alignment if you want, e.g.

        static struct dummy entry_A __attribute__((section("section_test"), aligned(8)));
        static struct dummy entry_B __attribute__((section("section_test"), aligned(8)));
        static struct dummy entry_C __attribute__((section("section_test"), aligned(8)));

But that's probably not a great idea because the default alignment 
requirement is there to allow the use of sse2 vector instructions that 
require aligned operands.  By changing the alignment you either prevent 
the compiler from using those instructions (if their definition was in 
scope at the time) or worse, you risk a runtime illegal instruction 
fault if you pass their address to a function that isn't aware of their 
changed alignment and assumes it's safe to use vector instructions on 


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