Linux and aliasing?

Ross Harvey
Sun Jun 6 15:08:00 GMT 1999

> From: Linus Torvalds <>
> On Sun, 6 Jun 1999 wrote:
> > 
> > Right.  But the part that's causing aliasing issues is just a memcpy;
> > that's the `*(u32 *) p' bit.   You could write:
> > 
> >   memcpy (&a, p, sizeof (a));
> >   a = ntohl (a);
> Which is crap.
> And a compiler that requires you to write code like that is, by
> implication..
> If you can't see why
> 	a = ntohl((u32 *) p);
> is better than the horrible thing you're suggesting (regardless of whether
> the code generated is the same or not), then I might as well throw in the
> towel immediately. The whole point of my suggestion was to make good code
> generation possible with an interface that you can actually use without
> barfing..
> 		Linus

Umm, the ice is getting thin, here. From time to time, I have to change
kernel code FROM things like ``a = ntohl((u32 *) p);'' TO things like
``memcpy (&a, p, sizeof a);  a = ntohl (a);''.

Why? Because it's illegal for a reason, and the alpha platform I support
has alignment requirements for which I have a guarantee that the memcpy
approach will work and be reasonably efficient. The cast can generate a
kernel alignment fault and will either panic or have a hideous run-time
fixup cost.  I know we are talking about aliasing, but in terms of why the
rules are there, I think this is an illuminating example.

LP64 is coming to the PeeCee world, and even if the fixup is in hardware,
you still have a runtime penalty for making addressibility assumptions that
are properly the domain of the compiler.


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