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Date: Sun, 16 Nov 2014 17:10:55 +0000
From: Russell King - ARM Linux <>
To: Rich Felker <>
Cc:, Andy Lutomirski <>,
	Szabolcs Nagy <>, Kees Cook <>,
	"" <>
Subject: Re: ARM atomics overhaul for musl

On Sun, Nov 16, 2014 at 11:50:17AM -0500, Rich Felker wrote:
> On Sun, Nov 16, 2014 at 04:33:56PM +0000, Russell King - ARM Linux wrote:
> > On Sun, Nov 16, 2014 at 12:56:56AM -0500, Rich Felker wrote:
> > > Aside from that, the only case among the above that's "right" already
> > > is v7+. Hard-coding the mcr-based barrier on v6 is wrong because it's
> > 
> > I don't think it's wrong at all.  The instruction isn't going away from
> > ARMv7, because ARMv7 deprecates it, but it _still_ has to be implemented
> > by a CPU conforming to ARMv7.  As ARMv7 is going to be the last 32-bit
> > ARM architecture, we aren't going to see the MCR instruction disappearing
> > on 32-bit CPUs.
> > 
> > On ARMv8, it may have been removed, but we have already decided that the
> > kernel _must_ provide emulation for this op-code, because otherwise we
> > are breaking existing userspace, which is just not permissible.  However,
> > you are absolutely right that running on ARMv8 should use the new
> > instruction where possible.
> Thanks for the clarification on the current and intended future
> compatibility status!
> Emulation by the kernel would be something like 100x slower though,
> no? While it's better than not working at all, I think that would be a
> good argument for never using mcr explicitly unless either it's known
> to be supported in hardware or there's no alternative (because kuser
> helper is missing).

Right, and that is "ARMv8 or later".

> > > However neither is really very easy because it seems impossible to
> > > detect whether the mcr-based barrier or the dmb-based barrier should
> > > be used -- there's no hwcap flag to indicate support for the latter.
> > > This also complicates what to do in builds for v6.
> > 
> > It is entirely possible to detect whether you should use mcr or dmb, and
> > you've said how to do that all the way through this message.  The mcr
> > instruction is present on ARMv6, and present but deprecated on ARMv7.
> > dmb is only present on ARMv7.  So, if you know the CPU architecture, you
> > know whether you should be using nothing, mcr, or dmb.
> > 
> > There's two ways to get that - firstly, the uname syscall, which gives
> > a string in the form "armv..." which gives the CPU architecture.  The
> Isn't it clear from the "Windows 10" fiasco that strcmp on a version
> string is NOT an acceptable way to determine version/capabilities?

Would there be a "Windows 10" fiasco if there had been better control of
the version numbering?  No.

However, this is already in use as a CPU architecture thing.  It's had a
/very/ long history of being used by package managers to detect which
packages are suitable for installation on a platform, whether it be an
x86 platform, PowerPC, or ARM platform.

> > second way is the ELF AT_PLATFORM entry.  AT_PLATFORM has well defined
> > format, and is already used to select between different library versions
> > (so is already a user API, and is subject to user API rules).  See:
> > 
> > $ grep string.*elf_name arch/arm/mm/proc*.S
> > 
> > for a list of the prefixes - the last character is always the endian-ness.
> > >From that, you can see that the format is "v" (for version), then the CPU
> > architecture number, followed (optionally) by any suffixes.  Parse that
> > wisely, and you have the CPU architecture version, and the CPU architecture
> > version defines whether the MCR or DMB variant should be used.
> That seems much more acceptable to use.
> > See for a way to get at the ELF aux info
> > with recent glibc.  I'm sure other C libraries will be getting their own
> > implementation of that for compatibility with glibc.
> Yes, we have access to the aux vector, so this should work in
> principle.

In both of these cases, we know that:
- ARMv1-ARMv3 is no longer supported (for several years)
- ARMv4 and ARMv5 do not have either the MCR or DMB instructions.
- ARMv6 has the MCR instruction only
- ARMv7 has the MCR instruction and the DMB instruction.
- ARMv8 has the DMB instruction, and MCR emulation.

A safe bet would be that DMB is going to be there in the future (if that
goes, then the ARM architecture will be regarded as even more of a toy
architecture by Linus than he already regards it today, and he'll probably
stop giving a damn about whether any changes break ARM.)

Now, there is a twist here: ARM64 decided to use an ELF platform string
of "aarch64" for everything, which means that rather than encoding the
CPU architecture (like with every other Linux architecture), we have a
string which encodes the kernel architecture instead, which is absurd.
Obviously, the plan for ARM64 is that there will never be an ARMv9
architecture, and ARMv8 is the perfect architecture for the future. :p

So, a reasonable parsing of this would be:

	const char *ptr;
	int architecture;

	ptr = (const char *)(uintptr_t)getauxval(AT_PLATFORM);

	if (!strncmp(ptr, "aarch64", 7))
		architecture = 8;
		assert(sscanf(ptr, "v%d", &architecture) == 1);

	switch (architecture) {
	case 4:
	case 5:
	case 6:

That will be safe - we can't really predict what future architectures will
do, but as I say above, if dmb vanishes in future with a preference for
yet another different method, I think the ARM architecture will be laughed
at even more than it is today.

Before this is finalised, I think the ARM64 maintainers need to have a long
think about the wiseness of their existing AT_PLATFORM string, and consider
whether they have created something of a cockup there.  But that's /their/
problem, it isn't an ARM32 problem, on ARM32 this is the solution which
should be used.

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