Follow @Openwall on Twitter for new release announcements and other news
[<prev] [next>] [<thread-prev] [thread-next>] [day] [month] [year] [list]
Date: Sat, 30 May 2020 14:22:12 -0500
From: Segher Boessenkool <>
To: Will Springer <>
Subject: Re: ppc64le and 32-bit LE userland compatibility


On Fri, May 29, 2020 at 07:03:48PM +0000, Will Springer wrote:
> Hey all, a couple of us over in #talos-workstation on freenode have been
> working on an effort to bring up a Linux PowerPC userland that runs in 32-bit
> little-endian mode, aka ppcle. As far as we can tell, no ABI has ever been
> designated for this

> (unless you count the patchset from a decade ago [1]), so

The original sysv PowerPC supplement
supports LE as well, and most powerpcle ports use that.  But, the
big-endian Linux ABI differs in quite a few places, and it of course
makes a lot better sense if powerpcle-linux follows that.

> it's pretty much uncharted territory as far as Linux is concerned. We want to
> sync up with libc and the relevant kernel folks to establish the best path
> forward.
> The practical application that drove these early developments (as you might
> expect) is x86 emulation. The box86 project [2] implements a translation layer
> for ia32 library calls to native architecture ones; this way, emulation
> overhead is significantly reduced by relying on native libraries where
> possible (libc, libGL, etc.) instead of emulating an entire x86 userspace.
> box86 is primarily targeted at ARM, but it can be adapted to other
> architectures—so long as they match ia32's 32-bit, little-endian nature. Hence
> the need for a ppcle userland; modern POWER brought ppc64le as a supported
> configuration, but without a 32-bit equivalent there is no option for a 32/64
> multilib environment, as seen with ppc/ppc64 and arm/aarch64.
> Surprisingly, beyond minor patching of gcc to get crosscompile going,

What patches did you need?  I regularly build >30 cross compilers (on
both BE and LE hosts; I haven't used 32-bit hosts for a long time, but
in the past those worked fine as well).  I also cross-built
powerpcle-linux-gcc quite a few times (from powerpc64le, from powerpc64,
from various x86).

> bootstrapping the initial userland was not much of a problem. The work has
> been done on top of the Void Linux PowerPC project [3], and much of that is
> now present in its source package tree [4].
> The first issue with running the userland came from the ppc32 signal handler 
> forcing BE in the MSR, causing any 32LE process receiving a signal (such as a 
> shell receiving SIGCHLD) to terminate with SIGILL. This was trivially patched, 

Heh :-)

> along with enabling the 32-bit vDSO on ppc64le kernels [5]. (Given that this 
> behavior has been in place since 2006, I don't think anyone has been using the 
> kernel in this state to run ppcle userlands.)

Almost no project that used 32-bit PowerPC in LE mode has sent patches
to the upstreams.

> The next problem concerns the ABI more directly. The failure mode was `file`
> surfacing EINVAL from pread64 when invoked on an ELF; pread64 was passed a
> garbage value for `pos`, which didn't appear to be caused by anything in 
> `file`. Initially it seemed as though the 32-bit components of the arg were
> getting swapped, and we made hacky fixes to glibc and musl to put them in the
> "right order"; however, we weren't sure if that was the correct approach, or
> if there were knock-on effects we didn't know about. So we found the relevant
> compat code path in the kernel, at arch/powerpc/kernel/sys_ppc32.c, where
> there exists this comment:
> > /*
> >  * long long munging:
> >  * The 32 bit ABI passes long longs in an odd even register pair.
> >  */
> It seems that the opposite is true in LE mode, and something is expecting long
> longs to start on an even register. I realized this after I tried swapping hi/
> lo `u32`s here and didn't see an improvement. I whipped up a patch [6] that
> switches which syscalls use padding arguments depending on endianness, while
> hopefully remaining tidy enough to be unobtrusive. (I took some liberties with
> variable names/types so that the macro could be consistent.)

The ABI says long longs are passed in the same order in registers as it
would be in memory; so the high part and the low part are swapped between
BE and LE.  Which registers make up a pair is exactly the same between
the two.  (You can verify this with an existing powerpcle-* compiler, too;
I did, and we implement it correctly as far as I can see).

> This was enough to fix up the `file` bug. I'm no seasoned kernel hacker,
> though, and there is still concern over the right way to approach this,
> whether it should live in the kernel or libc, etc. Frankly, I don't know the
> ABI structure enough to understand why the register padding has to be
> different in this case, or what lower-level component is responsible for it. 
> For comparison, I had a look at the mips tree, since it's bi-endian and has a 
> similar 32/64 situation. There is a macro conditional upon endianness that is 
> responsible for munging long longs; it uses __MIPSEB__ and __MIPSEL__ instead 
> of an if/else on the generic __LITTLE_ENDIAN__. Not sure what to make of that. 
> (It also simply swaps registers for LE, unlike what I did for ppc.)

But you should :-)

> Also worth noting is the one other outstanding bug, where the time-related
> syscalls in the 32-bit vDSO seem to return garbage. It doesn't look like an
> endian bug to me, and it doesn't affect standard syscalls (which is why if you
> run `date` on musl it prints the correct time, unlike on glibc). The vDSO time
> functions are implemented in ppc asm (arch/powerpc/kernel/vdso32/
> gettimeofday.S), and I've never touched the stuff, so if anyone has a clue I'm 
> all ears.
> Again, I'd appreciate feedback on the approach to take here, in order to 
> touch/special-case only the minimum necessary, while keeping the kernel/libc 
> folks happy.

A huge factor in having good GCC support for powerpcle-linux (or anything
else) is someone needs to regularly test it, and share test results with
us (via gcc-testresults@).  Hint hint hint :-)

That way we know it is in good shape, know when we are regressing it,
know there is interest in it.



Powered by blists - more mailing lists

Confused about mailing lists and their use? Read about mailing lists on Wikipedia and check out these guidelines on proper formatting of your messages.