use of memset and optimization

John Hascall john at
Fri Nov 8 13:49:00 EST 2002

My final word on this (I promise).

Sure, we can all invent solutions were it (malloc,use,memset,free)
happens to "work" w/o volatile.  That's not what's important,
what's important is there is at least one case where not using
volatile doesn't work and therefore leaves a small but finite


> On Fri, 2002-11-08 at 12:24, Tom Yu wrote:
> > john>    1) volatile requirement (as you mention)
> > john>    2) the signal handler has no way to access that object anyway
> > john>       (it's only pointed to by "key" which is local to the function)
> > 
> > It also occurs to me that even if a pointer to "key" escapes, e.g. by
> > way of the encrypt() function, which is an external reference, a
> > signal handler can't have defined behavior if it references "key",
> > since accesses through a pointer after it has been free()ed are
> > undefined, and there's no guarantee that the signal handler will be
> > called before free() invalidates the pointer.  I don't think the
> > standard requires that a signal only be delivered at sequence points.
> If free() is also an external reference, it's possible that the pointer
> could be remembered by encrypt() (or maybe memset(), for that matter, if
> the compiler can't prove you're using the system memset()) and forgotten
> in free(), so the signal handler could know whether it was safe to
> access.
> It's also possible to write signal handlers that *can* work on pointers
> even after they've been freed.  (For example, ones that know the
> structure of the malloc arena; consider Purify and its ilk, which can
> dump memory allocation details on a signal or via timer.)  From an
> *application* point of view, free()ing a pointer makes it "invalid";
> from a lower level point of view, calling free() just makes the target
> memory part of a different data structure.  The fact that the standard
> cries foul if that pointer gets used doesn't mean that a process that
> does it is necessarily broken.
> -- Ben
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