Yet More __builtins

January 21, 2014

So last week we saw how to use some of GCC’s built-ins, this week, let’s have a look at how we can create our own, if need be. Say because you need to have access to some instruction and that GCC does not offer the corresponding built-in.


To do so, we’ll use a bit of the C preprocessor and GCC’s inline assembly extension.

Read the rest of this entry »

Fat, Slim Pointers

July 31, 2012

64 bits address space lets us access tons more memory than 32 bits, but with a catch: the pointers themselves are … well, yes, 64 bits. 8 bytes. Which eventually pile up to make a whole lot of memory devoted to pointers if you use pointer-rich data structures. Can we do something about this?

Well, in ye goode olde dayes of 16 bits/32 bits computing, we had some compilers that could deal with near and far pointers; the near, 16-bit pointers being relative to one of the segments, possibly the stack segment, and the far, 32-bits pointers being absolute or relative to a segment. This, of course, made programming pointlessly complicated as each pointer was to be used in its correct context to point to the right thing.

Read the rest of this entry »

Faster than Bresenham’s Algorithm?

July 28, 2009

There’s always a number of graphics primitives you will be using in all kinds of projects. If you’re lucky, you’re working on a “real” platform that comes with a large number of graphics libraries that offer abstractions to the graphics primitives of the OS and, ultimately, to its hardware. However, it’s always good to know what’s involved in a particular graphics primitives and how to recode it yourself should you be in need to do so, either because you do not have a library to help you, or because it would contaminate your project badly to include a library only to draw, say, a line, within an image buffer.


Lines are something we do a lot. Perfectly horizontal or vertical lines have very simple algorithms. Arbitrary lines are a bit more complicated, that is, to get just right. This week, let us take a look at a few algorithms to draw lines. First, we’ll discuss a naïve algorithm using floating point. We’ll also have a look at Bresenham’s algorithm that uses only integer arithmetic. Finally, we’ll show that we can do better than Bresenham if we used fixed point arithmetic.

Read the rest of this entry »

The LP64 model and the AMD64 instruction set

October 28, 2008

Remember the old days where you had five or six “memory models” to choose from when compiling your C program? Memory models allowed you to chose from a mix of short (16 bits) and long (32 bits) offsets and pointers for data and code. The tiny model, if I recall correctly, made sure that everything—code, data and stack—would fit snugly in a single 16 bits segment.

With the advent of 64 bits computing on the x86 platform with the AMD64 instruction set, we find ourselves in a somewhat similar position. While the tiny memory model disappeared (phew!), we still have to chose between different compilation models although this time they do not support mixed offset/pointer sizes. The new models, such as LP32 or ILP64, specify what are the data sizes of int, long and pointers. Linux on AMD64 uses the LP64 model, where int is 32 bits, and long and pointers are 64 bits.

Using 64 bits pointers uses a bit more memory for the pointer itself, but it also opens new possibilities: more than 4GB allocated to a single process, the capability of using virtual memory mapping for files that exceed 4GB in size. 64 bits arithmetic also helps some applications, such as cryptographic software, to run twice as fast in some cases. The AMD64 mode doubles the number of SSE registers available enabling, potentially, significant performance enhancement into video codecs and other multimedia applications.

However one might ask himself what’s the impact of using LP64 for a typical C program. Is LP64 the best memory compilation model for AMD64? Will you get a speedup from replacing int (or int32_t) by long (or int64_t) in your code?

Read the rest of this entry »