Get an exception from a segfault on linux (x86 and x86_64), using some black magic !

Linux (as other UNIXes) allow you to register handlers for signals. Here we are interested in SIGSEGV. This signal is sent to your program when you try to use a memory location you shouldn’t. Typically, when deferencing null.

Language like Java send a NullPointerException, that can be caught and you can recover from it. However, in a system language, you usually get a cryptic « segmentation fault », you cannot recover from it and cannot have any information about it outside a debugger. Let’s see how we can fix this.

As C++ and D are system languages that support exceptions, we will use this mechanism to handle SIGSEGV. I’ll do it in D in this post, but the same is doable in C++. If you understand why it work, it shouldn’t be a problem.

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How duplication insidiously invade our code

Duplication is probably the #1 enemy of clean code. Its presence make the code harder to maintain, harder to evolve, more bug prone, harder to test and probably eat babies every morning. If almost any developer will agree on that fact, me can also notice that almost every codebase is crippled with repetitions in the code. How could we explain that ?

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Impact of 64bits vs 32bits when using non precise GC.

As ARM release its intention to go 64bits, we can be pretty much sure that almost every device will be 64bits soon, except the one on which it is unrealistic to run a garbage collector.

A garbage collector can be precise like in Java, or not, like D’s GC or Boehm’s GC for C++. It means that theses GC don’t know what it a pointer and what isn’t. Non precise GC cannot move data to compact the heap, and are also prone to false positive. On a theoretical perspective, switching from 32 bits to 64 bits should improve things, but what it is in practice ?

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