GHC Commentary: Runtime aspects of the FFI

Foreign Import "wrapper"

Files rts/Adjustor.c rts/AdjustorAsm.S.

Occasionally, it is convenient to treat Haskell closures as C function pointers. This is useful, for example, if we want to install Haskell callbacks in an existing C library. This functionality is implemented with the aid of adjustor thunks.

An adjustor thunk is a dynamically allocated code snippet that allows Haskell closures to be viewed as C function pointers.

Stable pointers provide a way for the outside world to get access to, and evaluate, Haskell heap objects, with the RTS providing a small range of ops for doing so. So, assuming we've got a stable pointer in our hand in C, we can jump into the Haskell world and evaluate a callback procedure, say. This works OK in some cases where callbacks are used, but does require the external code to know about stable pointers and how to deal with them. We'd like to hide the Haskell-nature of a callback and have it be invoked just like any other C function pointer.

Enter adjustor thunks. An adjustor thunk is a little piece of code that's generated on-the-fly (one per Haskell closure being exported) that, when entered using some 'universal' calling convention (e.g., the C calling convention on platform X), pushes an implicit stable pointer (to the Haskell callback) before calling another (static) C function stub which takes care of entering the Haskell code via its stable pointer.

An adjustor thunk is allocated on the C heap, and is called from within Haskell just before handing out the function pointer to the Haskell (IO) action. User code should never have to invoke it explicitly.

An adjustor thunk differs from a C function pointer in one respect: when the code is through with it, it has to be freed in order to release Haskell and C resources. Failure to do so will result in memory leaks on both the C and Haskell side.


Last modified 10 years ago Last modified on Oct 5, 2009 10:15:57 PM