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Re: Fixing namespace issues for variables

It has come to my attention that the time.h variables such as tzname 
manage to work using aliases, thanks to this piece of linker magic (from 
bfd/elflink.c; gold has similar logic):

  /* Now set the weakdefs field correctly for all the weak defined
     symbols we found.  The only way to do this is to search all the
     symbols.  Since we only need the information for non functions in
     dynamic objects, that's the only time we actually put anything on
     the list WEAKS.  We need this information so that if a regular
     object refers to a symbol defined weakly in a dynamic object, the
     real symbol in the dynamic object is also put in the dynamic
     symbols; we also must arrange for both symbols to point to the
     same memory location.  We could handle the general case of symbol
     aliasing, but a general symbol alias can only be generated in
     assembler code, handling it correctly would be very time
     consuming, and other ELF linkers don't handle general aliasing
     either.  */

This means, for example, that programs referencing but not defining tzname 
get dynamic symbols for both tzname and __tzname, at the same address, so 
that both symbols in glibc get preempted to point to the same variable in 
the executable.  (Programs defining their own tzname don't get it bound to 
the glibc symbol at all, presumably because the glibc symbol is weak.)

This isn't so helpful with existing symbols that weren't set up like this 
from the start, because (to take the signgam example) existing binaries 
only have dynamic symbols for signgam, not a new __signgam, so if we made 
__signgam exported from glibc at the time we made signgam into a weak 
alias and made libm functions use __signgam, it would fix things for new 
binaries but break old binaries.  It might be possible to do something 
where the affected functions do address comparisons and set both variables 
if the addresses are different (which should only be the case for an old 
main executable preempting signgam), however.

(There would still be a quiet API change for programs that do "int 
signgam;" intending to get it set by lgamma, as noted in 
<>, but I think 
that's unavoidable; whatever fix you do, the point is to allow programs to 
define their own variable called signgam and *not* have it preempt libm's 

Joseph S. Myers

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