Cgo rambling: sacrificing performance or tricking the runtime?

This following comment is extracted from a file in gotk4:

Holy moly. This is unbelievable. It truly is unbelievable. I can't even believe myself.

Check this out. C.gpointer is resolved to an unsafe.Pointer. That... sounds fine? I mean, a gpointer is a void*, so that checks out with the C specs.

C functions usually take in a user_data parameter of type C.gpointer, which package gbox stores Go values by giving it an incremental ID and sending it to the function. This usually works, except the programs will randomly crash when we do this.

What the hell? Why? It turns out that, because we cast a uintptr into a C.gpointer, we're effectively casting it to an unsafe.Pointer. As a result, Go will try to scan the pointer randomly, sees that it's not a pointer but is actually some wacky value, and panics.

The real what-the-fuck here is why-the-fuck is it doing this to a C pointer? I guess for safety, but it seems so ridiculous to generate this kind of code.

It turns out that this problem isn't unique to this library (or gotk3), nor was it a new issue. It also turns out that this is exactly what mattn/go-pointer is meant to work around, which is funny, because I've always thought it did what gbox did before.

It also turns out that the new runtime/cgo package made this quite misleading. When you read the examples multiple times, you'll notice that they all use C.uintptr_t, not any other type. This is extremely important, because the fact that these functions use that type instead of void* means that they circumvent all checks.

Now, we can take the easy way and do what mattn/go-pointer actually does: we allocate a pointer with nothing in it, and we use that pointer as the key. Cgo scans the pointer, sees that it's a valid pointer, and proceeds.

OR, we can do it the stupid way. We can see what Go does to determine an invalid pointer and do some pointer trickery to fool it into believing we have a valid pointer.

If you inspect the panic message caused by the runtime when it stumbles on the weird error, you'll see a runtime.adjustpointers routine in the trace. Inspecting the routine closer reveals this following snippet of code:

if f.valid() && 0 < p && p < minLegalPointer && debug.invalidptr != 0 {
    // Looks like a junk value in a pointer slot.
    // Live analysis wrong?
    getg().m.traceback = 2
    print("runtime: bad pointer in frame ", funcname(f), " at ", pp, ": ", hex(p), "\n")
    throw("invalid pointer found on stack")

The check should make this pretty obvious: one of the conditions are failing, causing the runtime to panic with the “invalid pointer found on stack” message. The upper part of the stack trace tells us that the address at p is 0x31, and the code is telling us that 0x31 is not a good value.

To find out why, let's check what minLegalPointer is:

―❤―▶ grepr minLegalPointer
./malloc.go:316:	// minLegalPointer is the smallest possible legal pointer.
./malloc.go:321:	minLegalPointer uintptr = 4096

There we go! The returned value was 0x31, which is less than 4096, so the runtime trips on that and panics. Now, if we can just add up exactly that value, we can trick the runtime into thinking that it is, in fact, a valid pointer. Isn't that great? Surely this can't blow up when we reach a higher number. Who cares?

const minLegalPointer = 4096