gcc's nutty Nethack object code

D

David Turrell

A few months ago I attempted to compile an old version (3.0j) of
Nethack. Once I got a few modules to compile I disassembled the
code of the shortest and am puzzled by a couple of things.

1. Where the C code calls for an operation that algebraically is

(x - 19) * 10,000,000 [i.e. "return (10000000L*(lev-19));"]

gcc generates code which algebraically is

((x - 19) + (x - 19) * 31 * 63 * 8) * 5 * 128

and I'm wondering at such a roundabout method.

See the attached code, especially the disassembler listing at offsets
19 to 30 (hex).

2. I thought the use of NOPs was to facilitate pre-fetching of
branch or jump-to code; but the compiler doesn't align all jump-to
code on word boundaries, so I'm still at a loss to explain it.

See the pseudo NOPs at offsets 12 and 32 (hex) and compare those
to the lack of a NOP to word-align the instruction at offset 42.


Here are the source and object listings.
----------------------------------------

C SOURCE
From exper.c, from the source for the game Nethack, version 3.0.10,
(see http://www.juiblex.co.uk/nethack/source.html).
#include "hack.h"

#ifdef LINT
#define NEW_SCORING
#endif
long
newuexp(lev)
register unsigned lev;
{
#ifdef LINT /* long conversion */
return(0L * lev);
#else
if(lev < 10) return (10L*(1L << lev));
if(lev < 20) return (10000L*(1L << (lev-10)));
return (10000000L*(lev-19));
#endif
}

Given a Nethack experience-level number

{1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9,
10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19,
20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29,
30}

newuexp(lev) returns the minimum number of experience points for
the *next higher* Nethack experience-level, except that there isn't
a level higher than 30

{20, 40, 80, 160, 320, 640, 1280, 2560, 5120,
10K, 20K, 40K, 80K, 160K, 320K, 640K, 1280K, 2560K, 5120K,
10M, 20M, 30M, 40M, 50M, 60M, 70M, 80M, 90M, 100M,
110M}



(DIS)ASSEMBLER LISTING

Compiled: 'gcc -ansi -O -I../include' [5/2/04]
Preprocessing: LINT undefined
Version: gcc version egcs-2.91.66 19990314 (egcs-1.1.2 release) [6/18/04]
OS: NetBSD 1.5.4
CPU: cpu0: AMD Athlon Model 1 (686-class), 604.31 MHz [panix3, 6/26/04]

Disassembled with 'objdump -d'.
exper.o: file format elf32-i386

Disassembly of section .text:

Offset Object code Opcode Src, dest operands
---------------------------------------------------------
00000000 <newuexp>:
0: 55 push %ebp
1: 89 e5 mov %esp,%ebp
3: 8b 4d 08 mov 0x8(%ebp),%ecx

Stardard C linkage:
old base pointer pushed on stack
base pointer = top-of-stack pointer
Reg C = lev [arg list begins at offset 8 from stack top].
6: 83 f9 09 cmp $0x9,%ecx
9: 77 09 ja 14 <newuexp+0x14>

If lev > 9 go to offset 14 hex.
b: b8 0a 00 00 00 mov $0xa,%eax

Reg A = 10 dec. Set up for lev 1-9.
10: eb 2e jmp 40 <newuexp+0x40>

Jump to offset 40 hex, where 10 * 2^lev will be done.
12: 89 f6 mov %esi,%esi

To put following jump-to code on word boundary? Instead of 2 NOPs?
14: 83 f9 13 cmp $0x13,%ecx
17: 76 1f jbe 38 <newuexp+0x38>

If lev <= 19 dec go to offset 38 hex, for lev 10-19 setup.
19: 83 c1 ed add $0xffffffed,%ecx
1c: 89 ca mov %ecx,%edx
1e: c1 e2 05 shl $0x5,%edx
21: 29 ca sub %ecx,%edx
23: 89 d0 mov %edx,%eax
25: c1 e0 06 shl $0x6,%eax
28: 29 d0 sub %edx,%eax
2a: 8d 04 c1 lea (%ecx,%eax,8),%eax
2d: 8d 04 80 lea (%eax,%eax,4),%eax
30: c1 e0 07 shl $0x7,%eax

This multiplies (lev - 19) by 10 million in a puzzlingly roundabout way,
for lev 20-30.

Putting the above 10 instructions in algebraic notation:

Reg C = lev - 19 [2's complement]
Reg D = lev - 19
Reg D = (lev - 19) * 32
Reg D = (lev - 19) * 31
Reg A = (lev - 19) * 31
Reg A = (lev - 19) * 31 * 64
Reg A = (lev - 19) * 31 * 63 = (lev - 19) * 1953
Reg A = (lev - 19) + (lev - 19) * 1953 * 8 = (lev - 19) * 15625
Reg A = (lev - 19) * 15625 * 5 = (lev - 19) * 78125
Reg A = (lev - 19) * 78125 * 128 = (lev - 19) * 10000000

Or, to preserve the intermediate steps, the last line of the above
could read:

Reg A = ((lev - 19) + (lev - 19) * 31 * 63 * 8) * 5 * 128
33: eb 0d jmp 42 <newuexp+0x42>

Jump to offset 42 hex, to end, lev 20-30 done.
35: 8d 76 00 lea 0x0(%esi),%esi

Another jump-to word-boundary alignment for following instruction?
Facilitates pre-fetching for superscaling? Use of NOPs so much
slower?
38: 83 c1 f6 add $0xfffffff6,%ecx

Reg C = lev - 10 [2's complement]. Setup for lev 10-19.
3b: b8 10 27 00 00 mov $0x2710,%eax

Reg A = 10,000 dec. Continued lev 10-19 setup.
40: d3 e0 shl %cl,%eax

Confluence of lev 1-9 and 10-19 processing.

Reg A = reg A [ = 10 or 10,000 dec] * 2 ^ reg C [ = lev or lev - 10].
42: c9 leave

Lev 20-30 processing rejoins here.

Offset 42 is jump-to code, but it's not preceded by a word boundary
aligning NOP. Why?
43: c3 ret

Result in reg A, per C linkage.
 
D

Dave Vandervies

Nethack. Once I got a few modules to compile I disassembled the
code of the shortest and am puzzled by a couple of things.

This isn't really on-topic for comp.lang.c (where I'm reading it), and
I'd guess that the folks in rec.games.roguelike.nethack are probably more
interested in dicusssing the game than the code generated by the compiler.
Followups trimmed to comp.lang.asm.x86 only.
1. Where the C code calls for an operation that algebraically is

(x - 19) * 10,000,000 [i.e. "return (10000000L*(lev-19));"]

gcc generates code which algebraically is

((x - 19) + (x - 19) * 31 * 63 * 8) * 5 * 128

and I'm wondering at such a roundabout method.

Note that the code generated by the compiler uses only shifting and
add/subtract. Most likely, the optimizer "knows" that this chunk of
operations is faster than using a divide (which is typically a somewhat
slow operation on modern processors).
(This is why optimizing compilers are Good. You wouldn't want to have
to untangle something like that in the source code, while if it's done
as part of the compilation only people debugging the optimizer ever have
to worry about it.)


dave
 
C

Cyde Weys

(e-mail address removed) (David Turrell) wrote in

A few months ago I attempted to compile an old version (3.0j) of
Nethack. Once I got a few modules to compile I disassembled the
code of the shortest and am puzzled by a couple of things.

1. Where the C code calls for an operation that algebraically is

(x - 19) * 10,000,000 [i.e. "return (10000000L*(lev-19));"]

gcc generates code which algebraically is

((x - 19) + (x - 19) * 31 * 63 * 8) * 5 * 128

and I'm wondering at such a roundabout method.

See the attached code, especially the disassembler listing at offsets
19 to 30 (hex).

All of the issues you're having are specific to the compiler optimizations
you've passed to gcc and nothing specific to Nethack code. The code that
gcc generates is optimized; in terms of CPU instructions, it's cheaper to
do the second than the first, no matter how counter-intuitive that may seem
to the user.

<snip the rest of it>
 
C

CBFalconer

David said:
A few months ago I attempted to compile an old version (3.0j) of
Nethack. Once I got a few modules to compile I disassembled the
code of the shortest and am puzzled by a couple of things.

1. Where the C code calls for an operation that algebraically is

(x - 19) * 10,000,000 [i.e. "return (10000000L*(lev-19));"]

gcc generates code which algebraically is

((x - 19) + (x - 19) * 31 * 63 * 8) * 5 * 128

and I'm wondering at such a roundabout method.

This is to speed up code execution. Multiplication can take a
long time. When one of the operands is a constant the operation
often can be greatly simplified. For example x * 7:

tmp = x * 8; /* via left shift 3 */
tmp = tmp - x; /* via a single subtract */

and tmp holds the answer.

Your example may or may not be optimum on your machine. In the
past I have limited such operations to constants that can be
expressed as either two or fewer 1 bits (i.e. add two shifted
versions of the other operand) or as a string of contiguous 1 bits
(i.e. subtract two shifted versions of the other operand). These
patterns cover a large proportion of the common small multipliers.
 
F

Fredrik Tolf

(e-mail address removed) (David Turrell) wrote in

A few months ago I attempted to compile an old version (3.0j) of
Nethack. Once I got a few modules to compile I disassembled the
code of the shortest and am puzzled by a couple of things.

1. Where the C code calls for an operation that algebraically is

(x - 19) * 10,000,000 [i.e. "return (10000000L*(lev-19));"]

gcc generates code which algebraically is

((x - 19) + (x - 19) * 31 * 63 * 8) * 5 * 128

and I'm wondering at such a roundabout method.

See the attached code, especially the disassembler listing at offsets
19 to 30 (hex).

All of the issues you're having are specific to the compiler optimizations
you've passed to gcc and nothing specific to Nethack code. The code that
gcc generates is optimized; in terms of CPU instructions, it's cheaper to
do the second than the first, no matter how counter-intuitive that may seem
to the user.

The OP may also want to try passing different -march and -mcpu options
to GCC and see how that affects the compiled code. The default on i386
GCCs, I think, is to optimize for a 80386.

Fredrik Tolf
 

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