.@ Tony Finch – blog

Chris Wellons posted a good review of why large chunks of the C library are terrible, especially if you are coding on Windows - good fun if you like staring into the abyss. He followed up with let’s write a setjmp which is fun in a more positive way. I was also pleased to learn about __builtin_longjmp! There’s a small aside in this article about the signal mask, which skates past another horrible abyss - which might even make it sensible to DIY longjmp.

Some of the nastiness can be seen in the POSIX rationale for sigsetjmp which says that on BSD-like systems, setjmp and _setjmp correspond to sigsetjmp and setjmp on System V Unixes. The effect is that setjmp might or might not involve a system call to adjust the signal mask. The syscall overhead might be OK for exceptional error recovery, such as Chris’s arena out of memory example, but it’s likely to be more troublesome if you are implementing coroutines.

But why would they need to mess with the signal mask? Well, if you are using BSD-style signals or you are using sigaction correctly, a signal handler will run with its signal masked. If you decide to longjmp out of the handler, you also need to take care to unmask the signal. On BSD-like systems, longjmp does that for you.

The problem is that longjmp out of a signal handler is basically impossible to do correctly. (There’s a whole flamewar in the wg14 committee documents on this subject.) So this is another example of libc being optimized for the unusual, broken case at the cost of the typical case.