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[v2,2/2] timegm.3: Remove recommendation against use of timegm()

Message ID 20211011111237.9414-2-alx.manpages@gmail.com
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Series [v2,1/2] ctime.3: mktime() may modify tm_hour due to tm_isdst | expand

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Alejandro Colomar \(man-pages\) Oct. 11, 2021, 11:12 a.m. UTC
It was straight after a note that they are nonstandard functions,
which already tells the user that if portability is in mind, they
shouldn't be used, so this recommendation adds nothing in that
sense.

Also, there's a note that timelocal() should _never_ be used, due
to mktime(3) being identical and in the POSIX standard (it is also
in C99), so this note would also add nothing in that sense.

So the only uses not covered by those other notes are non-portable
uses of timegm().  In that scenario, it is an excellent function,
since it avoids races, which a home-made timegm(3) implementation
by means of standard functions would have.

A trivial implementation of timegm(3) using only standard C could
be (I didn't test it; use on your own):

// portable_timegm.c
 #include <time.h>

time_t portable_timegm(struct tm *tm)
{
	tm->tm_isdst = 0;
	/*
	 * If another thread modifies the timezone during the
	 * execution of the line below, it will produce undefined
	 * behavior.
	 */
	return mktime(tm) - timezone;
}

Cc: Paul Eggert <eggert@cs.ucla.edu>
Signed-off-by: Alejandro Colomar <alx.manpages@gmail.com>
---
 man3/timegm.3 | 1 -
 1 file changed, 1 deletion(-)

Comments

Paul Eggert Oct. 11, 2021, 3:40 p.m. UTC | #1
On 10/11/21 4:12 AM, Alejandro Colomar wrote:

> time_t portable_timegm(struct tm *tm)
> {
> 	tm->tm_isdst = 0;
> 	/*
> 	 * If another thread modifies the timezone during the
> 	 * execution of the line below, it will produce undefined
> 	 * behavior.
> 	 */
> 	return mktime(tm) - timezone;
> }

This doesn't work for multiple reasons: it's not thread-safe, mktime 
might set timezone even in a single-threaded app, and the subtraction 
might overflow.
Alejandro Colomar \(man-pages\) Oct. 15, 2021, 10:03 p.m. UTC | #2
Hi Paul,

On 10/11/21 5:40 PM, Paul Eggert wrote:
> On 10/11/21 4:12 AM, Alejandro Colomar wrote:
> 
>> time_t portable_timegm(struct tm *tm)
>> {
>>     tm->tm_isdst = 0;
>>     /*
>>      * If another thread modifies the timezone during the
>>      * execution of the line below, it will produce undefined
>>      * behavior.
>>      */
>>     return mktime(tm) - timezone;
>> }
> 
> This doesn't work for multiple reasons:


> it's not thread-safe,

Actually, since timegm(3) is implemented in terms of mktime(3), as far 
as I could read from glibc code, the problem will be the same, I think. 
  I don't understand why it wasn't the other way around; maybe it was 
more complex internally...  But timegm(3) shouldn't need to depend on 
environment variables.

> mktime might set timezone even in a single-threaded app,

Yes, I should have called tzset() before the return line.

> and the subtraction might overflow.

Yup, casting to int64_t needed.  BTW, I had a look at mktime source 
code, and it uses long, which might be 32 bits, and then there's a lot 
of checking for overflow.  Wouldn't it be simpler to just implement 
mktime(3) with int64_t internally?  Then, only at the return, cast it 
implicitly to whatever time_t means, but int64_t would simplify the code 
very much, I think.

Thanks,

Alex
Paul Eggert Oct. 16, 2021, 12:20 a.m. UTC | #3
On 10/15/21 3:03 PM, Alejandro Colomar (man-pages) wrote:

> Actually, since timegm(3) is implemented in terms of mktime(3), as far as I could read from glibc code, the problem will be the same, I think.

No, because another thread could setenv ("TZ", ...) between the time 
that you call mktime and the time you look at the 'timezone' variable. 
So even though mktime itself is thread-safe, the expression 'mktime(tm) 
- timezone' is not.

> But timegm(3) shouldn't need to depend on environment variables.

It does depend, if leap seconds are involved.

>> and the subtraction might overflow.
> 
> Yup, casting to int64_t needed.

That would help, but it still wouldn't suffice. It'd mishandle -1 
returns, for example. Plus, we're better of not putting today's hardware 
assumptions into code (suppose int is 64 bits in future machines?).

> BTW, I had a look at mktime source 
> code, and it uses long, which might be 32 bits, and then there's a lot 
> of checking for overflow.

mktime uses long_int, which is not necessarily 'long'. And no matter 
what type you pick, it could overflow on some platform, even if it's an 
only-hypothetical platform now.
Alejandro Colomar \(man-pages\) Oct. 17, 2021, 6:02 p.m. UTC | #4
Hi Paul,

On 10/16/21 2:20 AM, Paul Eggert wrote:
> On 10/15/21 3:03 PM, Alejandro Colomar (man-pages) wrote:
> 
>> Actually, since timegm(3) is implemented in terms of mktime(3), as far 
>> as I could read from glibc code, the problem will be the same, I think.
> 
> No, because another thread could setenv ("TZ", ...) between the time 
> that you call mktime and the time you look at the 'timezone' variable. 
> So even though mktime itself is thread-safe, the expression 'mktime(tm) 
> - timezone' is not.

Yes, there are probably many bugs in that sample code I wrote, which 
glibc solves in its timegm(3) implementation.  That probably gives more 
force to the original point: timegm(3) is the only non-error-prone 
solution in glibc for using UTC times, so it should not be marked as 
"avoid using".  The standards should get a function that does that, be 
it timegm(), mktime_z(), or both.

Just for curiosity, I'm not sure about this, but from what I've seen, 
the only lock in glibc is in gmtime(), which is called repeatedly from 
within mktime().  If another thread calls setenv("TZ"...) in between one 
of those calls, wouldn't it produce the same problems?

> 
>> But timegm(3) shouldn't need to depend on environment variables.
> 
> It does depend, if leap seconds are involved.

Okay.  (I don't know too much about those.)

> 
>>> and the subtraction might overflow.
>>
>> Yup, casting to int64_t needed.
> 
> That would help, but it still wouldn't suffice. It'd mishandle -1 
> returns, for example.

Ahh, yes.

> Plus, we're better of not putting today's hardware 
> assumptions into code (suppose int is 64 bits in future machines?).
> 
>> BTW, I had a look at mktime source code, and it uses long, which might 
>> be 32 bits, and then there's a lot of checking for overflow.
> 
> mktime uses long_int, which is not necessarily 'long'. And no matter 
> what type you pick, it could overflow on some platform, even if it's an 
> only-hypothetical platform now.

I think that's not a problem for the following reasons:

- int is unlikely to be >32 bits.  If so, we would miss one of the 
"conventional" types: int8_t, int16_t, int32_t couldn't map to 
fundamental types, unless we add a new type (short short int?), which is 
also unlikely because scanf() already uses %hhi for signed char.  I 
think it's more likely to see something like 'long long long int'.

- The current types can already handle 128-bit archs (just use the same 
mapping as in amd64 and change long long int to be int128_t), so maybe 
we'll need the triple long when we get to 256-bit archs.  Very 
hypothetically, that is.

- Even if int ever happened to be 64 bit, this problem would still be 
something very theoretical, since INT64_MAX is way greater than the age 
of the universe, and many orders of magnitude greater than the expected 
lifespan of the sun, and therefore the concept of leap years, months, 
ydays, wdays, and so on will be meaningless for such values.  How many 
seconds since the Epoch will have happened the 2nd March of the year 
that the Milky Way collides with Andromeda, at 11:30?  I think the 
correct answer to that question should be undefined behavior; or an 
error if you want to be nice.

So I wouldn't care for now, and maybe just add some initial check such as:

if (tm->tm_year > SOME_ARBITRARY_HUGE_VALUE || tm->tm_mon > 
SOME_ARBITRARY_HUGE_VALUE || ...) {
	errno = EOVERFLOW;
	return -1;
}

and then go on.


Thanks,

Alex
Paul Eggert Oct. 17, 2021, 10 p.m. UTC | #5
On 10/17/21 11:02, Alejandro Colomar (man-pages) wrote:

> timegm(3) is the only non-error-prone 
> solution in glibc for using UTC times, so it should not be marked as 
> "avoid using".

timegm is not portable, so it's reasonable for the documentation to warn 
against its use. Perhaps the warning could be made clearer.


> - int is unlikely to be >32 bits.

There are a few platforms where int is >32 bits (these are typically 
ILP64). Although glibc doesn't currently support them, let's not place 
unnecessary obstacles in the way.


> - Even if int ever happened to be 64 bit, this problem would still be 
> something very theoretical

The behavior of the 'zdump' command would change. I imagine it'd affect 
other commands as well. Admittedly most people wouldn't notice.


> if (tm->tm_year > SOME_ARBITRARY_HUGE_VALUE 

Let's not impose arbitrary limits.
Alejandro Colomar \(man-pages\) Nov. 5, 2021, 12:47 a.m. UTC | #6
Hi Paul,

On 10/18/21 00:00, Paul Eggert wrote:
> On 10/17/21 11:02, Alejandro Colomar (man-pages) wrote:
> 
>> timegm(3) is the only non-error-prone solution in glibc for using UTC 
>> times, so it should not be marked as "avoid using".
> 
> timegm is not portable, so it's reasonable for the documentation to warn 
> against its use. Perhaps the warning could be made clearer.

Well, there's no portable alternative, as we discussed, so if a program 
needs to do what timegm(3) does (handle UTC dates), it needs to call it. 
  The only portable alternatives are using other libraries such as boost 
(C++).  I prefer porting timegm(3) to those platforms instead.  Since 
C2X will add timegm(3), it's good news.

> 
> 
>> - int is unlikely to be >32 bits.
> 
> There are a few platforms where int is >32 bits (these are typically 
> ILP64).

Interesting; I didn't know that.  What a weird thing.

> Although glibc doesn't currently support them, let's not place 
> unnecessary obstacles in the way.
> 
> 
>> - Even if int ever happened to be 64 bit, this problem would still be 
>> something very theoretical
> 
> The behavior of the 'zdump' command would change. I imagine it'd affect 
> other commands as well. Admittedly most people wouldn't notice.
> 
> 
>> if (tm->tm_year > SOME_ARBITRARY_HUGE_VALUE 
> 
> Let's not impose arbitrary limits.
Since glibc doesn't support 64-bit 'int' yet, the following restriction 
could be added without altering the behavior of any existing program:

[
If any of the fields of 'struct tm' would overflow 'int32_t', the 
behavior of timegm(3) is undefined.
]

It is arbitrary, yes, but in reality, the code would handle correctly 
more than INT32_MAX; it would only cause overflow for values close to 
INT64_MAX.

Moreover, it would only affect those weird platforms.

And in those cases:
- If the date is something sane, UB will never be triggered.
- If the date can be compromised (e.g., user input), the only thing that 
the programmer needs to do to avoid UB, is to store the temporary values 
in int32_t variables before storing them in the struct tm.  That will 
handle any overflow by truncating it (if the programmer wants to do 
something else, that's fine, but it's the minimum to avoid UB).  Not 
much of a problem.

It would simplify very much glibc code, by imposing small restrictions 
to the user.

Don't you think?

Thanks,

Alex
Paul Eggert Nov. 8, 2021, 8:05 a.m. UTC | #7
On 11/4/21 17:47, Alejandro Colomar (man-pages) wrote:
> Since C2X will add timegm(3), it's good news.

Yes at that point we can remove or reword the portability warning.


> the following restriction could be added without altering the behavior of any existing program:
> 
> [
> If any of the fields of 'struct tm' would overflow 'int32_t', the behavior of timegm(3) is undefined.
> ]

No, timegm should not be documented to have a 32-bit limit on struct tm 
components. It should be documented only to have an int limit on struct 
tm components. I.e., the same as mktime, localtime, gmtime, etc.


> It would simplify very much glibc code, by imposing small restrictions to the user. 

The general glibc philosophy is to not impose arbitrary limits on the 
user, even if the limits are "small restrictions". Occasionally limits 
need to be imposed anyway for a good reason, but there's no good reason 
here.
diff mbox series

Patch

diff --git a/man3/timegm.3 b/man3/timegm.3
index b848e83e1..0e8528b26 100644
--- a/man3/timegm.3
+++ b/man3/timegm.3
@@ -97,7 +97,6 @@  T}	Thread safety	MT-Safe env locale
 .SH CONFORMING TO
 These functions are nonstandard GNU extensions
 that are also present on the BSDs.
-Avoid their use.
 .SH NOTES
 The
 .BR timelocal ()