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9. Known Causes of Trouble with GCC

This section describes known problems that affect users of GCC. Most of these are not GCC bugs per se--if they were, we would fix them. But the result for a user may be like the result of a bug.

Some of these problems are due to bugs in other software, some are missing features that are too much work to add, and some are places where people's opinions differ as to what is best.

9.1 Actual Bugs We Haven't Fixed Yet  Bugs we will fix later.
9.2 Cross-Compiler Problems  Common problems of cross compiling with GCC.
9.3 Interoperation  Problems using GCC with other compilers, and with certain linkers, assemblers and debuggers.
9.4 Problems Compiling Certain Programs  Problems compiling certain programs.
9.5 Incompatibilities of GCC  GCC is incompatible with traditional C.
9.6 Fixed Header Files  GCC uses corrected versions of system header files. This is necessary, but doesn't always work smoothly.
9.7 Standard Libraries  GCC uses the system C library, which might not be compliant with the ISO C standard.
9.8 Disappointments and Misunderstandings  Regrettable things we can't change, but not quite bugs.
9.9 Common Misunderstandings with GNU C++  Common misunderstandings with GNU C++.
9.10 Caveats of using protoize  Things to watch out for when using protoize.
9.11 Certain Changes We Don't Want to Make  Things we think are right, but some others disagree.
9.12 Warning Messages and Error Messages  Which problems in your code get warnings, and which get errors.

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9.1 Actual Bugs We Haven't Fixed Yet

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9.2 Cross-Compiler Problems

You may run into problems with cross compilation on certain machines, for several reasons.

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9.3 Interoperation

This section lists various difficulties encountered in using GCC together with other compilers or with the assemblers, linkers, libraries and debuggers on certain systems.

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9.4 Problems Compiling Certain Programs

Certain programs have problems compiling.

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9.5 Incompatibilities of GCC

There are several noteworthy incompatibilities between GNU C and K&R (non-ISO) versions of C. The `-traditional' option eliminates many of these incompatibilities, but not all, by telling GCC to behave like a K&R C compiler.

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9.6 Fixed Header Files

GCC needs to install corrected versions of some system header files. This is because most target systems have some header files that won't work with GCC unless they are changed. Some have bugs, some are incompatible with ISO C, and some depend on special features of other compilers.

Installing GCC automatically creates and installs the fixed header files, by running a program called fixincludes (or for certain targets an alternative such as fixinc.svr4). Normally, you don't need to pay attention to this. But there are cases where it doesn't do the right thing automatically.

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9.7 Standard Libraries

GCC by itself attempts to be a conforming freestanding implementation. See section Language Standards Supported by GCC, for details of what this means. Beyond the library facilities required of such an implementation, the rest of the C library is supplied by the vendor of the operating system. If that C library doesn't conform to the C standards, then your programs might get warnings (especially when using `-Wall') that you don't expect.

For example, the sprintf function on SunOS 4.1.3 returns char * while the C standard says that sprintf returns an int. The fixincludes program could make the prototype for this function match the Standard, but that would be wrong, since the function will still return char *.

If you need a Standard compliant library, then you need to find one, as GCC does not provide one. The GNU C library (called glibc) provides ISO C, POSIX, BSD, SystemV and X/Open compatibility for GNU/Linux and HURD-based GNU systems; no recent version of it supports other systems, though some very old versions did. Version 2.2 of the GNU C library includes nearly complete C99 support. You could also ask your operating system vendor if newer libraries are available.

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9.8 Disappointments and Misunderstandings

These problems are perhaps regrettable, but we don't know any practical way around them.

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9.9 Common Misunderstandings with GNU C++

C++ is a complex language and an evolving one, and its standard definition (the ISO C++ standard) was only recently completed. As a result, your C++ compiler may occasionally surprise you, even when its behavior is correct. This section discusses some areas that frequently give rise to questions of this sort.

9.9.1 Declare and Define Static Members  Static member declarations are not definitions
9.9.2 Temporaries May Vanish Before You Expect  Temporaries may vanish before you expect
9.9.3 Implicit Copy-Assignment for Virtual Bases  Copy Assignment operators copy virtual bases twice

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9.9.1 Declare and Define Static Members

When a class has static data members, it is not enough to declare the static member; you must also define it. For example:

class Foo
  void method();
  static int bar;

This declaration only establishes that the class Foo has an int named Foo::bar, and a member function named Foo::method. But you still need to define both method and bar elsewhere. According to the ISO standard, you must supply an initializer in one (and only one) source file, such as:

int Foo::bar = 0;

Other C++ compilers may not correctly implement the standard behavior. As a result, when you switch to g++ from one of these compilers, you may discover that a program that appeared to work correctly in fact does not conform to the standard: g++ reports as undefined symbols any static data members that lack definitions.

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9.9.2 Temporaries May Vanish Before You Expect

It is dangerous to use pointers or references to portions of a temporary object. The compiler may very well delete the object before you expect it to, leaving a pointer to garbage. The most common place where this problem crops up is in classes like string classes, especially ones that define a conversion function to type char * or const char *---which is one reason why the standard string class requires you to call the c_str member function. However, any class that returns a pointer to some internal structure is potentially subject to this problem.

For example, a program may use a function strfunc that returns string objects, and another function charfunc that operates on pointers to char:

string strfunc ();
void charfunc (const char *);

f ()
  const char *p = strfunc().c_str();
  charfunc (p);
  charfunc (p);

In this situation, it may seem reasonable to save a pointer to the C string returned by the c_str member function and use that rather than call c_str repeatedly. However, the temporary string created by the call to strfunc is destroyed after p is initialized, at which point p is left pointing to freed memory.

Code like this may run successfully under some other compilers, particularly obsolete cfront-based compilers that delete temporaries along with normal local variables. However, the GNU C++ behavior is standard-conforming, so if your program depends on late destruction of temporaries it is not portable.

The safe way to write such code is to give the temporary a name, which forces it to remain until the end of the scope of the name. For example:

string& tmp = strfunc ();
charfunc (tmp.c_str ());

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9.9.3 Implicit Copy-Assignment for Virtual Bases

When a base class is virtual, only one subobject of the base class belongs to each full object. Also, the constructors and destructors are invoked only once, and called from the most-derived class. However, such objects behave unspecified when being assigned. For example:

struct Base{
  char *name;
  Base(char *n) : name(strdup(n)){}
  Base& operator= (const Base& other){
   free (name);
   name = strdup (other.name);

struct A:virtual Base{
  int val;

struct B:virtual Base{
  int bval;

struct Derived:public A, public B{

void func(Derived &d1, Derived &d2)
  d1 = d2;

The C++ standard specifies that `Base::Base' is only called once when constructing or copy-constructing a Derived object. It is unspecified whether `Base::operator=' is called more than once when the implicit copy-assignment for Derived objects is invoked (as it is inside `func' in the example).

g++ implements the "intuitive" algorithm for copy-assignment: assign all direct bases, then assign all members. In that algorithm, the virtual base subobject can be encountered many times. In the example, copying proceeds in the following order: `val', `name' (via strdup), `bval', and `name' again.

If application code relies on copy-assignment, a user-defined copy-assignment operator removes any uncertainties. With such an operator, the application can define whether and how the virtual base subobject is assigned.

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9.10 Caveats of using protoize

The conversion programs protoize and unprotoize can sometimes change a source file in a way that won't work unless you rearrange it.

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9.11 Certain Changes We Don't Want to Make

This section lists changes that people frequently request, but which we do not make because we think GCC is better without them.

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9.12 Warning Messages and Error Messages

The GNU compiler can produce two kinds of diagnostics: errors and warnings. Each kind has a different purpose:

Warnings may indicate danger points where you should check to make sure that your program really does what you intend; or the use of obsolete features; or the use of nonstandard features of GNU C or C++. Many warnings are issued only if you ask for them, with one of the `-W' options (for instance, `-Wall' requests a variety of useful warnings).

GCC always tries to compile your program if possible; it never gratuitously rejects a program whose meaning is clear merely because (for instance) it fails to conform to a standard. In some cases, however, the C and C++ standards specify that certain extensions are forbidden, and a diagnostic must be issued by a conforming compiler. The `-pedantic' option tells GCC to issue warnings in such cases; `-pedantic-errors' says to make them errors instead. This does not mean that all non-ISO constructs get warnings or errors.

See section Options to Request or Suppress Warnings, for more detail on these and related command-line options.

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