Go Down

Topic: String corrupts the heap and crashes (Read 12 times) previous topic - next topic

Paul Stoffregen

Jul 24, 2012, 08:26 pm Last Edit: Jul 24, 2012, 08:43 pm by Paul Stoffregen Reason: 1

Paul Stoffhegan made  a post a while back about patches he made to the String library to fix these problems that were never adopted by the 'team'.  Perhaps he would be willing to share those changes?

The original contribution I tried to make is still on Arduino's issue tracker.  It was a complete rewrite of String which I created for Teensyduino.  It had the fixes to the memory allocator.  I didn't want anyone using a Teensy board to suffer a buggy String library.

Unfortunately, the Arduino Team didn't use all of my code.  They made many changes, some small, but some that really hurt efficiency.  They also didn't use my fixes for the memory allocator, which is probably why this crashes on Arduino.  They ignored the special compiler options, despite numerous messages I wrote on the developer mail list to explain what a tremendous improvement they provide.

If you want my latest code, it's available as a free download from my website.  Here's the exact link:


Just run the installer, and then grab the files from hardware/teensy/cores/teensy.  You don't need to buy a Teensy board..... but of course I would prefer if you do.  Sales of Teensy are what's what funds all my work and the many contributions I (try to) make back to Arduino.

I've been running the example code on a Teensy board for the last 30 minutes without any problems.  It's reached "Done" many times.  I changed the delay to only 5ms, so it runs the entire test quickly.  This bug absolutely does not happen with my code in Teensyduino.

The installer patches your Arduino IDE, but I'm very careful to never change behavior for non-Teensy boards.  The modified compiler settings and other stuff are only used when you upload to a Teensy board.  The source code for those changes is installed to a "src" directory within your arduino directory.


Sure, we know about fragmentation, but an egregious bug is something else.

Indeed.  I completely rewrote String in Fall/Winter 2010.  While developing this, I used lots of code to log all malloc/realloc/free usage.  I spent MANY long hours carefully analyzing and tweaking so realloc would be used to best effect (depends on a couple compiler options, which they never accepted into Compiler.java).  I found and fixed these terrible memory allocator bugs, almost TWO YEARS AGO.

They simply didn't want to use my code as-is.  They decided to accept it piece-wise, making changes.  Some parts, like the special compiler option to elide constructors (saves you from all sorts of memory fragmentation by avoiding unnecessary copies) were never used.  That's really a shame, and one that really sours my attitude about contributing to arduino, because I spent so many long hours carefully studying disassembly of the generated contructor/destrutor code and very long logs of every malloc/realloc/free operation for so many test cases.

They never used the memory allocator fix (which was more-or-less just code I lifted from a newer version of avr-libc).  That's probably why this code crashes on Arduino.  The result is a bad combination of inefficient runtime performance, which only hastens the inevitable crash due to the allocator bugs.  It's really very sad, when I put so much work into avoiding those problems.

I'm still very unhappy at how poorly String turned out for all non-Teensy users.  I tried to contribute a good String implementation back to all Arduino users.  Really, I tried.  I wrote lots of messages explaining the issues.  Much discussion was held.  In particular, Alan Burlison was very unhappy with me and my code (he had planned to do a String rewrite, but never did).  Much heated discussion occurred.  Nobody seemed to appreciate my effort.  The entire process of trying to contribute this back to Arduino was incredibly difficult and painful.  The code sat unused for many months (but of course I shipped it for Teensy boards).  When it finally was partially used, all my suggestions were pretty much ignored.

I fixed all these problems, and if you use a Teensy board you'll get my code as it should be.  If you have a Teensy board, please try running any problematic String examples.  I'm sure you'll see it works quite well (unless you run out of memory, in which case you get empty strings but never a crash).

There's just nothing I can do about Arduino's buggy code.  I really, really did try.  Sorry.

Nick Gammon

As I was saying above, Paul, I guessed the problem wasn't in your library, and my test proved that.

Thanks for the extra work you have done, pity it wasn't incorporated.

All I can suggest is that anyone who wants String to work properly (to say nothing of malloc/free/realloc which are used, amongst other things by the STL) add a comment to the bug report linked above, indicating that you believe this fix should be expedited into the soonest possible release of the IDE.


To me,

its amazing that there is an identified bug, with what seems to be a documented and identified fix, and its not either accepted or the reasons the proposed fix is not to be used highlighted, so that others don't make the same fix.

Nick Gammon

Here's the bug report:


You may want to comment there about your belief that it should be urgently fixed. Maybe it'll move to "implemented" in version 1.0.2.

Paul Stoffregen

I added a comment to issue 857, linking back to the old issue where I posted the String stuff (after it had been on my website and discussed publicly for months on the Arduino developer mail list).

While posting a "please fix this" comment might do some good, posting a "I install the malloc.c and/or java patch and tested sketch XYZ and my results were [insert results]" is FAR more useful.

Admittedly, testing the java patch is difficult, because you need a working JDK, ant (plus lots of other stuff if using Windows) to recompile the Arduino IDE.  There are instructions, however.....


But testing the malloc.c file is a simply matter of copying the file to the right directory within your arduino-1.0.1 directory.  Even if you're a novice Arduino user with only just enough coding skill to blink an LED and use String, you can certainly contribute by merely copying a file to the correct location and writing up a detailed report of what problems it did & didn't fix (or if it caused any new troubles).

Relatively few people contribute actual code and bug fixes to Arduino, but also very few people contribute by actually testing and writing up a detailed report of the few and contributions fixes that do exist.  Even if you're not a developer capable of fixing bugs, just testing proposed fixes and writing results is a great way to contribute to the project.

Go Up