Few cents about my commits

ios12 beta: why RoboVM hangs/crashes synthetic case in iOS12


UPDATE: there is a follow up on this topic.

Few days ago I narrowed issue to simple case (check this post) but it didn’t answer why this was happening. Today I had time to digg this rock and find pice of code that cause issue. What has been done:

boehm-gc code was updated

boehm-gc was forked and updated today to ivmai/bdwgc master while preserving RoboVM related changes. Sample was running on new code base but issue still was there.

Investigating boehm-gc and root case

It was enough to run System.gc() flow with debugger to find out problematic place. Root case code is GC_stop_world routine in darwin_stop_world.c.
This routines stops all threads before performing garbage collection. The moment here that it obtains all task threads using task_threads call. It includes all application threads not only RoboVM ones. In empty iOS12 project I can see 4 threads running, including main, event loop and other system added threads. Suspending and resuming these threads in combination with suspending/resuming application causes iOS app to halt and crash. Probably it is Apple’s bug as it crashes due internal object access synchronization and time limited operations with grand central dispatch.

Reproducing with native XCode project

start/stop world was extracted from boehm-gc and put into simple iOS app to have proof of concept. It is available in my codesnippets repo. And reproduce exactly same case.

Handling the case

WARNING: shall not be used in any case but POC. Check next paragraph for details.
Simple way to handle it is to tell boehm-gc to stop/resume only threads it knows about. This can be done by adding --disable-threads-discovery parameter to configuration script when building RT. And it DOES solve the issue. You can pick up pre-build ARM64 libgc.a for testing. Replace on in ~/.robovm-sdks/robovm-2.3.5-SNAPSHOT/lib/vm/ios/arm64 folder.


Limiting GC to handle threads it knows is DANGEROUS. As once java code is called from thread GC doesn’t know about (e.g. created at native side) most likely will cause crash as GC will not able to stop that thread during gc(). There is a nice text in README.darwin about this case:

Since not all uses of the GC enable clients to override pthread_create() before threads have been created, the code for stopping the world has been rewritten to look for threads using Mach kernel calls. Each thread identified in this way is suspended and resumed as above. In addition, since Mach kernel threads do not contain pointers to their stacks, a stack-walking function has been written to find the stack limits. Given an initial stack pointer (for the current thread, a pointer to a stack-allocated local variable will do; for a non-active thread, we grab the value of register 1 (on PowerPC)), it will walk the PPC Mach-O-ABI compliant stack chain until it reaches the top of the stack. This appears to work correctly for GCC-compiled C, C++, Objective-C, and Objective-C++ code, as well as for Java programs that use JNI. If you run code that does not follow the stack layout or stack pointer conventions laid out in the PPC Mach-O ABI, then this will likely crash the garbage collector.

Bottom line

RoboVM is not a root case. Memory leaks are not root case. GC is not root case (directly). Even considering GC plays quite rude and stops entire world hangs are happening due Apple’s logic and best case scenario is Apple to fix it.

The is no solution yet as today I just focused on finding root case and hope to have solution in next days. Stay tuned. Happy coding.