CPSC 213 – Assignment 5
Memory Management and Structs
Here are the learning objectives of this assignment, which will be examined in this week’s quiz. They
are a subset of the unit learning objectives listed on Slide 2 of Unit 1c.
After completing this assignment you should be able to:
1. identify and correct dangling-pointer and memory leak bugs in C caused by improper use of
2. write C code that uses techniques that avoid dynamic allocation as a way to minimize memoryallocation bugs; and
3. write C code that uses reference counting as a way to minimize memory-allocation bugs.
In this week’s assignment you will do two things. First, you get additional practice reading assembly
code, figuring out what C program it came from, and counting memory references — skills that will be
useful on the midterm and beyond.
Second, will examine dynamic allocation and de-allocation in C. The goal here is to help you clarify
your understanding of this topic, particularly dangling pointers, memory leaks, and how to avoid them.
You will do this by examining two programs that contain dangling pointer bugs to identify the bugs and
Download the code file
Download the file www.ugrad.cs.ubc.ca/~cs213/cur/assignments/a5/code.zip. It contains the following
files, some in subdirectories named q2, q3, and q4:
1. q1.[cs] – Question 1
2. refcount.[ch] – Questions 2-4
3. q2: Makefile, q2stack.c – Question 2
4. q3: integer.[ch], helper.[ch], main.c, Makefile, set.[ch], stack.[ch]
– Question 3
5. q4: list.[ch], tree.[ch], and main.c, Makefile – Question 4
Question 1 — Reading Assembly Code [10%]
Read the included q1.c and q1.s files. You will see that q1.c declares two structs, allocates some
objects from those structs and initializes them. It has a procedure named q1() that is blank. The code
listed in q1.s implements the code in this procedure (without the procedure call itself). Read q1.s
carefully and run it through the simulator to figure out how it manipulates these structs. Then do the
1. [2%] Comment every code line of q1.s with a high-level comment (i.e, a C-like comment).
2. [6%] Modify the procedure q1() in q1.c to perform the same computation as q1.s. Do
not modify the other parts of this C file; they are used to test and mark your code. Note that
you can optionally provide different values for the structs on the command line. The C code
you write must work for arbitrary values.
3. [2%] Examining the code you write for q1() in q1. Count the minimum number of
memory reads and writes that are required to execute these five lines. Note these numbers
may be different from q1.s, which takes each line individually (e.g., reading the value of i
each time, which is not really necessary). Ignore register allocation for this questions; i.e.,
you can assume that you have an infinite number of registers available.
Place these two numbers in the file q1.txt; on two separate lines with the number of reads
listed first (just these numbers and nothing else). Then carefully explain your answer by
listing each of the reads and writes that are required (give line number and describe the
access using variable names) in the file q1-desc.txt.
Question 2 – Dynamic Allocation (Part 1) [20%]
The file stack.c contains a program that implements a stack data structure and tests it. A stack has
two operations: push and pop. Push adds strings to the stack and pop removes them, in last-in-firstout order. So, if you push “one”, “two”, and then “three”, in that order, three pops will give you
“three”, “two”, “one”, in that order.
You can use the included Makefile to build the program by typing
This will produce an executable file named stack that you can run by typing:
This program tests the stack by pushing two elements, popping one, pushing two more, popping all
three, and then printing the four popped values in the order they were popped. The values pushed are
“A”, “B”, “C”, and “D”, in this order and so the output should be:
B D C A
But, as you will see the program does not produce this output. It has a bug.
Find the bug and write a careful description of it in the file q2.txt. The bug is a dangling pointer
somewhere. If you can’t find it, you might try commenting out calls to free(). This should fix the
dangling pointer bug by replacing it with a memory leak.
Once you have found and described the bug, you need to fix it. Update the file stack.c so that it has
neither dangling pointers nor memory leaks. Your fix should change the existing program as minimally
as possible. In particularly, the program must still call malloc where it does and use this dynamically
allocated memory as it does.
Test your program by running it to verify that you get the correct output. If you do, this is a good
indication that you have fixed the dangling pointer but. But, you are not done. You must also ensure
that your program does not have a memory leak. To do so, you must run the program through
valgrind, which is available on the undergrad servers but likely not on other platforms you might use
for other parts of the assignment. The test you need to run is the following:
valgrind –tool=memcheck –leak-check=yes ./q2stack
If you have a memory leak you will see an error that looks something like this:
==31419== LEAK SUMMARY:
==31419== definitely lost: 240 bytes in 2 blocks
==31419== indirectly lost: 240 bytes in 2 blocks
If you have a dangling pointer you may see an error that looks something like this:
==31993== Invalid read of size 1
==31993== at 0x4E7D000: vfprintf (vfprintf.c:1629)
If you eliminate both bugs (your goal) then you should see output something like this:
==1272== HEAP SUMMARY:
==1272== in use at exit: 0 bytes in 0 blocks
==1272== total heap usage: 4 allocs, 4 frees, 480 bytes allocated
==1272== All heap blocks were freed — no leaks are possible
==1272== For counts of detected and suppressed errors, rerun with: -v
==1272== ERROR SUMMARY: 0 errors from 0 contexts (suppressed: 2 from 2)
Or you might see (depending on which version of valgrind you use):
==9402== LEAK SUMMARY:
==9402== definitely lost: 0 bytes in 0 blocks
==9402== indirectly lost: 0 bytes in 0 blocks
==9402== possibly lost: 0 bytes in 0 blocks
==9402== still reachable: 4,096 bytes in 1 blocks
==9402== suppressed: 25,084 bytes in 373 blocks
There are a few different ways to fix the bug. Any of them are fine as long as you still allocate stack
elements dynamically using malloc.
Question 3 – Dynamic Allocation (Part 2) [30%]
Question 3 is a program that accepts a list of numbers on the command line and adds them to a hash set
and to a stack. It then prints the content of the set, pops and prints every element in the stack, and then
prints the set again before terminating. This program has a memory leak.
Fix the leaks without adding dangling pointers using reference counting (the Makefile is already setup to
use them; add “#include “refcount.h”” to C files as needed). You must use the provided
refcount.c and .h files for reference counting. You must not change any of the header files (i.e.,
files ending in .h), you must not add any coupling other than reference counting, and, you must not
change main.c in any way.
Describe the leak and your solution in the file q3.txt.
Question 4 – Dynamic Allocation (Part 3) [40%]
Now we turn a similar bug in a more challenging example. This example is a program that consists of
three files: main.c, list.c, and tree.c, built by typing make. The first file contains main, the
second implements a doubly-linked list, and the third implements a binary search tree. The
implementation is free of all bugs expect for a single dangling pointer bug. Again, your goal is to find
the bug, describe it, and fix it.
The program reads a list of strings from the command line, adds them to the linked list in input order,
and adds some of them (chosen randomly) to the binary search tree that organizes them in alphabetical
order. This tree is an index on the linked list and so tree nodes store pointers to linked-list elements.
The point of this setup is to create a complex memory-management problem in which some list elements
have two references (the prev and next pointers of the linked list) and some have three (the two
linked list pointers and a third pointer from the tree). The problem is to correctly reclaim memory
allocated to a list element (i.e., by calling free) when neither the list nor the tree references it. Doing
so is not trivial, because the linked list implementation does not know which of its elements are
referenced by the tree.
After creating the list and tree, the test program traverses the tree, arriving at the elements it indexes in
alphabetical order, and then using the linked list to print the input list starting with this element.
For example if you ran the program with the input “one two three four five”, like this:
./main one two three four five
And if the tree indexed the nodes “one”, “three” and “five”, it would output:
one two three four five
three four five
The program then deletes the linked list and every element that is not referenced by the tree and
performs the same traversal again. In this step it should produce the output:
But, you will see that it doesn’t, because deleting the list introduces a dangling pointer bug.
Find the bug. As a starting point, you might want to once again comment out all calls to free thus
removing the dangling pointer bug and allowing the program to run correctly. Of course, doing this
introduces a memory leak.
Once you’ve identified the line(s) of code that cause the bug, carefully describe the bug by placing your
description in the file q4.txt.
Now, fix the bug using reference counting. You must use the provided refcount.c and .h files for
reference counting (the Makefile is already setup to use them; add “#include “refcount.h”” to
C files as needed). You must not remove any calls to malloc other than by replacing them with calls to
rc_malloc. You must maintain the modularity of the program. For example, you can not change any
of the .h files and there must be no coupling between the tree and list files other than for reference
counting. Your fix should change the program as minimally as possible.
Modify whichever of the three files you need to and test your program to ensure that it produces the
correct output and that valgrind reports no memory leaks, just as you did for Step 1.
Note that valgrind is limited to checking a single execution of the program, the one you specify on
the command line. It is often the case that memory-leak bugs only cause memory leaks for certain
inputs. So, be sure to run valgrind for a variety of inputs, as we will when we test your program. If
any execution reports a memory leak, then you have a bug.
What to Hand In
Use the handin program.
The assignment directory is ~/cs213/a5, it should contain the following plain-text files.
1. PARTNER.txt containing your partner’s CS login id and nothing else (i.e., the 4- or 5- digit id
in the form a0z1). Your partner should not submit anything.
2. The files q1.s, q1.c, q1.txt, and q1-desc.txt for Question 1;
3. subdirectories named q2, q3, and q4 just like you see in the code file;
4. in the q2 directory: q2.txt and q2stack.c;
5. in the q3 directory: q3.txt, integer.c, helper.c, set.c, and stack.c; and
6. in the q4 directory: q4.txt, list.c, main.c, and tree.c.