[sldev] Plugin system - first code drop

Tim Shephard tshephard at gmail.com
Tue Feb 27 01:19:35 PST 2007

> I'm figuring we do the LLFloater reimplementation work ourselves, not the
> plugin developer. I see as much work to be done on the plugin SDK library
> side as on the viewer side. The things that make an interface clean and
> safe don't always make them pretty.

Ahh, sure, so extern C stubs exported across the dlls and then the
llFloaterPluginSideProxy would be called via the extern C stubs?

That's a pretty interesting and perhaps novel idea.   Have you seen
this sort of thing done before?   I can't see why it wouldn't work
other than that some people might not want to implement their plug in

> > That seems like an ideal approach if you can expose the functions in
> > the plugin to the core code base in a safe way.
> >
> > However, my understanding is the best way to expose across dlls is
> > with C extern stubs rather than classes, even if no inheritance goes
> > on.
> >
> > C++ has a lot of mysterious things happening which I'm not sure
> > translate very well on a cross platform basis.  Not being a cross
> > platform expert, I certainly can not comment confidently.
> You have three main concerns when exposing C++ classes in a shared
> library. The first is that virtual function table implementations are not
> specified by the language specification, and are compiler-dependent. The
> second is that you can't extern "C" a class method to avoid name mangling
> which can yield strange symbols and give binding problems. The third is
> that objects with inline or statically called methods attach an
> implementation contract. For example if we pass an LLString class, the
> plugin has to carry exactly the same LLString implementation or it can
> stomp on data when its copy of the statically bound functions think the
> string pointer was the second item in the class, rather than the third.
> In practice, Visual Studio is the law of the land under Windows and MS
> won't change the C++ ABI for legacy reasons. If we decide we want to
> support Borland Builder or other compilers, I can research whether they've
> made their ABI match MS'. Linux (g++) migrated to the common Itanium ABI
> in 2001, and Apple have committed to backward ABI compatibility as well.
> That takes care of the first two points.
> Unfortunately, the third pitfall is with us even if we use named C-style
> binding, so long as we pass even a single class as a parameter. :/ It's
> something we just have to avoid doing unless passing std library classes
> (ie std::string), as if those ever change in an incompatible way, we're
> going to be rebuilding the client and plugin SDK anyway.
> We *do* get two big things by expressing the interface via C++ classes.
> The first is that the names carry mangling. This lets us know immediately
> if we screw up and make a change to the number of parameters a function
> takes, try building with signed ints on one side and unsigned on the
> other, or add a return value to a method. The second is that it also gives
> us link errors instead of run-time errors if we mess up a function name
> between the two sides.

Yes, your summary is great.  Another problem is heap management, which
I don't think is done the same way over all three platforms either.
For all those reasons, and probably more, exposing classes over DLLs
seems a tad risky.

> > However, that being said, it would be nice if someone had the cross
> > platform expertise to proof of concept that if they had the sufficient
> > motivation to do so.   It might be an opportunity to make  history in
> > the world of plugin architectures... :)
> >
> > I included a win32 proof of concept for exposing classes across DLLs
> > in a recent attachment on a previous email, so they could start with
> > that.
> The LLJacks in the LLJackBundle are already C++ classes exposed across.
> It's working via dylibs right now, but as soon as AMD gets me going with
> the Windows VPN, I'll show it working there as well. Or I'll suffer
> humiliating defeat after being so cock-sure about it!

Hmmm.. To be honest, I missed that.   I probably wouldn't have gone in
that direction because it seems a bit novel, but I admire your

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