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Andrew Main (Zefram)
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Handy Values

(deprecated - use (CV *)NULL instead)

CV Manipulation Functions

This section documents functions to manipulate CVs which are code-values, or subroutines. For more information, see perlguts.

This also has a special use with XS AUTOLOAD subs. See "Autoloading with XSUBs" in perlguts.

CV reference counts and CvOUTSIDE

Each CV has a pointer, CvOUTSIDE(), to its lexically enclosing CV (if any). Because pointers to anonymous sub prototypes are stored in & pad slots, it is a possible to get a circular reference, with the parent pointing to the child and vice-versa. To avoid the ensuing memory leak, we do not increment the reference count of the CV pointed to by CvOUTSIDE in the one specific instance that the parent has a & pad slot pointing back to us. In this case, we set the CvWEAKOUTSIDE flag in the child. This allows us to determine under what circumstances we should decrement the refcount of the parent when freeing the child.

There is a further complication with non-closure anonymous subs (i.e. those that do not refer to any lexicals outside that sub). In this case, the anonymous prototype is shared rather than being cloned. This has the consequence that the parent may be freed while there are still active children, eg

    BEGIN { $a = sub { eval '$x' } }

In this case, the BEGIN is freed immediately after execution since there are no active references to it: the anon sub prototype has CvWEAKOUTSIDE set since it's not a closure, and $a points to the same CV, so it doesn't contribute to BEGIN's refcount either. When $a is executed, the eval '$x' causes the chain of CvOUTSIDEs to be followed, and the freed BEGIN is accessed.

To avoid this, whenever a CV and its associated pad is freed, any & entries in the pad are explicitly removed from the pad, and if the refcount of the pointed-to anon sub is still positive, then that child's CvOUTSIDE is set to point to its grandparent. This will only occur in the single specific case of a non-closure anon prototype having one or more active references (such as $a above).

One other thing to consider is that a CV may be merely undefined rather than freed, eg undef &foo. In this case, its refcount may not have reached zero, but we still delete its pad and its CvROOT etc. Since various children may still have their CvOUTSIDE pointing at this undefined CV, we keep its own CvOUTSIDE for the time being, so that the chain of lexical scopes is unbroken. For example, the following should print 123:

    my $x = 123;
    sub tmp { sub { eval '$x' } }
    my $a = tmp();
    undef &tmp;
    print  $a->();