Registering GHC for Coverity SCAN

Simon Marlow marlowsd at
Fri May 10 11:05:02 CEST 2013

On 09/05/13 01:36, Austin Seipp wrote:
> Hello all,
> On IRC today, Nicolas Trangez brought up the idea of registering GHC
> for Coverity's SCAN project. SCAN is essentially a free service run by
> Coverity, which runs their Static Analyzer on open source projects
> ('open source' being defined by OSI) and gives the results back to
> developers. Coverity is widely regarded as having the absolute best
> tool in the business for C codebases as it stands. The idea is to try
> and rattle bugs out of the runtime system if possible.
> I think this is a good idea, but it needs some public discussion.
> Namely, Coverity requires an official Point of Contact within the
> project (maintainer/author/governing body) to register the project in
> their name. We are left up to determine who this is and verify it. Bug
> reports which are found are not also made public, as they could be
> potentially serious security vulnerabilities.*
> So, if done, this is a rather piece-by-piece project which requires a
> bit of commitment, because it will require the registree to not only
> assess the bugs, but sensibly move them into the issue tracker or fix
> it themselves.
> It's also a question of whether it's worth it. Personally, I think it
> has the chance to uncover some real bugs. But the RTS is highly
> unusual C code (by some standards) and it will probably require tuning
> and patience to get tangible results. Bugs will also need to be
> assessed by someone. False positives happen etc. This is the double
> edged sword of static analysis.** Anyone who does it should be very
> aware of this.
> So, what do you all think? I'd particularly like input from Simon M
> here since he's the primary author of the RTS, of course. :) And
> anyone who does this will undoubtedly have to be in contact with him
> to some degree, for all the aforementioned reasons.

By all means go ahead.  But I'm dubious that they'd be able to find 
anything useful, at least without adding some GHC-specific knowledge 
about conventions in the RTS to their static analyser.  We hardly use 
malloc/free at all, for example.

Also I can't guarantee that I'll have much time to look into any 
potential issues they uncover, but I'll try my best.


> If nobody else would step up for this, I would be interested in
> contacting them if it seems worth it and giving it a shot.
> * I think the chance of this in our case is very very low of course.
> The cases we really care about for a safety perspective are
> type-safety violations at the Haskell level, obviously. Nonetheless
> this requires an individual who is committed to sifting through
> reports and assessing them in a detailed way.
> ** Coverity at one point found out the hard way that more analysis is
> not necessarily better, and people don't respond well to the results
> sometimes. Or they're too complicated to explain. The following is a
> great read:

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