, 5 min read

PHP extension seg-faulting

Original post is here eklausmeier.goip.de/blog/2021/03-29-php-extension-seg-faulting.

Task at hand: Call Cobol (=GnuCOBOL) from PHP. I used FFI for this:

        $cbl = FFI::cdef("int phpsqrt(void); void cob_init_nomain(int,char**); int cob_tidy(void);", "/srv/http/phpsqrt.so");
        $ffj0 = FFI::cdef("double j0(double);", "libm.so.6");

        $ret = $cbl->phpsqrt();
        printf("\tret = %d<br>\n",$ret);
        echo "Before calling cob_tidy():<br>\n";
        echo "\tReturn: ", $cbl->cob_tidy(), "<br>\n";
        printf("j0(2) = %f<br>\n", $ffj0->j0(2));

The Cobol program is:

000020 PROGRAM-ID.   phpsqrt.
000030 AUTHOR.       Elmar Klausmeier.
000040 DATE-WRITTEN. 01-Jul-2004.
000080 01 i       PIC 9(5).
000090 01 s       usage comp-2.
000120*    DISPLAY "Hello World!".
000130     PERFORM VARYING i FROM 1 BY 1 UNTIL i > 10
000140         move function sqrt(i) to s
000150*        DISPLAY i, " ", s
000160     END-PERFORM.
000180     move 17 to return-code.
000190     GOBACK.

Config in php.ini file has to be changed:


To call GnuCOBOL from C, you have to first call cob_init() or cob_init_nomain(), which initializes GnuCOBOL. I tried both initialization routines, and both resulted in PHP crashing after running above program, i.e., segmentation fault.

I created a bug for this: FFI crashes with segmentation fault when calling cob_init().

1. I compiled PHP 8.0.3 from source. For this I had to add below packages:

pacman -S tidy freetds c-client

I grep'ed my current configuration:

php -i | grep "Configure Comman"
Configure Command =>  './configure'  '--srcdir=../php-8.0.3' '--config-cache' '--prefix=/usr' '--sbindir=/usr/bin' '--sysconfdir=/etc/php' '--localstatedir=/var' '--with-layout=GNU' '--with-config-file-path=/etc/php' '--with-config-file-scan-dir=/etc/php/conf.d' '--disable-rpath' '--mandir=/usr/share/man' '--enable-cgi' '--enable-fpm' '--with-fpm-systemd' '--with-fpm-acl' '--with-fpm-user=http' '--with-fpm-group=http' '--enable-embed=shared' '--enable-bcmath=shared' '--enable-calendar=shared' '--enable-dba=shared' '--enable-exif=shared' '--enable-ftp=shared' '--enable-gd=shared' '--enable-intl=shared' '--enable-mbstring' '--enable-pcntl' '--enable-shmop=shared' '--enable-soap=shared' '--enable-sockets=shared' '--enable-sysvmsg=shared' '--enable-sysvsem=shared' '--enable-sysvshm=shared' '--with-bz2=shared' '--with-curl=shared' '--with-db4=/usr' '--with-enchant=shared' '--with-external-gd' '--with-external-pcre' '--with-ffi=shared' '--with-gdbm' '--with-gettext=shared' '--with-gmp=shared' '--with-iconv=shared' '--with-imap-ssl' '--with-imap=shared' '--with-kerberos' '--with-ldap=shared' '--with-ldap-sasl' '--with-mhash' '--with-mysql-sock=/run/mysqld/mysqld.sock' '--with-mysqli=shared,mysqlnd' '--with-openssl' '--with-password-argon2' '--with-pdo-dblib=shared,/usr' '--with-pdo-mysql=shared,mysqlnd' '--with-pdo-odbc=shared,unixODBC,/usr' '--with-pdo-pgsql=shared' '--with-pdo-sqlite=shared' '--with-pgsql=shared' '--with-pspell=shared' '--with-readline' '--with-snmp=shared' '--with-sodium=shared' '--with-sqlite3=shared' '--with-tidy=shared' '--with-unixODBC=shared' '--with-xsl=shared' '--with-zip=shared' '--with-zlib'

To this I added --enable-debug. Command configure needs two minutes. Then make -j8 needs another two minutes.

I copied php.ini to local directory, changed it to activated FFI. Whenever I called


I had to add -c php.ini, when I called an extension written by me, stored in ext/.

2. The fix for segmentation fault is actually pretty easy: Just set environment variable ZEND_DONT_UNLOAD_MODULES:

ZEND_DONT_UNLOAD_MODULES=1 $BUILD/sapi/cli/php -c php.ini -r 'test1();'

Reason for this: see valgrind output below.

Some additional information on this environment variable from GitHub PHP source:

Since PHP 5.3.11 it is possible to prevent shared extensions from unloading so that valgrind can correctly track the memory leaks in shared extensions. For this there is the ZEND_DONT_UNLOAD_MODULES environment variable. If set, then DL_UNLOAD() is skipped during the shutdown of shared extensions.

3. Before I had figured out the "trick" with ZEND_DONT_UNLOAD_MODULES, I wrote a PHP extension. The extension is:

/* {{{ void test1() */

        php_printf("test1(): The extension %s is loaded and working!\r\n", "callcob");
/* }}} */

Unfortunately, running this extension resulted in:

Module compiled with build ID=API20200930,NTS
PHP    compiled with build ID=API20200930,NTS,debug
These options need to match

I solved this by adding below string:

/* {{{ callcob_module_entry */
zend_module_entry callcob_module_entry = {
        //sizeof(zend_module_entry), ZEND_MODULE_API_NO, 1, USING_ZTS,
        "callcob",                                      /* Extension name */
        ext_functions,                                  /* zend_function_entry */
        NULL,                                                   /* PHP_MINIT - Module initialization */
        NULL,                                                   /* PHP_MSHUTDOWN - Module shutdown */
        PHP_RINIT(callcob),                     /* PHP_RINIT - Request initialization */
        NULL,                                                   /* PHP_RSHUTDOWN - Request shutdown */
        PHP_MINFO(callcob),                     /* PHP_MINFO - Module info */
        PHP_CALLCOB_VERSION,            /* Version */
/* }}} */

I guess this is not the recommend approach.

4. Valgrind shows the following:

==37350== Process terminating with default action of signal 11 (SIGSEGV): dumping core
==37350==  Access not within mapped region at address 0x852AD20
==37350==    at 0x852AD20: ???
==37350==    by 0x556EF7F: ??? (in /usr/lib/libc-2.33.so)
==37350==    by 0x5570DCC: getenv (in /usr/lib/libc-2.33.so)
==37350==    by 0x76BB43: module_destructor (zend_API.c:2629)
==37350==    by 0x75EE31: module_destructor_zval (zend.c:782)
==37350==    by 0x7777A1: _zend_hash_del_el_ex (zend_hash.c:1330)
==37350==    by 0x777880: _zend_hash_del_el (zend_hash.c:1353)
==37350==    by 0x779188: zend_hash_graceful_reverse_destroy (zend_hash.c:1807)
==37350==    by 0x769390: zend_destroy_modules (zend_API.c:1992)
==37350==    by 0x75F582: zend_shutdown (zend.c:1078)
==37350==    by 0x6C3F17: php_module_shutdown (main.c:2359)
==37350==    by 0x84E46D: main (php_cli.c:1351)
==37350==  If you believe this happened as a result of a stack
==37350==  overflow in your program's main thread (unlikely but
==37350==  possible), you can try to increase the size of the
==37350==  main thread stack using the --main-stacksize= flag.
==37350==  The main thread stack size used in this run was 8388608.
. . .
zsh: segmentation fault (core dumped)  valgrind $BUILD/sapi/cli/php -c $BUILD/php.ini -r 'test1();'

As shown above, the relevant code in question is Zend/zend_API.c in line 2629. This is shown below:

void module_destructor(zend_module_entry *module) /* {{{ */
. . .
        if (module->type == MODULE_TEMPORARY && module->functions) {
                zend_unregister_functions(module->functions, -1, NULL);

        if (module->handle && !getenv("ZEND_DONT_UNLOAD_MODULES")) {
/* }}} */

It is the DL_UNLOAD, which is a #define for dlclose, which actually provokes the crash.

According PHP Internals Book -- Zend Extensions:

Here, we are loaded as a PHP extension. Look at the hooks. When hitting MSHUTDOWN(), the engine runs our MSHUTDOWN(), but it unloads us just after that ! It calls for dlclose() on our extension, look at the source code, the solution is as often located in there.

So what happens is easy, just after triggering our RSHUTDOWN(), the engine unloads our pib.so ; when it comes to call our Zend extension part shutdown(), we are not part of the process address space anymore, thus we badly crash the entire PHP process.

What is still not understood: Why does FFI not crash with those simple functions, like printf(), or sqrt()?