An embedded researcher friend of mine has posted some data on code sizes from various compilers at http://embed.cs.utah.edu/embarrassing/. The “embarrassing” bit is the idea that compiler writes should be ashamed when other compilers do better than theirs. It is worth looking over the data, even though the methodology and benchmarks are not yet perfect by any means.

When this data was brought to the attention of the gcc developers on the gcc mailinglist, a very interesting and elucidating discussion followed. See http://gcc.gnu.org/ml/gcc/2009-12/msg00176.html and follow all the subthreads from there.

There is a key issue in the gcc discussions, about whether code that relies on uninitialized variables and similar make any sense. I personally think that any code that triggers warnings on one or more compilers should be disqualified, as only really portable code should be reasonable to compare in a shoot-out like this. Code that is “undefined” by the C standard really does not provide any interesting information.

Personally, I would also like to see some comparisons between compilers aiming for size, for targets where size really matters. For example, ARM Cortex-R or Cortex-M CPUs, with compilers from commercial players like ARM, IAR, GreenHills, etc. I understand that such a shoot-out is very hard to arrange in practice, however .

Another interesting measure would be the evenness or robustness of a compiler. Is a compiler consistently generating decent code, or does it swing wildly from very good to very bad? I guess you could approximate this if you compared the size for a function generated by a particular compiler to the average of all other compilers’ code for that function. Could give an interesting graph for each compiler.

The code sources are quite interesting: it is isolated functions collected from a large spread of open-source projects. Quite often it looks like the extremes of differences from one compiler to another corresponds to extreme functions. I liked this one, where clang created a file 20x the size of llvm. I can see how a naive switch generator gets big here, while an optimized switch code generator can make some very simple comparison statements out of it (this is a bit from Qemu, from a PCI device model, which is close to my interest of virtual platforms, we get this kind of code a lot).

`sh_pci_reg_write (void *p, target_phys_addr_t addr, uint32_t val)`

{

uint32_t *__tmp__282;

switch ((int) addr)

{

case 0:

case 1:

case 2:

case 3:

case 4:

case 5:

case 6:

case 7:

case 8:

case 9:

case 10:

case 11:

case 12:

case 13:

case 14:

case 15:

case 16:

case 17:

case 18:

case 19:

case 20:

case 21:

case 22:

case 23:

case 24:

case 25:

case 26:

case 27:

case 28:

case 29:

case 30:

case 31:

case 32:

case 33:

case 34:

case 35:

case 36:

case 37:

case 38:

case 39:

case 40:

case 41:

case 42:

case 43:

case 44:

case 45:

case 46:

case 47:

case 48:

case 49:

case 50:

case 51:

case 52:

case 53:

case 54:

case 55:

case 56:

case 57:

case 58:

case 59:

case 60:

case 61:

case 62:

case 63:

case 64:

case 65:

case 66:

case 67:

case 68:

case 69:

case 70:

case 71:

case 72:

case 73:

case 74:

case 75:

case 76:

case 77:

case 78:

case 79:

case 80:

case 81:

case 82:

case 83:

case 84:

case 85:

case 86:

case 87:

case 88:

case 89:

case 90:

case 91:

case 92:

case 93:

case 94:

case 95:

case 96:

case 97:

case 98:

case 99:

case 100:

case 101:

case 102:

case 103:

case 104:

case 105:

case 106:

case 107:

case 108:

case 109:

case 110:

case 111:

case 112:

case 113:

case 114:

case 115:

case 116:

case 117:

case 118:

case 119:

case 120:

case 121:

case 122:

case 123:

case 124:

case 125:

case 126:

case 127:

case 128:

case 129:

case 130:

case 131:

case 132:

case 133:

case 134:

case 135:

case 136:

case 137:

case 138:

case 139:

case 140:

case 141:

case 142:

case 143:

case 144:

case 145:

case 146:

case 147:

case 148:

case 149:

case 150:

case 151:

case 152:

case 153:

case 154:

case 155:

case 156:

case 157:

case 158:

case 159:

case 160:

case 161:

case 162:

case 163:

case 164:

case 165:

case 166:

case 167:

case 168:

case 169:

case 170:

case 171:

case 172:

case 173:

case 174:

case 175:

case 176:

case 177:

case 178:

case 179:

case 180:

case 181:

case 182:

case 183:

case 184:

case 185:

case 186:

case 187:

case 188:

case 189:

case 190:

case 191:

case 192:

case 193:

case 194:

case 195:

case 196:

case 197:

case 198:

case 199:

case 200:

case 201:

case 202:

case 203:

case 204:

case 205:

case 206:

case 207:

case 208:

case 209:

case 210:

case 211:

case 212:

case 213:

case 214:

case 215:

case 216:

case 217:

case 218:

case 219:

case 220:

case 221:

case 222:

case 223:

case 224:

case 225:

case 226:

case 227:

case 228:

case 229:

case 230:

case 231:

case 232:

case 233:

case 234:

case 235:

case 236:

case 237:

case 238:

case 239:

case 240:

case 241:

case 242:

case 243:

case 244:

case 245:

case 246:

case 247:

case 248:

case 249:

case 250:

case 251:

case 252:;

__tmp__282 = (uint32_t *) ((((SHPCIC *) p)->dev)->config + addr);

*__tmp__282 = val;

break;

case 448:;

((SHPCIC *) p)->par = val;

break;

case 452:;

((SHPCIC *) p)->mbr = val;

break;

case 456:;

((SHPCIC *) p)->iobr = val;

break;

case 544:;

pci_data_write (((SHPCIC *) p)->bus, ((SHPCIC *) p)->par, val, 4);

break;

}

return;

}