Archive for September, 2007

Xerces-C++ 2.8.0 released

Sunday, September 2nd, 2007

After two years of development, Xerces-C++ 2.8.0 is finally out. This release doesn’t add any new features compared to 2.7.0 but is rather focused on the bug fixes, optimizations, and build system improvements (for new features, 3.0.0 is underway). 2.8.0 is interface-compatible with 2.7.0 which means all you will need to do to take advantage of all the improvements is to recompile your applications. For the complete list of changes in this version refer to the official Release Information page on the project’s website. I am especially interested in all the XML Schema fixes that allow Xerces-C++ 2.8.0 to handle widely-used schemas and standards such as Geography Markup Language (GML) and COLLADA (COLLAborative Design Activity). In this post I am going to discuss a number of user-visible improvements that many Xerces-C++ users may want to know more about.

Compared to the previous release, Xerces-C++ 2.8.0 comes with a wide range of precompiled libraries (total 23) for various CPU architectures, operation systems, and C++ compilers. For most platforms 32 bit and 64 bit versions are provided. Note also that while the libraries are built using specific C++ compiler versions, most of them will also work with newer versions of the same compilers. For example, libraries built with GCC 3.4.x will also work with GCC 4.0.x, 4.1.x, and 4.2.x. Similarly, libraries built with Sun C++ 5.7 (Studio 10) will work with Sun C++ 5.8. For HP-UX on PA-RISC two versions of libraries are provided: one built in the “Classic” mode (-AP) and the other in the “Standard C++” mode (-AA -mt). The latter version’s archive has the _AA suffix. Also new in this release are the 64 bit Windows libraries built with Visual C++ 8.0 (2005).

On the source code level, there are three user-visible changes that I would like to cover in more detail. First, the XML to DOM parsing code was optimized with the speed gain ranging between 25-30%, depending on the XML documents used. The SAX2 parser was also improved to allocate additional memory only if the existing buffers cannot be reused. Overall, a statically-linked (see below) Xerces-C++ 2.8.0 library on GNU/Linux parses XML to DOM about 40% faster than a dynamically-linked 2.7.0 thanks to various code optimizations as well as the default optimization level change from -O to -O2 for GCC on GNU/Linux.

The second source-level change that may affect your applications is the exponential growth of memory blocks implemented in the DOM heap. Now the size of memory blocks that the DOM heap allocates at a time grows from 16KB to 128KB as the document requires more memory (in the previous versions that size was fixed at 64KB). This change will help applications with a large number of small XML documents as well as applications that handle very large documents.

Finally, two important bugs have been fixed in the DOM cloning and importing logic. First, when the complete DOM document is being cloned, the NODE_CLONED notification is sent to each node’s user data handler. This allows you to copy the user data into the new document. Second, type information (such as PSVI) that may be associated with DOM nodes is now properly copied when nodes are cloned or imported.

The build system in Xerces-C++ 2.8.0 has also been improved in a number of ways: The Visual Studio 8.0 (2005) project and solution files with support for the 64 bit builds now come with the Xerces-C++ distribution. GCC is now supported on HP-UX and AIX in addition to GNU/Linux and Solaris. The build system now automatically detects aCC3 and aCC6 on HP-UX as well as passes the correct 64 bit options to Sun C++ on SPARC and x86-64.

Furthermore, a new option, -s, was added to the runConfigure script that instructs the build system to build static archives (libxerces-c.a) instead of shared libraries. The code for the static archives is compiled without positions-independent options and therefore is faster than the shared library version.

The compilation itself can now be performed in verbose mode which is useful when you want to see the exact options that are passed to the compiler during build. To trigger verbose mode, add VERBOSE=1 to the make command line, for example:

make VERBOSE=1

Xerces-C++ 2.8.0 automatically detects necessary 64 bit options for most of the platforms and compilers that it supports. For GCC, however, it is not possible because the exact options depend on the CPU architecture and GCC version. GCC on most 32 bit GNU/Linux distributions produces 32 bit code and on 64 bit distributions—64 bit code. If GCC on your system does not generate the desired code by default, you will need to specify additional compiler and linker options using the runConfigure -z and -l options. For the exact GCC options that will switch the compiler into the desired mode on your architecture, consult GCC documentation. For the x86-64, PowerPC, and SPARC architectures these options are -m64 (64 bit mode) and -m32 (32 bit mode).

For example, to build 32 bit Xerces-C++ libraries for x86 architecture on a 64 bit GNU/Linux system that by default produces 64 bit code, you will need to use the following runConfigure options:

runConfigure -p linux -c gcc -x g++ -z -m32 -l -m32

GCC on Solaris for both x86-64 and SPARC architectures by default generates 32 bit code. To build 64 bit Xerces-C++ libraries with GCC on Solaris, use the following runConfigure options:

runConfigure -p solaris -c gcc -x g++ -b 64 -z -m64 -l -m64

As another example, to build 32 bit universal libraries for Mac OS X use the following runConfigure options:

runConfigure -p macosx -c gcc -x g++ -z -arch -z i386 \
-z -arch -z ppc -l -arch -l i386 -l -arch -l ppc