Category Archives: tricks

How to divide fast by immediates

In almost all assembly books you’ll find some nice tricks to do fast multiplications. E.g. instead of “imul eax, ebx, 3” you can do “lea eax, [ebx+ebx*2]” (ignoring flag effects). It’s pretty clear how this works. But how can we speed up, say, a division by 3? This is quite important since division is still a really slow operation. If you never thought or heart about this problem before, get pen and paper and try a little bit. It’s an interesting problem.

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Simple compiler optimization

I thought of an optimization that compilers for most CPUs could do that I think should be implemented. Let’s say you have C code like this:

if ((variable == 4) || (variable == 6)) { stuff }

Any existing compiler I know of would compile into something like this (eax is variable):

cmp eax, 4
jz label
cmp eax, 6
jz label

That’s a bad way to do it. It should be implemented more like this:

or eax, 2
cmp eax, 6
jz label

This saves one instruction, but more importantly, it saves a conditional branch. Conditional branches can be expensive on modern hardware. This will work on any similar “if” statement whose constants differ by a single bit.

Even if you must copy eax to another register first, it removes a conditional branch, which is probably a win. The situations in which to do this are more complicated and must take into account many things.

For constants that are 1 apart but not 1 bit apart, like 7 and 8, you can do:

sub eax, 7 // use dec eax in 1/2 case
test eax, 0xFFFFFFFE // this is a 3 byte opcode
jz label

This also works for 0 and -1: increment eax first.