Relocations can be distinguish by when they are performed. This distinction arises due to the type of reference being made to the relocated offset, and is either:
An immediate reference refers to a relocation that must be determined immediately when an object is loaded. These references are typically to data items used by the object code, pointers to functions, and even calls to functions made from position-dependent shared objects. These relocations cannot provide the runtime linker with knowledge of when the relocated item is referenced. Therefore, all immediate relocations must be carried out when an object is loaded, and before the application gains, or regains, control.
A lazy reference refers to a relocation that can be determined as an object executes. These references are typically calls to global functions made from position-independent shared objects, or calls to external functions made from a dynamic executable. During the compilation and link-editing of any dynamic module that provide these references, the associated function calls become calls to a procedure linkage table entry. These entries make up the .plt section. Each procedure linkage table entry becomes a lazy reference with a relocation associated with it.
Procedure linkage table entries are constructed so that when they are first called, control is passed to the runtime linker. The runtime linker looks up the required symbol and rewrites information in the associated object so that any future calls to this procedure linkage table entry go directly to the function. This mechanism enables relocations of this type to be deferred until the first instance of a function is called. This process is sometimes referred to as lazy binding.
The runtime linker's default mode is to perform lazy binding whenever procedure linkage table relocations are provided. This default can be overridden by setting the environment variable
LD_BIND_NOW to any non-null value. This environment variable setting causes the runtime linker to perform both immediate and lazy reference relocations when an object is
loaded, and before the application gains, or regains, control. For example, setting the environment variable as follows means that all relocations within the file prog and within its
dependencies, will be processed before control is transferred to the application.
$ LD_BIND_NOW=1 prog
Objects can also be accessed with dlopen(3DL) with the mode defined as RTLD_NOW. Objects can also be built using the link-editor's -z now option to indicate that they require complete relocation processing at the time they are loaded. This relocation requirement is also propagated to any dependencies of the marked object at runtime.
Although the preceding examples of immediate and lazy references are typical, the creation of procedure linkage table entries is ultimately controlled by the relocation information provided by the relocatable object files used as input to a link-edit. Relocation records such as R_SPARC_WPLT30 and R_386_PLT32 instruct the link-editor to create a procedure linkage table entry are common for position-independent code. However, as a dynamic executable has a fixed location, external function references that can be determined at link-edit time can be converted to procedure linkage table entries regardless of the original relocation records.