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For A Parallel World. Case Study n.1: automake variables misuse

Following my post about parallel builds I started today to tackle down some issues with packages not properly building with parallel make. Most of them end up being quite easy to fix, some of them don’t have to be fixed at all, just need the -j1 dropped out of the ebuild because they already build fine (this usually is due to an older version failing and the ebuild never being revisited).

As I haven’t been able yet to find time and energy to restart writing full-fledged guides (the caffeine starvation doesn’t help), I decided to start writing some “case studies”. What I mean is that I’ll try to blog about some common problems I found in a particular package, and show the process to fix that. Hopefully, this way it’ll be easier for other to fix similar problems in the future. This also goes toward the goal of showing more of what Yamato does (by the way, once again thanks to everybody who contributed, and you all are still able to chip in if you want to help me).

The first case study in the list is for libbtctl (that I think is deprecated for what I can understand of its author’s comment).

When building with -j8 (and dropping the ebuild serialisation), the build will fail with an error similar to this:

libtool: compile:  x86_64-pc-linux-gnu-gcc -DHAVE_CONFIG_H -I. -I.. -g -I../intl -I/usr/include/glib-2.0 -I/usr/lib64/glib-2.0/include -I/usr/include -I/usr/include/pygtk-2.0 -I/usr/include/glib-2.0 -I/usr/lib64/glib-2.0/include -I/usr/include/python2.5 -I/usr/include -DDATA_DIR="/usr/share/libbtctl" -DGETTEXT_PACKAGE="libbtctl" -march=barcelona -O2 -ftracer -pipe -ftree-vectorize -Wformat=2 -Wno-error -Wno-pointer-sign -g -ggdb -Wstrict-aliasing=2 -Wno-format-zero-length -MT btctl-pymodule.lo -MD -MP -MF .deps/btctl-pymodule.Tpo -c btctl-pymodule.c -o btctl-pymodule.o >/dev/null 2>&1
libtool: compile:  x86_64-pc-linux-gnu-gcc -DHAVE_CONFIG_H -I. -I.. -g -I../intl -I/usr/include/glib-2.0 -I/usr/lib64/glib-2.0/include -I/usr/include -I/usr/include/pygtk-2.0 -I/usr/include/glib-2.0 -I/usr/lib64/glib-2.0/include -I/usr/include/python2.5 -I/usr/include -DDATA_DIR="/usr/share/libbtctl" -DGETTEXT_PACKAGE="libbtctl" -march=barcelona -O2 -ftracer -pipe -ftree-vectorize -Wformat=2 -Wno-error -Wno-pointer-sign -g -ggdb -Wstrict-aliasing=2 -Wno-format-zero-length -MT btctl-py.lo -MD -MP -MF .deps/btctl-py.Tpo -c btctl-py.c -o btctl-py.o >/dev/null 2>&1
libtool: link: cannot find the library `' or unhandled argument `'
make[3]: *** [btlist] Error 1
make[3]: *** Waiting for unfinished jobs....
libtool: link: cannot find the library `' or unhandled argument `'
make[3]: *** [btctl-async-test] Error 1
libtool: link: cannot find the library `' or unhandled argument `'
make[3]: *** [btctl-discovery-test] Error 1
libtool: link: cannot find the library `' or unhandled argument `'
make[3]: *** [btsignal-watch] Error 1
make[2]: *** [all] Error 2
make[1]: *** [all-recursive] Error 1
make: *** [all] Error 2
Code language: PHP (php)

It’s an easy error to understand, it cannot find, piece of cake. It’s more of a problem to find the cause if you don’t know that beforehand.

The first comment to have here is that the buildsystem used is standard autotools; standard autotools, if used with their internal rules, are not subject to parallel-make failures. They don’t build directories in parallel, but they do the rest in as much parallel as they can. This means that it’s either using a custom rule, or it has misused autotools.

Another common problem with “cannot find the library” problems with libtool is when the library is in a different directory, and the order of subdirectories is wrong; this rarely creeps into the distributed tarball, if upstream is smart enough to run a make distcheck or to at least build their own tarballs, but you never know; usually you find this while trying to change the way interdependent libraries links against so that they can be built with --as-needed.

But there’s a tell-tale sign in the message: the library is not prefixed with any path, so it’s not being built in a different directory but in the same one. This makes it very suspicious.

The first error comes from btlist, so let’s extract the source tarball, and look in src/ (because that’s the most likely directory where it is defined, we could have grepped but it’s easier this way):

noinst_PROGRAMS=btlist [...]


btlist_LDFLAGS =  $(BTCTL_LIBS) 
Code language: JavaScript (javascript)

What do you know? this is the only property defined for the btlist target, and indeed, it doesn’t look right, the LDFLAGS variable should be used to pass flags to be used by the linker (like -Wl,--as-needed), not the names of libraries. Even worse, name of libraries that have to be built as prerequisites for the target.

Edit: Rémi made me notice that I didn’t give the actual solution here, for those who don’t know automake so well. The correct variable to pass the libraries on is either LIBADD (for other libraries) or LDADD (for final executables). As btlist is in PROGRAMS, the latter is what we need to use.

And obviously the same mistake is repeated for almost every target in the But luckily there’s a very active upstream, and the bug can be solved the same day it is reported.

It’s not so difficult once you see how to do it, is it?

Comments 3
  1. I really like this approach of documenting autotools misuse. I often use autotools and I’m never 100% sure of what I do. I’m looking forward for further posts regarding this topic!

  2. Hey Diego,Maybe you should specify at the end of this post how autotools users should fix it : LDADD or LIBADD instead of LDFLAGS.Great couple of posts though. Please do write more! (not that I need it much, but it’s very good learning material)

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