GNU software (or, gnulib considered harmful and other stories)

The tinderbox right now seems to be having fun trying to play catch-up with changes in GNU software: GCC, Automake, glibc and of course GnuTLS. Okay it’s true that compatibility problems are not a prerogative of GNU, but there are some interesting problems with this whole game, especially for what concerns inter-dependencies.

So, there is a new C library in town, which, if we ignore the whole x32 dilemma, has support for ISO C11 as its major new feature. And what is the major change in this release? The gets() function has finally been removed. This is good, as it was a very nasty thing to use, and nobody in his sane mind would use it…

tbamd64 ~ # scanelf -qs -gets -R /bin /opt /sbin /lib /usr
gets  /opt/flexlm/bin/lmutil

Okay nevermind those who actually use it, the rest of the software shouldn’t be involved, should it? You wish. What happens is that since gnulib no longer only carries replacements for GNU extensions but also includes code that is not present on glibc itself, and extra warnings about use of deprecated features, it now comes with its own re-declaration of gets() to feature a prominent warning if it’s used. And of course, that makes it fail badly with the new gnulib.

Obviously, this has been fixed in gnulib already, since it was planned for gets() to be removed, but it takes quite a bit of time for a fix in gnulib to trickle down to the packages using it, which is one of my previous main complaints about it. Which means that Gentoo will have to patch the same code over and over again in almost all GNU software, since almost all of it uses gnulib.

Luckily for me only two packages have hit (with this problem, at least) that I’m in the herd of: GnuTLS and libtasn1 which is a dep of it. The former is fixed in version 3 which is also masked but I’m testing as well, while the latter is fixed in the current ~arch (I really don’t care about 2.16 in stable yet!), so there is nothing to patch there. The fact that GCC 4.6 itself fails to build with this version of glibc is obviously a different problem altogether, and so is the fact that we need Boost 1.50 for a number of packages to work with the new glibc/gcc combination, as 1.49 is broken with the new C library and 1.48 is broken with the new compiler.

Now to move on to something different: Automake 1.12 was released a couple of months ago and is now in ~arch, causing trouble although not as bad as it could have been. Interestingly enough, one of the things that they did change in this version was removing $(mkdir_p) as I wrote in my guide — but that seems to have been a mistake.

What should have been removed in 1.12 was the default use of AM_PROG_MKDIR_P, while the mkdir_p define should have been kept around until version 1.13. Stefano said he’s going to revert that change in automake 1.12.2, but I guess it’s better if we deal with it right away instead of waiting for 1.13 to hit us….

Of course there is a different problem with the new automake as well: GNU gettext hasn’t been updated to support the new automake versions, so using it causes deprecation warnings with 1.12 (and will fail with 1.13 if it’s not updated). And of course a number of projects are now using -Werror on automake, like it wasn’t enough trouble to use it on the source code itself.

And of course the problem with Gentoo, according to somebody, is the fact that my tinderbox bugs (those dozen a day) are filed with linked build logs instead of attached ones. Not the fact that the same somebody commits new versions of critical packages without actually doing anything to test them.

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