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[patches] Draft of EGLIBC configuration whitepaper
- To: patches@xxxxxxxxxx
- Subject: [patches] Draft of EGLIBC configuration whitepaper
- From: Jim Blandy <jimb@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Tue, 21 Nov 2006 12:03:37 -0800
Here's a draft whitepaper sketching a configuration system for EGLIBC.
Executive summary: do what the Linux kernel and uClibc do, but have
some guiding principles to avoid chaos.
How does this look? All comments welcome.
The EGLIBC Component Configuration System
Jim Blandy <jimb@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
The GNU C library (GLIBC) provides a broad range of functionality,
ranging from internationalization support to transcendental
mathematical functions. Its website boasts that "nearly all known and
useful functions from any other C library are available." This
exhaustive approach has been one of GLIBC's strengths on desktop and
server systems, but it has also given GLIBC a large footprint, both in
memory and on disk, making it a challenge to use in embedded systems
with limited resources.
The Embedded GNU C library (EGLIBC) is a variant of the GNU C library
designed to work well on embedded systems. In particular, EGLIBC's
component configuration system allows embedded developers to build
customized versions of the library that include only the features
their application uses, reducing its space requirements.
EGLIBC's component configuration system categorizes the library's
functions into "option groups", and allows you to include or exclude
option groups individually. Some option groups depend on others;
EGLIBC tracks these relationships, and ensures that the selected
configuration yields a functioning library.
Consistent and Predictable Behavior
A flexible configuration system is a mixed blessing: if the options
offered are poorly designed, it can be hard to see which choices will
have the desired effects, and choices with obscure consequences can
make debugging difficult. EGLIBC's configuration follows some general
principles to reduce these risks:
- EGLIBC has a single default configuration for each target
- In the default configuration, all option groups are enabled, and
EGLIBC is upwardly API- and ABI-compatible with GLIBC.
- As much as possible, configurations only affect what functions are
present, not how they behave. If the system works with an option
group disabled, it will still work with it enabled.
- As much as possible, configurations only select option groups ---
they do not describe characteristics of the target architecture.
These rules mean that you have a simple debugging strategy available
if you suspect that your EGLIBC configuration might be the source of a
problem: fall back to the default configuration, re-test, and then
disable option groups one by one, until the problem reappears.
The Option Groups
The POSIX.1-2001 specification includes a suggested partition of all
the functions in the POSIX C API into option groups: math functions
like 'sin' and 'cos'; networking functions like 'socket' and
'connect'; and so on. EGLIBC uses this partitioning as the basis for
its own option groups, and follows the POSIX naming scheme.
The EGLIBC component configuration system bears some resemblance to
the approach used by the Linux kernel to select device drivers,
network protocols, and other features. A file named 'eglibc.config'
in the top-level build directory contains assignments to Make
variables, each of which enables or disables a particular option
group. If the variable's value is set to 'y', or left unset, then the
option group is enabled; if it set to anything else, the option group
is omitted. For example, the following 'eglibc.config' would omit
mathematical functions, but include networking functions, and
OPTION_POSIX_C_LANG_MATH = n
OPTION_POSIX_NETWORKING = y
In general, each option group variable controls whether a given set of
object files in EGLIBC is compiled and included in the final
libraries, or omitted from the build.
Each subdirectory's Makefile categorizes its routines by option group.
For example, EGLIBC's 'inet/Makefile' places its functions in the
POSIX_NETWORKING group as follows:
routines-$(OPTION_POSIX_NETWORKING) += \
htonl htons \
inet_lnaof inet_mkadr \
inet_netof inet_ntoa inet_net herrno herrno-loc \
gethstbyad gethstbyad_r gethstbynm gethstbynm2 gethstbynm2_r \
Finally, common code in 'Makerules' cites the value of the variable
'routines-y', seleting only those object files that belong to enabled
option groups for inclusion in the resulting libraries.
Current Status and Future Directions
The EGLIBC component configuration system described here is still
We have used the system to subset some portions of EGLIBC's
functionality. It needs to be extended to cover more of the library.
At the moment, EGLIBC performs no sanity checks on the contents of
'eglibc.config'; if an option group's name is mistyped, the option
group is silently included in the build. EGLIBC should check that all
variables set in 'eglibc.config' are proper option group names, and
that their values are appropriate.
Some portions of EGLIBC depend on others; for example, the Sun Remote
Procedure Call functions in 'sunrpc' depend on the networking
functions in 'inet'. The sanity checking described above should check
that the selection configuration satisfies dependencies within EGLIBC,
and produce a legible error message if it does not. At the moment,
inconsistent configurations produce link errors late in the build
The Linux kernel's configuration system provides interactive
interfaces for creating and modifying configuration files (which also
perform the sanity checking and dependency tracking described above).
EGLIBC should provide similar interfaces.