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Understanding the (Proposed) Change to DSO Linking


The default behaviour for ld currently defaults to not linking objects that are listed as dependencies of another linked object. This is dangerous if the other object is ever changed to occlude the object on which your program depended, causing your program to break without any change to your code.

What's the difference?

The big difference is that with the proposed change in place, ld will no longer skip linking needed libraries by default. The current default behaviour will lead ld to skip linking with a library if it is listed as a needed by another library that the program uses. In abstract terms, if libA is needed by libB and your program requires both libA and libB, your program may only link to libB. Then if another version of libB comes out that does not list libA as a needed library, then a recompilation will mysteriously break.

A concrete example from Roland McGrath:

libxml2.so has:

 NEEDED            Shared library: [libdl.so.2]
 NEEDED            Shared library: [libz.so.1]

In this case, a program that links with libxml2 and uses dlopen may not link with libdl, and a program that links with libxml2 and uses gzopen may not link with libz. While these programs will work, they are at risk of failure if libxml2 is ever changed to omit the dependency on libdl/libz.

What do I do?

Don't panic! Many packages will have no noticeable problems with the switch. Others may receive an error message telling them to add a DSO to their command line:

For example (courtesy Roland McGrath):

 ==> foo1.c <==
 #include <stdio.h>
 extern int foo ();
 main ()
   printf ("%d\n", foo ());
 ==> foo2.c <==
 extern int foo ();
 int bar () { return foo (); }
 ==> foo3.c <==
 int foo () { return 0; }

magilla 49 % gcc -g -fPIC -c foo1.c foo2.c foo3.c

magilla 50 % gcc -shared -o foo3.so foo3.o

magilla 51 % gcc -shared -o foo2.so foo2.o foo3.so

magilla 52 % gcc -o foo1 foo1.o foo2.so -Wl,--rpath-link=

Old result: Works. Note this could be dangerous if foo2.so is ever changed to not include foo3.so.

New result:

 /usr/bin/ld: foo1.o: undefined reference to symbol 'foo'
 /usr/bin/ld: note: 'foo' is defined in DSO ./foo3.so so try adding it to the linker command line

The error message will prompt you to explicitly link to the DSO that you need. Adding ./foo3.so will get rid of the error:

gcc -o foo1 foo1.o foo2.so foo3.so -Wl,--rpath-link=.