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IDProjectCategoryView StatusDate SubmittedLast Update
0007650OCamlconfigure and build/installpublic2017-10-03 08:412017-10-04 17:47
Assigned Togasche 
PlatformOSOS Version
Product Version4.06.0 +dev/beta1/beta2/rc1 
Target Version4.06.0 +dev/beta1/beta2/rc1Fixed in Version4.06.0 +dev/beta1/beta2/rc1 
Summary0007650: 4.06.0 breaks compatibility for users of $(ocamlc -config) in scripts to get C compilation flags
DescriptionI'm creating a mantis issue to discuss a compatibility problem that occurs in 4.06.0+dev due to the removal of the variables `bytecomp_c_compiler` and `native_c_compiler` from the `ocamlc -config` output.

The PR that made this change, by S├ębastien Hinderer, is GPR#1114 [^]

The issue was raised by Andreas Hauptmann and Jeremy Yallop in [^]
Additional InformationDavid Allsopp suggested to pass C files to `ocamlc` directly, instead of relying on this configuration variable.

Finally, please notes that various improvements were made (mostly by S├ębastien) over the 4.05 and 4.06 development cycles to the configuration system, with in particular the intention to separate the C variables used by the compiler distribution and the C variables that third-party OCaml users should use. (If in the future we add more errors/warnings to the internal C compiler flags, we don't want user code to break). Whatever solution is chosen must ensure that it cleanly respects this separation. See the relevant documentation of configuration variables at [^]
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gasche (developer)
2017-10-03 08:46

Meta: I think that one reason why we forgot to consider the compatibility impact of this particular change is that there is a difference between the (ocamlc -config) variables {bytecomp,native}_c_compiler and the ./configure variable {BYTECOMP,NATIVE}_C_COMPILER. The latter are very new (they only appeared in 4.05.0), but the former have been available for a long time and correspond to the {BYTECOMP,NATIVE}CC ./configure variables.
yallop (developer)
2017-10-03 08:59

A few details on my use case for the 'native_c_compiler' configuration variable:

In some libraries the types of functions and the layout of objects can vary according to the compiler flags used. For example, the layout of 'struct stat' objects may depend on whether the macro _FILE_OFFSET_BITS is defined.

The ctypes tests involve bindings that use 'struct stat'. There are two types of C code that accesses 'struct stat' in the tests.

  1. Plain C code that forms part of a shared library. This code is compiled and linked using a plain C compiler; it doesn't involve any OCaml values.

  2. Bindings stubs generated by ctypes. These are compiled and linked using ocamlc, since they also use macros and functions that manipulate OCaml values.

Since the layout of 'struct stat' depends on the compiler flags used, it's essential that both pieces of C code are compiled with the same flags. The tests determine which C compiler+flags to use by examining the 'native_c_compiler' config variable.

There's more information in the following issue:

   Test test-lwt-jobs fails on 32-bit architectures [^]
aha (reporter)
2017-10-03 12:56

It's not always feasible to use ocamlopt/ocamlc as driver as suggested by dra27. You sometimes also need to build pure c libraries/executables or you have to integrate third party build instructions (e.g. autotools).
If the output of `ocamlc -config` isn't stable, it will further encourage the usage of hardcoded `cc`/`gcc`. It often works and will make opam's CI happy, but it is wrong under many circumstances (e.g. gcc instead of clang, cross compiling, missing flags,...).
dra (developer)
2017-10-03 15:57

I prefix this by explicitly acknowledging that a breaking change should have been noted in the Changes file, of course.

@yallop - I haven't checked the complete detail, but looking at the use of CC in, [^] it looked as though in 13/14 cases you should be able to call that via ocamlopt (given the addition of `-c`) and the link _possibly_ via ocamlmklib?

I think for these others, additional fields now provided allow these things to be determined (ocamlopt_cflags, ocamlopt_cppflags)?

Also, for these kind of things when you're in a Makefile, it is better to attempt to read the original config/Makefile for the compiler, which is installed (i.e. include $(shell ocamlopt -where | tr -d '\r')/Makefile.config? That's part of the reason its installed (FlexDLL's build system does this, for example).

@aha - yes, indeed, although in many respects the newer flags should be better for that (where c_compiler is just gcc/cc/clang, etc. and the flags are in variables of their own).

I think we should update the documentation to reflect the breaking nature of the change, but I don't think we should restore the old variables - most build systems already need to know what version of OCaml they're looking at (not as long ago as one may think, you needed to know which version of OCaml it was simply in order to know if -config existed!)
yallop (developer)
2017-10-03 16:18

I don't think that ocamlopt and ocamlmklib are appropriate tools for building pure C libraries, which is what the ctypes tests need to do.

[Aside: -config has been available since 2005: [^]]

My impression is that the original PR was intended to simplify the OCaml build system, and that breaking the interface in this way was a mistake. Is that not the case? I don't see any discussion of the interface-breaking changes before the PR was merged.
yallop (developer)
2017-10-03 17:04

I've submitted a little PR to restore the missing variables: [^]
gasche (developer)
2017-10-04 17:47

Solved by merging Jeremy's Pull Request.

- Issue History
Date Modified Username Field Change
2017-10-03 08:41 gasche New Issue
2017-10-03 08:41 gasche Status new => acknowledged
2017-10-03 08:46 gasche Note Added: 0018460
2017-10-03 08:59 yallop Note Added: 0018461
2017-10-03 09:32 gasche Additional Information Updated View Revisions
2017-10-03 12:56 aha Note Added: 0018464
2017-10-03 15:57 dra Note Added: 0018467
2017-10-03 16:18 yallop Note Added: 0018468
2017-10-03 17:04 yallop Note Added: 0018469
2017-10-04 17:47 gasche Note Added: 0018481
2017-10-04 17:47 gasche Status acknowledged => resolved
2017-10-04 17:47 gasche Fixed in Version => 4.06.0 +dev/beta1/beta2/rc1
2017-10-04 17:47 gasche Resolution open => fixed
2017-10-04 17:47 gasche Assigned To => gasche

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