Shared libraries


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RISC OS Dynamic Linking and Shared Libraries: A User's View

The soloader package contains all of the components required to use dynamically linked C programs under RISC OS. These are:

Dynamic loader/linker (ld-riscos/so/1)

This is currently based on V1.9.9 of the Linux dynamic loader (the version, I believe, before it was merged into GLIBC). This version was chosen over the latest, due to its relative simplicity.

SOManager (Shared Object Manager)

This is a RISC OS module which provides object and memory management for the dynamic loader. Although the dynamic loader does manage objects itself, this is only on a per client basis as it has no knowledge of other clients using the same libraries. It therefore relies on SOManager for information regarding the state of any libraries in the system.

*SOMStatus gives the state of the system, showing any clients and libraries currently registered. It is normal for libraries to remain present after clients have deregistered. Libraries are allowed to remain idle (i.e. unused by any client) for a set period of time before being removed. This improves system performance when, for example, command line tools that use the same libraries are run in quick succession.

Runtime libraries

These consist of libunixlib, libgcc and libm which are the basic libraries required to run C programs.

Additionally, C++ is supported by the use of libstdc++ which is available separately.

Building shared libraries

Some effort has been made in to making the building of shared libraries under RISC OS as close to that of Linux as possible, so that documentation that was written for Linux may also apply to RISC OS.

Compiling code for shared libraries

When compiling code for a shared library, it is necessary to inform GCC that global data must be treated differently. Although the code for a library may be shared by several programs at once, this is not true for its global data. It is important that each program that uses the library be given its own copy of that library's data. This requires that the -fPIC command line switch be passed to GCC so that it can generate special code to handle the access of this data. Note that -fpic is not the same as -fPIC.

Linking generally

GCC automatically searches for dependant libraries within any directories defined by the RISC OS path GCCSOLib: When !SharedLibs is first run it adds its own library directory (i.e. SharedLibs:lib) to this path so that GCC can find any libraries it holds. This includes the shared versions of the runtime libraries. It is important to use the correct compiler driver to perform the linking, ie, gcc for code written in C and g++ for code written in C++. This ensures that the correct options and dependant libraries are added to the linker command line. If a project mixes C and C++, then g++ must be used to perform the link.

Linking code for shared libraries

As for Linux, when linking a shared library, it is necessary to specify the -shared flag to indicate that this is intended to be a shared library. In addition to a filename, a library can also have an internal name embedded within it. This is called its soname. It is advisable when linking a shared library to give it a soname using the linker flag:

-soname=lib<name>.so.<major version>


-Wl,-soname=lib<name>.so.<major version>

if using gcc to perform the linking. The major version number is optional. You should use the Unix naming convention e.g. for the soname as the dynamic loader will translate it to RISC OS format when searching for dependant libraries.

Shared library naming

In linux there is a scheme which most libraries adhere to when it comes to naming (although it is not essential). This scheme is also used under RISC OS in an effort to keep the same flexibility and to allow future support for multiple versions of the same library. In order to implement the Linux naming convention a simple symbolic linking system is employed in a similar manner to Linux. This allows the same file to be referenced by more than one name without duplicating it and is achieved by using a special link file which is given the filetype &1C8 (Symlink).

In this scheme, every shared library has three references, the shared library itself, the runtime link and the compiler link:

The shared library: lib<name>/so/X/Y/Z

The runtime link: lib<name>/so/X

                               (a symlink to lib<name>/so/X/Y/Z)

The compiler link: lib<name>/so

                               (a symlink to lib<name>/so/X/Y/Z)

The dynamic loader uses the soname, given to a library at build time by the static linker, to find the library - this is the runtime link. When the static linker (ld) is given a library on its command line, e.g. -lUnixLib, it uses the compiler link to find the library.

The symlinks are not an OS wide solution, but merely extra functionality added to Unixlib and the static/dynamic loaders. A utility to create these symlinks is supplied.

Note that it is not mandatory to use the naming convention described above, libraries can simply be called lib<name>/so and placed in !SharedLibs.lib, however, this is not very flexible as it doesn't allow multiple versions of the same library.

Compiling code for dynamically linked executable

Compiling code for an executable that is to be dynamically linked does not require any special flags. In fact it is important that -fPIC is never used for such code. This is different from the Linux case where using -fPIC for executable code is possible, although with a minor performance cost. However, under RISC OS, -fPIC compiled code used in this manner will fail to run correctly.

Linking code for dynamically linked executable

Whether GCC generates dynamically or statically linked executables depends on what type of libraries it finds at link time. If a shared version of any required library is found then GCC will default to dynamic linking. On the other hand, if only archive (static) libraries are available, then GCC will default to static linking. If static linking is required regardless of what libraries are available, then this can be forced using the -static option.

C++ code

Compiling C++ code for dynamic linking is as above, although it is important to use the g++ compiler driver for linking as this adds the necessary options for linking against libstdc++. Global object construction/destruction is implemented and the order of execution is:

1) UnixLib initialisation

2) Shared library global object initialisation

3) Executable global object initialisation

4) main() called

5) Executable global object destruction

6) Shared library global object destruction

UnixLib is initialised before global objects which means that UnixLib resources can be used in their constructors.

Running ELF executables

ELF executables have the filetype &E1F. When such a binary is run, RISC OS uses this filetype to determine that SOMRun, a Shared Object Manager command should be called to deal with it. SOMRun examines the ELF binary to see if it is statically or dynamically linked. If the former, then it can pass control directly to the ELF binary. If on the other hand it is dynamically linked, then control passes to the dynamic loader which ensures that any libraries that are required are present. It then performs the dynamic linking before finally passing control to the binary.

The environment of the dynamic loader can be set on a per client basis by setting a RISC OS system variable with a name based on that of the executable:

<program name>$LD$Env

If the program name is !RunImage or ends in -bin (ignoring case), then the program is assumed to be an application and the application name, minus the '!' character is used instead. If a system variable based on the program name is found not to exist, then LD$Env is used instead. This allows a common environment to be shared by many clients, whilst at the same time, allowing specific clients their own.

In either case, the environment contains a space separated list of variables that the dynamic loader will use, e.g.,

set Firefox$LD$Env "LD_WARN=1 LD_LIBRARY_PATH=/Firefox:"
set LD$Env "LD_WARN=1"

If neither type of variable is defined, then the environment is assumed to be empty and ignored.

The following variables are recognised:

       Not for general use - used by ldd (which is not yet supported).
       A comma separated list of paths for finding shared libraries
       other than the standard place (which must be in RISC OS format).
       Forces the dynamic loader to resolve *all* dynamic links before
       running the binary. This is the opposite of lazy binding where
       only the functions used are resolved.
       Forces the dynamic loader to display the dependencies of the
       binary rather than run it. Also used by ldd.

The support module SOManager provides five useful commands:

SOMStatus [clients | libraries]
       If libraries (or the letter l) is given as the parameter, then list
       all libraries registered with the Shared Object Manager.
       If clients (or the letter c) is given as the parameter, then list all
       clients registered.
       Omitting the parameter lists all libraries and clients.
SOMAddress <Address in hexadecimal or decimal>
       Given an address, report the library that contains it and also
       the offset from the start of the library file where the address
       lies. If the given address is preceded by 0x, then it will be treated
       as hexadecimal otherwise it is assumed to be decimal.
SOMRun <filename>
       Examines the given ELF executable to determine whether it is dynamically
       or statically linked, and runs it accordingly.
SOMExpire [<n>h] [<n>m]
       Allows the expiry time of any libraries used in the future to be set. If
       no parameter is given, then it returns the current setting.
       Display some basic details about the last five clients to deregister.

Text relocations

Text relocations must not exist within shared libraries. Such relocations usually take the form of an absolute pointer embedded in the code of a library that points to a specific location. The dynamic loader cannot resolve a text relocation and will reject it causing the program to fail with an error similar to:

<program name>: Text relocation of data symbol 'xyz' found: (offset 0x63C0)

The error tells you which library contained the offending relocation and the offset from the start of the library file to where the relocation occurs. This makes it much easier to find the containing file and function to determine what went wrong. It's not unusual for the symbol name, as shown above, to be blank. This indicates a relocation for a compiler generated symbol.

There are a number of reasons why a text relocation may occur, for example:

a) -fPIC was not used to compile the code.

b) A static library was linked in.

c) Hand written assembler was not written with a shared library in mind.

It's possible to determine whether a library contains text relocations without requiring it to be run through the dynamic loader first. By using:

 readelf -d <library file>

the contents of the dynamic segment can be listed. If a TEXTREL entry is shown (even with a value of 0x0), then the library contains text relocations and will fail at runtime. Further information on relocations in the library can be obtained using:

 readelf -r <library file>

although which are text relocations is not often clear cut, as confusingly, they are often shown as R_ARM_RELATIVE. By using the offset field, it is usually possible to work out which relocations lie within the text segment of the library.

Known problems

ldconfig is supplied in the !SharedLibs bin directory. This is a utility used in Linux to generate the cache used by the dynamic loader and to generate library symlinks. Under RISC OS it can be used to generate the cache, but it does not yet generate the symlinks. A ready built cache is supplied, but it is still uncertain whether RISC OS benefits from the cache and ldconfig. ldconfig may be improved in the future to make it more useful, but for now it is supplied for interest only.

Dynamic linking to the SharedCLibrary is not supported due to technical difficulties, however, static linking does work.


ELF - Executable and Linking Format

Client - Program or application that is dynamically linked and registered with the Shared Object Manager.

Shared library - A collection of routines and associated data that is shared between several clients and registered with the Shared Object Manager.

Static linker - The program used to perform the last stage (usually) of generating an executable or library at build time. Under RISC OS, it is called ld and is part of GCC.

Dynamic loader - A special shared library that can dynamically link itself before doing the same to the client and the libraries the client requires.

Dynamic linking - The process by which symbols in a library are connected to another library or executable at runtime.

Object - A client or shared library.

Public R/W segment - The global data used by a library. It is part of the library, but partitioned off into a separate section. This data is never used directly by an object. Instead it is used to initialise a client's own private copy when ever required.

Private R/W segment - A section of memory created at runtime which is copied from a library's public R/W segment. Each client has its own copy of the global data for every library it uses.

PLT (Procedure Linkage Table) - A table of code entries, one for each dynamically linked function used by an object. The first entry always calls the dynamic resolver.

GOT (Global Offset Table) - A table of values that allow shared code to access global data.

Dynamic Resolver - A routine contained within the dynamic loader that is responsible for dynamically linking functions at runtime when they are first called.

Technical details

A technical view of the shared library system may be found in docs.Technical in !SharedLibs - see the latest version from SVN.

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