Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 5th Nov 2009 23:05 UTC
Linux As we all know, Mac OS X has support for what is called 'fat binaries'. These are binaries that can carry code for for instance multiple architectures - in the case of the Mac, PowerPC and x86. Ryan Gordon was working on an implementation of fat binaries for Linux - but due to the conduct of the Linux maintainers, Gordon has halted the effort.
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RE[5]: Always On the Cards
by sbenitezb on Fri 6th Nov 2009 09:18 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: Always On the Cards"
sbenitezb
Member since:
2005-07-22

A fat binary is not a complete solution, it is not even a partial solution but it is perhaps a beginning to a solution.


Complete nonsense. You still need to compile all that stuff you put in the binary, how is that gonna help you? The only practical solution is static linking, which is what most should really do. For example, you can download and install Opera qt4 statically compiled and it will work regardless of distribution. The same with skype, and some other closed software. So it's not impossible to do it, and yes, you need testing.

Reply Parent Score: 2

setec_astronomy Member since:
2007-11-17

Spot on.

I would like to add that in this discussion, two separate problem fields got mixed up.

The first on is concerned with providing an - ideally ? - unified binary for a range of "hardware architectures", e.g. the ARM notebook / scrabble game example from the comment above comes to mind.
As others have already pointed out, it is difficult to sell the advantages of a "fatELF" while all the costs and problems inherent with such a solution could be avoided if you solve the problem where it actually occurs, namely at the point of software distribution.
If you download, for example, Acrobat reader, the script operating the download form tries to guess the right system parameters and automatically provides the "correct" / "most likely" binary to match your needs. Additionally, advanced users can manually select the right binary for their environment from a - given the number of Linux distros out there - surprisingly small number of binaries and be done with it.

This, plus the possibility to choose an approach similar to the one used by the world of goo developers are less invasive to the target system and are, if done well, more convenient for the end user.

The second, somehow orthogonal, problem set is the large level of dispersion when it comes to what actually is an Linux based operating system (e.g. what is sometimes referred to as "distro" or "dependency hell"). It is imho crucial to get rid of the idea that from the point of view of an ISV, there is something like an "operating system". What the application developer relies on is a set of "sandboxes" that provide the necessary interface for the particular program to run.

In the case of MS Windows or Mac OSX, there is - in essence - a rather small number of "blessed" sandboxes provided by the vendor that allow ISV's to easily target these operating systems. The reason for the small number of these sandboxes is imho related to the fact that there is, essentially, only one vendor deciding what is proper and what is not, e.g. it's more a cultural difference and less a technical one. Failing to address the fact that - for example - Linux based operating systems live and operate in an environment with multiple vendors of comparable influence and importance and multiple, equally valid and reasonable answers to the question of "which components 'exactly' should go into our operating systems and how do we combine them" misses the mark a little bit. Diversity between the different distros is not some kind of nasty bug that crept into our ecosystem, it is a valid and working answer to the large number of different needs and usage patterns of end users. Moreover, it is kind of inevitable to face this problem sooner or later in an where players rely on compability at the source code level and the (legal and technical) ability to mix and mash different code bases to get their job done.

If an ISV is unwilling or unable to participate in this ecosystem by providing source-level compability (e.g. open sourcing the necessary parts that are needed to interface the surrounding environment), they have a number of options at their hands:

- Target a cross-platform toolkit like for example Qt4, thus replacing a large number of small sandboxes with one rather large one, which is either provided by the operating system (e.g. distro) or statically linked.

- Use a JIT compiled / interpreted / bytecoded run-time environment, again abstracting large numbers of sandboxes into the "interpreter" and again rely on the operating system to provide a compatible rte or additionally ship your own for a number of interesting platforms.

- Use something like for example libwine

- Rely on a reasonable and conservative base set of sandboxes (e.g. think LSB) and carry the remainder of your dependencies in the form of statically linked libraries with you. There are problematic fields, like for example audio - Skype and Flash are notoriously problematic in this department - but the binary format of an executable strikes me to be a rather bad place to fix this problem.

Reply Parent Score: 6

RE[6]: Always On the Cards
by segedunum on Fri 6th Nov 2009 14:19 in reply to "RE[5]: Always On the Cards"
segedunum Member since:
2005-07-06

Complete nonsense. You still need to compile all that stuff you put in the binary, how is that gonna help you?

That's because you have no idea what the problem actually is, as most people or even developers fannying about on forums like this don't.

The problem is not compilation and I don't know why various idiots around here keep repeating that. It never has been. The cost in time, resources and money has always been in the actual deployment. Packaging for a specific environment, testing it and supporting it for its lifetime is a damn big commitment. If you're not sure what is going to happen once it's deployed then you're not going to do it.

The only practical solution is static linking, which is what most should really do.

You lose all the obvious benefits of any kind of package, architecture or installation management system which ISVs effectively have to start writing themselves, at least in part. We're no further forward than what Loki had to cobble together years ago, and for vendors whose business does not depend on Linux it is something they will never go do. Why would they when other more popular platforms provide what they want?

In addition, it's never entirely clear what it is that you need to statically link and include in your package. You might detect installed system packages manually and then dynamically load in and then fall back to whatever you have bundled statically with your package, but the potential for divergences in that from a support point of view should be very obvious.

For example, you can download and install Opera qt4 statically compiled and it will work regardless of distribution. The same with skype, and some other closed software. So it's not impossible to do it, and yes, you need testing.

Hmmmm. I thought you were complaining about the disk space that FatELF would consume at some point.........

Anyway, just because some can do it it doesn't make it any less crap. It is hardly the road to the automated installation approach that is required.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[7]: Always On the Cards
by sbenitezb on Fri 6th Nov 2009 15:13 in reply to "RE[6]: Always On the Cards"
sbenitezb Member since:
2005-07-22

The problem is not compilation and I don't know why various idiots around here keep repeating that. It never has been.


Oh no, sure it isn't. You can compile for any architecture and every set of libraries for every single distro out there withing your own Ubuntu distro with just one click.. oh wait...

The cost in time, resources and money has always been in the actual deployment. Packaging for a specific environment, testing it and supporting it for its lifetime is a damn big commitment. If you're not sure what is going to happen once it's deployed then you're not going to do it.


Of course. Not only with Linux, also with Windows and OS X and it's different versions. In Linux is even more difficult because you don't know what libraries are available and which versions, etc.

"The only practical solution is static linking, which is what most should really do.

You lose all the obvious benefits of any kind of package, architecture or installation management system which ISVs effectively have to start writing themselves, at least in part. We're no further forward than what Loki had to cobble together years ago, and for vendors whose business does not depend on Linux it is something they will never go do. Why would they when other more popular platforms provide what they want?
"

There is another option, like providing your own .so files in the same package, as a catch all solution for the not so common distros.

In addition, it's never entirely clear what it is that you need to statically link and include in your package. You might detect installed system packages manually and then dynamically load in and then fall back to whatever you have bundled statically with your package, but the potential for divergences in that from a support point of view should be very obvious.


How about statically compiling those rare libraries the app may be using?

"For example, you can download and install Opera qt4 statically compiled and it will work regardless of distribution. The same with skype, and some other closed software. So it's not impossible to do it, and yes, you need testing.

Hmmmm. I thought you were complaining about the disk space that FatELF would consume at some point.........
"

In a totally different topic. FatELFs for all binaries installed is not the same as installing one or two closed source application that is statically compiled and may only add a couple more megabytes to your install.

Anyway, just because some can do it it doesn't make it any less crap. It is hardly the road to the automated installation approach that is required.


There are no automatic installation for not homogenoeous systems. This is not an Apple developed OS. The heterogeneity of Linux systems makes things difficult. There's no need to make them even harder implementing cruft that doesn't solve the problem at hand, the problem at hand being: all distro behave different.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[7]: Always On the Cards
by vivainio on Fri 6th Nov 2009 18:00 in reply to "RE[6]: Always On the Cards"
vivainio Member since:
2008-12-26

The cost in time, resources and money has always been in the actual deployment. Packaging for a specific environment, testing it and supporting it for its lifetime is a damn big commitment. If you're not sure what is going to happen once it's deployed then you're not going to do it.


I don't see how fat binaries would solve any of this (testing, support, ...).

Reply Parent Score: 5