-*- Outline -*-
Read this file if you are a Debian Developer or would like to become
one, or if you would like to create your own binary packages of GCC.
From the GCC sources, Debian currently builds 3 source packages and
almost 100 binary packages, using a single set of build scripts. The
3 source packages are:
gcc-x.y: C, C++, Fortran, Objective-C and Objective-C++, plus many
common libraries like libssp and libgcc.
The way we do this is quite peculiar, so listen up :)
When we build from the gcc-x.y source package, we produce, among many
others, a gcc-x.y-source binary package that contains the pristine
upstream tarball and some Debian-specific patches. Any user can then
install this package on their Debian system, and will have the full
souces in /usr/src/gcc-x.y/gcc-<timestamp>.tar.bz2, along with the
Makefile snippets that unpack and patch them.
The intended use for this package is twofold: (a) allow users to build
their own cross-compilers, and (b) build the other two packages,
gcj-x.y and gnat-x.y.
- gcc-x.y requires only a C compiler to build and produces C, C++,
Fortran, Go and Objective-C compilers and libraries. It also
produces the binary package gcc-x.y-source containing all the
sources and patches in a tarball.
- gcj-x.y build-depends on gcc-x.y-source and C++ and Java compilers.
Its .orig.tar.bz2 file only contains an empty directory; the real
sources from which it builds the binary packages are in
- gnat-x.y build-depends on gcc-x.y-source and an Ada compiler. It
does not even have an .orig.tar.bz2 package; it is a Debian native
The benefits of this split are many:
- bootstrapping a subset of languages is much faster than
bootstrapping all languages and libraries (which can take a full
week on slow architectures like mips or arm)
- the language maintainers don't have to wait for each other
- for new ports, the absence of a port of, say, gnat-x.y does not
block the porting of gcc-x.y.
gcc-x.y-source is also intended for interested users to build
cross-compiler packages. Debian cannot provide all possible
cross-compiler packages (i.e. all possible host, target, language and
library combinations), so instead tries to facilitate building them.
* The build sequence
As for all other Debian packages, you build GCC by calling
The first thing debian/rules does it to look at the top-most entry in
debian/changelog: this tells it which source package it is building.
For example, if the first entry in debian/changelog reads:
gcj-4.3 (4.3-20070609-1) unstable; urgency=low
* Upload as gcj-4.3.
-- Ludovic Brenta <firstname.lastname@example.org> Tue, 26 Jun 2007 00:26:42 +0200
then, debian/rules will build only the Java binary packages.
The second step is to build debian/control from debian/control.m4 and
a complex set of rules specified in debian/rules.conf. The resulting
control file contains only the binary packages to be built.
The third step is to select which patches to apply (this is done in
debian/rules.defs), and then to apply the selected patches (see
debian/rules.patch). The result of this step is a generated
debian/patches/series file for use by quilt.
The fourth step is to unpack the GCC source tarball. This tarball is
either in the build directory (when building gcc-x.y), or in
/usr/src/gcc-x.y/gcc-x.y.z.tar.xz (when building the other source
The fifth step is to apply all patches to the unpacked sources with
The sixth step is to create a "build" directory, cd into it, call
../src/configure, and bootstrap the compiler and libraries selected.
This is in debian/rules2.
The seventh step is to call "make install" in the build directory:
this installs the compiler and libraries into debian/tmp
(i.e. debian/tmp/usr/bin/gcc, etc.)
The eighth step is to run the GCC test suite. This actually takes at
least as much time as bootstrapping, and you can disable it by setting
WITHOUT_CHECK to "yes" in the environment.
The ninth step is to build the binary packages, i.e. the .debs. This
is done by a set of language- and architecture-dependent Makefile
snippets in the debian/rules.d/ directory, which move files from the
debian/tmp tree to the debian/<package> trees.
* Making your own packages
In this example, we will build our own gnat-x.y package.
1) Install gcc-x.y-source, which contains the real sources:
# aptitude install gcc-x.y-source
2) Create a build directory:
$ mkdir gnat-x.y-x.y.z; cd gnat-x.y-x.y.z
3) Checkout from Subversion:
$ svn checkout svn://svn.debian.org/gcccvs/branches/sid/gcc-x.y/debian
4) Edit the debian/changelog file, adding a new entry at the top that
starts with "gnat-x.y".
5) Generate the debian/control file, adjusted for gnat:
$ debian/rules control
You need a powerful machine to build GCC. The larger, the better.
The build scripts take advantage of as many CPU threads as are
available in your box (for example: 2 threads on a dual-core amd64; 4
threads on a dual-core POWER5; 32 threads on an 8-core UltraSPARC T1,
If you have 2 GB or more of physical RAM, you can achieve maximum
performance by building in a tmpfs, like this:
1) as root, create the new tmpfs:
# mount -t tmpfs -o size=1280m none /home/lbrenta/src/debian/ram
By default, the tmpfs will be limited to half your physical RAM. The
beauty of it is that it only consumes as much physical RAM as
necessary to hold the files in it; deleting files frees up RAM.
2) As your regular user, create the working directory in the tmpfs
$ cp --archive ~/src/debian/gcc-x.y-x.y.z ~/src/debian/ram
3) Build in there. On my dual-core, 2 GHz amd64, it takes 34 minutes
to build gnat, and the tmpfs takes 992 MiB of physical RAM but
exceeds 1 GiB during the build.
Note that the build process uses a lot of temporary files. Your $TEMP
directory should therefore also be in a ram disk. You can achieve
that either by mounting it as tmpfs, or by setting TEMP to point to
Also note that each thread in your processor(s) will run a compiler in
it and use up RAM. Therefore your physical memory should be:
Physical_RAM >= 1.2 + 0.4 * Threads (in GiB)
(this is an estimate; your mileage may vary). If you have less
physical RAM than recommended, reduce the number of threads allocated
to the build process, or do not use a tmpfs to build.
* Patching GCC
Debian applies a large number of patches to GCC as part of the build
process. It uses quilt but the necessary debian/patches/series is not
part of the packaging scripts; instead, "debian/rules patch" generates
this file by looking at debian/control (which is itself generated!),
debian/changelog and other files. Then it applies all the patches.
At this point, you can use quilt as usual:
$ cd ~/src/debian/gcc-x.y
$ export QUILT_PATCHES=$PWD/debian/patches
$ quilt series
If you add new patches, remember to add them to the version control
Ludovic Brenta, 2012-04-02.