Certain things which the almighty CMake utility cannot do.

CMake happens to be a friend of mine. On my Linux computers, if I need to custom-compile some software, and, if that software does not come with the older ‘./configure’ scripts…, then chances are, that source tree has a ‘CMakeLists.txt’ file in its root directory. On an ‘amd64′, or an ‘i386′ -based computer, this is usually all that I need to create Makefiles, and then to compile the project.

But, I have recently run into a situation where this utility became useless to me. It was an ‘aarch64-linux-gnu’, aka, an ‘arm64′ -based Guest System, running within ‘TightVNC’, running within an Android Host System. I tried to use CMake as usual (not really trying to cross-compile anything), and was startled by what this utility next told me: That my C++ compiler was broken, because CMake could not compile a test program, that CMake, in turn, generally tests compilers with.

What I found out was, that it was not the compiler’s fault, but rather, the apparent magic that allows CMake to find the libraries, not working when run on this architecture. Hence, the compiler was failing its test, because CMake could not even discern a single library’s location, nor any other variables, that would ultimately have been relevant to the project. The compiler’s test was not even being linked to ‘libstdc++.so’.

I basically had to give up on using CMake on that platform, as well as, on custom-compiling many software projects, that would have been written by other programmers.

What I have learned however is the apparent fact, that when true experts write the ‘CMakeLists.txt’ file to do so, they can even get it to cross-compile their projects to the same platform. But those would be their projects, and not my own project.

Dirk

 

Trying to turn an ARM-64 -based, Android-hosted, prooted Linux Guest System, into a software development platform.

In a preceding posting I described, how I had used an Android app that does not require or benefit from having ‘root’, to install a Linux Guest System on a tablet, that has an ARM-64 CPU, which is referred to more precisely as an ‘aarch64-linux-gnu’ architecture. The Android app sets up a basic Linux system, but the user can use apt-get to extend it – if he chose a Debian 10 / Buster -based system as I did. And then, for the most part, the user’s ability to run software depends on how well the Debian package maintainers cross-compiled their packages to ‘AARCH64′. Yet, on some occasions, even in this situation, a user might want to write and then run his own code.

To make things worse, the main alternative to a pure text interface, is a VNC Session, based on ‘TightVNC’, by the choice of the developers of this app. On a Chromebook, I chose differently, by setting up a ‘TigerVNC’ desktop instead, but on this tablet, the choice was up to the Android developers alone. What this means is, that the Linux applications are forced to render purely in software mode.

Many factors work against writing one’s own code, that include, the fact that executables will result, that have been compiled for the ‘ARM’ CPU, and linked against Linux libraries! :-D

But one of the immediate handicaps could be, that the user might want to program in Python, but can’t get any good IDEs to run. Every free IDE I could try would segfault, and I don’t even believe that these segfaults are due to problems with my Python libraries. The IDEs were themselves written in Python, using Qt5, Gtk3 or wxWidgets modules. These types of libraries are as notorious as the Qt5 Library, for relying on GPU acceleration, which is nowhere to be found, and one reason I think this is most often the culprit, is the fact that one of the IDE’s – “Eric” – actually manages to report with a gasp, that it could not create an OpenGL rendering surface – and then Segfaults. (:3)

 

(Edit 9/15/2020, 13h50: )

I want to avoid any misinterpretations of what I just wrote. This does not happen out of nowhere, because an application developer decided to build his applications using ‘python3-pyqt5′ etc… When I give the command:

 


# apt install eric

 

Doing so pulls in many dependencies, including an offending package. (:1) Therefore, the application developer who wrote ‘Eric’ not only chose to use one of the Python GUI libraries, but chose to use OpenGL as well.

Of course, after I next give the command to remove ‘eric’, I also follow up with the command:

 


# apt autoremove

 

Just so that the offending dependencies are no longer installed.

 

(End of Edit, 9/15/2020, 13h50.)

 

Writing convoluted code is more agreeable, if at the very least we have an IDE in front of us, that can highlight certain syntax errors, and scan includes for code completion, etc. (:2)

Well, there is a Text Editor cut out for that exact situation, named “CudaText“. I must warn the reader though, that there is a learning curve with this text editor. But, just to prove that the AARCH64-ported Python 3.7 engine is not itself buggy, the text editor’s plug-in framework is written in Python 3, and as soon as the user has learned his first lesson in how to configure CudaText, the plug-in system comes to full life, and without any Segfaults, running the Guest System’s Python engine. I think CudaText is based on Gtk2.

Screenshot_20200914-124954_VNC Viewer

This might just turn out to be the correct IDE for that tablet.

 

(Updated 9/19/2020, 20h10… )

Continue reading Trying to turn an ARM-64 -based, Android-hosted, prooted Linux Guest System, into a software development platform.

Revisiting the Android, UserLAnd app.

One of the facts which I had reported some time ago was, that a handy, easy-to-use Android app exists, which is called ‘UserLAnd‘, and, that I had installed it on my Google Pixel C Tablet. As the tooltip suggests, this is an Android app that will allow people to install a basic Linux system, without requiring ‘root’. Therefore, it mounts the apparent, local Linux file system with ‘proot’ – which is similar in how it works to ‘chroot’, except that ‘proot’ does not require root by the host system to set up – and any attempts to obtain root within this Linux system really fail to change the userid, of the app that the files belong to, or of the processes running. Yet, becoming root within this sandboxed version of Linux will convince Linux, for the purpose of installing or removing packages via ‘apt-get’.

In the meantime, I have uninstalled the ‘UserLAnd’ Linux guest system from my Pixel C Tablet, in order to free up storage. But, I have set up something like this again, on my Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Tablet, which has 256GB of internal storage. Therefore, I have a few observations to add, about how this app runs under Android 10.

Through no fault of the developer of this Android app, the user is more restricted in what he can run, because Android 10 places new restrictions on regular processes. Specifically, none of the major LISP Interpreters that were designed to run under Debian 10 / Buster will run. (:1) What the Linux developers did was, to make the garbage collection of their LISP Interpreters more aggressive, through a strategy that changes the memory protection bits of memory-maps, to read-only if they belong to the state of the machine, and then, ~to try deleting as much of the bytecode as can still be deleted~. Pardon me, if my oversimplification gets some of it wrong.

Well, Android 10 no longer allows regular apps to change the protected memory state of any pages of RAM, for which reason none of the affected LISP Interpreters will run. And for that reason, neither “Maxima” nor anything that depends on Maxima can be made to run.

Yet, certain other Linux applications, notably “LibreOffice” and “Inkscape”, run just fine… So does “GIMP”…

Screenshot_20200912-171020_VNC Viewer

Also, the way in which files can be shared between theĀ  Android Host and the Linux Guest System has been changed, as the following two screen-shots show:

Screenshot_20200912-155032_VNC Viewer

Screenshot_20200912-155144_File Manager

Here, the file ‘Text-File.txt’ has been shared between Android and Linux. Larger files can also be shared in the same way, and the folder bookmarked under Linux. (:2)

In many ways, the Linux applications behave as described before, with the unfortunate exceptions I just named, and I intend to keep using this app.

Technically, a Host app that just sandboxes a Guest Application in this way, does not count as a Virtual Machine. A real VM allows processes to obtain root within the Guest System, without endangering the Host System. Also, ‘a real VM’ provides binary emulation, that makes no specific assumptions about the Guest System, other than, usually, what CPU is being used. Emulation that includes non-native CPU emulation is still a somewhat special type of emulation.

Therefore, the ability of Debian 10 / Buster to run under ‘UserLAnd’ depends, in this case, on the Linux package maintainers having cross-compiled the packages, to run on an ‘ARM-64′ CPU…

 

(Updated 9/13/2020, 21h30… )

Continue reading Revisiting the Android, UserLAnd app.

Whether it would be fair to expect, that the Debian libc6-dev package work, on an ARM-64 CPU-based device.

One of the facts which I had posted about before was, that I had installed Debian 10 / Buster on a Google Pixel C Tablet, not because that tablet has any special properties, but just to document that with that one specific configuration, the solution ‘works’. And I had gotten to the subject of wanting to install ‘libc6-dev’, which would normally install Development Libraries, on top of Run-Time Libraries, with the ultimate intention of being able to compile or custom-compile C or C++, from in front of this ARM-64 -CPU Device, for use on the same device. And even one major Debian Update later, from 10.0 to 10.1, this facility still doesn’t work.

What I’d like to comment is the idea, that this is not a fair expectation, and that the naming of these packages cannot always be expected to remain canonical. What this expectation would assume is that the general-purpose GNU Compiler will work, even though that compiler is highly optimized for targeting code that runs, either on ‘amd64′ or ‘i386′ architecture, in that order.

If the goal really was, to compile code from in front of an ARM-64 -based machine, to run on it, then a compiler would need to be selected which is meant to target the ARM-64 CPU, and this might involve installing the correct cross-compiler, even though it’s to be executed on an ARM-64. The fact that an ARM-64 version of ‘libc6-dev’ is available, really just stems from the rather nonsensical idea, that the compiler using it should run on an ARM-64, but that the linked code should not.

And then, if one has installed the correct cross-compilers, because those packages are available in ‘arm64′ versions, they will run in spite of being named cross-compilers, and then installing them will also pull in the correct development libraries. Only then, in order actually to compile anything, one would need to specify yay-long commands from the command-line. And the main reason I’ll have none of this, is the simple fact that entering many non-standard ASCII characters using an Android-oriented keyboard, does not appeal to me for the moment.

This is similar to why I don’t install ‘Web-development software’, that is compiled and available from the repositories, but that would require a long sequence of special characters to be typed in, in order to allow any sort of Web-development. And it remains consistent with having LibreOffice installed, where what gets typed, is consistent with the English language, just as what the Google Pixel C’s OEM Keyboard offers, is…

There’s an added level of weirdness that would result, if somebody was just to write and compile C or C++ to run on an ARM-64 CPU in that way: The resulting binary wouldn’t be Android-compatible. It would assume that the O/S is Linux, but with an ARM-64 CPU, just like the Guest System. Writing Android-compatible code would require, that the ‘Android Development Kit’ be installed. Due to cross-compiling by the Debian package maintainers, there just might be ‘arm64′ packages of that available, but again, with no further guarantee that it all works…


 

(Update 9/08/2019, 10h20 : )

Unfortunately, this recognition does not negate the fact, that the way certain packages have been compiled to run on an ARM-64 CPU, still contain a bug…

Continue reading Whether it would be fair to expect, that the Debian libc6-dev package work, on an ARM-64 CPU-based device.