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Date: Fri, 6 Mar 2015 17:24:15 -0500
From: Rich Felker <>
Subject: Re: libintl: stubs or working functions?

On Thu, Mar 05, 2015 at 04:36:49PM +0700, Рысь wrote:
> I noticed that musl had got some gettext functions as a lightweight and
> more saner interface. However, I now have a couple questions about them
> as ordinary user.
> A bit of history.
> I had successfully built and used custom x86 musl based X11 root which
> uses both Xfbdev and Xorg servers on different machines. It is based on
> my previous musl on servers experience, just added X11 and major gui
> libraries on top of it.
> My root attracted a user because of it's small size to fit into budget
> netbook with very small disk size (about 4GB I think). The problem is
> that user does not speak (and understand) English at all, but he accepts
> my preferred program set which I preinstalled into root.
> So I faced a problem: I had built this root for myself and everywhere I
> did seen "--disable-nls" in configure scripts I used it. Now, I tried
> to rebuild untranslated programs, noticed that translation files (.po
> -> *.gmo) were created and installed in /local/share/locale/.
> However, trying to define LC_ALL and LANG environment variables as in
> most of glibc systems does not change anything. The programs still
> English translated.
> And a couple questions here:
> * Did I understand that right that I do not need GNU gettext anymore and
>   I can use musl's interface for that?

Yes, modulo some GNU software (coreutils for example) that probes for
glibc/gnu-libintl internals at configure time and depends on
poorly-designed and undocumented features (SYSDEP strings). These
programs will not work without either GNU libintl or patching out the
bad parts of configure and using a version of msgfmt that works around
the need for SYSDEP strings. I believe the one from sabotage
gettext-tiny does.

> * Do I still need original GNU gettext to translate *.po's to *.gmo's?
>   (I used gettext-tiny)

gettext-tiny is preferable as long as it works. As mentioned above it
even works around the SYSDEP strings issue.

> * If musl can handle that, how I should configure it? Are environment
>   variables work?

For translations of musl itself (which don't exist yet) the
MUSL_LOCPATH environment variable needs to be set. But most programs
that use gettext hard-code their own pathnames for passing to
bindtextdomain, and this is the documented correct way to use the API.
So there is no default gettext path in musl.

> Whole story and questions may be stupid if I misunderstand the purpose
> of those functions, so sorry.

Not stupid at all. Hope the above helps. Let me know if you have any
more questions.

If you find that lack of translations for the messages from musl
itself (errno strings, etc.) is a problem, I can try to help you with
producing a locale file for musl. I want to get a musl-locales project
started and it would be nice to have a trial run-through.


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