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Date: Tue, 27 Sep 2022 00:09:11 -0500
From: Ridley Combs <>
Cc: Rich Felker <>,
 Ryan Prichard <>,
 Colin Cross <>
Subject: Re: Running musl executables without a preinstalled dynamic

> On Sep 26, 2022, at 23:33, Colin Cross <> wrote:
> On Mon, Sep 26, 2022 at 4:12 PM Colin Cross <> wrote:
>> On Mon, Sep 26, 2022 at 4:02 PM Rich Felker <> wrote:
>>> On Mon, Sep 26, 2022 at 03:42:01PM -0700, Colin Cross wrote:
>>>> On Mon, Sep 26, 2022 at 3:38 PM Colin Cross <> wrote:
>>>>> On Tue, Aug 23, 2022 at 1:18 AM Szabolcs Nagy <> wrote:
>>>>>> * Colin Cross <> [2022-08-22 17:22:06 -0700]:
>>>>>>> On Sat, Aug 20, 2022 at 2:43 AM Szabolcs Nagy <> wrote:
>>>>>>>> i would not use Scrt1.o though, the same toolchain should be
>>>>>>>> usable for normal linking and relinterp linking, just use a
>>>>>>>> different name like Xcrt1.o.
>>>>>>> Is there some way to get gcc/clang to use Xcrt1.o without using
>>>>>>> -nostdlib and passing all the crtbegin/end objects manually?
>>>>>> this requires compiler changes (new cmdline flag) but then i think
>>>>>> the code is upstreamable.
>>>>> I've used relinterp.o for now, and selected instead of Scrt1.o in
>>>>> musl-gcc.specs and ld.musl-clang.
>>>>>>>> i would make Xcrt1.o self-contained and size optimized: it only
>>>>>>>> runs at start up, this is a different requirement from the -O3
>>>>>>>> build of normal string functions. and then there is no dependency
>>>>>>>> on libc internals (which may have various instrumentations that
>>>>>>>> does not work in Xcrt1.o).
>>>>>>> Doesn't this same logic apply to most of the code in dynlink.c?  My
>>>>>>> main worry with a self contained implementation is that it requires
>>>>>>> reimplementations of various string functions that are easy to get
>>>>>>> wrong.  The current prototype reuses the C versions of musl's string
>>>>>>> functions, but implements its own syscall wrappers to avoid
>>>>>>> interactions with musl internals like errno.
>>>>>> dynlink is in so it can use code from there.
>>>>>> but moving libc code into the executable has different constraints.
>>>>>> so you will have to make random decisions that string functions are
>>>>>> in but errno is out, wrt which libc internal makes sense in the exe.
>>>>>> i would just keep a separate implementation (or at least compile
>>>>>> the code separately). string functions are easy to implement if
>>>>>> you dont try to optimize them imo. then you have full control over
>>>>>> what is going on in the exe entry code.
>>>>> I left the reimplementations of string functions and syscalls as
>>>>> suggested.  Patch attached.
>>>> From 0df460188b95f79272003bd0e5c12bceb2a3c25f Mon Sep 17 00:00:00 2001
>>>> From: Colin Cross <>
>>>> Date: Thu, 22 Sep 2022 19:14:01 -0700
>>>> Subject: [PATCH] Add entry point to find dynamic loader relative to the
>>>> executable
>>>> Distributing binaries built against musl to systems that don't already
>>>> have musl is problematic due to the hardcoded absolute path to the
>>>> dynamic loader (e.g. /lib/ld-musl-$ in the PT_INTERP header.
>>>> This patch adds a feature to avoid the problem by leaving out PT_INTERP
>>>> and replacing Scrt1.o with an entry point that can find the dynamic
>>>> loader using DT_RUNPATH or LD_LIBRARY_PATH.
>>>> The entry point is in crt/relinterp.c.  It uses auxval to get the
>>>> program headers and find the load address of the binary, then
>>>> searches LD_LIBRARY_PATH or DT_RUNPATH for the dynamic loader.
>>>> Once found, it mmaps the loader similar to the way the kernel
>>>> does when PT_INTERP is set.  The musl loader uses PT_INTERP to set
>>>> the path to the loader in the shared library info exported to the
>>>> debugger, so relinterp creates a copy of the program headers
>>>> with the PT_INTERP entry added pointing to the found location of
>>>> the dynamic loader.  It updates AT_BASE to point to the address
>>>> of the dynamic loader, then jumps to the loaders entry point.
>>>> The dynamic loader then loads shared libraries and handles
>>>> relocations before jumping to the executable's entry point, which is
>>>> the entry point in relinterp.c again.  Relinterp detects that
>>>> relocations have been performed and calls __libc_start_main, the
>>>> same way Scrt1.o would have.
>>>> Since relinterp runs before relocations have been performed it has
>>>> to avoid referecing any libc functions.  That means reimplementing
>>>> the few syscalls and string functions that it uses, and avoiding
>>>> implicit calls to memcpy and memset that may  be inserted by the
>>>> compiler.
>>>> Enabling relinterp is handled in the spec file for gcc and in
>>>> the linker script for clang via a -relinterp argument.
>>>> Normally gdb and lldb look for a symbol named "_dl_debug_state" in
>>>> the interpreter to get notified when the dynamic loader has modified
>>>> the list of shared libraries.  When using relinterp the debugger is
>>>> not aware of the interpreter (at process launch PT_INTERP is unset
>>>> and auxv AT_BASE is 0) so it doesn't know where to look for the symbol.
>>>> They fall back to looking in the executable, so we can provide a symbol
>>>> in relinterp.c for it to find.  The dynamic loader is then modified
>>>> to also find the symbol in the exectuable and to call it from its own
>>>> _dl_debug_state function.
>>>> The same tests in libc_test pass with or without LDFLAGS += -relinterp
>>>> with both musl-gcc and musl-clang.
>>>> Ryan Prichard ( authored the original prototype
>>>> of relinterp.
>>> Have you looked at
>>> where this has already been done? It's not upstream but my
>>> understanding is that the author has been using it successfully for a
>>> long time, and it's been through some review and as I recall was at
>>> least close to acceptable for upstream.
>>> Rich
>> No, I had not seen that, and it looks to have identical functionality.
>> I'll experiment with switching to it.
> dcrt1 seems to be a perfect drop in replacement for this.  Quick
> testing shows it works for my needs on x86_64, x86, aarch64 and arm
> architectures.  I've attached a minor patch that fixes some unused
> variable and label warnings.
> <0001-Fix-unused-variable-and-label-warnings-in-dcrt1.c.patch>

Here's the current version of the patch from my fork; it already has the changes you mentioned: <>

Also notable, I have in fact tested this against glibc and it works fine with that as well; I'd imagine there's a decent chance it'd also work with bionic.

I haven't kept up with upstreaming it since it's fairly self-contained and unlikely to regularly have substantial conflicts with upstream, so it's far easier to just rebase a fork now and then than to deal with mailing-list crap, but if anybody wants to merge this, go right on ahead; I'll be happy to answer any questions or discuss any improvements on IRC (rcombs on the relevant networks), Discord (rcombs#1111), Twitter (@11rcombs), GitHub (rcombs), or wherever else is convenient. If none of those work, feel free to reach out to me directly at this address and we can figure something out.

I won't be sending any additional emails on this thread (the sender-forging the listserv will do after I send this one alone is already going to subject me to plenty of DMARC rejection notices, thank you very much). Again, happy to help in any way I can, just not via mailing list. I'm making an exception this once since you reached out directly about something I'd worked on, but in general I do my best not to interact with these things unless somebody's paying me to.


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