How to build 32/64 bit fat (universal) binaries

The OS X version of the Glasgow Haskell Compiler compiles Haskell into 32-bit code. Unfortunately, this means that if you are on a system where it is the default for libraries to be built in 64-bit mode, you tend to get errors when linking Haskell code telling you that you are trying to link 32-bit code against 64-bit code.

The best solution to this problem is to build all libraries you intend to link to from Haskell code as universal binaries that include both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of the code. These libraries will then work seamlessly with both Haskell code and also when pulled in as part of the build process for non-Haskell 64-bit executables.

If you can install the library using MacPorts, this is easy to do. Instead of doing:

sudo port install mylibrary

Just do:

sudo port install mylibrary +universal

However, if the library you want is not available through MacPorts or the MacPorts version is not up to date you will need to know how to build these universal libraries for yourself. This is the process that I aim to explain in this post. I'm going to use igraph as my example library because it's what I needed to install (I needed to install the unreleased v0.6).

The easy method

If you are lucky, building a universal library is as simple as changing how you invoke make. Run the library's configure scripts etc as usual, and then invoke make as follows:

make CXXFLAGS="-arch i386 -arch x86_64" CFLAGS="-arch i386 -arch x86_64" LDFLAGS="-arch i386 -arch x86_64"

The -arch flags tell GCC and the linker to build and link both versions of the library. If this works, you are done. In the case of igraph, this wasn't quite enough - the above command failed with this error:

gcc-4.2: -E, -S, -save-temps and -M options are not allowed with multiple -arch flags

The reason that this occurs is because igraph invokes GCC with the -M series of flags that generate makefile dependency rules from the C code - but GCC doesn't like generating those rules for two architectures simultaneously. Luckily, there was an easy workaround in my case - I just needed to reconfigure igraph as follows:

./configure --disable-dependency-tracking

The --disable-dependency-tracking flag just stops Automake from determining the dependencies of each C file as it compiles it. It is totally harmless to disable this because that dependency information is only used in order to rebuild less stuff upon subsequent invocations of make - the worst that happens when you disable it is that if you make more than once you will have to wait a bit longer. For more information on this feature see also the relevant section of the Automake manual.

After reconfiguring in this manner, the original make invocation worked correctly for igraph.

The hard method

The above method may perhaps fail for some libraries, in which case you can use this more arduous manual method. The idea is to run the library's build process from scratch twice: once to get the 32-bit library and once for the 64-bit library. We can then use the lipo to glue together the build artifacts from the two runs.

We start by building the 32-bit version:

make clean
make CXXFLAGS=-m32 CFLAGS=-m32 LDFLAGS=-m32 -j12

We now need to store the 32-bit build artifacts somewhere. Exactly which files you have to save will vary according to the library you are building, but for igraph this was sufficient:

mkdir -p ~/Junk/32 ~/Junk/64
cp src/.libs/libigraph.{a,0.dylib} ~/Junk/32

Now do the 64-bit build and once again save the artifacts somewhere:

make clean
make CXXFLAGS=-m64 CFLAGS=-m64 LDFLAGS=-m64 -j12
cp src/.libs/libigraph.{a,0.dylib} ~/Junk/64

Finally we can use lipo to finish up:

lipo -create ~/Junk/{32,64}/libigraph.a -output src/.libs/libigraph.a
lipo -create ~/Junk/{32,64}/libigraph.0.dylib -output src/.libs/libigraph.0.dylib

At this point, you can do sudo make install and get a universal version of the library installed.

If you want to check that your libraries are indeed universal, you can use lipo -info:

$ lipo -info src/.libs/libigraph.a
Architectures in the fat file: src/.libs/libigraph.a are: i386 x86_64


Building universal 32-bit/64-bit binaries is apparently fairly straightforward but it was tricky to find documentation for the process. I hope this article helps others who need to get this done.

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