Saturday, May 19, 2007

Static linking : library options in command line

In my last post I asked why it's advised that library options be the last in the command line in case of static linking.

Here is the explanation:
The symbols on the command line are resolved from left to right.
Stating linking looks through the static library for "undefined" symbols when it is processed.
Now in case of

cc -lfoo hello.c

there are no undefined symbols when libfoo.a gets processed and so nothing gets extracted from it. When the object file is processed, it doesn't find any symbol and it gives an error "Undefined symbol"
If hello.c is put before -lfoo as in

cc hello.c -lfoo

there are undefined symbols when libfoo gets processed and so they get extracted. This works fine.

Dynamic linking doesn't have this issue as all symbols are available through the virtual address space of the output file.
Static libraries have other issues like bigger executable size, and lack of ABI ( application needs to be relinked with each new version of the library).
One advantage of having static libraries is that the executables linked to them are somewhat faster at runtime because all the linking occurs before loadtime. This helps in benchmarking. Math library libm is provided as a shared object (libm.so) as well as static library (archive libm.a) since benchmarking makes a heavy use of this library.

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