Distcc Cross-Compiling


Disclaimer: This guide will appear vague and incomplete if you aren't sure what you're doing. This is intentional. This is specifically not designed for users new to software compilation and toolchain components.

This is the official cross-compiling method used at Arch Linux ARM. If you plan on building a lot of packages and want to speed up the process, the following guide will turn an x86 Linux computer into an ARM cross-compiler. It's also much easier than most cross-compile setups.

This guide makes use of distcc in order to not have to build a full ARM development environment on x86. As the distcc project website states, "distcc does not require all machines to share a filesystem, have synchronized clocks, or to have the same libraries or header files installed." This is particularly advantageous to us since all that is needed is a working cross-compiler for ARM on a faster machine, while controlling the build from an ARM computer that has all of the current libraries and headers.


Before beginning, a distcc environment needs to be set up. Follow the Distributed Compiling guide to establish a master device. The x86 machines will be known as the clients.

Pre-built crosstool-ng toolchains

In lieu of building the toolchain as detailed below, if you are running a 64-bit Linux installation you can use these packaged toolchains that are employed in the official build system.

It is highly recommended to use these tarballs as they have been thoroughly tested, and are maintained to be version- and source-matched to the current toolchain components for our ARM architectures. If you build the toolchain yourself, you must assemble patched source tarballs to build versions that match what is in use here.

If you want to save yourself time and configuration, see WarheadsSE's distccd-alarm package. This will generate 3 packages (one for each architecture), and contains configuration and systemd service units for each. It is for x86_64 only, like these toolchain tarballs.

Install crosstool-ng

This process is very automated, courtesy of crosstool-ng. As a normal user (not root!), clone revision 1dbb06f of the git repository into a directory called "cross" in your home directory. Enter the source directory and configure with a prefix for the "cross" directory, make, and make install. If you are missing any pre-requisites, the configure script will let you know what they are.

mkdir -p cross/src
cd cross
git clone https://github.com/crosstool-ng/crosstool-ng.git
cd crosstool-ng
git checkout 1dbb06f
./configure --prefix=/home/your_user/cross
make install

At this point crosstool-ng is ready to be configured. The program "ct-ng" in the "bin" directory is where the magic happens. It also has a menu configuration like the Linux kernel.

Downloading a CrossTool Configuration

Download the default .config file to place in "~/cross/bin" as shown below. Once you do this, do not run "menuconfig" or values will be overwritten. Choose either v5, v6, v7, or v8 depending on the target platform.

cd /home/your_user/cross/bin
wget http://archlinuxarm.org/builder/xtools/xtools-dotconfig-[v5|v6|v7|v8] -O .config

Build the cross-toolchain

cd /home/your_user/cross/bin
./ct-ng build

Make nice with distcc

The toolchain will install under "~/x-tools" for armv5, "~/x-tools6h" for armv6 hard-float, "~/x-tools7h" for armv7 hard-float, and "~/x-tools8" for AArch64. You can move this somewhere else if you like, or leave it where it is. Before we can use the compiler binaries that were created, links need to be created to make their names more appropriate. When compile jobs are sent to distcc, the program specified in the CC environment variable on the build master is what gets executed on the build clients. All the binaries that have been produced by crosstool-ng are in the correct format specifying the target platform as a prefix, though not with the correct platform and lacking tuple-less variants. This script will fix our problem. Make "~/x-tools[6h|7h|8]/arm-unknown-linux-gnueabi[hf]/bin/" writable and in there create a file called "link" and paste the following into it. Uncomment for your target architecture and run it.

for file in `ls`; do
        if [[ "$file" == "link" ]]; then
        # uncomment for v5
        # ln -s $file ${file#arm-unknown-linux-gnueabi-}
        # ln -s $file armv5tel-unknown-linux-gnueabi-${file#arm-unknown-linux-gnueabi-}
        # uncomment for v6
        # ln -s $file ${file#arm-unknown-linux-gnueabihf-}
        # ln -s $file armv6l-unknown-linux-gnueabihf-${file#arm-unknown-linux-gnueabihf-}
        # uncomment for v7
        # ln -s $file ${file#arm-unknown-linux-gnueabihf-}
        # ln -s $file armv7l-unknown-linux-gnueabihf-${file#arm-unknown-linux-gnueabihf-}
        # uncomment for v8
        # ln -s $file ${file#aarch64-unknown-linux-gnueabi-}
        # ln -s $file aarch64-unknown-linux-gnu-${file#aarch64-unknown-linux-gnueabi-}

Now the "bin" directory contains links with names that distcc will play nice with. To get distcc to use these binaries instead of the default system ones, we need to place this directory into the path for the distcc daemon:

After the initial header block, add this line or modify PATH if it already exists in the file. Note that we are placing our binary directory at the very front. After making the change, restart the distccd daemon.



Back on ARM "master" device, make sure that distcc has been enabled in makepkg.conf per the Distributed Compiling guide, and specify the cross-compiler computer's IP address in the DISTCC_HOSTS variable. Now all builds using makepkg will make use of the distcc and cross compiler setup.

Crap, it's not working

If you've followed this guide to the letter and you know you've done everything right, the likely problem is that the user distccd is running as does not have permission to access the location of the crosstool-ng binaries. Either change distccd's user or relocate the x-tools directory to somewhere it can read it, then be sure the PATH set above reflects the new location.

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