[opam-devel] Managing $PKG_CONFIG_PATH in opam

Tim Cuthbertson tim at gfxmonk.net
Tue Sep 15 12:49:55 BST 2015

On Sun, Sep 13, 2015 at 11:07 PM, Thomas Leonard <talex5 at gmail.com> wrote:
> On 12 September 2015 at 08:49, Tim Cuthbertson <tim at gfxmonk.net> wrote:
>> On the MirageOS mailing list, I submitted some patches[0] to make some
>> mirage libraries build without assuming a strict `opam` destination
>> directory layout. Mainly this was about the build scripts explicitly
>> setting PKG_CONFIG_PATH to `opam config var prefix`/lib/pkgconfig.
>> When building in a nixpkgs environment (using the `opam2nix` tool I'm
>> building[1]), there is no such path, but that's OK - the build
>> environment will have already set $PKG_CONFIG_PATH correctly.
>> [0] http://lists.xenproject.org/archives/html/mirageos-devel/2015-09/msg00000.html
>> [1] https://github.com/gfxmonk/opam2nix
>> It was generally agreed that having the build scripts perform this
>> task is not ideal, and Thomas Leonard suggested we could change `opam`
>> itself to export $PKG_CONFIG_PATH, rather than having build scripts
>> assume too much about their environment. That way a build script can
>> assume its pkg-config dependencies are available without caring
>> exactly where they live.
>> This seems like a good idea to me, and I've written up a fairly simple
>> patch which (I think) will do so:
>> https://github.com/ocaml/opam/compare/master...gfxmonk:pkg-config
>> I have only superficially tested it, but in thinking about that it
>> seems like this almost certainly won't be enough. All "pure" opam
>> packages providing pkg-config libraries should work just fine, however
>> there exist a large number of opam packages (conf-*) which exist
>> solely to force installation of system packages, and therefore most of
>> them actually rely on the system $PKG_CONFIG_PATH being used.
>> We could make `opam` prefix the opam pkgconfig path with the system
>> one, but this could lead to accidental impurity (in the case of these
>> mirage libraries, it would mean that dependencies might accidentally
>> be provided by the system rather than opam deps, which makes builds
>> fragile).
> Since the opam environment is also the user's shell environment, we
> should always add to the path, I think. Using opam shouldn't prevent
> compiling non-OCaml software.

One of the main points in favour of the current approach is that a
build script setting `PKG_CONFIG_PATH=`opam config var
prefix`/lib/pkgconfig` ensures that all dependencies are satisfied by
opam (and not accidentally satisfied by system dependencies). You lose
that assurance with my patches, and also if you go the approach of
only adding to the path. So would this actually be acceptable to those
mirage packages? Or would you still want to explicitly override
$PKG_CONFIG_PATH to get this additional assurance?

 - Tim.

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