Use case: use Debian Stable as an environment to run amd64 development machines to develop Qt applications for Raspberry Pi or other smallish armhf devices.

Qt Creator is used as Integrated Development Environment, and it supports cross-compiling, running the built source on the target system, and remote debugging.

Debian Stable (vanilla or Raspbian) runs on both the host and the target systems, so libraries can be kept in sync, and both systems have access to a vast amount of libraries, with security support.

On top of that, armhf libraries can be installed with multiarch also in the host machine, so cross-builders have access to the exact same libraries as the target system.

This sounds like a dream system. But. We're not quite there yet.

cross-compile attempts

I tried cross compiling a few packages:

$ sudo debootstrap stretch cross
$ echo "strech_cross" | sudo tee cross/etc/debian_chroot
$ sudo systemd-nspawn -D cross
# dpkg --add-architecture armhf
# echo "deb-src stretch main" >> /etc/apt/sources.list
# apt update
# apt install --no-install-recommends build-essential crossbuild-essential-armhf

Some packages work:

# apt source bc
# cd bc-1.06.95/
# apt-get build-dep -a armhf .
# dpkg-buildpackage -aarmhf -j2 -b
dh_auto_configure -- --prefix=/usr --with-readline
        ./configure --build=x86_64-linux-gnu --prefix=/usr --includedir=\${prefix}/include --mandir=\${prefix}/share/man --infodir=\${prefix}/share/info --sysconfdir=/etc --localstatedir=/var --disable-silent-rules --libdir=\${prefix}/lib/arm-linux-gnueabihf --libexecdir=\${prefix}/lib/arm-linux-gnueabihf --disable-maintainer-mode --disable-dependency-tracking --host=arm-linux-gnueabihf --prefix=/usr --with-readline
dpkg-deb: building package 'dc-dbgsym' in '../dc-dbgsym_1.06.95-9_armhf.deb'.
dpkg-deb: building package 'bc-dbgsym' in '../bc-dbgsym_1.06.95-9_armhf.deb'.
dpkg-deb: building package 'dc' in '../dc_1.06.95-9_armhf.deb'.
dpkg-deb: building package 'bc' in '../bc_1.06.95-9_armhf.deb'.
 dpkg-genbuildinfo --build=binary
 dpkg-genchanges --build=binary >../bc_1.06.95-9_armhf.changes
dpkg-genchanges: info: binary-only upload (no source code included)
 dpkg-source --after-build bc-1.06.95
dpkg-buildpackage: info: binary-only upload (no source included)

With qmake based Qt packages, qmake is not configured for cross-building, probably because it is not currently supported:

# apt source pumpa
# cd pumpa-0.9.3/
# apt-get build-dep -a armhf .
# dpkg-buildpackage -aarmhf -j2 -b
        qmake -makefile -nocache "QMAKE_CFLAGS_RELEASE=-g -O2 -fdebug-prefix-map=/root/pumpa-0.9.3=.
          -fstack-protector-strong -Wformat -Werror=format-security -Wdate-time -D_FORTIFY_SOURCE=2"
          "QMAKE_CFLAGS_DEBUG=-g -O2 -fdebug-prefix-map=/root/pumpa-0.9.3=. -fstack-protector-strong
          -Wformat -Werror=format-security -Wdate-time -D_FORTIFY_SOURCE=2"
          "QMAKE_CXXFLAGS_RELEASE=-g -O2 -fdebug-prefix-map=/root/pumpa-0.9.3=. -fstack-protector-strong
          -Wformat -Werror=format-security -Wdate-time -D_FORTIFY_SOURCE=2"
          "QMAKE_CXXFLAGS_DEBUG=-g -O2 -fdebug-prefix-map=/root/pumpa-0.9.3=. -fstack-protector-strong
          -Wformat -Werror=format-security -Wdate-time -D_FORTIFY_SOURCE=2"
          "QMAKE_LFLAGS_RELEASE=-Wl,-z,relro -Wl,-z,now"
          "QMAKE_LFLAGS_DEBUG=-Wl,-z,relro -Wl,-z,now" QMAKE_STRIP=: PREFIX=/usr
qmake: could not exec '/usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/qt5/bin/qmake': No such file or directory
debian/rules:19: recipe for target 'build' failed
make: *** [build] Error 2
dpkg-buildpackage: error: debian/rules build gave error exit status 2

With cmake based Qt packages it goes a little better in that it finds the cross compiler, pkg-config and some multiarch paths, but then it tries to run armhf moc, which fails:

# apt source caneda
# cd caneda-0.3.0/
# apt-get build-dep -a armhf .
# dpkg-buildpackage -aarmhf -j2 -b
          -DCMAKE_SYSTEM_PROCESSOR=arm -DCMAKE_C_COMPILER=arm-linux-gnueabihf-gcc
CMake Error at /usr/lib/arm-linux-gnueabihf/cmake/Qt5Core/Qt5CoreConfig.cmake:27 (message):
  The imported target "Qt5::Core" references the file


  but this file does not exist.  Possible reasons include:

  * The file was deleted, renamed, or moved to another location.

  * An install or uninstall procedure did not complete successfully.

  * The installation package was faulty and contained


  but not all the files it references.

Note: Although I improvised a chroot to be able to fool around with it, I would use pbuilder or sbuild to do the actual builds.

Helmut suggests pbuilder --host-arch or sbuild --host.

Doing it the non-Debian way

This guide in the meantime explains how to set up a cross-compiling Qt toolchain in a rather dirty way, by recompiling Qt pointing it at pieces of the Qt deployed on the Raspberry Pi.

Following that guide, replacing the CROSS_COMPILE value with /usr/bin/arm-linux-gnueabihf- gave me a working qtbase, for which it is easy to create a Kit for Qt Creator that works, and supports linking applications with Debian development packages that do not use Qt.

However, at that point I need to recompile all dependencies that use Qt myself, and I quickly got stuck at that monster of QtWebEngine, whose sources embed the whole of Chromium.

Having a Qt based development environment in which I need to become the maintainer for the whole Qt toolchain is not a product I can offer to a customer. Cross compiling qmake based packages on stretch is not currently supported, so at the moment I had to suggest to postpone all plans for total world domination for at least two years.

Cross-building Debian

In the meantime, Helmut Grohne has been putting a lot of effort into making Debian packages cross-buildable:

helmut> enrico: yes, cross building is painful. we have ~26000 source packages. of those, ~13000 build arch-dep packages. of those, ~6000 have cross-satisfiable build-depends. of those, I tried cross building ~2300. of those 1300 cross built. so we are at about 10% working.

helmut> enrico: plus there are some 607 source packages affected by some 326 bugs with patches.

helmut> enrico: gogo nmu them

helmut> enrico: I've filed some 1000 bugs (most of them with patches) now. around 600 are fixed :)

He is doing it mostly alone, and I would like people not to be alone when they do a lot of work in Debian, so…

Join Helmut in the effort of making Debian cross-buildable!

Build any Debian package for any device right from the comfort of your own work computer!

Have a single development environment seamlessly spanning architecture boundaries, with the power of all that there is in Debian!

Join Helmut in the effort of making Debian cross-buildable!

Apply here, or join #debian-bootstrap on OFTC!

Cross-building Qt in Debian

mitya57 summarised the situation on the KDE team side:

mitya57> we have cross-building stuff on our TODO list, but it will likely require a lot of time and neither Lisandro nor I have it currently.

mitya57> see for a summary of what needs to be done.

mitya57> Any help or patches are always welcome :))


Helmut also suggested to use qemu-user-static to make the host system able to run binaries compiled for the target system, so that even if a non-cross-compiling Qt build tries to run moc and friends in their target architecture version, they would transparently succeed.

At that point, it would just be a matter of replacing compiler paths to point to the native cross-compiling gcc, and the build would not be slowed down by much.

Fixing bug #781226 would help in making it possible to configure a multiarch version of qmake as the qmake used for cross compiling.

I have not had a chance of trying to cross-build in this way yet.

In the meantime...

Having qtcreator able to work on an amd64 devel machine and deploy/test/debug remotely on an arm target machine, where both machine run debian stable and have libraries in sync, would be a great thing to have even though packages do not cross-build yet.

Helmut summarised the situation on IRC:

svuorela and others repeat that Qt upstream is not compatible with Debian's multiarch thinking, in that Qt upstream insists on having one toolchain for each pair of architectures, whereas the Debian way tends to be to make packages generic and split stuff such that it can be mixed and matched.

An example being that you need to run qmake (thus you need qmake for the build architecture), but qmake also embeds the relevant paths and you need to query it for them (so you need qmake for the host architecture)

Either you run it through qemu, or you have a particular cross qmake for your build/host pair, or you fix qt upstream to stop this madness

Building qmake in Debian for each host-target pair, even just limited to released architectures, would mean building Qt 100 times, and that's not going to scale.

I wonder:

pdo debian eng

2017-09-27 15:25:00+02:00