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Re: crossbuild support: help2man considered harmful

On Tue, 6 Nov 2007 13:04:48 +0000
Neil Williams <codehelp@debian.org> wrote:

> This thread will discuss the type of changes that are needed, which
> packages are affected and how these bugs will be identified.

I've come across one issue: help2man

If packages (like coreutils) use 'help2man' during the build, help2man
tries to execute the compiled binary to get the error output to make
into the manpage. Needless to say executing the compiled binary in a
cross-build causes a build failure.

Emdebian can get around this but the patch is a hack really - it removes
'man' from the SUBDIRS list in the top level Makefile.am because we
don't want the manpages anyway.

A slightly better solution would be a ./configure option to disable the

One step better would be to only use help2man *upstream* and package
the manpages in the .orig.tar.gz

IMHO, the best solution is simply not to use help2man at all but use
doclifter and xsltproc or some other method (docbook-2-man,
docbook-xsl) or whatever - anything that works with plain text files
and does not try to execute the compiled binaries.

Just a heads-up to anyone thinking of using help2man in their build -
if the package is likely to be used in an embedded environment, you can
expect a bug report from me. :-)

One thing that confuses me - help2man is optional so why is it part of
the default pbuilder chroot ?

(I'll be removing it from the list of packages allowed in the
cross-building chroot based on pbuilder.)


Neil Williams

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