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GNU Compiler Collection (GCC) Internals

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5.1 Configure Terms and History

The configure and build process has a long and colorful history, and can be confusing to anyone who doesn't know why things are the way they are. While there are other documents which describe the configuration process in detail, here are a few things that everyone working on GCC should know.

There are three system names that the build knows about: the machine you are building on (build), the machine that you are building for (host), and the machine that GCC will produce code for (target). When you configure GCC, you specify these with `--build=', `--host=', and `--target='.

Specifying the host without specifying the build should be avoided, as configure may (and once did) assume that the host you specify is also the build, which may not be true.

If build, host, and target are all the same, this is called a native. If build and host are the same but target is different, this is called a cross. If build, host, and target are all different this is called a canadian (for obscure reasons dealing with Canada's political party and the background of the person working on the build at that time). If host and target are the same, but build is different, you are using a cross-compiler to build a native for a different system. Some people call this a host-x-host, crossed native, or cross-built native. If build and target are the same, but host is different, you are using a cross compiler to build a cross compiler that produces code for the machine you're building on. This is rare, so there is no common way of describing it (although I propose calling it a crossback).

If build and host are the same, the GCC you are building will also be used to build the target libraries (like libstdc++). If build and host are different, you must have already build and installed a cross compiler that will be used to build the target libraries (if you configured with `--target=foo-bar', this compiler will be called foo-bar-gcc).

In the case of target libraries, the machine you're building for is the machine you specified with `--target'. So, build is the machine you're building on (no change there), host is the machine you're building for (the target libraries are built for the target, so host is the target you specified), and target doesn't apply (because you're not building a compiler, you're building libraries). The configure/make process will adjust these variables as needed. It also sets $with_cross_host to the original `--host' value in case you need it.

The libiberty support library is built up to three times: once for the host, once for the target (even if they are the same), and once for the build if build and host are different. This allows it to be used by all programs which are generated in the course of the build process.


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