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9. How do I set up a cross-compiler?

9.1 Available binaries

The easiest way to setup a cross-compiler is to just download the binaries. For Linux/i386 hosts and big endian targets, these are the packages:


And this is the list of packages for little endian targets:


For 64-bit MIPS kernels, there is only one package available right now:


This compiler is only available in the big endian flavor as there currently is no little endian machine supported by the 64-bit kernel. A little endian version of the compiler will be provided as soon as there is demand for one.

It's not necessary that you install all of these packages as most people can just omit the C++, Objective C and Fortran 77 compilers. The Intel binaries have been linked against GNU libc 2.1, so you may have to install that as well when upgrading.

9.2 Recommended compiler versions

Compilers older than egcs 1.1.2 are no longer supported for compiling kernels due to bugs in the generated code. At this time, we still recommend binutils 2.8.1 despite their age.

9.3 Building your own cross-compiler

First of all, go and download the following source packages:

You can obtain these files from your favorite GNU archive or Furthermore, you'll need patches. The unbundled patch files aren't always up-to-date and addional, not MIPS-specific, patches may be required for building. Note that the unbundled patch files also use a different revision numbering and it is therefore recommended that you obtain the source and patches from the RPM packages distributed on

Those are the currently recommended versions. Older versions may or may not be working. If you're trying to use older versions, please don't send bug reports because we don't care. When installing, please install things in the order of binutils, egcs, then glibc. Unless you have older versions already installed, changing the order will fail.

9.4 Disk space requirements

For the installation, you'll have to choose a directory where the files will be installed. I'll refer to that directory below with <prefix>. To avoid a particular problem, it's best to use the same value for <prefix> as your native gcc. For example, if your gcc is installed in /usr/bin/gcc, then choose /usr for <prefix>. You must use the same <prefix> value for all the packages that you're going to install.

During compilation, you'll need about 31MB disk space for binutils. For installation, you'll need 7MB disk space on <prefix>'s partition. Building egcs requires 71MB, and installation 14MB. GNU libc requires 149MB disk space during compilation, and 33MB for installation. Note, these numbers are just a guideline and may differ significantly for different processor and operating system architectures or compiler options.

9.5 Byte order

One of the special features of the MIPS architecture is that all processors except the R8000 can be configured to run either in big or in little endian mode. Byte order means the way the processor stores multibyte numbers in memory. Big endian machines store the byte with the highest value digits at the lowest address while little endian machines store it at the highest address. Think of it as writing multi-digit numbers from left to right or vice versa.

In order to setup your cross-compiler correctly, you have to know the byte order of the cross-compiler target. If you don't already know, check the section Hardware Platforms for your machine's byte order.

9.6 Configuration names

Many of the packages based on autoconf support many different architectures and operating systems. In order to differentiate between these many configurations, names are constructed with <cpu>-<company>-<os>, or even <cpu>-<company>-<kernel>-<os>. Expressed this way, the configuration names of Linux/MIPS are: mips-unknown-linux-gnu for big endian targets, or mipsel-unknown-linux-gnu for little endian targets. These names are a bit long and are allowed to be abbreviated to mips-linux or mipsel-linux. You must use the same configuration name for all packages that comprise your cross-compilation environment. Also, while other names, like mips-sni-linux or mipsel-sni-linux, are legal configuration names, use mips-linux or mipsel-linux instead. These are the configuration names known to other packages, like the Linux kernel sources, and they would otherwise have to be changed for cross-compilation.

I'll refer to the target configuration name below with <target>.

9.7 Installation of GNU Binutils.

This is the first and simplest part (at least as long as you're trying to install on any halfway-sane UNIX flavour). Just cd into a directory with enough free space and do the following:

   gzip -cd binutils-<version>.tar.gz | tar xf -
   cd binutils-<version>
   patch -p1 < ../binutils-<version>-mips.patch
   ./configure --prefix=<prefix> --target=<target>
   make CFLAGS=-O2
   make install
This usually works correctly. However, certain machines using GCC 2.7.x as compiler are known to dump core. This is a known bug in GCC and can be fixed by upgrading the host compiler to GCC 2.8.1 or better.

9.8 Assert.h

Some people have an old assert.h header file installed, probably leftover from an old cross-compiler installation. This file may cause autoconf scripts to fail silently. Assert.h was never necessary and was only installed because of a bug in older GCC versions. Check to see if the file <prefix>/<target>/include/assert.h exists in your installation. If so, just delete the it - it should never have been installed for any version of the cross-compiler and will cause trouble.

9.9 Installing the kernel sources

Installing the kernel sources is simple. Just place them into some directory of your choice and configure them. Configuring them is necessary so that files which are generated by the procedure will be installed. Make sure you enable CONFIG_CROSSCOMPILE near the end of the configuration process. The only problem you may run into is that you may need to install some required GNU programs like bash or have to override the manufacturer-provided versions of programs by placing the GNU versions earlier in the PATH variable. Now, go to the directory <prefix>/<target>/include and create two symbolic links named asm and linux pointing to include/asm rsp. include/linux within your just installed and configured kernel sources. These are necessary such that the necessary header files will be found during the next step.

9.10 First installation of egcs

Now the pain begins. There is a so-called bootstrap problem. In our case, this means that the installation process of egcs needs an already installed glibc, but we cannot compile glibc because we don't have a working cross-compiler yet. Luckily, you'll only have to go through this once when you install a cross-compiler for the first time. Later, when you already have glibc installed, things will be much smoother. So now do:

   gzip -cd egcs-1.1.2.tar.gz | tar xf -
   cd egcs-<version>
   patch -p1 < ../egcs-1.1.2-mips.patch
   ./configure --prefix=<prefix> --with-newlib --target=<target>
   make SUBDIRS="libiberty texinfo gcc" ALL_TARGET_MODULES= \
Note that we deliberately don't build gcov, protoize, unprotoize, and the libraries. Gcov doesn't make sense in a cross-compiler environment, and protoize and unprotoize might even overwrite your native programs - this is a bug in the gcc makefiles. Finally, we cannot build the libraries because we don't have glibc installed yet. If everything went successfully, install with:
   make SUBDIRS="libiberty texinfo gcc" INSTALL_TARGET_MODULES= \
           LANGUAGES="c" install

If you only want the cross-compiler for building the kernel, you're done. Cross-compiling libc is only required to be able to compile user applications.

9.11 Test what you've done so far

Just to make sure that what you've done so far is actually working, you may now try to compile the kernel. Cd to the MIPS kernel's sources and type ``make clean; make dep; make''. If everything went ok do ``make clean'' once more to clean the sources.

9.12 Installing GNU libc

Note: Building glibc 2.0.6 using a compiler newer than egcs 1.0.3a is not recommended due to binary compatibility problems which may hit certain software. It's recommended that you either use egcs 1.0.3a or use the files from a published binary package. Crosscompiling GNU libc is always only the second best solution as certain parts of it will not be compiled when crosscompiling. A proper solution will be documented here as soon as it is available and believed to be stable. With this warning given, here's the recipe:

   gzip -cd glibc-2.0.6.tar.gz | tar xf -
   cd glibc-2.0.6
   gzip -cd glibc-crypt-2.0.6.tar.gz | tar xf -
   gzip -cd glibc-localedata-2.0.6.tar.gz | tar xf -
   gzip -cd glibc-linuxthreads-2.0.6.tar.gz | tar xf -
   patch -p1 < ../glibc-2.0.6-mips.patch
   mkdir build
   cd build
   CC=<target>-gcc BUILD_CC=gcc AR=<target>-ar RANLIB=<target>-ranlib \
         ../configure --prefix=/usr --host=<target> \
         --enable-add-ons=crypt,linuxthreads,localedata --enable-profile
You now have a compiled GNU libc which still needs to be installed. Do not just type make install. That would overwrite your host system's files with Linux/MIPS-specific files with disastrous effects. Instead, install GNU libc into some other arbitrary directory <somedir> from which we'll move the parts we need for cross-compilation into the actual target directory:
   make install_root=<somedir> install
Now cd into <somedir> and finally install GNU libc manually:
   cd usr/include
   find . -print | cpio -pumd <prefix>/<target>/include
   cd ../../lib
   find . -print | cpio -pumd <prefix>/<target>/lib
   cd ../usr/lib
   find . -print | cpio -pumd <prefix>/<target>/lib
GNU libc also contains extensive online documentation. Your system might already have a version of this documentation installed, so if you don't want to install the info pages, which will save you a less than a megabyte, or already have them installed, skip the next step:
   cd ../info
   gzip -9 *.info*
   find . -name \*.info\* -print | cpio -pumd <prefix>/info
If you're not bootstrapping, your installation is now finished.

9.13 Building egcs again

The first attempt of building egcs was stopped by lack of a GNU libc. Since we now have libc installed we can rebuild egcs but this time as complete as a cross-compiler installation can be:

   gzip -cd egcs-<version>.tar.gz | tar xf -
   cd egcs-<version>
   patch -p1 < ../egcs-1.1.2-mips.patch
   ./configure --prefix=<prefix> --target=<target>
   make LANGUAGES="c c++ objective-c f77"
As you can see, the procedure is the same as the first time, with the exception that we dropped the --with-newlib option. This option was necessary to avoid the libgcc build breaking due to the lack of libc. Now install with:
   make LANGUAGES="c c++ objective-c f77" install
You're almost finished. If you think you don't need the Objective C or F77 compilers, you can omit them from above commands. Each will save you about 3MB. Do not build gcov, protoize, or unprotoize.

9.14 Should I build the C++, Objective C or F77 compilers?

The answer to this question largely depends on your use of your cross-compiler environment. If you only intend to rebuild the Linux kernel, then you have no need for the full blown setup and can safely omit the Objective C and F77 compilers. You must, however, build the C++ compiler, because building the libraries included with the egcs distribution requires C++.

9.15 How about float.h?

The installation of float.h is no longer necessary. Since about egcs 1.0.3a, a proper float.h header file will automatically be generated and installed.

9.16 Known problem when cross-compiling

IRIX crashes

Origin 200 running IRIX 6.5.1 may crash when running ``make depend'' on the Linux kernel sources. IRIX 6.5 on Indy and IRIX 6.5.4 on Origin 200 are known to work. Further reports that help to isolate the problematic configuration are welcome.

Resource limits on System V based hosts

Typical System V-based Unices, like IRIX or Solaris, have limits for the maximum number of arguments to be passed to a child process which may be exceeded when cross-compiling some software like the Linux kernel or GNU libc. For IRIX systems, the maximum length of the argument list defaults to 20KB, while Linux defaults to at least 128KB. This size can be modified by the command ``systune ncargs 131072'' as root.

9.17 GDB

Building GDB as cross-debugger is only of interest to kernel developers. For them, GDB may be a life saver. Such a remote debugging setup always consists of two parts: the remote debugger GDB running on one machine, and the target machine running the Linux/MIPS kernel being debugged. The machines are typically interconnected with a serial line. The target machine's kernel needs to be equipped with a ``debugging stub'' which communicates with the GDB host machine using the remote serial protocol.

Depending on the target's architecture, you may have to implement the debugging stub yourself. In general, you'll only have to write very simple routines for the serial line. The task is further simplified by the fact that most machines are using similar serial hardware, typically based on the 8250, 16450 or derivatives.

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