In this article, learn to find and load the shared libraries that your Linux programs need. Learn to:
- Determine which libraries a program needs
- Know how the system finds shared libraries
- Load shared libraries
This article helps you prepare for Objective 102.3 in Topic 102 of the Linux Professional Institute's Junior Level Administration (LPIC-1) exam 101. The objective has a weight of 1.
To get the most from the articles in this series, you should have a basic knowledge of Linux and a working Linux system on which you can practice the commands covered in this article. Sometimes different versions of a program will format output differently, so your results may not always look exactly like the listings and figures shown here. In particular, many of the examples in this article come from 64-bit systems. We have included some examples from 32-bit systems to illustrate significant differences.
Static and dynamic linking
Linux systems have two types of executable programs:
- Statically linked executables contain all the library functions that they need to execute; all library functions are linked into the executable. They are complete programs that do not depend on external libraries to run. One advantage of statically linked programs is that they work without your needing to install prerequisites.
- Dynamically linked executables are much smaller programs; they are incomplete in the sense that they require functions from external shared libraries in order to run. Besides being smaller, dynamic linking permits a package to specify prerequisite libraries without needing to include the libraries in the package. The use of dynamic linking also allows many running programs to share one copy of a library rather than occupying memory with many copies of the same code. For these reasons, most programs today use dynamic linking.
An interesting example on many Linux systems is the
ln command (/bin/ln), which creates links
between files, either hard links or soft (or
symbolic) links. This command uses shared libraries. Shared
libraries often involve symbolic links between a generic name for the
library and a specific level of the library, so if the links are not
present or broken for some reason, then the
command itself might be inoperative, creating a circular problem. To
protect against this possibility, some Linux systems include a statically
linked version of the
ln program as the
sln program (/sbin/sln). Listing 1 illustrates
the great difference in size between the dynamically linked
ln and the statically linked
sln. The example is from a Fedora 12 64-bit
Listing 1. Sizes of sln and ln
[ian@echidna ~]$ ls -l /sbin/sln /bin/ln -rwxr-xr-x. 1 root root 47384 2010-01-12 09:35 /bin/ln -rwxr-xr-x. 1 root root 603680 2010-01-04 09:07 /sbin/sln
Which libraries are needed?
Though not part of the current LPI exam requirements for this topic, you should know that many Linux systems today run on hardware that supports both 32-bit and 64-bit executables. Many libraries are thus compiled in 32-bit and 64-bit versions. The 64-bit versions are usually stored under the /lib64 tree in the filesystem, while the 32-bit versions live in the traditional /lib tree. You will probably find both /lib/libc-2.11.1.so and /lib64/libc-2.11.1.so on a typical 64-bit Linux system. These two libraries allow both 32-bit and 64-bit C programs to run on a 64-bit Linux system.
Apart from knowing that a statically linked program is likely to be large,
how can you tell whether a program is statically linked? And if it is
dynamically linked, how do you know what libraries it needs? The
ldd command can answer both questions. If you
are running a system such as Debian or Ubuntu, you probably don't have the
sln executable, so you might also want to check the /sbin/ldconfig
executable. Listing 2 shows the output of the
ldd command for the ln and sln executables and
also the ldconfig executable. The example is from a Fedora 12 64-bit
system (echidna). For comparison, the output from an older Fedora 8 32-bit
system (pinguino) is shown for /bin/ln.
Listing 2. Output of
ldd for sln and ln
[ian@echidna ~]$ #Fedora 12 64-bit [ian@echidna ~]$ ldd /sbin/sln /sbin/ldconfig /bin/ln /sbin/sln: not a dynamic executable /sbin/ldconfig: not a dynamic executable /bin/ln: linux-vdso.so.1 => (0x00007fff644af000) libc.so.6 => /lib64/libc.so.6 (0x00000037eb800000) /lib64/ld-linux-x86-64.so.2 (0x00000037eb400000) [ian@pinguino ~]$ # Fedora 8 32-bit [ian@pinguino ~]$ ldd /bin/ln linux-gate.so.1 => (0x00110000) libc.so.6 => /lib/libc.so.6 (0x00a57000) /lib/ld-linux.so.2 (0x00a38000)
ldd is actually concerned with dynamic
linking, it tells us that both sln and ldconfig are statically linked by
telling us that they are "not a dynamic executable," while it tells us the
names of three shared libraries (linux-vdso.so.1, libc.so.6, and
/lib64/ld-linux-x86-64.so.2) that the
command needs. Note that .so indicates that these are shared
objects or dynamic libraries. This output also illustrates three
different types of information you are likely to see.
- is the Linux Virtual Dynamic Shared Object, which we will discuss in a moment. You may also see linux-gate.so.1 as in the Fedora 8 example.
- has a pointer to /lib64/libc.so.6.
- is the absolute path to another library.
In Listing 3, we use the
ls -l command to show
that the last two libraries are, in turn, symbolic links to specific
versions of the libraries. The example is from a Fedora 12 64-bit
Listing 3. Library symbolic links
[ian@echidna ~]$ ls -l /lib64/libc.so.6 /lib64/ld-linux-x86-64.so.2 lrwxrwxrwx. 1 root root 12 2010-01-14 14:24 /lib64/ld-linux-x86-64.so.2 -> ld-2.11.1.so lrwxrwxrwx. 1 root root 14 2010-01-14 14:24 /lib64/libc.so.6 -> libc-2.11.1.so
Linux Virtual Dynamic Shared Objects
In the early days of x86 processors, communication from user programs to supervisor services was performed through a software interrupt. As processor speeds increased, this became a serious bottleneck. Starting with Pentium® II processors, Intel® introduced a Fast System Call facility to speed up system calls using the SYSENTER and SYSEXIT instructions instead of interrupts.
The library that you see as linux-vdso.so.1 is a virtual library or Virtual Dynamic Shared Object, that resides only in each program's address space. Older systems called this linux-gate.so.1. This virtual library provides the necessary logic to allow user programs to access system functions through the fastest means available on the particular processor, either interrupt, or with most newer processors, fast system call.
From the preceding, you might be surprised to learn that /lib/ld-linux.so.2 and its 64-bit cousin, /lib64/ld-linux-x86-64.so.2, which both look like shared libraries, are actually executables in their own right. They are the code that is responsible for dynamic loading. They read the header information from the executable, which is in the Executable and Linking Format or (ELF) format. From this information, they determine what libraries are required and which ones need to be loaded. They then perform dynamic linking to fix up all the address pointers in your executable and the loaded libraries so that the program will run.
The man page for ld-linux.so also describes ld.so, which performed similar
functions for the earlier a.out binary format. Listing 4
illustrates using the
--list option of the
ld-linux.so cousins to show the same information for the
ln command that Listing 2 showed with the
Listing 4. Using ld-linux.so to display library requirements
[ian@echidna ~]$ /lib64/ld-linux-x86-64.so.2 --list /bin/ln linux-vdso.so.1 => (0x00007fffc9fff000) libc.so.6 => /lib64/libc.so.6 (0x00000037eb800000) /lib64/ld-linux-x86-64.so.2 (0x00000037eb400000) [ian@pinguino ~]$ /lib/ld-linux.so.2 --list /bin/ln linux-gate.so.1 => (0x00110000) libc.so.6 => /lib/libc.so.6 (0x00a57000) /lib/ld-linux.so.2 (0x00a38000)
Note that the hex addresses may be different between the two listings. They
are also likely to be different if you run
Dynamic library configuration
So how does the dynamic loader know where to look for executables? As with many things on Linux, there is a configuration file in /etc. In fact, there are two configuration files, /etc/ld.so.conf and /etc/ld.so.cache. Listing 5 shows the contents of /etc/ld.so.conf on a 64-bit Fedora 12 system. Note that /etc/ld.so.conf specifies that all the .conf files from the subdirectory ld.so.conf.d should be included. Older systems may have all entries in /etc/ld.so.conf and not include entries from the /etc/ld.so.conf.d directory. The actual contents of /etc/ld.so.conf or the /etc/ld.so.conf.d directory may be different on your system.
Listing 5. Content of /etc/ld.so.conf
[ian@echidna ~]$ cat /etc/ld.so.conf include ld.so.conf.d/*.conf [ian@echidna ~]$ ls /etc/ld.so.conf.d/*.conf /etc/ld.so.conf.d/kernel-220.127.116.11-174.2.19.fc12.x86_64.conf /etc/ld.so.conf.d/kernel-18.104.22.168-174.2.22.fc12.x86_64.conf /etc/ld.so.conf.d/kernel-22.214.171.124-174.2.3.fc12.x86_64.conf /etc/ld.so.conf.d/mysql-x86_64.conf /etc/ld.so.conf.d/qt-x86_64.conf /etc/ld.so.conf.d/tix-x86_64.conf /etc/ld.so.conf.d/xulrunner-64.conf
Program loading needs to be fast, so use the
ldconfig command to process the ld.so.conf file
and all the included files from ld.so.conf.d as well as libraries from the
trusted directories, /lib and /usr/lib, and any others supplied on the
command line. The
ldconfig command creates the
necessary links and cache to recently used shared libraries in
The dynamic loader uses the cached information from ld.so.cache to locate
files that are to be dynamically loaded and linked. If you change
ld.so.conf (or add new included files to ld.so.conf.d), you must run the
ldconfig command (as root) to rebuild your
Normally, you use the ldconfig command without parameters to rebuild
ld.so.cache. There are several other parameters you can specify to
override this default behavior. As usual, try
man ldconfig for more information. Listing 6
illustrates the use of the
-p parameter to
display the contents of ld.so.cache.
Listing 6. Using ldconfig to display ld.so.cache
[ian@lyrebird ian]$ /sbin/ldconfig -p | less 1602 libs found in cache `/etc/ld.so.cache' libzip.so.1 (libc6,x86-64) => /usr/lib64/libzip.so.1 libz.so.1 (libc6,x86-64) => /lib64/libz.so.1 libz.so (libc6,x86-64) => /usr/lib64/libz.so libx86.so.1 (libc6,x86-64) => /usr/lib64/libx86.so.1 libx11globalcomm.so.1 (libc6,x86-64) => /usr/lib64/libx11globalcomm.so.1 libxul.so (libc6,x86-64) => /usr/lib64/xulrunner-1.9.1/libxul.so libxtables.so.2 (libc6,x86-64) => /usr/lib64/libxtables.so.2 libxslt.so.1 (libc6,x86-64) => /usr/lib64/libxslt.so.1 libxslt.so (libc6,x86-64) => /usr/lib64/libxslt.so libxpcom.so (libc6,x86-64) => /usr/lib64/xulrunner-1.9.1/libxpcom.so libxml2.so.2 (libc6,x86-64) => /usr/lib64/libxml2.so.2 libxml2.so (libc6,x86-64) => /usr/lib64/libxml2.so ... libABRTdUtils.so.0 (libc6,x86-64) => /usr/lib64/libABRTdUtils.so.0 libABRTUtils.so.0 (libc6,x86-64) => /usr/lib64/libABRTUtils.so.0 ld-linux.so.2 (ELF) => /lib/ld-linux.so.2 ld-linux-x86-64.so.2 (libc6,x86-64) => /lib64/ld-linux-x86-64.so.2
Loading specific libraries
If you're running an older application that needs a specific older version of a shared library, or if you're developing a new shared library or version of a shared library, you might want to override the default search paths used by the loader. This may also be needed by scripts that use product-specific shared libraries that may be installed in the /opt tree.
Just as you can set the PATH variable to specify a search path for executables, you can set the LD_LIBRARY_PATH variable to a colon-separated list of directories that should be searched for shared libraries before the system ones specified in ld.so.cache. For example, you might use a command like:
See the Resources below for additional details and links to other articles in this series.
- Use the developerWorks roadmap for LPIC-1 to find the developerWorks articles to help you study for LPIC-1 certification based on the April 2009 objectives.
- At the LPIC Program site, find detailed objectives, task lists, and sample questions for the three levels of the Linux Professional Institute's Linux system administration certification. In particular, see their April 2009 objectives for LPI exam 101 and LPI exam 102. Always refer to the LPIC Program site for the latest objectives.
- Review the entire LPI exam prep series on developerWorks to learn Linux fundamentals and prepare for system administrator certification based on earlier LPI exam objectives prior to April 2009.
- The Linux Documentation Project has a variety of useful documents, especially its HOWTOs.
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