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Building Gentoo Linux With LLVM/Clang

Operating Systems

Published on 20 August 2012 09:51 AM EDT
Written by Michael Larabel in Operating Systems
29 Comments

Following this weekend's news about Link-Time Optimization support for the Linux kernel, in the discussion that spawned, building the Linux kernel with the LLVM/Clang compiler was once again brought up.

Going back two years there has been work to build the Linux kernel with LLVM's Clang C/C++ compiler and then as of earlier this year a more concerted effort to building the Linux kernel with Clang -- that work was led by Qualcomm's Innovation Center but emerging since have been i586 and x86_64 targets in addition to ARM. For centralizing these resources there is now the LLVM Linux kernel Linux Foundation page that collects the necessary information and patches for building the Linux kernel with the Apple-sponsored compiler rather than GCC.

Aside from the direct work being done to allow Clang as a viable compiler option for assembling the Linux kernel, there's also been the Debian project that's been decoupling GCC from the Linux distribution so that LLVM/Clang can build most Debian packages. Within FreeBSD they have now switched to Clang and deprecated GCC with their compiler and other core packages already being in good shape.

Another distribution that's been toying around with the idea of building their software with Clang is Gentoo. Going back to earlier this year there's been this Gentoo bug tracker for the support of LLVM/Clang as an alternative system compiler. "LLVM/Clang seems to be the future as far as open source compilers go. The FreeBSD developers switched to LLVM/Clang in FreeBSD 9 and the Debian project appears to be considering a switch as well...It is probably a good time to look into building Gentoo with LLVM/Clang. FreeBSD upstream has already switched, so this should work well for Gentoo/FreeBSD. With some work, this could be leveraged by Gentoo Linux and Gentoo Prefix as well."

Most of the bugs blocking this have been packages hard-coding their CFLAGS and GCC compiler dependence and then the expected failure of some packages failing to build correctly with Clang instead of the GNU Compiler Collection. There aren't any plans for Clang to unseat GCC within Gentoo at this time, but the point is to make Clang a viable compiler option.

With the new LLVM Linux x86_64 target, benchmarks of building the Linux kernel with Clang are forthcoming on Phoronix.

About The Author
Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the web-site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience and being the largest web-site devoted to Linux hardware reviews, particularly for products relevant to Linux gamers and enthusiasts but also commonly reviewing servers/workstations and embedded Linux devices. Michael has written more than 10,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics hardware drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated testing software. He can be followed via and or contacted via .
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