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Shared Library Issues In Linux

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Quick Start

If you just want enough information to fix your problem quickly, you can read the How-To section of this post and skip the rest. I would highly recommend reading everything though, as a good understanding of the concepts and commands outlined here will serve you well in the future. We also have Video and Audio included with this post that may be a good quick reference for you. Don’t forget that the man and info pages of your Linux/Unix system can be an invaluable resource as well when you’re trying to solve problems.

Preface

To make things easier on you, all of the black command line and script areas are set up so that you can copy the text from them. This does make using the commands easier, but if you’re not already familiar with the concepts presented here, typing the commands yourself and working through why you’re typing them will help you learn more. If you hit problems along the way, take a look at the Troubleshooting section near the end of this post for help.

There are formatting conventions that are used throughout this post that you should be aware of. The following is a list outlining the color and font formats used.

Command Name or Directory Path
Warning or Error
Command Line Snippet With Commands/Options/Arguments
Command Options and Their Arguments Only
Hyperlink

Where listings on command options are made available, anything with square brackets around it (“[" and "]“) is an argument to the option, and a pipe (“|“) means that you can choose one of two alternatives ([4|6] means choose 4 or 6).

Overview

This post is geared more toward system administrators than software developers, but anyone can make good use of the information that you’re going to see here. The Resources section holds links to take your study further, even into the developer realm. I’m going to start off by giving you a brief background on shared libraries and some of the rules that apply to their use. Listing 1 shows an example of an error you might see after installing PostgreSQL via a bin installer file. In this post, I’m going to step through some commands and techniques to help you deal with this type of shared library problem. I’ll also work through resolving the error in Listing 1 as an example, and give you some tips and tricks as well as items to help you if you get stuck.

Listing 1

$ ./psql ./psql: error while loading shared libraries: libpq.so.5: cannot open shared object file: No such file or directory

Background

Shared libraries are one of the many strong design features of Linux, but can lead to headaches for inexperienced users, and even experienced users in certain situations. Shared libraries allow software developers keep the size of their application storage and memory footprints down by using common code from a single location. The glibc library is a good example of this. There are two standardized locations for shared libraries on a Linux system, and these are the /lib and /usr/lib directories. On some distributions /usr/local/lib is included, but check the documentation for your specific distribution to be sure. These are not the only locations that you can use for libraries though, and I’ll talk about how to use other library directories later. According to the Filesystem Hierarchy Standard (FHS), /lib is for shared libraries and kernel modules that are required for startup and running in the root filesystem (/bin and /sbin), and /usr/lib holds most of the internal libraries that are not meant to be executed directly by users or shell scripts. The /usr/local/lib directory is not defined in the latest version of the FHS, but if it exists on a distribution it normally holds libraries that aren’t a part of the standard distribution, including libraries that the system administrator has compiled/installed after the initial setup. There are some other directories like /lib/security that holds PAM modules, but for our discussion we’ll focus on /lib and /usr/lib.

The counterpart to the dynamically linked (shared) library is the statically linked library. Whereas dynamically linked libraries are loaded and used as they are needed by the applications, statically linked libraries are either built into, or closely associated with a program at the time it is compiled. A couple of the situations where static libraries are used is when you’re trying to work around an odd/outdated library dependency, or when you’re building a self-contained rescue system. Static linking typically makes the resulting application faster and more portable, but increases the size (and thus the memory and storage footprint) of the binary. There is also a multiplication of the size of a static library’s footprint if more than one program uses it. For instance, one program using a library that is 10 MB in size just consumes 10 MB of memory (1 program x 10 MB), but if you run 10 programs with the same library compiled into them, you end up with 100 MB of memory consumed (10 programs x 10 MB). Also, when programs are statically linked, they can’t take advantage of updates made to the libraries that they depend on. They are locked into whatever version of the library they were compiled with. Programs that depend on dynamically linked libraries refer to a specific file on the Linux file system, and so when that file is updated, the program can automatically take advantage of the new features and fixes the next time it loads.

Shared libraries typically have the extension .so which stands for Shared Object. Library file names are followed by a version numbering scheme which can include major and minor version numbers. A system of symbolic links are used to point the majority of programs to the latest and greatest library version, while still allowing a minority of programs to use older libraries. Listing 2 shows output that I modified to illustrate this point.

Listing 2

$ ls -l | grep libread lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root 18 2010-03-03 11:11 libreadline.so.5 -> libreadline.so.5.2 -rw-r--r-- 1 root root 217188 2009-08-24 19:10 libreadline.so.5.2 lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root 18 2010-02-02 09:34 libreadline.so.6 -> libreadline.so.6.0 -rw-r--r-- 1 root root 225364 2009-09-23 08:16 libreadline.so.6.0

You can see in the output that there are two versions of libreadline installed side-by-side (5.2 and 6.0). The version numbers are in the form major.minor, so 5 and 6 are major version numbers, with 2 and 0 being minor version numbers. You can usually mix and match libraries with the same major version number and differing minor numbers, but it can be a bad idea to use libraries with different major numbers in place of one another. Major version number changes usually represent significant changes to the interface of the library, which are incompatible with previous versions. Minor version numbers are only changed when an update such as a bug fix is added without significantly changing how the library interacts with the outside world. Another thing that you’ll notice in Listing 2 is that there are links created from libreadline.so.5 to libreadline.so.5.2 and from libreadline.so.6 to libreadline.so.6.0. This is so that programs that depend on the 5 or 6 series of the libraries don’t have to figure out where the newest version of the library is. If an application works with major version 6 of the library, it doesn’t care if it grabs 6.0, 6.5, or 6.9 as long as it’s compatible, so it just looks at the base name of the library and takes whatever that’s linked to. There are also a couple of other situations that you’re likely to encounter with this linking scheme. The first is that you may see a link file name containing no version numbers (libreadline.so) that points to the actual library file (libreadline.so.6.0). Also, even though I said that libraries with different major version numbers are risky to mix, there are situations where you will see an earlier major version number (libreadline.so.5) linked to a newer version number of the library (libreadline.so.6.0). This should only happen when your distribution maintainers or system administrators have made sure that nothing will break by doing this. Listing 3 shows an example of the first situation.

Listing 3

$ ls -l | grep ".*so " lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root 18 2010-02-02 14:48 libdbus-1.so -> libdbus-1.so.3.4.0

All things considered, the shared library methodology and numbering scheme do a good job of ensuring that your software can maintain a smaller footprint, make use to the latest and greatest library versions, and still have backwards compatibility with older libraries when needed. With this said, the shared library model isn’t perfect. There are some disadvantages to using them, but those disadvantages are typically considered to be outweighed by the benefits. One of the disadvantages is that shared libraries can slow the load time of a program. This is only a problem the first time that the library is loaded though. After that, the library is in memory and other applications that are launched won’t have to reload it. One of the most potentially dangerous drawbacks of shared libraries is that they can create a central point of failure for you system. If there is a library that a large set of your programs rely on and it gets corrupted, deleted, over-written, etc, all of those programs are probably going to break. If any of those programs that were just taken down are needed to boot your Linux system, you’ll be dead in the water and in need of a rescue CD.

While I would argue that dependency chains are not really a “problem”, they can work hardships on a system administrator. A dependency chain happens when one library depends on another library, then that one depends on another, and another, and so on. When dealing with a dependency chain, you may have satisfied all of the first level dependencies, but your program still won’t run. You have to go through and check each library in turn for a dependency chain, and then follow that chain all the way through, filling in the missing dependencies as you go.

One final problem with shared libraries that I’ll mention again is version compatibility issues. You can end up with a situation where two different applications require different versions of the same library – that aren’t compatible. That is the reason for the version numbering system that I talked about above, and robust package management systems have helped ease shared library problems from the user’s perspective, but they still exist in certain situations. Any time that you compile and/or install an application/library yourself on your Linux system, you have to keep an eye out for problems since you don’t have the benefit of a package manager ensuring library compatibility.

Introducing ld-linux.so

ld-linux.so (or ld.so for older a.out binaries) is itself a library, and is responsible for managing the loading of shared libraries in Linux. For the purposes of this post, we’ll be working with ld-linux.so, and if you need or want to learn more about the older style a.out loading/linking, have a look at the Resources section. The ld-linux.so library reads the /etc/ld.so.cache file which is a non-human readable file that is updated when you run the ldconfig command. The way that shared libraries are loaded is that ld-linux.so checks to see what paths to look for the libraries in by checking the value of the LD_LIBRARY_PATH environment variable, then the contents of the /etc/ld.so.cache file, and finally the default path of /lib followed by the /usr/lib directory.

The LD_LIBRARY_PATH environment variable is a colon separated list that preempts all of the other library paths in the ldconfig search order. This means that you can use it to temporarily alter library paths when you’re trying to test a new library before rolling it out to the entire system, or to work around problems. This variable is typically not set by default on Linux distributions, and should not be used as a permanent fix. Use it with care, and preference should be given to the other library search path configuration methods. A handy thing about the LD_LIBRARY_PATH variable is that since it’s an environment variable, you can set it on the same line as a command and the new value will only effect the command, and not the parent environment. So, you would issue a command line like LD_LIBRARY_PATH="/home/user/lib" ./program to run program and force it to use the experimental shared libraries in /home/user/lib in preference to any others on the system. The shell that you run program in never sees the change to LD_LIBRARY_PATH. Of course you can also use the export command to set this variable, but be careful because doing this will affect your entire system. One final thing about the LD_LIBRARY_PATH variable is that you don’t have to run ldconfig after changing it. The changes take effect immediately, unlike changes to /lib, /usr/lib, and /etc/ld.so.conf. I’ll explain more about ldconfig later.

You can use the ld-linux.so library by itself to list which libraries a program depends on. It’s behavior is very much like the ldd command that we’ll talk about next because ldd is actually a wrapper script that adds more sophisticated behavior to ld-linux.so. In most cases ldd should be your preferred command for listing required shared libraries. In order to use ld-linux.so.2 to get a listing of the depended upon libraries for the ls command, you would type /lib/ld-linux.so.2 --list /bin/ls swapping the 2 out for whatever major version of the library that your system is running. I’ve shown some of the command line options for ld-linux.so in Listing 4.

Listing 4

--list Lists all library dependencies for the executable --verify Verifies that the program is dynamically linked and that the ld-linux.so linker can handle it --library-path [PATH] Overrides the LD_LIBRARY_PATH environment variable and uses PATH instead

You can start a program directly with ld-linux.so by using the following command line form /lib/ld-linux.so.2 --library-path FULL_LIBRARY_PATH FULL_EXECUTABLE_PATH , where you replace 2 with whatever version of the library you are using. An example would be /lib/ld-linux.so.2 --library-path /home/user/lib /home/bin/program which would run program using /home/user/lib as the location to look for required libraries. This should be used for testing purposes only, and not for a permanent fix on a production system though.

Introducing ldd

The name of the ldd command comes from its function, which is to “List Dynamic Dependencies”. As mentioned in the previous section, by default the ldd command gives you the same output as issuing the command line /lib/ld-linux.so.2 --list FULL_EXECUTABLE_PATH. Each library entry in the output includes a hexadecimal number which is the load address of the library, and can change from run to run. Chances are that system administrators will never even need to know what this value is, but I’ve mentioned it here because some people may be curious. Listing 5 shows a few of the options for ldd that I use the most.

Listing 5

-d --data-relocs Perform data relocations and report any missing objects -r --function-relocs Perform relocations for both data objects and functions, and report any missing objects or functions -u --unused Print unused direct dependencies -v --verbose Print all information, including e.g. symbol versioning information

Keep in mind that you have to give ldd the full path to the binary/executable for it to work. The only way to work around giving ldd the full path is to use cd to change into the directory where the binary is. Otherwise you get an error like ldd: ./ls: No such file or directory. The only time that you would need to run ldd with root privileges would be if the binary has restrictive permissions placed on it.

As I mentioned in the Background section, you need to be aware of dependency chains when using shared libraries. Just because you’ve run the ldd command on an executable and satisfied all of it’s top level dependencies doesn’t mean that there aren’t more dependencies lurking underneath. If your program still won’t run, you should check each of the top level libraries to see if any of them have their own library dependencies that are unmet. You continue that process, running ldd on each library in each layer until you’ve satisfied all of the dependencies.

Introducing ldconfig

Any time that you make changes to the installed libraries on your system, you’ll want to run the ldconfig command with root privileges to update your library cache. ldconfig rebuilds the /etc/ld.so.cache file of currently installed libraries based on what it first finds in the directories listed in the /etc/ld.so.conf file, and then in the /lib and /usr/lib directories. The /etc/ld.so.cache file is formatted in binary by ldconfig and so it’s not designed to be human readable, and should not be edited by hand. Formatting the ld.so.cache file in this way makes it more efficient for the system to retrieve the information. The ld.so.conf file may include a directive that reads include /etc/ld.so.conf.d/*.conf that tells ldconfig to check the ld.so.conf.d directory for additional configuration files. This allows the easy addition of configuration files to load third-party shared libraries such as those for MySQL. On some distributions, this include directive may be the only line you find in the ld.so.conf file.

You often need to run ldconfig manually because a Linux system cannot always know when you have made changes to the currently installed libraries. Many package management systems run ldconfig as part of the installation process, but if you compile and/or install a library without using the package management system, the system software may not know that there is a new library present. The same applies when you remove a shared library.

Listing 6 holds several options for the ldconfig command. This is by no means an exhaustive list, so be sure to check the man page for more information.

Listing 6

-C [file] Specifies an alternate cache file other than ld.so.cache -f [file] Specifies an alternate configuration file other than ld.so.conf -n Rebuilds the cache using only directories specified on the command line, skipping the standard directories and ld.so.conf -N Only updates the symbolic links to libraries, skipping the cache rebuilding step -p --print-cache Lists the shared library cache, but needs to be piped to the less command because of the amount of output -v --verbose Gives output information about version numbers, links created, and directories scanned -X Opposite of -N, it rebuilds the library cache and skips updating the links to the libraries

ldconfig is not the only method used to rebuild the library cache. Gentoo handles this task in a slightly different way, which I’ll talk about next.

Introducing env-update

Gentoo takes a slightly different path to updating the cache of installed libraries which includes the use of the env-update script. env-update reads library path configuration files from the /etc/env.d directory in much the same way that ldconfig reads files from /etc/ld.so.conf.d via the ld.so.conf include directive. env-update then creates a set of files within /etc including ld.so.conf . After this, env-update runs ldconfig so that it reloads the cache of libraries into the /etc/ld.so.cache file.

How-To

Hopefully by the point you’re reading this section you either have, or are beginning to get a pretty good understanding of the commands used when dealing with shared libraries. Now I’m going to take you through a sample scenario of a PostgreSQL installation running on Red Hat 5.4 to demonstrate how you would use these commands.

I have downloaded a bin installer to use on my CentOS installation instead of the PostgreSQL Yum repository because I wanted to install a specific older version of Postgres outside of the package management system. In most cases you’ll want to use a repository with your package management system though, as you’ll get a more integrated installation that can be kept up to date more easily. That’s assuming that your Linux distribution offers the repository mechanism for installing and updating packages, and many distributions don’t.

After installing Postgres via the bin file, I take a look around and see that the majority of the PostgreSQL files are in the /opt/PostgreSQL directory. I decide to experiment with the binaries under the pgAdmin3 directory, and so I use the cd command to move to /opt/PostgreSQL/8.4/pgAdmin3/bin. Once I’m there, I try to run the psql command and get the output in Listing 7 (same as Listing 1).

Listing 7

$ ./psql ./psql: error while loading shared libraries: libpq.so.5: cannot open shared object file: No such file or directory

There might be some of you reading this who will realize that I could have probably avoided the library error in Listing 7 by running the psql command from the /opt/PostgreSQL/8.4/bin directory. While this is true, for the sake of this example I’m going to forge ahead trying to figure out why it won’t run under the pgAdmin3 directory.

The main thing that I take away from the output in Listing 7 is that there is a shared library named libpq.so.5 that cannot be found by ld-linux.so. To dig just a little bit deeper, I use the ldd command and get the output in Listing 8.

Listing 8

$ ldd ./psql linux-gate.so.1 => (0x003fc000) libpq.so.5 => not found libxml2.so.2 => /usr/lib/libxml2.so.2 (0x00845000) libpam.so.0 => /lib/libpam.so.0 (0x0054f000) libssl.so.4 => not found libcrypto.so.4 => not found libkrb5.so.3 => /usr/lib/libkrb5.so.3 (0x00706000) libz.so.1 => /usr/lib/libz.so.1 (0x003d5000) libreadline.so.4 => not found libtermcap.so.2 => /lib/libtermcap.so.2 (0x00325000) libcrypt.so.1 => /lib/libcrypt.so.1 (0x004a3000) libdl.so.2 => /lib/libdl.so.2 (0x0031f000) libm.so.6 => /lib/libm.so.6 (0x0033f000) libc.so.6 => /lib/libc.so.6 (0x001d7000) libaudit.so.0 => /lib/libaudit.so.0 (0x00532000) libk5crypto.so.3 => /usr/lib/libk5crypto.so.3 (0x0079e000) libcom_err.so.2 => /lib/libcom_err.so.2 (0x0052d000) libkrb5support.so.0 => /usr/lib/libkrb5support.so.0 (0x006f6000) libkeyutils.so.1 => /lib/libkeyutils.so.1 (0x005ae000) libresolv.so.2 => /lib/libresolv.so.2 (0x00518000) /lib/ld-linux.so.2 (0x001b9000) libselinux.so.1 => /lib/libselinux.so.1 (0x003bb000) libsepol.so.1 => /lib/libsepol.so.1 (0x00373000)

Notice that the error given in Listing 7 only gives you the first shared library that’s missing. As you can see in Listing 8, this doesn’t mean that other libraries won’t be missing as well.

My next step is to see if the missing libraries are already installed somewhere on my system using the find command. If the libraries are not already installed, I’ll have to use the package management system or the Internet to see which package(s) I need to install to get them. The output in Listing 9 shows the output from the find command.

Listing 9

$ sudo find / -name libpq.so.5 /opt/PostgreSQL/8.4/lib/libpq.so.5 /opt/PostgreSQL/8.4/pgAdmin3/lib/libpq.so.5

After looking in both of the directories shown in the output, I notice that all of my other missing libraries are housed within them. If you were just temporarily testing some new features of the psql command, you could use the export command to set the LD_LIBRARY_PATH environment variable as I have in Listing 10.

Listing 10

$ export LD_LIBRARY_PATH="/opt/PostgreSQL/8.4/lib/" bash-3.2$ ./psql Password: psql (8.4.3) Type "help" for help. postgres=#

You can see that once I’ve set the LD_LIBRARY_PATH variable, all I have to do is enter my PostgreSQL password and I’m greeted with the psql command line interface. I’ve used the /opt/PostgreSQL/8.4/lib/ library directory instead of the one beneath the pgAdmin3 directory as a matter of preference. In this case both directories include the same required libraries. For a permanent solution, we can add the path via the ld.so.conf file.

I could just add /opt/PostgreSQL/8.4/lib/ directly to the ld.so.conf file on its own line, but since the ld.so.conf file on my installation has the include ld.so.conf.d/*.conf directive, I’m going to add a separate conf file instead. In Listing 11 you can see that I’ve echoed the PostgreSQL library path into a file called postgres-i386.conf under the /etc/ld.so.conf.d directory. After checking to make sure the file has the directory in it, I run the ldconfig command to update the library cache.

Listing 11

$ sudo -s Password: [root@localhost bin]# echo /opt/PostgreSQL/8.4/lib > /etc/ld.so.conf.d/postgres-i386.conf [root@localhost bin]# cat /etc/ld.so.conf.d/postgres-i386.conf /opt/PostgreSQL/8.4/lib [root@localhost bin]# /sbin/ldconfig [root@localhost bin]# exit exit

Make sure that you unset the LD_LIBRARY_PATH variable though so that you can make sure that it was your ld.so.conf configuration file changes that fixed the problem, and not the environment variable. Issuing a command line such as unset LD_LIBRARY_PATH will accomplish this for you.

There are many scenarios beyond the one in this example, but it gives you the concepts used to work through the majority of shared library problems that you’re likely to come up against as a system administrator. If you’re interested in delving more deeply though, there are several links in the Resources section that should help you.

Tips and Tricks

  • I have read that running ldd on an untrusted program can open your system up to a malicious attack. This happens when an executable’s embedded ELF information is crafted in such a way that it will run itself by specifying its own loader. The man pages on the Ubuntu and Red Hat systems that I checked don’t mention anything about this security concern, but you’ll find a very good article by Peteris Krumins in the Resources section of this post. I would suggest at least skimming Peteris’ post so that you’re aware of the security implications of running ldd on unverified code.
  • Although it’s a little bit beyond the scope of this post, you can compile a program from source and manually control which libraries it links to. This is yet another way to work around library compatibility issues. You use the GNU C Compiler/GNU Compiler Collection (gcc) along with its -L, and -l options to accomplish this. Have a look at item 13 (the YoLinux tutorial) in the Resources section for an example, and the gcc man page for details on the options.
  • Have a look at the readelf and nm commands if you want a more in-depth look at the internals of the binaries and libraries that you’re working with. readelf shows you some extra information on your ELF files by reading and parsing their internal information, and nm lists the symbols (functions, etc) within an object file.
  • You can temporarily preempt your current set of libraries and their functions with the LD_PRELOAD environment variable and/or the /etc/ld.so.preload file. Once these are set, the dynamic library loader will use the preload libraries/functions in preference to the ones that you have cached using ldconfig. This can help you work around shared library problems in a few instances.
  • If you run into a program that has its required library path(s) hard coded into it, you can create symbolic links from each one of the missing libraries to the location that’s expected by the executable. This technique can also help you work around incompatibilities in the naming conventions between what your system software expects, and what libraries are actually named. I talk about using symbolic links in this way a little more in the Troubleshooting section.

Scripting

These scripts are somewhat simplified and in most cases could be done other ways too, but they will work to illustrate the concepts. If you use these scripts, make sure you adapt them to your situation. Never run a script or command without understanding what it will do to your system.

The first script shown in Listing 12 can be used to search directory trees for binaries with missing libraries. It makes use of the ldd and find commands to do the bulk of the work, looping through their output. Since I have heavily commented the scripts in Listing 12 and Listing 13, I won’t explain the details of how they work in this text.

Listing 12

#!/bin/bash - # These variables are designed to be changed if your Linux distro's ldd output # varies from Red Hat or Ubuntu for some reason iself="not a dynamic executable" # Used to see if executable is not dynamic notfound="not.*found" # Used to see if ldd doesn't find a library # Step through all of the executable files in the user specified directory for exe in $(find $1 -type f -perm /111) do # Check to see if ldd can get any information from this executable. It won't # if the executable is something like a script or a non-ELF executable. if [ -z "$(ldd $exe | grep -i "$iself")" ] then # Step through each of the lines of output from the ldd command # substituting : for a delimiter instead of a space for line in $(ldd $exe | tr " " ":") do # If ldd gives us output with our "not found" variable string in it, # we'll need to warn the user that there is a shared library issue if [ -n "$(echo "$line" | grep -i "$notfound")" ] then # Grab the first field, ignoring the words "not" or "found". # If we don't do this, we'll end up grabbing a field with a # word and not the library name. library="$(echo $line | cut -d ":" -f 1)" printf "Executable %s is missing shared object %sn" $exe $library fi done fi done

When run on the /opt/PostgreSQL directory mentioned above, it finds all of the programs that exhibit our missing library problem. As it stands now, this script will only check the first layer of library dependencies. One way to improve it would be to make the script follow the dependency chain of every library to the end, making sure that there is not a library farther down the chain that is missing. Better yet, you could add a “max-depth” option so that the user could specify how deeply into the dependency chain they wanted the script to check before moving on. A max-depth setting of “0″ would allow the user to specify that they wanted the script to follow the dependency chain to the very end.

In Listing 13, I have created a wrapper script that could be used when developing new software, or as a last ditch effort to work around a really tough shared library problem. It utilizes the shell’s feature of temporarily setting an environment variable for a command on the same line as the command designation. That way we’re not setting LD_LIBRARY_PATH for the overall environment, which could cause problems for other programs if there are library naming conflicts.

Listing 13

#!/bin/bash - # Set up the variables to hold the PostgreSQL lib and bin paths. These paths may # vary on your system, so change them accordingly. LIB_PATH=/opt/PostgreSQL/8.4/lib # Postgres library path BIN_FILE=/opt/PostgreSQL/8.4/pgAdmin3/bin/psql # The binary to run # Start the specified program with the library path and have it replace this # process. Note that this will not change LD_LIBRARY_PATH in the parent shell. exec $(LD_LIBRARY_PATH="$LIB_PATH" "$BIN_FILE")

I’ve broken the library and binary paths out into variables to make it easier for you to adapt this script for use on your system. This script could easily serve as a template for other wrapper scripts as well, anytime that you need to alter the environment before launching a program. Remember though that this wrapper script should not be used for a permanent solution to your shared library problems unless you have no other choice.

Troubleshooting

In some cases, a program may have been hard coded to look for a specific library on your system in a certain path, thus ignoring your local library settings. In order to fix this problem, you can research what version/path of the library the program is looking for and then create a symbolic link between the expected library location and a compatible library. In some cases you can recompile the program with options set to change how/where it looks for libraries. If the programmer was really kind, they may have included a command line option to set the library location, but this would be the exception rather than the rule when library locations are hard coded.

The ldd command will not work with older style a.out binaries, and will probably give output mentioning “DLL jump” if it encounters one. It’s a good idea not to trust what ldd tells you when you’re running it on these types of binaries because the output is unpredictable and inaccurate. Newer ELF binaries have support for ldd built into them via the compiler, which is why they work.

Just because the dynamic linker finds a library doesn’t mean that the library isn’t missing “symbols” (things like functions/subroutines). If this happens, you may be able to match the ldd command output to libraries that are installed, but your program will still have unpredictable behavior (like not starting or crashing) when it tries to access the symbol(s) that are missing. In this case the ldd command’s -d and -r options can give you more information on the missing symbols, and you’ll need to dig deeper into the software developer’s documentation to see if there are compatibility issues with the specific version of the library that you’re running. Remember that you can always use the LD_LIBRARY_PATH variable to temporarily test different versions of the library to see if they fix your problem.

There may be some rare cases where ldconfig may not be able to determine a library type (libc4, 5, or 6) from it’s embedded information. If this happens, you can specify the type manually in the /etc/ld.so.conf file with a directive like dirname=TYPE where type can be libc4, libc5, or libc6. According to the man page for ldconfig, you can also specify this information directly on the command line to keep the change on a temporary basis.

If you have stubborn library problems that you just can’t seem to get a handle on, you might try setting the LD_DEBUG environment variable. Try typing export LD_DEBUG="help" first and then run a command (like ls) so that you can see what options are available. I normally use “all“, but you can be more selective on your choices. The next time that you run a program, you’ll see output that is like a stack trace for the library loading process. You can follow this output through to see where exactly your library problem is occurring. Issue unset LD_DEBUG to disable this debugging output again.

Conclusion

I hope that this post has armed you with the knowledge that you need to solve any shared library problems that you might come up against. Work through shared library problems step-by-step by determining what library/libraries are needed, finding out if they’re already installed, installing any missing libraries, and making sure that your Linux distribution can find the libraries, and you should have no problem fixing most of your dynamic library issues. If you have any questions, or have any information that should be added to this post, leave a comment or drop me an email. I welcome your feedback.

Resources

  1. IBM developerWorks Article On Shared Libraries By Peter Seebach
  2. Linux Foundation Reference On Statically And Dynamically Linked Libraries (Developer Oriented)
  3. LPIC-1 : Linux Professional Institute Certification Study Guide By Roderick W. Smith
  4. LPIC-1 In Depth By Michael Jang
  5. How-To On Shared Libraries From Linux Online
  6. Stack Overflow Post Giving An Example Of A Shared Library Problem
  7. OpenGuru Post On Shared Library Problem Caused By Not Having /usr/local/lib in /etc/ld.so.conf
  8. An Introduction To ELF Binaries By Eric Youngdale (Linux Journal)
  9. Short Explanation Of How To Tell a.out and ELF Binaries Apart
  10. Post On ldd Arbitrary Code Execution Security Issues By Peteris Krumins
  11. The Text Version Of The Filesystem Hierarchy System (Version 2.3)
  12. A Linux Documentation Project gcc Reference Covering Shared Libraries
  13. YoLinux Library Tutorial Including A gcc Linking Example
  14. Article By Johan Petersson Explaining What linux-gate.so.1 Is And Why You’ll Never Find It

Comments (8)

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Marius Adrian and Yee Hon Choong, Joe Hermando. Joe Hermando said: Shared Library Issues In Linux http://bit.ly/bsZ2vD [...]

  2. jms

    2010/04/10 at 2:02 AM

    Interesting read.
    The folowing too, an article by Diego Elio “Flameeyes” Pettenò named “Shared libraries worth their while” have a look at it here http://blog.flameeyes.eu/2010/03/23/shared-libraries-worth-their-while

  3. [...] Shared Library Issues In Linux [...]

  4. Bhaskar Chowdhury

    2010/04/11 at 2:01 AM

    Hi,

    Nice to know lot of internals. Thanks for the work you done on this topic. Keep up the good work man.

    Cheers!

  5. Lawrence D’Oliveiro

    2010/04/12 at 5:42 AM

    Too much effort. Already at the first error I would have tried to find which package that library belonged to:

    root@theon:~ # dpkg-query -S libpq.so.5
    libpq5: /usr/lib/libpq.so.5
    libpq5: /usr/lib/libpq.so.5.2

    and tried reinstalling the “libpq5” package to see if that solved the problem. Let the package manager work with you, not against you!

  6. Jeremy Mack Wright

    2010/04/12 at 11:43 AM

    Thanks for your input Lawrence.

    While I agree that your method might fix the problem in fewer steps, I disagree that it would be the best option to try first. I personally prefer to take the more targeted approach using ldd and ldconfig so that I know what changes are being made, rather than letting the package management system do things for me behind the scenes. I feel that while this may not be as critical on your personal desktop system, it’s important on something like a heavily used server. I like to make changes to a server that are as specific, simple, and narrow in scope as possible, and then test them thoroughly on a secondary/backup/test server before rolling them out to the general population of users. The same goes for software updates. Some people think that way of working is overkill, but I feel that it’s kept me out of hot water over the years. In general I think that the post’s how-to outline of using ldd, find, echo, and ldconfig, while being less KISS-ish than your approach, is worth the extra time, effort, and complexity.

    Jeremy

  7. Santosh

    2010/04/12 at 4:31 PM

    Wow.. very useful post… learned a lot about Shared Objects and tools available on Linux.
    Thank you.

  8. Paula

    2010/04/17 at 12:05 AM

    Brilliant article to help troubleshoot library dependencies . While I like package managers I’ve occasionally had to resort to binary files and library dependencies are a headache. Thanks for the background and examples it has greatly improved my appreciation of shared libraries

The comments are now closed.