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Re: Recent removal of a.out and COFF support for sparc

From: John Paul Adrian Glaubitz
Subject: Re: Recent removal of a.out and COFF support for sparc
Date: Wed, 8 Aug 2018 11:07:58 +0200
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64; rv:52.0) Gecko/20100101 Thunderbird/52.9.1

On 08/08/2018 03:55 AM, Alan Modra wrote:
>> So, can we have COFF/a.out support back, at least for sparc*?
> I would rather remove all AOUT support.  AOUT as a format has been
> obsolete since the advent of ELF in the 1990s.  See for example
> J. Arnold "ELF: An Object File to Mitigate Mischievous Misoneism", In
> Proc. of the Summer USENIX Conference, 1990.
> COFF should have died too..

Yes, but that doesn't change the fact that people are still using
it. OpenBoot firmware requires the binary to be in a.out format and
we're therefore stuck with that. It's not that we can change the
hardware in retrospect.

Also, while AOUT and COFF might be old in general, it does not mean
that these formats completely vanish. There are still places where they
are used, see for example Microsoft's PE binaries. And users might still
want to be able to analyze binaries from various sources without
having to dig out a specific version of binutils first.

> The sparc target obsolescence happened here:

Well, that question was asked on the binutils mailing list and I think
it's a bit unfair to expect all downstreams to follow all upstream mailing
lists. There is a plethora of very important upstream projects like the
Linux kernel, binutils, gcc, systemd, OpenJDK, gdb and so on and so
forth and trying to keep track of what all of these upstreams are doing
is nearly impossible.

> You've had quite a bit of warning, but I guess you just built binutils
> with --enable-obsolete, or stayed with older binutils.

Again, I think this is an unfair statement. It's simply not possible for
downstreams to track all upstream projects.

On the other hand, why does bfd even need to be reworked so much? Isn't
the idea that people are eventually moving to elfutils or Gold anyway?

> Well, older
> binutils are likely to be better for AOUT anyway.  So what's to
> prevent you using older binutils for sparc-aout?

Distributions usually don't allow multiple versions of the same package
to be part of the same distribution.


 .''`.  John Paul Adrian Glaubitz
: :' :  Debian Developer - address@hidden
`. `'   Freie Universitaet Berlin - address@hidden
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