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

From: Maciej W. Rozycki
Subject: Re: Recent removal of a.out and COFF support for sparc
Date: Wed, 8 Aug 2018 11:59:22 +0100 (BST)
User-agent: Alpine 2.21 (LFD 202 2017-01-01)


> > 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..
> The sparc target obsolescence happened here:
> You've had quite a bit of warning, but I guess you just built binutils
> with --enable-obsolete, or stayed with older binutils.  Well, older
> binutils are likely to be better for AOUT anyway.  So what's to
> prevent you using older binutils for sparc-aout?

 I don't like things being put that way and I find it against the spirit 
of free software and its mission to deliver superior solutions that do not 
put unnecessary limits upon users.  If people have a need for a feature, 
then I think it is the wrong thing to refuse it from the position of 
authority given that code for that exists.

 However, as usually, we, as a group of people working on binutils, are a 
limited resource and cannot afford taking care of less commonly used 
features we have no use for ourselves.  So I think a fair way of putting 
things would be to offer the resurrection of the feature provided that 
someone steps in and offers to maintain it properly, so that other people, 
and general maintainers in particular, do not have to worry about it.

 I suspect that, just like with MIPS ECOFF support, it will be enough if 
we have BFD support, so that tools like `objcopy' and `objdump' continue 
working, and all the hairy linker infrastructure can go.  But that would 
have to be confirmed by actual users.  Same about GDB if required; I 
believe the same basic BFD support will suffice to support the GDB side.



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