#updatesformtheengineroom all compilers + linkers are the same … until they are not.

i embarked on a journey to make the emulator ( or simulator ) work on linux. since it is based on SDL and the gcc compiler ( both available on linux and macOS ) i was hoping that the transistion could be rather painless.

unfortunately, it wasn’t that easy. well, actually it was except for one detail. while i was able to compile most of the source code pretty quickly on linux, i ended up with the following complaint from the linker:

could not read symbols: Archive has no index; run ranlib to add one

long story short: i spent an entire 2 days to get to the bottom of this. bottomline is that the gcc linker on linux behaves slightly different than on macOS: on macOS the order in which arguments are passed to the linker does not matter, on linux it does!!!

the long version, including an example, can be found below.

let’s consider the following very simple use case: we have a static library libcodec.a that contains two functions and an application that links against these functions. first we build the library:


void encode(char *text) {
	for (int i=0; text[i] != 0x0; i++) {


void decode(char *text) {
    for (int i=0; text[i] != 0x0; i++) {

we compile both C files with

$ gcc -c encode.c
$ ‌gcc -c decode.c

this creates two object files encode.o and decode.o. now we create the static library libcodec.a‌ out of the object files with

$ ar -crs libcodec.a encode.o decode.o

we then write a header for the library libcodec.h:

void encode(char *text);
void decode(char *text);

and write a small application testlib.c:

#include <stdio.h>
#include <stdlib.h>

#include "libcodec.h"

int main(int argc, char *argv[]) {
 char text[]="fourtytwo";



 return 0;

we can now compile testlib.c and link it against libcodec.a and run it with the following commands:

$ gcc testlib.c libcodec.a -o testapp 
$ ./testapp

the output looks like this:


however, if we consider compiling and linking the test with the following command ( note, library and source file are in reversed order ):

$ gcc libcodec.a testlib.c -o testapp 

the divergence starts to emerge. whereas on macOS this compiles and links just fine on linux the linker complains about not finding the symbols:

/usr/bin/ld: /tmp/ccqMMhIO.o: in function `main':
testlib.c:(.text+0x4a): undefined reference to `encode'
/usr/bin/ld: testlib.c:(.text+0x62): undefined reference to `decode'
collect2: error: ld returned 1 exit status

well, riddle me this!

in summary, the problem i encountered while porting to linux was basically due to the fact that my macOS build script passed the core.a library ( which the Arduino Environment creates during the build process ) before the sketch. this worked fine on macOS but not on linux. simple.

the examples above is based on the articles How to Use Linux’s ar Command to Create Static Libraries and Things to remember when compiling/linking C/C++ software.

the issue occured on the following systems.


$ uname -a
Linux primary 5.4.0-54-generic #60-Ubuntu SMP Fri Nov 6 10:37:59 UTC 2020 x86_64 x86_64 x86_64 GNU/Linux
$ gcc --version
gcc (Ubuntu 9.4.0-1ubuntu1~20.04.1) 9.4.0
Copyright (C) 2019 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
This is free software; see the source for copying conditions.  There is NO


$ uname -a
Darwin d3BookPro.local 21.6.0 Darwin Kernel Version 21.6.0: Sat Jun 18 17:07:25 PDT 2022; root:xnu-8020.140.41~1/RELEASE_X86_64 x86_64
$ gcc --version
Apple clang version 13.1.6 (clang-1316.
Target: x86_64-apple-darwin21.6.0
Thread model: posix
InstalledDir: /Applications/Xcode.app/Contents/Developer/Toolchains/XcodeDefault.xctoolchain/usr/bin