March 11, 2009

LD_LIBRARY_PATH and the dangers of .bash_env

Filed under: Linux — Chris @ 3:48 pm

So, I have two versions of a shared library: the stable version, which is installed under ~/builds/libfoo and a development version, which lives in the source tree ~/src/libfoo. I have just compiled a new version of the source and I want to test it, so I run make test.

Crash. Uh oh.

Let’s try the static version of the library.

OK. That works.

Maybe it’s picking up the wrong version of the shared library. I set LD_LIBRARY_PATH=~/src/libfoo and run make test.

Crash. Damn.

make test is, after a fashion, running ./bin/test. Let’s try that ourselves.

That works. Huh?!

$ export LD_LIBRARY_PATH=/home/chris/src/libfoo/lib
$ ldd ./bin/test
... => /home/chris/builds/libfoo/lib/

Do you trust export?

$ LD_LIBRARY_PATH=/home/chris/src/libfoo/lib ldd ./bin/test
... => /home/chris/builds/libfoo/lib/

Do you trust ldd?

$ /lib/ --list ./bin/test
... => /home/chris/src/libfoo/lib/

Damn you ldd. I knew it was you all along.

So, what happened? Some time ago, in the pursuit of a PATH-related bug, I moved all my shell path-munging preferences—including adding ~/builds/libfoo/lib to LD_LIBRARY_PATH—to .bash_env. .bash_env gets read every time that a new shell is created, including—wait for it—when running shell scripts or make. (ldd is a shell script. isn’t.) In other words, the line

export LD_LIBRARY_PATH=~/builds/libfoo/lib:$LD_LIBRARY_PATH

in my .bash_env was clobbering all of my attempts to set LD_LIBRARY_PATH at the command line.

The moral of the story? Munge LD_LIBRARY_PATH in your .bash_profile. And never trust ldd.


1 Comment

  1. Absolutely right. ldd is bad. Use LD_TRACE_LOADED_OBJECTS=1 ./program instead and let the linker show you exactly what’s happening. Or just take out the big guns and use strace. I have more info about library paths that you may like.

    Comment by enchildfone — March 22, 2010 @ 11:53 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: