Monthly Archives: March 2012

Attempting to make fat binaries on Linux

A fat binary is a collection of binaries put in the same executable. Each time the executable is run usually the kernel chooses the right binary, depending the architecture, and executes it. For example we may have in the same binary code for x86 and x86_64 architecture, and the OS is x86. Or even have in the same fat binary code for a CPU and a GPU program. There are some cons and some pros, but i’m not going to explain them now. There is a good article in wikipedia here.

Two or three years ago, a project by the name fatELF started by Ryan C. Gordon. He made a nice implementation, but his kernel patch was rejected so he dropped it.

So when i wanted to make an implementation of fat binaries, i had to find a work around, and not mess with the kernel.

In the following diagram is my implementation:

Let me try to explain it. First we combine all the binaries to one big file, and put as the first binary the so called “elf_header”. The combine function also adds a header to the end of the file, called “FAT_HEADER”. In there, there are information about the binaries that reside into the fat binary, such as the offset of the binary and an id.

So what does our elf_header do? First of all it is a binary made by us, whose work is to scan the end of the file, searching for the header. If the header exists, it starts to extract the info and gives us the option to run the binary we want. In my implementation it just gives the option to the user to select which binary he wants to execute. This can easily be changed to automatically scan the hardware and run the ELF binary and/or also create threads which execute 2 or more binaries at the same time.

You can find my code on github: https://github.com/mpekatsoula/Fat-binaries

I just wanted to share my implementation, and not a full code. As i said the program asks the user on which binary he wants to run, and it does not put the correct id on each binary. So if you want to use it for a more serious job, you can pass the id as an argument, or use a library such as <libelf.h> to scan automatically the header of the ELF binary and extract any info you want. It’s not that hard ;)

For info about running, first you compile the elf_header, and then the main with the combine function. Then you run the generated code and give as arguments the output file, the elf_header and then the binaries you want to combine.

Example:


gcc elf_header.c -o elf_header

gcc main.c combine.c -o main

./main output elf_header &lt;arg1&gt; ... &lt;argN&gt;

./output

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