It's been months since I've updated my Gentoo system. And, as you can imagine, this means there's a lot of packages (and USE changes) I need to go over. My system is "amd64" (multilib), but I have a lot of manually keyworded packages from "~amd64".

Anyway, in this update, I keep seeing "ABI_X86" USE flags. What is this? This is new. There's nothing in "eselect news list" about it.

I found this topic: http://forums.gentoo.org/viewtopic-t-953900-start-0.html. That seemed to show how to use it, but, are there any "real" docs for this? What does it do? What am I supposed to set "ABI_X86" to? I have a multilib system. I assume I want "64", but then what are "32" and "x32"? I'm confused at what I need to do here.

Emerge is yelling a lot about slot conflicts, and they seem to be related to "ABI_X86" (I forget the errors exactly, but I remember one was zlib).

So, is there any "official" docs about what ABI_X86 is and how to use it?

From the thread I linked, I found this page: http://kicherer.org/joomla/index.php/en/blog/liste/29-transition-of-emul-packages-to-true-multilib, but I want to know what I'm doing before I go keyword a bunch of stuff and edit my make.conf.

P.S. I have most of the "app-emulation/emul-linux-x86" packages (the ones I seemed to need at the time) in my "package.keywords" file.

4 Answers 4


I must disclose that I have little experience using multilib-build.eclass-style multilib in Gentoo.

ABI_X86 is a USE_EXPAND variable; setting ABI_X86="32 64" or USE="abi_x86_32 abi_x86_64" are equivalent. The default setting of ABI_X86, as of this writing (2013-09-09), for the default/linux/amd64/13.0 profile seems to be just ABI_X86=64.

This variable controls explicit multilib support in ebuilds which use multilib-build.eclass which is a more Gentoo-like way of doing multilib than the original method.

The original method that 32-bit libraries would be installed in Gentoo is via the binary snapshots named app-emulation/emul-linux-*. Each of these emulation binary packages contains a whole set of 32-bit libraries compiled by some Gentoo dev for you. Because each one installs a bundle of libraries which must be coordinated together, tracking dependencies of 32-bit-only ebuilds is harder. E.g., if you need a 32-bit media-libs/alsa-lib on a 32-bit system, you just install media-libs/alsa-lib, but on a 64-bit multilib system, you have to discover that app-emulation/emul-linux-soundlibs installs, among other libraries, the 32-bit version of media-libs/alsa-lib. Also, the Gentoo dev building one such binary package must do the work of figuring out the multilib and buildsystem quirks of each of the included libraries in the snapshot package, making maintenance harder. And, most importantly, providing binary packages as the only option official option for using multilib in Gentoo goes against the the spirit of Gentoo. You should have the right to compile everything yourself!

The multilib-build.eclass moves away from this behavior by helping individual ebuilds install both 32-bit and 64-bit versions. This should allow, for example, wine to only need to specify dependencies directly against the packages it needs instead of needing to pull in app-emulation/emul-linux-* packages. As ssuominen mentions in the forum thread you referenced:

=app-emulation/emul-linux-x86-xlibs-20130224-r1 which is empty package that doesn't have files because the files come now directly from the x11-libs/

(Note that -r1 has since been renamed to -r2) Eventually, app-emulation/emul-linux-x86-xlibs itself should be able to be dropped as 32-bit-only packages appropriately depend directly on the correct packages in x11-libs that, with multilib-build.eclass’s help, provide the needed 32-bit libs. This is where ABI_X86 comes into play. Any multilib-build.eclass-enabled package gains at least the new USE-flags abi_x86_32 and abi_x86_64 and probably abi_x86_x32. Using EAPI=2-style USE dependencies, packages can depend on 32-bit versions of other packages. If x11-libs/libX11 is emerged while ABI_X86="32 64", then it shall be installed with USE-flags abi_x86_32 and abi_x86_64 USE-flags set. If a particular graphical package needs a 32-bit version of libX11, it can specify x11-libs/libX11[abi_x86_32] in its dependencies. This way, if you try to emerge this graphical package and libX11 has not installed 32-bit libs, portage will refuse. multilib-build.eclass is also universal and is compatible with 32-bit systems: installing this same graphical package on a 32-bit system will always work because it is impossible to install libX11 without its abi_x86_32 useflag being set. This solves the problem of needing to depend on app-emulation/emul-linux-x86-xlibs when on a multilib system and directly on x11-libs/libX11 on a 32-bit-only system. We are paving the way to a having cleaner and sensible inter-package dependencies on multilib systems. =app-emulation/emul-linux-x86-xlibs-20130224-r2 exists as an intermediary which enables any old packages which used to depend on app-emulation/emul-linux-x86-xlibs which don’t know how to depend directly on, for example, x11-libs/libX11[abi_x86_32], to still work. =app-emulation/emul-linux-x86-xlibs-20130224-r2 makes sure sure that the same 32-bit libraries exist in /usr/lib32 as if =app-emulation/emul-linux-x86-xlibs-20130224 had been installed, but does it the Gentoo way by building these 32-bit libraries through its dependencies rather than providing a binary package. It behaves much like packages in the virtual category this way: it doesn’t install anything, just "forwards" dependencies for existing ebuilds.

We have seen how multilib-build.eclass paves the way for cleaner dependencies on multilib systems. Any package which has ABI_X86 options (same thing as saying it has abi_x86_* useflags) has installed a 32-bit version of itself if you have specified USE=abi_x86_32/ABI_X86=32. How does this work (at a high conceptual level)? You can read the ebuild itself. Basically, the idea is the same as python or ruby ebuilds which have the option to install themselves for multiple versions of python and ruby simultaneously. When an ebuild inherits multilib-build.eclass, it loops over ABI_X86 and does each step of the unpacking, compilation, and installation process for each entry in ABI_X86. Since portage goes through all of the ebuild phases like src_unpack(), src_compile(), and src_install() (and others) in order and only once, the multilib-build.eclass (currently, with the help of the multibuild.eclass) uses creates a directory for each different value of ABI_X86. It will unpack a copy of the sources to each of these directories. From there, each of these directories starts to diverge as each targets a particular ABI. The directory for ABI_X86=32 will have ./configure --libdir=/usr/lib32 run with FLAGS targeting 32-bit (e.g., CFLAGS=-m32 comes from the multilib profile’s CFLAGS_x86 envvar (note: portage profiles mostly refer to ABI_X86=32 as ABI=x86 and ABI_X86=64 as ABI=amd64)). During the src_install() phase, all of the different compiled ABIs are installed over eachother so that when any files have both 32-bit and 64-bit versions, the native ABI wins (e.g., an ebuild installing both libraries and an executable in PATH would install only a 64-bit executable into PATH but include both 32-bit and 64-bit libraries). To sum: when you set ABI_X86="32 64" in make.conf, any package which supports multilib-build.eclass will take roughly twice the amount of work (I’m not saying time ;-)) to compile as it is being built once for each ABI and results in 32-bit libraries in /usr/lib32.

I do not know if there is official documentation for ABI_X86 yet or its detailed status. Ebuilds using multilib-build.eclass seem to be mostly unstable for now. You can follow the instructions at the blog you linked to to start experiencing and testing ABI_X86 if you understand the distinction between app-emulation/emul-linux-x86-xlibs-20130224 and the new-style multilib app-emulation/emul-linux-x86-xlibs-20130224-r2. But, if you are OK with the old-style binary package, I think that app-emulation/emul-linux-x86-xlibs-20130224 should remain functional. You would only need to move to -r2 if you use any package which directly depends on another package’s abi_x86_32 useflag (for example, app-emulation/emul-linux-x86-xlibs-20130224 and x1-libs/libX11[abi_x86_32] cannot coexist because they probably both install the same library to /usr/lib32, namely /usr/lib32/libX11.so.6). A quick look at wine-1.7.0.ebuild suggests to me that it doesn’t need -r2.

  • 2
    I know this is 3 months later, but I want to thank you for this wonderful answer. Having a mix of "amd64" and "~amd64" packages meant some depended on app-emulation/emul-linux-x86 and others depended on their direct counterparts. It took lots of keywording and USE flag changes, but I got everything to compile and run happily together! :-D
    – gen_Eric
    Dec 11, 2013 at 17:27

There is also abi_x86_x32(it is not the same as abi_x86_32) use flag. This one is experimental and intended to build semi-64bit applications. The only difference is they have 4byte pointers. This limits memory usage to 4GiB and reduces overhead in most cases, while allows to use all the 64bit instructions.

  • I searched for this. Do you have a link into documentation about the x32 flag?
    – ikrabbe
    Jul 7, 2015 at 15:45

Currently the situation is real hell. The problem seems to be that many packages are sort of "half-masked"... I do not know the exact terminology, but it seems that some packages are keyworded "~amd64" with "abi_x86_32" use flag and "amd64" without that use flag... The result is, during my updating, I enable "abi_x86_32" but emerge still installs packages with ABI_X86="(64) (-32)" unless I add "~amd64" per each such package. And if it is pulled as a dependency instead of emerged directly, there is no offer to autounmask-write that change - emerge just tells you it can not satisfy the dependency for that package with the needed "abi_x86_32" use flag. So I have to add each package one by one to package.keywords with "~amd64". That's a lot of manual work... And for which package version should I do it? I can not tell it what I actually want, namely "for versions where it is marked "amd64" without that use flag". I can either put the specific latest version I see now and thus complicate its future updates, or put in all versions and then possibly install versions which are not marked stable even for 64bit...

  • 2
    I think your answer might benefit from some re-writing and/or re-thinking. As it stands, it adds nothing to answers already posted.
    – user48669
    Jun 19, 2014 at 11:29
  • Regarding “ I can either put the specific latest version I see now and thus complicate its future updates, or put in all versions and then possibly install versions which are not marked stable even for 64bit..”, if you just put my-category/package into package.keywords, portage will automatically interpret that as accepting any ~amd64 (assuming your ARCH=amd64). You only get the behavior you describe (matching versions without an ~amd64 flag) if you say something like my-category/package **.
    – binki
    Jun 20, 2014 at 14:45
  • Sami, this would have been a comment not an answer, if only stackexchange policy made any sense. (Franky, I'm surprised it lets me comment this time around...)
    – user73010
    Jun 23, 2014 at 7:45
  • binki, reread... I do not want all ~amd64 versions. I want those versions that would be "amd64" (stable) if they were without "abi_x86_32" use flag.
    – user73010
    Jun 23, 2014 at 7:46

Indirectly related info: As of today complete KDE desktop system on systemd can be compiled in pure multilib way (no emulation packages). The only problem is now proprietary nvidia-drivers package, but this can be solved by going with open-source one for now.

How to starting point(other links included there): https://forums.gentoo.org/viewtopic-t-985380-highlight-.html

Gentoo Multilib porting status https://wiki.gentoo.org/wiki/Multilib_porting_status

  • This is just a comment, no answer. Nov 22, 2019 at 8:05
  • Jonas, its not problem with answer, but the question if you get it :-), it is so general, that pure all explaining answer content size is not from point of view to simply put here, so I rather provide links to go and study... do you agree? So i am saying its not right place to ask here for this kind of question, but go to gentoo forum....make sense? Nov 23, 2019 at 9:46

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