Cross Compiling Rust for FreeBSD With Docker - by Wesley Moore

Cross Compiling Rust for FreeBSD With Docker

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For a little side project I’m working on I want to be able to produce pre-compiled binaries for a variety of platforms, including FreeBSD. With a bit of trial and error I have been able to successfully build working FreeBSD binaries from a Docker container, without using (slow) emulation/virtual machines. This post describes how it works and how to add it to your own Rust project.

Update 27 March 2019: Stephan Jaekel pointed out on Twitter that cross supports a variety of OSes including FreeBSD, NetBSD, Solaris, and more. I have used cross for embedded projects but didn’t think to use it for non-embedded ones. Nonetheless the process described in this post was still educational for me but I would recommend using cross instead.

Update 2 February 2020: Support for FreeBSD was removed from cross in May 2019. So the approach described here may well still be useful.

I started with Sandvine’s freebsd-cross-build repo. Which builds a Docker image with a cross-compiler that targets FreeBSD. I made a few updates and improvements to it:

Once I was able to successfully build the cross-compilation toolchain I built a second Docker image based on the first that installs Rust, and the x86_64-unknown-freebsd target. It also sets up a non-privileged user account for building a Rust project bind mounted into it.

Check out the repo at:

Building the Images

I haven’t pushed the image to a container registry as I want to do further testing and need to work out how to version them sensibly. For now you’ll need to build them yourself as follows:

  1. git clone && cd freebsd-cross-build
  2. docker build -t freebsd-cross .
  3. docker build -f Dockerfile.rust -t freebsd-cross-rust .

Using the Images to Build a FreeBSD Binary

To use the freebsd-cross-rust image in a Rust project here’s what you need to do (or at least this is how I’m doing it):

In your project add a .cargo/config file for the x86_64-unknown-freebsd target. This tells cargo what tool to use as the linker.

linker = "x86_64-pc-freebsd12-gcc"

I use Docker volumes to cache the output of previous builds and the cargo registry. This prevents cargo from re-downloading the cargo index and dependent crates on each build and saves build artifacts across builds, speeding up compile times.

A challenge this introduces is how to get the resulting binary out of the volume. For this I use a separate docker invocation that copies the binary out of the volume into a bind mounted host directory.

Originally I tried mounting the whole target directory into the container but this resulted in spurious compilation failures during linking and lots of files owned by root (I’m aware of user namespaces but haven’t set it up yet).

I wrote a shell script to automate this process:


set -e

mkdir -p target/x86_64-unknown-freebsd

# NOTE: Assumes the following volumes have been created:
# - lobsters-freebsd-target
# - lobsters-freebsd-cargo-registry

# Build
sudo docker run --rm -it \
  -v "$(pwd)":/home/rust/code:ro \
  -v lobsters-freebsd-target:/home/rust/code/target \
  -v lobsters-freebsd-cargo-registry:/home/rust/.cargo/registry \
  freebsd-cross-rust build --release --target x86_64-unknown-freebsd

# Copy binary out of volume into target/x86_64-unknown-freebsd
sudo docker run --rm -it \
  -v "$(pwd)"/target/x86_64-unknown-freebsd:/home/rust/output \
  -v lobsters-freebsd-target:/home/rust/code/target \
  --entrypoint cp \
  freebsd-cross-rust \
  /home/rust/code/target/x86_64-unknown-freebsd/release/lobsters /home/rust/output

This is what the script does:

  1. Ensures that the destination directory for the binary exists. Without this, docker will create it but it’ll be owned by root and the container won’t be able to write to it.
  2. Runs cargo build --release --target x86_64-unknown-freebsd (the leading cargo is implied by the ENTRYPOINT of the image.
    1. The first volume (-v) argument bind mounts the source code into the container, read-only.
    2. The second -v maps the named volume, lobsters-freebsd-target into the container. This caches the build artifacts.
    3. The last -v maps the named volume, lobsters-freebsd-cargo-registry into the container. This caches the carge index and downloaded crates.
  3. Copies the built binary out of the lobsters-freebsd-target volume into the local filesystem at target/x86_64-unknown-freebsd.
    1. The first -v bind mounts the local target/x86_64-unknown-freebsd directory into the container at /home/rust/output.
    2. The second -v mounts the lobsters-freebsd-target named volume into the container at /home/rust/code/target.
    3. The docker run invocation overrides the default ENTRYPOINT with cp and supplies the source and destination to it, copying from the volume into the bind mounted host directory.

After running the script there is a FreeBSD binary in target/x86_64-unknown-freebsd. Copying it to a FreeBSD machine for testing shows that it does in fact work as expected!

One last note, this all works because I don’t depend on any C libraries in my project. If I did, it would be necessary to cross-compile them so that the linker could link them when needed.

Once again, the code is at:

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