I've spent some time over the past few weeks working on problems
stack users have run into on Windows, and I'd like to share the
outcome. To summarize, here are the major problems I've seen
- When linking a project with a large number of libraries, GHC
hits the 32k command length limit of Windows, causing linking to
fail with a mysterious "gcc: command not found."
- On Windows, paths (at least by default) are limited to 260
characters. This can cause problems quickly when using either stack
or cabal sandboxes, which have dist directory structures including
GHC versions, Cabal versions, and sometimes a bit more
- Most users do not have a Unicode codepage (e.g., 65001 UTF-8)
by default, so some characters cannot be produced by GHC. This
affects both error/warning output on stdout/stderr, and dump files
-ddump-to-file -ddump-hi, which stack uses for
unlisted modules and Template
Haskell files. Currently, GHC simply crashes when this occurs.
This can affect non-Windows systems as well.
The result of this so far has been four GHC patches, and one
recommended workaround - hopefully we can do better on that
Thanks to all those who have helped me get these patches in
place, especially Ben Gamari, Reid Barton, Tamar Christina and
Austin Seipp. If you're eager and want to test out the changes
already, you can try out my GHC 7.10
UTF8-encoded dump files
This patch has already been merged and
backported to GHC 7.10. The idea is simple: GHC expects input
files to always be UTF-8 encoded, so generated UTF-8 encoded dump
files too. Upshot: environment variables and codepage settings can
no longer affect the format of these dump files, making it more
reliable for tooling to parse and use these files.
This patch is similarly both merged and
backported. Currently, if GHC tries to print a warning that
includes non-Latin characters, and the LANG variable/Windows
codepage doesn't support it, you end up with a crash about the
commitBuffer. This change is pretty simple: take the character
encoding used by stdout and stderr, and switch on transliteration,
which replaces unknown characters with a question mark (?).
GHC_CHARENC environment variable
The motivation here is that, when capturing the output of GHC,
tooling like stack (and presumably cabal as well) would like to
receive it in a consistent format. GHC currently has no means of
setting the character encoding reliably across OSes: Windows uses
the codepage, which is a quasi-global setting, whereas non-Windows
uses the LANG environment variable. And even changing LANG may not
be what we want; for example, setting that to
would enable smart quotes, which we don't necessary want to do.
This new variable can be used to force GHC to use a specific
character encoding, regardless of other settings. I chose to do
this as an environment variable instead of a command line option,
so that it would be easier to have this setting trickle through
multiple layers of tools (e.g., stack calling the Cabal library
Note: This patch
has not yet been merged, and is probably due for some
discussion around naming.
response file for command line arguments
Response files allow us to pass compiler and linker arguments
via an external file instead of the command line, avoiding the 32k
limit on Windows. The response file patch
does just this. This patch is still being reviewed, but I'm hopeful
that it will make it in for GHC 7.10.3, to help alleviate the pain
points a number of Windows users are having. I'd also like to ask
people reading this who are affected by this issue to test out the
patches I've made; instructions are
available on the stack issue tracker.
Workaround: shorter paths
For the issue of long path names, I don't have a patch available
yet, nor am I certain that I can make one. Windows in principle
\\?\ to the beginning of an absolute
path to unlock much larger path limits. However, I can't get this
to be respected by GHC yet (I still need some investigation).
A workaround is to move your project directory to the root of
the filesystem, and to set your
variable similarly to your root (e.g.,
STACK_ROOT=c:\stack_root). This should keep you under the
limit for most cases.
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