What are the naming conventions and restrictions for an app's NAME, VERSION, and RELEASE?

None of these variables may contain whitespace or shell metacharacters.
NAME and VERSION may not contain hyphens/dashes/"-".
RELEASE should be of the form ORG## where ORG is a tag identifying your organization and ## is a two-digit number, starting from 01.
The documentation and templates use fasrc for ORG.

It's very highly desirable that the set of NAME-VERSION-RELEASEs for an app is chronological when sorted alphanumerically.
In particular, the default module is the last version when shorted alphanumerically and should be the most recent.

Why is a compiler a Core app and not a Comp app? Why is an MPI implementation a Comp app and not an MPI app?

The app classifications used by fasrcsw and the module hierarchy describe the app's dependencies, not the app itself.
They mainly pertain to the layout in the filesystem.

An app family is something a bit different.
That's used by Lmod to ensure only one instance of a family is loaded at a time and that proper swapping of dependencies happens when a family instance is swapped.
A compiler is part of the Comp family, and an MPI app is a part of the MPI family.

Should an average app be a Core app or a Comp app?

At FASRC, we suggest using TYPE=Core unless you have a specific reason not to.
This is different from the conventional Lmod hierarchy, where, by default, a version of the app is built for each compiler (i.e. the app would by TYPE=Comp).
We found it's too much overhead trying to get apps to build using compilers they weren't designed to use, especially where there is no specific need for it.

App building

How do I handle apps that insist on writing directly to the production location?

RPM building requires installing to a temporary location rather than the true prefix (e.g. with make install DESTDIR=%{buildroot}).
Some apps don't respect this or otherwise want to write directly to the production location.
In this case, when building you'll get Permission denied errors and see that it was attempting to write directly to $FASRCSW_PROD/apps.
You can hack around this in a very ugly way by replacing the template's make install snippet with:

# This app insists on writing directly to the prefix. Acquiesce, and hack a
# symlink, IN THE PRODUCTION DESTINATION (yuck), back to our where we want it
# to install in our build environment, and then remove the symlink. Note that
# this will only work for the first build of this NAME/VERSION/RELEASE/TYPE
# combination.

# Standard stuff.
umask 022
cd "$FASRCSW_DEV"/rpmbuild/BUILD/%{name}-%{version}
echo %{buildroot} | grep -q %{name}-%{version} && rm -rf %{buildroot}
mkdir -p %{buildroot}/%{_prefix}

# Make the symlink.
sudo mkdir -p "$(dirname %{_prefix})"
test -L "%{_prefix}" && sudo rm "%{_prefix}" || true
sudo ln -s "%{buildroot}/%{_prefix}" "%{_prefix}"

make install

# Clean up the symlink. (The parent dir may be left over, oh well.)
sudo rm "%{_prefix}"

Sometimes software even still has trouble because it canonicalizes the symbolic link.
In that case, create a real directory instead of a symlink (owned by you, not root), move everything after the software installs, and remove the directory.

Also, add this to the top of the spec file, so that you don't get any failures from /usr/lib/rpm/check-buildroot if the production location is referenced with the build outputs:

# The spec involves the hack that allows the app to write directly to the
# production location. The following allows the production location path to be
# used in files that the rpm builds.
%define __arch_install_post %{nil}

In the future, fasrcsw may take advantage of mock for this situation.

How do I handle apps where the tarball and/or untarred directory have unconventional names?

It's easiest if you just manually repackage the source as ${NAME}-${VERSION}.tar.gz (or whatever zip suffix is appropriate) and have it untar to a single directory ${NAME}-${VERSION}.
Alternatively, you can code the above retar or the handling of the non-standard name in the %prep and/or other sections.

How do I apply patch source code?

You can script any changes you like, but the easiest is to prepare a patch with diff and apply it with patch.

Outside of fasrcsw, unzip/untar two copies of the source, renaming the top directories a and b, respectively.
Make all of your changes to the b copy.

Next run the command:

diff -rupN a b

That will output a patch.
In the %prep section of the spec file, after the unzip/untar, where you're in the top directory of the source, run the patch command, piping in a copy of the output of the diff command from above.

For example, for a one-word change in a hello-world file, the full patch application in the spec file might be something like this:

cat <<EOF | patch -p1
diff -rupN a/hello_world.c b/hello_world.c
--- a/hello_world.c 2014-05-19 18:01:41.000000000 -0400
+++ b/hello_world.c 2014-05-19 18:01:54.000000000 -0400
@@ -1,5 +1,5 @@
#include <stdio.h>
int main(int argc, char **argv) {
- printf("Hello Foo!\n");
+ printf("Hello Bar!\n");
return 0;

How do I use one spec file to handle all compiler and MPI implementations?

The compiler modules set variables such as CC, CXX, etc., so for nicely packaged software that gets configuration information from the environment, one block of build code will often suffice.

For more complicated situations, you can use bash shell code in the rpm scriptlets and branch for each case.
If you're building a Comp app, i.e. using fasrcsw-rpmbuild-Comp, the environment variables:


are available to use for branch tests.
If you're building an MPI app, these environment variables are also available:


How do I build against just one compiler or MPI implementation instead of all?

The fasrcsw-rpmbuild-Comp and fasrcsw-rpmbuild-MPI scripts are just simple loops to build against all the standard compiler and MPI apps.
Sometimes only one of these is having issues building and you want to just attempt building that combination.
To do so, you can call fasrcsw-rpmbuild-Core directly with the appropriate compiler and, if applicable, MPI options, e.g.:

fasrcsw-rpmbuild-Core \
--define 'comp_name intel' --define 'comp_version 13.0.079' --define 'comp_release fasrc01' \
--define 'mpi_name openmpi' --define 'mpi_version 1.7.3' --define 'mpi_release fasrc01' \

Note that the fasrcsw-rpmbuild-Comp and fasrcsw-rpmbuild-MPI scripts echo out the above such commands that they run, so use those a reference.

Since the fasrcsw system is designed to build apps against all relevant combinations, so be sure to run the main fasrcsw-rpmbuild-Comp or fasrcsw-rpmbuild-MPI script after you've solved the issue with the specific combination.

How do I configure the default sets of compiler and MPI implementations used to build apps?

The arrays FASRCSW_COMPS and FASRCSW_MPIS in setup.sh define these.
Note that since these are arrays, a simple echo $FASRCSW_COMPS is misleading (it only prints the first), and, like all bash arrays, they cannot be exported to subshells.

How do I package pre-built binaries?

See this FAQ item about building manually instead of using the macros.

  • The %prep section should just unpack the files, same as if they were sources. Alternatively, they can even be put in SOURCES pre-unpacked and %prep can do nothing; that's more efficient, but also more cumbersome for sharing).
  • The %build section can be blank (aside from standard template code).
  • The %install section can just copy files directly from %{_topdir}/BUILD/%{name}-%{version} (or %{_topdir}/SOURCES/%{name}-%{version} if pre-unpacked) to %{buildroot}/%{_prefix}. If the app is packaged as a sharball, that execution can go here, too.

How do I remove apps?

Define the NAME, VERSION, RELEASE, AND TYPE variables in your shell, as is done in the HOWTO, and run:

make uninstall

How do I download amhello-1.0.tar.gz?

To download amhello, which is used as a demo in the HOWTO, use the following command:

curl http://ftp.gnu.org/gnu/automake/automake-1.14.tar.xz | tar --strip-components=2 -xvJf - automake-1.14/doc/amhello-1.0.tar.gz


How are simple app dependencies handled?

An app may require one or more other apps in order to function.
The other app(s) will need to be loaded during the rpmbuild, and the module file will need to make sure these other apps are loaded for users, too.
The fasrcsw system uses the following conventions when an app requires another app named NAME:

In the spec file's %build section:


In the module file:

if mode()=="load" then
if not isloaded("NAME") then

The module file logic above has the following advantages over a simple prereq() or load():

  • It will automatically pull in dependencies.
    • a simple prereq, w/ or w/o version, would not
  • It does not change versions of modules previously loaded by the user.
    • a simple load, w/ or w/o version, could
  • It does not unload other independently loaded modules upon unload.
    • a simple load would
    • downside: it does not unload modules loaded only by this module, either
  • It does not totally restrict the requirement to a specific version that may get outdated.
    • a simple prereq or load, w/ the version specified, would
    • upside: allows the latest version to satisfy the requirement, which is hopefully compatible
    • downside: allows an older version than ideally desired to satisfy the requirement, even though it may not be compatible
    • you can always add conflict() or other tweaks if necessary
  • The best known VERSION-RELEASE is recorded in both the spec file and the module file.
    • a simple prereq or load, w/o version, would not have this
    • it's fully documented, and rpm building is reproducible (i.e. it's not dependent on the external situation of what latest version is installed)
    • to rebuild the app using something newer/different, then make a new release (just like any other changes to the app build)
    • but users can still use the existing app with newer versions of the required app

What if an app requires VERSION >= some value?

There is no standard answer for this yet.

You could have the required app set an environment variable and have the requiring app check it.
In this case it'd probably be better to have the environment variable note the presence of the specific required capability rather than just the version and having to apply string parsing and logic using that version.

What if an app dependency can be satisfied by multiple alternatives?

If either app A or app B can satisfy a dependency, but A is the desired default, use something similar to the following:

if mode()=="load" then
if not (isloaded("A") or isloaded("B")) then

How are app dependency hierarchies handled?

If app C requires apps A and B, and A also requires B, C should still explicitly require B, for clarity.
Note that, in the fasrcsw style of coding prerequisites, the order of C's requiring A and B will matter if A and C choose different versions of B to load if none other is loaded.

How are rpm dependencies handled?

Not at all -- there is no coding of dependencies within the rpm packages.
Dependencies are only tracked at the module level.
If you find an rpm you want to install and need to know what else to install, look at what the module file (as written by the spec) says it requires.


How do I diff a spec file with the relevant version of the template spec file?

App spec files are initially created by copying the template.spec file.
However, the template is occasionally updated, and diffing any given spec file with the current template will include both the app-specific differences and the changes to the template since the app first appeared.
That can be confusing when you're just looking for the core procedure to build the app and want to use the latest template.

You can use git to diff the two different files from the two different versions:

hash="$(git log --diff-filter=A --oneline -- rpmbuild/SPECS/$NAME-$VERSION-$RELEASE.spec | cut -d' ' -f1)"
git diff "$hash":rpmbuild/SPECS/template.spec ^HEAD:rpmbuild/SPECS/"$NAME-$VERSION-$RELEASE".spec

How can I make building go faster?

Consider adding %{?_smp_mflags} after make (which usually just adds -jN where N is number of cores on the host).

Also consider binding the rpmbuild work dir (%{_topdir}/BUILD, the place where sources are unpacked and compiled) to faster storage, such as local scratch space.
You can do so with something like the following:

mkdir -p /tmp/"$USER"/fasrcsw/BUILD
cp -a "$FASRCSW_DEV"/rpmbuild/BUILD/.gitignore /tmp/"$USER"/fasrcsw/BUILD
sudo mount -o bind /tmp/"$USER"/fasrcsw/BUILD "$FASRCSW_DEV"/rpmbuild/BUILD

What are the values of the rpm-specific variables?

  • %{_topdir} is "$FASRCSW_DEV"/rpmbuild
  • %{_prefix} is "$FASRCSW_PROD"/apps/{Core,Comp,MPI}/...(dependency dirs if non-Core).../%{name}/%{version}-%{release}
  • %{buildroot} is $HOME/rpmbuild/BUILDROOT/%{name}-%{version}-%{release}.%{arch}

See the FAQ below about why %{buildroot} uses your $HOME instead of $FASRCSW_DEV.

Why is rpmbuild still writing to my home directory?

You may notice that rpmbuild still uses ~/rpmbuild/BUILDROOT/%{name}-%{version}-%{release}.%{_arch} even though everything else is self-contained within the fasrcsw clone's %{_topdir}.
This is part of the design of rpmbuild -- the spec file cannot override the %{buildroot} or %{_buildrootdir} variable, and by default it points to a location within your home directory.
You can provide --buildroot on the rpmbuild command line if you want, but be sure to use something app-specific as this location is rm -fr'ed during the build.

Can I install the apps under a common prefix?

Although all the rpms created by fasrcsw are relocatable and therefore can be installed in non-default locations by using rpm --prefix ..., each app owns all the files within its prefix.
Thus each app would be competing for ownership of bin, lib, etc.

However, it's not to hard to update a spec file to avoid this.
In the %files section, instead of using just %{_prefix}/*, use:


And, earlier in the %install section, take out the for-loop that copies COPYING, README, etc. to the root of the prefix (or otherwise allow rpm to ignore these files that will not be part of the final package).

What about EasyBuild?

From a cursory look, its support of Lmod appears to be minimal.

In particular, it does not support module hierarchies.
UPDATE Lmod+EasyBuild integration has come a long way since we wrote fasrcsw.
Check it out -- http://hpcugent.github.io/easybuild/.

What about Mock?

Good question.
The fasrcsw system does not use mock, but it's possible it could benefit from doing so.

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