Linux — Building and Debugging GTK

Sometimes installing the debug packages for gtk and glib isn‘t quite enough. (For instance, if the artifacts from -O2 are driving you bonkers in gdb, you might want to rebuild with -O0.) Here’s how to build from source and use your local version without installing it.

32-bit systems

On Ubuntu, to download and build glib and gtk suitable for debugging:

  1. If you don't have a gpg key yet, generate one with gpg --gen-key.

  2. Create file ~/.devscripts containing DEBSIGN_KEYID=yourkey, e.g. DEBSIGN_KEYID=CC91A262 (See

  3. If you're on a 32 bit system, do:

    set -x
    set -e
    # Workaround for "E: Build-dependencies for glib2.0 could not be satisfied"
    # See also
    sudo apt-get install libgamin-dev
    sudo apt-get build-dep glib2.0 gtk+2.0
    rm -rf ~/mylibs
    mkdir ~/mylibs
    cd ~/mylibs
    apt-get source glib2.0 gtk+2.0
    cd glib2.0*
    DEB_BUILD_OPTIONS="nostrip noopt debug" debuild
    cd ../gtk+2.0*
    DEB_BUILD_OPTIONS="nostrip noopt debug" debuild

This should take about an hour. If it gets stuck waiting for a zombie, you may have to kill its closest parent (the makefile uses subshells, and bash seems to get confused). When I did this, it continued successfully.

At the very end, it will prompt you for the passphrase for your gpg key.

Then, to run an app with those libraries, do e.g.

export LD_LIBRARY_PATH=$HOME/mylibs/gtk+2.0-2.16.1/debian/install/shared/usr/lib:$HOME/mylibs/gtk+2.0-2.20.1/debian/install/shared/usr/lib

gdb ignores that variable, so in the debugger, you would have to do something like

set solib-search-path $HOME/mylibs/gtk+2.0-2.16.1/debian/install/shared/usr/lib:$HOME/mylibs/gtk+2.0-2.20.1/debian/install/shared/usr/lib

See also

64-bit systems

If you're on a 64 bit system, you can do the above on a 32 bit system, and copy the result. Or try one of the following:

Building your own GTK

apt-get source glib-2.0 gtk+-2.0

export CFLAGS='-m32 -g'
export LDFLAGS=-L/usr/lib32
export LD_LIBRARY_PATH=/work/32/lib
export PKG_CONFIG_PATH=/work/32/lib/pkgconfig

# glib
setarch i386 ./configure --prefix=/work/32 --enable-debug=yes

# gtk
setarch i386 ./configure --prefix=/work/32 --enable-debug=yes --without-libtiff


Note: Evan tried this and didn't get any debug libs at the end.

Or you could try this instead:

set -x
set -e
sudo apt-get build-dep ia32-libs
rm -rf ~/mylibs
mkdir ~/mylibs
cd ~/mylibs
apt-get source ia32-libs
cd ia32-libs*
DEB_BUILD_OPTIONS="nostrip noopt debug" debuild

By default, this just grabs and unpacks prebuilt libraries; see ia32-libs-2.7ubuntu6/fetch-and-build which documents a BUILD variable which would force actual building. This would take way longer, since it builds dozens of libraries. I haven't tried it yet.

Possible Issues

debuild may fail with

gpg: [stdin]: clearsign failed: secret key not available
debsign: gpg error occurred!  Aborting....

if you forget to create ~/.devscripts with the right contents.

The build may fail with a FAIL: if gold is your system linker. Use ld instead.