Binary File Descriptor library
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|Original author(s)||Cygnus Solutions|
|License||GNU General Public License|
The Binary File Descriptor library (BFD) is the GNU Project's main mechanism for the portable manipulation of object files in a variety of formats. As of 2003[update], it supports approximately 50 file formats for some 25 instruction set architectures.
When David Henkel-Wallace of Cygnus Support proposed developing the library as a way to open up new business opportunities for the company, Richard Stallman said that it would be difficult; David's response was that it wasn't such a "Big Fucking Deal". Abbreviated to "BFD", this became the library name. "Binary File Descriptor" was invented later as a backronym for "BFD".
BFD works by presenting a common abstract view of object files. An object file has a "header" with descriptive info; a variable number of "sections" that each has a name, some attributes, and a block of data; a symbol table; relocation entries; and so forth.
Internally, BFD translates the data from the abstract view into the details of the bit/byte layout required by the target processor and file format. Its key services include handling byte order differences, such as between a little-endian host and big-endian target, correct conversion between 32-bit and 64-bit data, and details of address arithmetic specified by relocation entries.
Although BFD was originally designed to be a generic library usable by a wide variety of tools, the frequent need to tinker with the API to accommodate new systems' capabilities has tended to limit its use; BFD's main clients are the GNU Assembler (GAS), GNU Linker (GLD), and other GNU Binary Utilities ("binutils") tools, and the GNU Debugger (GDB). As a result, BFD is not distributed separately, but is always included with releases of binutils and GDB. Nevertheless, BFD is a critical component in the use of GNU tools for embedded systems development.
The BFD library can be used to read the structured data out of a core dump.
"Open Sources: Voices from the Open Source Revolution". O'Reilly. January 1999. Retrieved 2011-11-11.
Gumby began designing the library and discussing the design with Stallman. Stallman said that the job was too difficult—it would require a complete rewrite of all the tools, and it would be too difficult to maintain. Gumby told him it wasn't such a "Big F*cking Deal" and hence named this new creation the BFD library. (We explained to our customers that BFD stood for the binary file descriptor library.)
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