I’ve released man-db 2.8.7 (announcement, NEWS), and uploaded it to Debian unstable.

There are a few things of note that I wanted to talk about here. Firstly, I made some further improvements to the seccomp sandbox originally introduced in 2.8.0. I do still think it’s correct to try to confine subprocesses this way as a defence against malicious documents, but it’s also been a pretty rough ride for some users, especially those who use various kinds of VPNs or antivirus programs that install themselves using /etc/ld.so.preload and cause other programs to perform additional system calls. As well as a few specific tweaks, a recent discussion on LWN reminded me that it would be better to make seccomp return EPERM rather than raising SIGSYS, since that’s easier to handle gracefully: in particular, it fixes an odd corner case related to glibc’s nscd handling.

Secondly, there was a build failure on macOS that took a while to figure out, not least because I don’t have a macOS test system myself. In 2.8.6 I tried to make life easier for people on this platform with a CFLAGS tweak, but I made it a bit too general and accidentally took away configure’s ability to detect undefined symbols properly, which caused very confusing failures. More importantly, I hadn’t really thought through why this change was necessary and whether it was a good idea. man-db uses private shared libraries to keep its executable size down, and it passes -no-undefined to libtool to declare that those shared libraries have no undefined symbols after linking, which is necessary to build shared libraries on some platforms. But the CFLAGS tweak above directly contradicts this! So, instead of playing core wars with my own build system, I did some refactoring so that the assertion that man-db’s shared libraries have no undefined symbols after linking is actually true: this involved moving decompression code out of libman, and arranging for the code in libmandb to take the database path as a parameter rather than as a global variable (something I’ve meant to fix for ages anyway; 252d7cbc23, 036aa910ea, a97d977b0b). Lesson: don’t make build system changes you don’t quite understand.

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