garyo edited this page Dec 13, 2014 · 1 revision

SCons's Interaction With Cygwin

There are two versions of SCons that work on Windows: the native version of SCons and the Cygwin version of SCons. (Maybe there's an MSys version too? Maybe even Interix? Let's ignore those possibilities. The principles in this document could presumably be expanded in much the same way to include those as well.) Actually the terms "native SCons" and "Cygwin SCons" are a simplification because it's the "Cygwin-ness" of Python that really matters, but we'll come back to that.

The issues that arise with running SCons on Windows, and the interaction with Cygwin, fall into two main categories:

  1. How do I runs SCons (and what version is being run)?
  2. How does SCons start processes? These two points are addressed below. However, there are some guiding principles:
  • None of this matters if you use only native stuff with native SCons (e.g. you're a Windows-only dev.), or you use only Cygwin stuff with Cygwin SCons (e.g. you're a Unix dev. who thinks it'd be cool to have a Windows build, but want to pretend that Windows is Unix so you don't have to do anything instead of porting to MSVC)
  • I suspect the main problem people face is starting native Python from a Cygwin shell, but starting Cygwin SCons from a native shell (cmd.exe or PowerShell) will not work out of the box either
  • SCons's behavior differs between native and Cygwin SCons, and this behavior changes based on the version of SCons (really: the version of Python) and not the shell it is run from; e.g. running native SCons from a Cygwin shell won't magically make it act like Cygwin SCons Let's start off with the basics:

What version of SCons am I installing?

As far as I know, there are three ways to install SCons on Windows:

  1. The Windows installer from (requires you to have a native Python installation already)
  2. From the Cygwin package manager (will probably automatically install Cygwin Python as a prerequisite if you don't have it)
  3. From source, by running python install in the source distribution from (requires a version of Python installed already) The first two options give you the version you expect. The third option will give you the version that is associated with the Python installation being run. If python gives you Cygwin Python, then #3 will give you Cygwin SCons; if python gives you native Python, then #3 will give you native SCons.

(Of course, you could also run something like c:\weird-path\python27\python install in which case substitute c:\weird-path\python27\python in this discussion.)

If you don't know whether python install will give you native or Cygwin Python, you can do one of a few things. First, you can use which python/where python/whence python as appropriate and look at whether it tells you something in the Cygwin directory or not. More foolproof is to run python, then import platform, then look at platform.system(). Cygwin Python will show you a name that includes "Cygwin", and native Python will give you "Windows". Here is what I see on my system:

Native Python:

Python 2.7.3 (default, Apr 10 2012, 23:24:47) [MSC v.1500 64 bit (AMD64)] on win32
Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information.
>>> import platform
>>> platform.system()

Cygwin Python:

Python 2.7.3 (default, Dec 18 2012, 13:50:09) [GCC 4.5.3] on cygwin
Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information.
>>> import platform
>>> platform.system()

What version of SCons am I running?

You could use where/which/whence scons (as appropriate), but more foolproof is probably to make an SConstruct file containing just

import platform

and run scons and see what it says. As above, it will either tell you Windows if you're running native SCons or something that has "cygwin" in it if you're running Cygwin SCons (like the above).

How can I run native SCons from a Cygwin shell, or vice versa?

By default, neither of the things in the question will work if you just run scons in the "wrong" shell. If you try to run native SCons from a Cygwin shell, you'll get a bash: scons: command not found error (or something similar). If you try to run Cygwin SCons from a native shell, you'll get the Windows equivalent 'scons' is not recognized as an internal or external command, operable program or batch file.

The reason this happens is as follows. For native SCons, the command scons itself is actually a batch script (which then starts Python), and Cygwin shells don't look at .bat files when looking for executables. For Cygwin SCons, the command scons is the Python script that the native scons.bat starts, but the native interpreter doesn't recognize it as executable because it doesn't have an executable extension.

To run native SCons from a Cygwin shell, there are two options:

  1. Run scons.bat instead of just scons. If you just want to do this occasionally, this works out of the box.
  2. Make a wrapper script called scons containing * ```txt #!/usr/bin/bash exec scons.bat "$@"
and put it in your `$PATH` somewhere. 

To run Cygwin SCons from a native shell, create a file called `scons.cmd` (or `scons.bat`) in your `%PATH%`, containing the following: 
@bash -c "%*"

Note: this script (scons.cmd/scons.bat) may not properly handle arguments that need quoting. Not sure what the deal would be with that. Also, this assumes that the Cygwin tools are in your %PATH%, otherwise you'll have to provide the full path to bash.

What really determines what version of SCons is run?

I don't think I've ever seen anything in this section matter in practice, so keep that in mind. But for completeness and in case anything really weird ever happens to someone, it's actually the version of Python that the scons script invokes that determines how it behaves.

For instance, suppose I have the following SConstruct, which outputs the platform as described above along with the value of env['CC'] for an environment, which will be MSVC for native SCons and GCC for Cygwin SCons (see below.)

import platform
print platform.system()
env = Environment()
print env['CC']

If I run native SCons normally, it confirms it's native and is behaving like native SCons:

I:\scons-test>scons -Q

Behind the scenes, that's actually running the Python program with the version of Python it was installed with. We can also do that directly, and see the same thing:

I:\scons-test>c:\Python27\python.exe c:\python27\Scripts\  -Q

But if I start the same installation of SCons (in c:\python27) with Cygwin Python, it changes its behavior:

I:\ scons-test>c:\ cygwin\bin\python2.7.exe  c:\python27\Scripts\  -Q

and now it's acting like Cygwin SCons. The Python interpreter determines SCons's behavior.

Similarly, I can run the version of SCons installed by Cygwin with native Python and get the native behavior:

$ /cygdrive/c/Python27/python 'c:\cygwin\bin\scons' -Q

How does SCons change behavior between native and Cygwin?

There are three(?) ways in which SCons's behavior changes:

  1. The set of tools that are loaded by default
  2. The paths SCons recognizes
  3. How SCons launches processes via the shell The next sections discuss each of these more.

How does the "Cygwin-ness" of SCons impact what tools are used?

The main behavior difference is in defaults only. By default, native SCons builds C and C++ programs using MSVC, while Cygwin SCons builds C and C++ programs using GCC. (Perhaps other tools are different too?)

Because much of the toolchain is abstracted by SCons, you may not notice a difference here, and something that works under native SCons may work under Cygwin SCons or vice versa. For example, the flags that control the name of the output file as well as the extension of output files (e.g. .so versus .dll) are abstracted. However, if you explicitly set CFLAGS/CXXFLAGS/CCFLAGS/LINKFLAGS/etc. yourself (e.g. to add optimization flags or debugging information), you have to make sure you do the correct thing for each of the compiler choices.

[insert example of explicitly loading the opposite set of tools from the SCons version (in both directions)]

How does the "Cygwin-ness" of SCons impact how it recognizes paths?

Because Cygwin Python goes through the Cygwin abstraction layer, it recognizes Cygwin-style paths. For instance, you can set env['CC'] = '/usr/bin/g++-4.4' or something if you have a specific version of GCC you want to use, and that will be a valid path.

Under native SCons, that is not true, and /usr/bin/g++-4.4 will nearly-certainly give an error about not being able to find that path. (I guess it might work if usr/ was in the root of the current drive.) You can still tell native SCons to run Cygwin executables, you just have to use the Windows path, e.g. 'c:/cygwin/bin/g++-4.4'.

In reverse however, it suspect will work (untested currently): Cygwin SCons will cope OK with being given Windows paths.

How does the "Cygwin-ness" of SCons impact how SCons launches processes?

One potential hangup comes from the fact that native SCons launches programs via the native shell (cmd.exe) and Cygwin SCons launches programs via Bash. Because the syntax of the shells differ, you may not be able to use every shell feature you want if it will be run from the other shell.

For example, someone wrote the SCons mailing list asking why a Command builder call was failing when the command to be executed contained a semicolon. The reason it was failing was because the native shell does not recognize semicolons as separators, and just passes them as part of the command line to the program being started.

There are two things that have to change in order to change the shell that is used:

  1. env['SHELL'] controls what shell is run (so on Linux you could set it to /usr/bin/zsh or something if you wanted). It is just a string that points to the location of the shell.
  2. env['SPAWN'] is a function that controls how the shell is invoked. A call to GCC in Cygwin SCons would be invoked somewhat like sh -c "gcc ..." while a call to MSVC in native SCons would be invoked somewhat like cmd /C "cl ...". (I'm showing those commands after the expansion of env['SHELL'].) Merely changing env['SHELL'] will not fix the improper use of -c or /C to specify that it should run a command. To use a Cygwin shell (this was actually tested for Msys, but the same should be true for Cygwin) from native SCons, you'll need to do something like the following:
from SCons.Platform.win32 import exec_spawn
env["SPAWN"] = (lambda sh, esc, cmd, args, env_param:
                exec_spawn([sh, '-c', ' '.join(args)], env_param))

[add example the other way?]

Clone this wiki locally
You can’t perform that action at this time.
You signed in with another tab or window. Reload to refresh your session. You signed out in another tab or window. Reload to refresh your session.
Press h to open a hovercard with more details.