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Extension libraries

Extension libraries (eggs) are extensions to the core functionality provided by the basic CHICKEN system, to be built and installed separately. The mechanism for loading compiled extensions is based on dynamically loadable code and as such is only available on systems on which loading compiled code at runtime is supported. Currently these are most UNIX-compatible platforms that provide the libdl functionality like Linux, Solaris, BSD, Mac OS X and Windows using Cygwin.

Note: Extension may also be normal applications or shell scripts, but are usually libraries.

Extensions are technically nothing but dynamically loadable compiled files with added meta-data that describes dependencies to other extensions, version information and things like the author/maintainer of the extension. Three tools provide an easy to use interface for installing extensions, removing them and querying the current status of installed extensions.

Installing extensions

To install an extension library, run the chicken-install program with the extension name as argument. The extension archive is downloaded, its contents extracted and the contained setup script is executed. This setup script is a normal Scheme source file, which will be interpreted by chicken-install. The complete language supported by csi is available, and the library units srfi-1 regex utils posix tcp are loaded. Additional libraries can be loaded at run-time.

The setup script should perform all necessary steps to build the new library (or application). After a successful build, the extension can be installed by invoking one of the procedures install-extension, install-program or install-script. These procedures will copy a number of given files into the local extension repository or in the path where the CHICKEN executables are located (in the case of executable programs or scripts). Additionally the list of installed files, and user-defined metadata is stored in the repository.

If no extension name is given on the command-line, then all .setup scripts in the current directory are processed, in the order given on the command line.

Installing extensions that use libraries

Sometimes an extension requires a C library to compile. Compilation can fail when your system has this library in a nonstandard location. Normally the C compiler searches in the default locations /usr and /usr/local, and in the prefix where Chicken itself was installed. Sometimes this is not enough, so you'll need to supply chicken-install with some extra hints to the C compiler/linker. Here's an example:

 CSC_OPTIONS='-I/usr/pkg/include/mysql -L/usr/pkg/lib/mysql -L -R/usr/pkg/lib/mysql' chicken-install mysql

This installs the mysql egg with the extra compiler options -I and -L to set the include path and the library search path. The second -L switch passes the -R option directly to the linker, which causes the library path to get hardcoded into the resulting extension file (for systems that do not use

Creating extensions

Extensions can be created by creating an (optionally gzipped) tar archive named EXTENSION.egg containing all needed files plus a .setup script in the root directory. After chicken-install has extracted the files, the setup script will be invoked. There are no additional constraints on the structure of the archive, but the setup script has to be in the root path of the archive.

Procedures and macros available in setup scripts


[procedure] (install-extension ID FILELIST [INFOLIST])

Installs the extension library with the name ID. All files given in the list of strings FILELIST will be copied to the extension repository. It should be noted here that the extension id has to be identical to the name of the file implementing the extension. The extension may load or include other files, or may load other extensions at runtime specified by the require-at-runtime property.

FILELIST may be a filename, a list of filenames, or a list of pairs of the form (SOURCE DEST) (if you want to copy into a particular sub-directory - the destination directory will be created as needed). If DEST is a relative pathname, it will be copied into the extension repository.

The optional argument INFOLIST should be an association list that maps symbols to values, this list will be stored as ID.setup-info at the same location as the extension code. Currently the following properties are used:

[extension property] (syntax)

Marks the extension as syntax-only. No code is compiled, the extension is intended as a file containing macros to be loaded at compile/macro-expansion time.

[extension property] (require-at-runtime ID ...)

Specifies extensions that should be loaded (via require) at runtime. This is mostly useful for syntax extensions that need additional support code at runtime.

 [extension property] (import-only)

Specifies that this extension only provides a expansion-time code in an import library and does not require code to be loaded at runtime.

[extension property] (version STRING)

Specifies version string.

[extension property] (static STRING)

If the extension also provides a static library, then STRING should contain the name of that library. Used by csc when compiling with the -static-extension option.

[extension property] (static-options STRING)

Additional options that should be passed to the linker when linking with the static version of an extension (see static above). Used by csc when compiling with the -static-extension option.

All other properties are currently ignored. The FILELIST argument may also be a single string.


[procedure] (install-program ID FILELIST [INFOLIST])

Similar to install-extension, but installs an executable program in the executable path (usually /usr/local/bin).


[procedure] (install-script ID FILELIST [INFOLIST])

Similar to install-program, but additionally changes the file permissions of all files in FILELIST to executable (for installing shell-scripts).


[procedure] (standard-extension ID VERSION #!key static info)

A convenience procedure that combines the compilation and installation of a simple single-file extension. This is roughly equivalent to:

 (compile -s -O2 -d1 ID.scm -j ID)
 (compile -c -O2 -d1 ID.scm -j ID -unit ID)  ; if STATIC is not given or true
 (compile -s -O2 -d0 ID.import.scm)
  '("ID.o" "" "")
  '((version 1.0)
    ... `INFO' ...
    (static "ID.o")))   ; if `static' is given and true


[syntax] (run FORM ...)

Runs the shell command FORM, which is wrapped in an implicit quasiquote. (run (csc ...)) is treated specially and passes -v (if -verbose has been given to chicken-install) and -feature compiling-extension options to the compiler.


[syntax] (compile FORM ...)

Equivalent to (run (csc FORM ...)).


[syntax] (make ((TARGET (DEPENDENT ...) COMMAND ...) ...) ARGUMENTS)

A make macro that executes the expressions COMMAND ..., when any of the dependents DEPENDENT ... have changed, to build TARGET. This is the same as the make extension, which is available separately. For more information, see make.


[procedure] (patch WHICH REGEX SUBST)

Replaces all occurrences of the regular expression REGEX with the string SUBST, in the file given in WHICH. If WHICH is a string, the file will be patched and overwritten. If WHICH is a list of the form OLD NEW, then a different file named NEW will be generated.


[procedure] (copy-file FROM TO)

Copies the file or directory (recursively) given in the string FROM to the destination file or directory TO.


[procedure] (move-file FROM TO)

Moves the file or directory (recursively) given in the string FROM to the destination file or directory TO.


[procedure] (remove-file* PATH)

Removes the file or directory given in the string PATH.


[procedure] (find-library NAME PROC)

Returns #t if the library named libNAME.[a|so] (unix) or NAME.lib (windows) could be found by compiling and linking a test program. PROC should be the name of a C function that must be provided by the library. If no such library was found or the function could not be resolved, #f is returned.


[procedure] (find-header NAME)

Returns #t if a C include-file with the given name is available, or #f otherwise.


[procedure] (try-compile CODE #!key cc cflags ldflags compile-only c++)

Returns #t if the C code in CODE compiles and links successfully, or #f otherwise. The keyword parameters cc (compiler name, defaults to the C compiler used to build this system), cflags and ldflags accept additional compilation and linking options. If compile-only is true, then no linking step takes place. If the keyword argument c++ is given and true, then the code will be compiled in C++ mode.


[procedure] (create-directory PATH)

Creates the directory given in the string PATH, with all parent directories as needed.


[parameter] chicken-prefix

The installation prefix specified when CHICKEN was built.


[parameter] installation-prefix

An alternative installation prefix that will be prepended to extension installation paths if specified. It is set by the -install-prefix option or environment variable CHICKEN_INSTALL_PREFIX.


[parameter] (program-path [PATH])

Holds the path where executables are installed and defaults to either $CHICKEN_PREFIX/bin, if the environment variable CHICKEN_PREFIX is set or the path where the CHICKEN binaries (chicken, csi, etc.) are installed.


[parameter] (setup-root-directory [PATH])

Contains the path of the directory where chicken-install was invoked.


[parameter] (setup-install-mode [BOOL])

Reflects the setting of the -no-install option, i.e. is #f, if -no-install was given to chicken-install.


[procedure] (required-chicken-version VERSION)

Signals an error if the version of CHICKEN that this script runs under is lexicographically less than VERSION (the argument will be converted to a string, first).


[procedure] (required-extension-version EXTENSION1 VERSION1 ...)

Checks whether the extensions EXTENSION1 ... are installed and at least of version VERSION1 .... The test is made by lexicographically comparing the string-representations of the given version with the version of the installed extension. If one of the listed extensions is not installed, has no associated version information or is of a version older than the one specified.


[parameter] host-extension

For a cross-compiling CHICKEN, when compiling an extension, then it should be built for the host environment (as opposed to the target environment). This parameter is controlled by the -host command-line option. A setup script should perform the proper steps of compiling any code by passing -host when invoking csc or using the compile macro.

Examples for extensions

The simplest case is a single file that does not export any syntax. For example

;;;; hello.scm

(define (hello name)
  (print "Hello, " name " !") )

We need a .setup script to build and install our nifty extension:

;;;; hello.setup

;; compile the code into a dynamically loadable shared object
;; (will generate
(compile -s hello.scm)

;; Install as extension library
(install-extension 'hello "")

Lastly, we need a file hello.meta defining a minimal set of properties:

;;;; hello.meta

((author "Me")
 (synopsis "A cool hello-world library")
 (license "GPLv3")
 (files "hello.scm" "hello.setup"))

(for more information about available properties, see Metafile reference)

After entering

$ chicken-install

at the shell prompt (and in the same directory where the two files exist), the file hello.scm will be compiled into a dynamically loadable library. If the compilation succeeds, will be stored in the repository, together with a file named hello.setup-info containing an a-list with metadata (what you stored above in hello.meta). If no extension name is given to chicken-install, it will simply execute the any files with the .setup extension it can find.

Use it like any other CHICKEN extension:

$ csi -q
#;1> (require-extension hello)
; loading /usr/local/lib/chicken/4/ ...
#;2> (hello "me")
Hello, me!

Here we create a simple application:

;;;; hello2.scm

(print "Hello, ")
(for-each (lambda (x) (printf "~A " x)) (command-line-arguments))
(print "!")

We also need a setup script:

;;;; hello2.setup

(compile hello2.scm)  ; compile `hello2'
(install-program 'hello2 "hello2") ; name of the extension and files to be installed
;;;; hello2.meta

((author "Me")
 (synopsis "A cool hello-world application")
 (license "proprietary")
 (files "hello.scm" "hello.setup"))

To use it, just run chicken-install in the same directory:

$ chicken-install

(Here we omit the extension name)

Now the program hello2 will be installed in the same location as the other CHICKEN tools (like chicken, csi, etc.), which will normally be /usr/local/bin. Note that you need write-permissions for those locations and may have to run chicken-install with administrative rights or use the -sudo option.

De-installation is just as easy - use the chicken-uninstall program to remove one or more extensions from the local repository:

$ chicken-uninstall hello2

When running chicken-install with an argument NAME, for which no associated .setup file exists, then it will try to download the extension via HTTP from the CHICKEN code repository at Extensions that are required to compile and/or use the requested extension are downloaded and installed automatically.

To query the list of currently installed extensions, use chicken-status. It can list what extensions are installed and what files belong to a particular installed extension.

chicken-install reference

Available options:

-h -help
show this message and exit
-v -version
show version and exit
don't ask, install even if versions don't match
-k -keep
keep temporary files
-l -location LOCATION
install from given location instead of default
-t -transport TRANSPORT
use given transport instead of default
-proxy HOST[:PORT]
connect via HTTP proxy
-s -sudo
use sudo(1) for installing or removing files
-r -retrieve
only retrieve egg into current directory, don't install
-n -no-install
do not install, just build (implies -keep)
-p -prefix PREFIX
change installation prefix to PREFIX
when cross-compiling, compile extension for host
run included test-cases, if available
-username USER
set username for transports that require this
-password PASS
set password for transports that require this
-i -init DIRECTORY
initialize empty alternative repository
-u -update-db
update export database
print path to extension repository
install extension in the application directory for a deployed application (see Deployment for more information)

chicken-uninstall reference

-h -help
show usage information and exit
-v -version
show version and exit
don't ask, delete whatever matches
-s -sudo
use sudo(1) for deleting files

chicken-status reference

-h -help
show usage information and exit
-v -version
show version and exit
-f -files
list installed files


When extensions are downloaded and installed one is executing code from potentially compromised systems. This applies also when chicken-install executes system tests for required extensions. As the code has been retrieved over the network effectively untrusted code is going to be evaluated. When chicken-install is run as root the whole system is at the mercy of the build instructions (note that this is also the case every time you install software via sudo make install, so this is not specific to the CHICKEN extension mechanism).

Security-conscious users should never run chicken-install as root. A simple remedy is to set the environment variable CHICKEN_REPOSITORY, which will transparently place the repository at an arbitrary user-selected location (don't forget to initialize it first with chicken-install -init <directory>). Alternatively obtain write/execute access to the default location of the repository (usually /usr/local/lib/chicken) to avoid running as root. chicken-install also provides a -sudo option to perform the last installation steps as root user, but do building and other .setup script processing as normal.

Other modes of installation

It is possible to install extensions directly from a Subversion repository or from a local checkout of the repository tree by using the -transport and -location options when invoking chicken-install. Three possible transport mechanisms are currently supported:

download extension sources via HTTP from a web-server (this is the default)
perform an svn export from the central extension repository; this will require a svn(1) client to be installed on the machine
use sources from the local filesystem and build directly in the source directory

The -location option specifies where to look for the source repository and names a web URL, a subversion repository URL or a filesystem path, respectively. A list of locations to try when retrieving extensions is stored in the file setup.defaults (usually installed in /usr/local/share/chicken). For http transports, chicken-install will detect networking timeouts and try alternative locations, as listed in the file.

Dependency information, which is necessary to ensure required extensions are also installed, is processed automatically.

Linking extensions statically

The compiler and chicken-install support statically linked eggs. The general approach is to generate an object file or static library (in addition to the usual shared library) in your .setup script and install it along with the dynamically loadable extension. The setup properties static should contain the name of the object file (or static library) to be linked, when csc gets passed the -static-extension option:

 (compile -s -O2 -d1 my-ext.scm)   ; dynamically loadable "normal" version
 (compile -c -O2 -d1 my-ext -unit my-ext)  ; statically linkable version
   '("" "my-ext.o")
   '((static "my-ext.o")) )

Note the use of the -unit option in the second compilation step: static linking must use static library units. chicken-install will perform platform-dependent file-extension translation for the file list, but does currently not do that for the static extension property.

To actually link with the static version of my-ext, do:

% csc -static-extension my-ext my-program.scm

The compiler will try to do the right thing, but can not handle all extensions, since the ability to statically link eggs is relatively new. Eggs that support static linking are designated as being able to do so. If you require a statically linkable version of an egg that has not been converted yet, contact the extension author or the CHICKEN mailing list.

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