OS/X version, hardware platform, and Qt version compatibility

Last updated Feb 2012. It may be possible to drop all pre-64-bit platforms by now (end of 2012) and rely on users of older platforms simply sticking with older builds.

Executive summary: For a program like EasyHg that demands the widest possible compatibility, we currently want to hit the following targets:

  • 10.4 PPC 32-bit Carbon
  • 10.4 Intel 32-bit Carbon
  • 10.6 Intel 64-bit Cocoa

To do this, we currently need at least two builds of Qt:

  • 10.6 gcc-4.2 Cocoa x86_64
  • 10.4 gcc-4.0 Carbon PPC and i386

And we need at least three builds of our PyQt (Python plus C++) modules:

  • Python 2.6 gcc-4.2 Cocoa x86_64
  • Python 2.6 gcc-4.0 Carbon PPC and i386
  • Python 2.5 gcc-4.0 Carbon PPC and i386

Our Qt builds need to be custom rather than stock distribution (see Qt Plugins below).

Note it is not possible to cover all platforms in a single build step, we always need to do at least two separate builds plus lipo.

If we are going to make a 3-way universal binary, we need to ensure the 10.4 build gets selected for i386 -- i.e. to pull only the x86_64 architecture from any 10.5 or 10.6 SDK build we do. The inability to select between different i386 versions from a single universal binary is a strong incentive to stick to a single 10.4+ Carbon build for all 32-bit platforms.

So our bundle layout will look like this (beneath the Contents directory):

  +- Frameworks/
  |   +- QtCore [ppc] [i386] [x86_64]
  |   +- QtGui [ppc-carbon] [i386-carbon] [x86_64-cocoa]
  |   `- QtNetwork [ppc] [i386] [x86_64]
  +- MacOS/
      +- Py2.5/
      |   +- sip.so [ppc] [i386]
      |   +- PyQt4
      |       +- Qt.so [ppc] [i386]
      |       +- QtCore.so [ppc] [i386]
      |       `- QtGui.so [ppc-carbon] [i386-carbon]
      +- Py2.6/
      |   +- sip.so [ppc] [i386] [x86_64]
      |   +- PyQt4
      |       +- Qt.so [ppc] [i386] [x86_64]
      |       +- QtCore.so [ppc] [i386] [x86_64]
      |       `- QtGui.so [ppc-carbon] [i386-carbon] [x86_64-cocoa]
      +- EasyMercurial [ppc-carbon] [i386-carbon] [x86_64-cocoa]

We also need to make sure the dependency paths are correct. Beware! It appears the dependency paths are stored separately for each architecture in a fat binary, but otool won't report them separately if you run it on a single fat binary with multiple architectures. We need to ensure each architecture is correct before we can lipo them together.

Qt Plugins

Qt will by default load any plugins for e.g. image format support that it finds in the system. There are various ways to block plugin loading (e.g. through build key) but I can't see any way that will prevent Qt from at least dlopen()ing the shared object and rifling through its drawers.

This is a problem, because the plugins have dependencies on the Qt framework components, so we may end up with two different versions of Qt (the one in our bundle and the system one) being loaded at once. Result: mysterious crashes.

For the moment we "fix" this by applying the following elegant patch to our Qt build:

--- src/corelib/plugin/qfactoryloader.cpp_    2011-03-14 12:21:11.000000000 +0000
+++ src/corelib/plugin/qfactoryloader.cpp    2011-03-14 12:22:04.000000000 +0000
@@ -104,7 +104,7 @@

 void QFactoryLoader::update()
-#ifdef QT_SHARED
     QStringList paths = QCoreApplication::libraryPaths();
     QSettings settings(QSettings::UserScope, QLatin1String("Trolltech"));
--- src/corelib/plugin/qpluginloader.cpp_    2011-03-14 12:23:31.000000000 +0000
+++ src/corelib/plugin/qpluginloader.cpp    2011-03-14 12:23:53.000000000 +0000
@@ -285,7 +285,7 @@
 void QPluginLoader::setFileName(const QString &fileName)
-#if defined(QT_SHARED)
     QLibrary::LoadHints lh;
     if (d) {
         lh = d->loadHints;

Python versions

Python versioning and compatibility is a bit of a nightmare. We need to load a Python module with native components (using PyQt) in Mercurial, so we need to take into account both the Python version and the architecture.

The system Python is 2.5 on 10.4/10.5 and 2.6 on 10.6. (It's quite likely that users of older (10.4) OS/X will have updated their Python to 2.6 as well, since that's advisable for installing Mercurial.) PyQt compiled for 2.5 will not work in 2.6, and vice versa. This makes it difficult to provide a single bundle for all platforms, as we have no static way (without an installer script) to ensure that the PyQt modules for the right version of Python get loaded; we have to do it by explicitly loading modules from a different location depending on the version, in the Python code itself.

On 10.6, Python is 32-/64-bit universal which runs in 64-bit by default on a 64-bit system, so any native modules need to be available both ways as well (troubleshooting this when it goes wrong is quite tricky). There is an environment variable VERSIONER_PYTHON_PREFER_32_BIT which you can set to cause it always to run in 32-bit.

So, any 64-bit Python is guaranteed (as far as anything ever is) to be (at least) version 2.6, but any version could also exist in a 32-bit form.

Where things get complicated is when users install additional versions of Python from other ports repositories; this seems to be quite common around these parts. Then your user-installed Python is likely to get picked up before the system one, and you don't know whether it's going to be 32- or 64-bit, and it won't support the versioning environment variable. My impression is that people get custom Python installs dragged in as dependencies of other packages, and that tends to break quite a lot of things.

So we have two discriminations to make:

  • Python 2.5 vs 2.6 -- discriminate at run time, in the Python extension, before loading the native module -- we can set the module load path appropriately for our version
  • 32-bit vs 64-bit Python -- discriminate at native module load time via fat binaries

OS/X versions


As target

  • Not supported on PPC or on 32-bit Intel (Core Duo)
  • Runs in 64-bit mode always

As build host

  • Builds 64-bit by default
  • Can be used to do 32-bit Intel builds (not sure about PPC?)


As target

  • By far the most common version as of Feb 2011 (apparently >80%)
  • Not supported on PPC
  • Runs in 64-bit mode by default where possible
  • Note Python is also 64-bit by default, so PyQt needs to be as well
  • Is not always 64-bit -- it is supported on 32-bit-only hardware such as Core Duo (first Intel Macs)

As build host

  • Builds 64-bit by default
  • Can be used to do 32-bit Intel and PPC builds


As target

  • Not all that much more widely used than 10.4 -- if we were dropping 10.4, we probably might as well drop 10.5 as well
  • Last version supported for PPC platforms
  • Runs in 32-bit mode by default
  • Can build for it from 10.5, 10.6
  • Requires SDK /Developer/SDKs/MacOSX10.5.SDK
  • First version to support Objective-C 2.0
  • Qt Cocoa supported

As build host

  • Builds 32-bit by default
  • Can be used to do 64-bit builds


As target

  • Oldest version still apparently in use as of Feb 2011: not very widespread (low single digit %age of Mac users), but at least two researchers here use it
  • Appears in PPC and i386 systems
  • Runs in 32-bit mode only
  • Can build for it from 10.4, 10.5, 10.6
  • Requires SDK /Developer/SDKs/MacOSX10.4u.SDK
  • Requires -mmacosx-version-min=10.4 on 10.5+
  • Requires gcc-4.0 to be requested explicitly on 10.6
  • Does not support Objective-C 2.0
  • Not a supported target for Qt's Cocoa builds, Qt Carbon needed

As build host

  • Does not support Objective-C 2.0
  • 10.4u SDK can be used to build 64-bit executables of simple C/C++ programs such as plugins, but not of GUIs or anything using Core frameworks