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Date: Fri, 30 Jun 2023 00:11:20 -0700
From: Paul Eggert <>
To: Rich Felker <>
Subject: Re: regression in man pages for interfaces using loff_t

On 2023-06-28 12:15, Rich Felker wrote:

> There's also the problem that off64_t is "exactly 64-bit" which makes
> it unsuitable as an interface type for cross-platform functions where
> one could imagine the native type being larger (rather horrifying but
> possible).

Although we won't have files with 2**63 bytes any time soon, this is the 
best argument for preferring "loff_t" to "off64_t".

But come to think of it, it'd be better to document the type simply as 
"off_t", with a footnote saying the equivalent of "this assumes that on 
32-bit glibc platforms you compile with -DFILE_OFFSET_BITS=64 like any 
sane person would." The intent really is off_t here, and that will 
remain true even if off_t ever widens past 64 bits.

All the apps I know that use the syscalls in question simply pass 
values that fit in off_t to these functions, and this will work 
regardless of whether these apps are compiled with 64- or (horrors!) 
32-bit off_t. Admittedly the footnote solution would not be perfect, but 
it's good enough, and it would sidestep the loff_t vs off64_t confusion.

> As for why off64_t is not an appropriate type, it's defined by and
> associated with the LFS64 summit and the related intefaces, and
> governed by them. Using it makes these interfaces non-standardizable,
> because no standard is going to adopt a function whose public
> interface depends on another optional thing they don't want to
> mandate.

I don't see why not. For example, POSIX-2018 requires int32_t even 
though C17 says it's optional. So there's precedent for POSIX adopting a 
type that's optional elsewhere.

Also, to POSIX loff_t is just as optional as off64_t is. glibc defines 
neither type if the app #defines _POSIX_C_SOURCE as POSIX requires. So 
from a standardization viewpoint there's no reason to prefer one type 
over the other.

> This is exactly the problem why ISO C is stuck with the
> broken and unusable fseek/ftell that take long, and hasn't adopted
> fseeko/ftello from POSIX -- their public interfaces use the
> POSIX-governed type off_t, and as such, ISO C adopting them without
> adopting the whole POSIX off_t is out of the question.

I'm not sure what the point is here, as far as standardization goes. 
Neither ISO C nor POSIX use loff_t, and neither is likely to ever use 
it: ISO C won't even adopt off_t much less loff_t, and POSIX works just 
fine with off_t and doesn't need loff_t. (The same goes for off64_t of 

> As a particular practical concern, applications performing
> configure-like tests may use the existence of an off64_t type to
> conclude that the LFS64 API is supported on the system they're being
> built on.

Which apps do that?

But anyway this is all moot if we simply document the arguments as off_t 
with a footnote.

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