Bottom Line: To build Rust for x86_64-freebsd from M1 Macs, try cross-rs.

I started using pfSense as my home router / firewall a few months ago and have been generally pretty happy. Last week I decided to make a simple tool that I wanted to run as a scheduled task on the router, and I figured I would try to build it in Rust. I haven’t done a whole lot of cross-compilation in Rust, but I didn’t think it would be too difficult, even though I’m building on an M1 Mac.

I was wrong.

For context, I enjoy writing Rust much more than Go, but Go’s cross-compilation story is so good:

$ go mod init hello-world-pfsense-go
$ cat <<'EOF' > main.go
package main

func main() {
	println("hello from go")
$ GOOS=freebsd GOARCH=amd64 go build

And that’s it. It “just worked”:

$ file hello-world-pfsense-go
hello-world-pfsense-go: ELF 64-bit LSB executable, x86-64, version 1 (FreeBSD), statically linked, Go BuildID=Z28o7oeyPtvBK_5PtRat/rrqLEVcYpz6TRemoEBw6/CKtjgYiTl36zk0WHzVqz/8Zb3Xo6ZzG3NTDrESVXO, with debug_info, not stripped
$ scp hello-world-pfsense-go router:/tmp
hello-world-pfsense-go    100% 1165KB   1.7MB/s   00:00
$ ssh router /tmp/hello-world-pfsense-go
hello from go

Hoping in vain for something analogously simple from Rust, I started with:

$ cargo new hello-world-pfsense && cd $_
$ rustup target add x86_64-unknown-freebsd
$ cargo build --target x86_64-unknown-freebsd
error: linking with `cc` failed: exit status: 1

I’ve seen some issues like this before. The below workaround (see also) requires a zig installation but works great for compiling for x86_64-linux:

$ cat <<'EOF' > ~/.local/bin/zcc-x86_64-linux-gnu
#!/usr/bin/env bash

set -Eeuf -o pipefail

main() {
  local toolchain=${0#*zcc-}
  exec zig cc -target "${toolchain}" "$@"
main "$@"
$ cat <<'EOF' >> ~/.cargo/config.toml
linker = "/Users/n8henrie/.local/bin/zcc-x86_64-linux-gnu"
$ rustup target add x86_64-unknown-linux-gnu
$ cargo build --target x86_64-unknown-linux-gnu

So I thought I’d try the same zig-based solution:

$ cp ~/.local/bin/zcc-x86_64-linux-gnu ~/.local/bin/zcc-x86_64-freebsd-gnu
$ cat <<'EOF' >> ~/.cargo/config.toml
linker = "/Users/n8henrie/.local/bin/zcc-x86_64-freebsd-gnu"
$ cargo build --target x86_64-unknown-freebsd
   Compiling hello-world-pfsense v0.1.0 (/Users/n8henrie/git/hello-world-pfsense)
error: linking with `/Users/n8henrie/.local/bin/zcc-x86_64-freebsd-gnu` failed: exit status: 1
          /opt/homebrew/Cellar/zig/0.10.0/lib/zig/include/inttypes.h:21:15/opt/homebrew/Cellar/zig/0.10.0/lib/zig/libunwind/src/config.h: fatal error: 21:
          /opt/homebrew/Cellar/zig/0.10.0/lib/zig/include/inttypes.h:21:15'inttypes.h' file not found:: fatal error: 'inttypes.h' file not found
          /opt/homebrew/Cellar/zig/0.10.0/lib/zig/include/inttypes.h:21:15: fatal error: 'inttypes.h' file not found
error: could not compile `hello-world-pfsense` due to previous error

No luck. (I opened, perhaps I’m doing something wrong here.)

Next I resorted to trying cross, which uses docker to get the job done (so you’ll need a working docker installation). I’m not a big fan of docker, especially since I often end up with a bunch of warnings about being on ARM64 machine when it expects AMD64, but I thought it was worth a shot.

However, after installing cross, things seemed to actually work, which is a solid start:

$ cargo install cross --git
$ cross build --target x86_64-unknown-freebsd
WARNING: The requested image's platform (linux/amd64) does not match the detected host platform (linux/arm64/v8) and no specific platform was requested
   Compiling hello-world-pfsense v0.1.0 (/project)
<jemalloc>: MADV_DONTNEED does not work (memset will be used instead)
<jemalloc>: (This is the expected behaviour if you are running under QEMU)
    Finished dev [unoptimized + debuginfo] target(s) in 12.93s
$ file target/x86_64-unknown-freebsd/debug/hello-world-pfsense
target/x86_64-unknown-freebsd/debug/hello-world-pfsense: ELF 64-bit LSB pie executable, x86-64, version 1 (FreeBSD), dynamically linked, interpreter /libexec/, for FreeBSD 12.3, FreeBSD-style, with debug_info, not stripped

After copying this file to my pfSense machine confirmed I was greeted with a friendly Hello, world!. Success!

However, the familiar docker warnings about my architechture made me suspect I was leaving some performance on the table. After a docker image prune and lots of browsing issues and tinkering, I seem to have gotten a proper ARM64 host image with the following:

$ git clone
$ cd cross
$ git submodule update --init --remote
$ cargo build-docker-image \
    --platform=aarch64-unknown-linux-gnu \
    x86_64-unknown-freebsd \
    --tag local

After that, I can change back to the directory with my test project and proceed:

$ cat <<'EOF' >> Cargo.toml
[] = ""
image.toolchain = ["linux/arm64/v8=aarch64-unknown-linux-gnu"]
$ cross build --target x86_64-unknown-freebsd --release
   Compiling hello-world-pfsense v0.1.0 (/Users/n8henrie/git/hello-world-pfsense)
    Finished release [optimized] target(s) in 8.16s
$ echo $?



For cross to work, I had to use the current main (cross 0.2.4 (1d9d310 2023-01-05)), installed from GitHub as shown above, and I had to put the config into Cross.toml instead of using [] in Cargo.toml, which I think should have worked. More info and issue here.

UPDATE: The cross maintainers fixed this issue promptly, so the current main branch works with config in Cargo.toml; I’ve updated the post above to reflect this.