First bazel-ified packages

In “Building mjmech dependencies with bazel“, I described my rationale as it were for attempting to build all of the mjmech dependencies within bazel for cross compilation onto the raspberry pi.  mjmech has two big dependencies which were going to cause most of the transitive fallout:

  • gstreamer – We use gstreamer to interface with the webcam, format RTSP streams for FPV on the control station, and to render the control station and heads up display.  Granted, not all of gstreamer is used, but we do depend on features that require ffmpeg and X11.
  • opencv – The use of opencv had been minimal to non-existant previously, as we hadn’t actually done any computer vision on the robot itself.  However, one of the big motivations for switching to the raspberry pi in the first place was to at least to be able to do active target tracking onboard.

And then there are a few other direct dependencies that are “easy”, if nothing else because they have such few transitive dependencies.

  • boost – The use of boost is almost exclusively the header only parts, boost::date_time, boost::filesystem, boost::program_options, boost::test, and boost::python.  Of these, only boost::python has any transitive dependencies.
  • fmt – This text formatting library has no further dependencies whatsoever.
  • log4cpp – This is just used for writing textual debug output and has no transitive dependencies.
  • snappy – We use snappy to compress logged data, but it depends on nothing.

Simple packages

I started with the simple, no dependency packages from the second set.  The strategy here is to, for each package, create a tools/workspace/FOO/repository.bzl with a FOO_repository method to download the upstream tarball, and a corresponding tools/workspace/FOO/package.BUILD which contains the bazel BUILD file describing how to build that package.

The most straightforward package was “fmt”, from  It’s repository.bzl looks like:

load("@bazel_tools//tools/build_defs/repo:http.bzl", "http_archive")

def fmt_repository(name):
        name = name,
        urls = [
        sha256 = "fc33d64d5aa2739ad2ca1b128628a7fc1b7dca1ad077314f09affc57d59cf88a",
        strip_prefix = "fmt-5.0.0",
        build_file = Label("//tools/workspace/fmt:package.BUILD"),

It basically just contains the URL of the tarball to download, its hash, the prefix to strip, and where to locate the BUILD file.

Next, the package.BUILD file is:

package(default_visibility = ["//visibility:public"])

    name = "fmt",
    hdrs = glob(["include/**"]),
    srcs = [
    includes = ["include"],

Since the fmt library is mostly header only, this has a single cc_library definition which compiles the one file and sets up the paths to correctly find the header files.

The other easiest package, boost, was handled in a similar manner.

Next level

Moving up the difficulty ladder is snappy and log4cpp, both of which require at least minimally more complicated build rules.  That will be the topic for the next time.