Rasmus Thomsen/Using VSCode in a Flatpak

Created Fri, 27 Mar 2020 09:25:10 +0100
739 Words

I’ve recently started using VSCode as my main editor, mainly due to its extensibility, meaning I can use it in almost all scenarios (at work, for personal projects, …) and it’s easy to customize to my needs (although the defaults are pretty nice already). However, since it uses Electron (which currently still needs glibc, although that might change soon) I currently need to run it in a Flatpak, which needed some setup in order to be suitable for development

Setting up dependencies

Overall, there are two ways to do this: The (somewhat) quick and messy way and the less quick but way nicer way.

The messy way

Flatpak mounts folders in its / read-only, so you don’t mess with it, so you can’t really install deps there, unless you bindmount a folder into the VSCode flatpak, like so:

flatpak override --filesystem=/packages com.visualstudio.Code

Alternatively you could also use one of the folders in your $HOME, since the VSCode flatpak permits full access to $HOME through the sandbox. You can now build packages and install them to your new folder (which boils down to downloading the tarball, runing ./configure --prefix=/packages && make install or meson --prefix=/packages build && ninja -C build install or something along those lines). Afterwards you have to adjust some environment variables so that VSCode is able to find your new libs:

flatpak override --env=LD_LIBRARY_PATH=/packages/lib --env=LIBRARY_PATH=/packages/lib --env=PKG_CONFIG_PATH=/packages/lib --env=GETTEXTDATADIRS=/packages/share/gettext

The disadvantage of this method is that it’s not really reproducible (which is annoying if you have multiple systems), prone to breaking and while it is easy to setup it will probably be more annoying in the long run when updating packages

The less messy way

It’s possible to create so called Sdk-Extensions which can then be used in your Flatpak. This means creating a build recipe in a YML file and building it with flatpak-builder and installing it. A simple build recipe which only builds one package could look like this:

# app-id, you can set this to whatever if you want to
app-id: org.freedesktop.Sdk.Extension.Cogitri
# The branch this extension is for. Make sure to keep this in sync with
# runtime-version
branch: '19.08'
runtime: org.freedesktop.Sdk
# What version the runtime we build against has. Make sure this is the same
# version as VSCode uses!
runtime-version: '19.08'
sdk: org.freedesktop.Sdk
build-extension: true
  # We want to install to this dir. This is passed to CMake/Meson/Configure etc.
  # if you set the `buildsystem` (see below in the vte module)
  prefix: /usr/lib/sdk/Cogitri
  # This is only required if one of the dependencies you build needs a binary from
  # another package you build in this module
  prepend-path: /usr/lib/sdk/Cogitri/bin
  # Same as above, but for libraries instead of binaries
  prepend-ld-library-path: /usr/lib/sdk/Cogitri/lib
  # It's best to make one module here for every dependencies you need, since flatpak
  # caches per-module: If you bump the dependency of one module you don't need to
  # rebuild everything then
  - name: vte2.91
    buildsystem: meson
      - -Ddocs=false
      - -Dvapi=false
      env: { CXXFLAGS: "-fno-exceptions" }
      - type: archive
        url: https://download.gnome.org/sources/vte/0.58/vte-0.58.3.tar.xz
        sha256: 22dcb54ac2ad1a56ab0a745e16ccfeb383f0b5860b5bfa1784561216f98d4975

See man 5 flatpak-manifest for more information. See my GitHub repo for how I made my build recipe.

Once you’re done adding all packages to your build recipe it’s time to build it like this:

flatpak-builder --user --install --force-clean app org.freedesktop.Sdk.Extension.Cogitri.yml

This will build and install your extension for you. The only thing that’s left now is to adjust your paths:

flatpak override --env=LD_LIBRARY_PATH=/usr/lib/sdk/Cogitri/lib --env=LIBRARY_PATH=/usr/lib/sdk/Cogitri/lib --env=PKG_CONFIG_PATH=/usr/lib/sdk/Cogitri/lib --env=GETTEXTDATADIRS=/usr/lib/sdk/Cogitri/share/gettext

And now your dependencies should be available in your flatpak! :)

Updating dependencies

Updating dependencies is pretty easy with this approach. For example if I want to bump vte2.91 to version 0.60.0 I only need to change two things: the url to point at 0.60.0 instead of 0.58.3 and the sha256 to be the sha256sum of the new tarball. Flatpak has some fancy tool to automatically update the sha256sum for you, but I forgot it’s name - and curl $url | sha256sum does the trick for now :) After updating your build recipe simple re-run flatpak-builder like above. Since flatpak will only rebuild changed modules (and modules that are built after that module, in case the other modules need the changes of that new module) it shouldn’t take as long as the initial build. It’s a good idea to place dependencies which are updated often to at the end of the file, so you don’t have to rebuild as many modules when bumping it.