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RE: On the Infinitude of Module Solutions.

From: Bill Tutt <rassilon_at_lyra.org>
Date: 2002-05-17 23:27:44 CEST

No arguments from this end of the continent. I even expected you to say
something that. The beauty of the parsed file format is that the
command line can still preserve the same interface in V2.0 even if the
schema now has a reference node concept.

Even though being able to have an actual tag concept tempts me greatly.
:)

Keeper of the "A copy is not a branch" flame war,
Bill

----
Do you want a dangerous fugitive staying in your flat?
No.
Well, don't upset him and he'll be a nice fugitive staying in your flat.
 
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Karl Fogel [mailto:kfogel@newton.ch.collab.net]
> Sent: Friday, May 17, 2002 1:52 PM
> To: Bill Tutt
> Cc: peter.westlake@arm.com; dev@subversion.tigris.org
> Subject: On the Infinitude of Module Solutions.
> 
> I've renamed this thread; it had been "Re: svn commit: rev 1957 -
> trunk/subversion/include trunk/subversion/libsvn_wc", which wasn't
> exactly eye-catching :-).
> 
> I'd like to propose a way out of our module system dilemma.  Right
> now, the two horns of the dilemma are:
> 
>    1) Write a description-based module system, where a description
>       file (or property, whatever) provides a list of external
>       "things" that are included in the module.  Checking out the
>       description results in the external things being checked out
>       too; updates and commits account for them, insert hand-waving
>       here, to be supplemented by concrete description below.
> 
>                                ...OR...
> 
>    2) Make a first-class "reference node" type, recognized by both
>       filesystem and client, that points to external things.  When you
>       check out a reference, it drags in the thing it points to, while
>       still remaining aware that its a reference (so that if the
>       reference changes, all the appropriate changes are made).
>       Updates and commits account for them.  Insert hand-waving here,
>       to be supplemented by more hand-waving below.
> 
> These two solutions are not mutually exclusive.  There's no reason we
> couldn't implement both, except that it might cause some confusion for
> users who have to decide which way to do a module.
> 
> The reference node solution has a certain geek-elegance appeal.  I
> find myself instantly attracted to it.  It's simple to explain the
> concept, and it's easy to see, at a high level, *how* to do almost
> anything one might want to do with modules via this method.  Indeed, I
> must say outright that I favor the reference solution hands-down.
> 
> So why am I about to start on solution number 1? :-)
> 
> A few reasons.  First, the simplicity of references is deceptive.
> They are conceptually easy, yes, but good concrete interfaces are
> actually hard to come up with.  One always has to distinguish between
> acting on the reference versus acting on the thing it refers to, and
> its easy to end up with inconsistent situations (especially at
> reference creation time, and reference changing time).  Here I'm going
> to hand-wave a bit, because I don't have time to write up examples of
> all these situations.  But you can come up with the problems yourself
> pretty easily.  The recipe is simple: first come up with what *seems*
> like a good interface for reference creation and modification, and
> then try to think of situations where it breaks down.  You'll find
> they're very easy to imagine :-).  (Unfortunately, not all of the
> discussion about this has happened on the list; some has been on IRC,
> some has been on phone calls.  So these objections might look like
> they're coming out of the blue sky, when in fact they're products of
> discussion with others.)
> 
> A second reason: references involve changes to both server and client
> side.  Creating a new node type involves lots of little changes all
> over the code.  Not a showstopper, just very time-consuming.
> 
> Finally, I find that when I talk to people about how modules will be
> used, I get (roughly speaking) more different answers than there are
> particles in the universe.  So I don't think that we're going to fully
> nail this the first time, whether we use references or descriptions.
> Given that, I want to start with descriptions, since they're easier to
> implement, and have much less drastic repercussions on the rest of
> Subversion.
> 
> Think of solution (1) as training wheels for solution (2).  I don't
> believe we can do a good job of (2) in a schedulable way, because it
> involves huge unresolved questions about both interfaces and
> semantics.  Those questions will be partially resolved through
> discussion and thought, and partly through experience -- experience
> which using (1) can help us acquire.  In the meantime, (1) gives us a
> useable module system, perhas one that will (in practice) suffice for
> most purposes.
> 
> I honestly don't know whether (1) will end up being throwaway code
> someday.  If references eventually turn out to be everything we could
> hope for, then it will.  But that's not at all a sure thing.  I think
> there's a possibility that (1) will turn out to satisfy most needs.
> 
> Please remember that this is *not* a vote against references.  Anyone
> who wants to start work on a reference node system right now should do
> so.  There's no reason the two can't develop in parallel.  But I
> personally am not planning to devote coding time to it before Alpha
> (and therefore not before 1.0).  It needs a LOT more discussion and
> design cycles... And in the meantime, we need some sort of module
> solution.
> 
> Here is some more detail about (1):
> 
> It's basically what's described in issue #517, except Mike Pilato
> suggested the following modification: instead of a file, have a
> 
>    svn:references
> 
> (or "svn:external-sources" or whatever) property that can be put on a
> directory.  The value of the property is a description of additional
> items to be checked out into subdirectories (the format of the
> description is the same as the file format described in issue #517).
> So during a checkout, if you encounter this property set on directory
> "A/", then each item listed in the property's value will be checked
> out as a disconnected subdir of A/.
> 
> Here, "disconnected" means that the subdirs do not get entries in
> "A/.svn/entries".  They're simply there.  Whether commits and updates
> recurse into such subdirs is something we can decide (maybe
> conditionally, if they're listed in the property).  When the property
> changes, the subdirs change too (though paths to local mods remain, as
> per usual).  We can either interpret the property at propset time, or
> (better) at update time, with commits blocking until the property has
> been interpreted.
> 
> (This is still not as concrete a description as I would like, but
> there are physical barriers to how much writing one can do in a day
> :-) .)
> 
> Anyway.  This supports multiple-repository modules (something that I
> think *is* going to be important right away) simply.  It adds no new
> node types to Subversion.  It doesn't affect the server code.  It's
> easy to implement and gets us useful functionality right away.
> 
> I've always been a little wary of the "worse is better" philosophy,
> but this is one case where I think it will help us to do the worse
> thing first.  References might be super-elegant, but there's just no
> way we can have them done by Alpha without sacrificing either time or
> design quality.
> 
> -K
> 
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Received on Fri May 17 23:28:46 2002

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