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Re: OT: useless rant, Was: Building Subversion 1.2 on OS X 10.4 fails

From: Ben Collins-Sussman <sussman_at_collab.net>
Date: 2005-05-14 17:08:44 CEST

On May 14, 2005, at 4:58 AM, Helge Jensen wrote:
>
>> What is fundamentally wrong is that autoconf is needed at all.
>>
>
> While that may be true, so is the state of the world. Refusing to
> accept that will not improve things.
>

Well explained, Helge.

Anyone can create a simple standalone Makefile that will run on
nearly every distribution of Linux. But try having that Makefile
work on all flavors of SunOS, HP-UX, AIX, IRIX, Tru64, FreeBSD,
NetBSD, Darwin... and work with every possible C compiler, both free
and commercial, installed in different locations on each syste.m
Heck, even the basic C libraries have different quirky behaviors on
each system!

At my previous job, they refused to use autoconf, and my job *was* to
do exactly this. Our product had to compile on 7 flavors of Unix,
and my job was to write a Makefile / build system. It was the
biggest nightmare ever... huge, complex, impossible to maintain.
Contrast that against a few macro calls in configure.in: "find a C
compiler", "does the system have X feature? how about this other
feature?". And it *works*, because autoconf is a gigantic library of
knowledge, a compendium of OS-specific quirks and workarounds
gathered from thousands of programmers over many years. When you use
it, you're standing on the shoulders of everyone's collective
experience.

I think the problem is that Scott is grimacing at the the ugliness of
the cure, having never seen the horror of the original disease. :-)

That said, the world is slowly changing; Linux and BSD are pushing
Unix back towards unification again. It's gotten to the point where
non-GNU systems (like SunOS) are now considered 'eclectic'
platforms. Who'da thunk it?

OK, have we wandered off-topic enough yet?

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Received on Sat May 14 17:13:40 2005

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