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

From: K. Richard Pixley <rich_at_noir.com>
Date: 2005-05-18 00:11:11 CEST

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.

Untrue. There are superior alternatives.

> Autoconf is the current defacto solution, not because it's "stadard"
> or endorsed by a huge company, but because it competed with other
> solutions (the horrible "imake" for one) and won (for the time being).

Not true. It won because it was written by FSF folks. It's biggest
competitor in the gnu world is mine and it's still in use.

The user interface to configure was a fine idea. But the idea that any
tool can infer the set of configuration parameters you might like is
awkward. I can't provide conclusive regression testing when I can't
even guarantee that two different builds will even build the same code.

A superior approach involves listing those configuration parameters in a
sort of database, with standard system configurations named in a
predictable fashion. This allows for particular combinations to work
transparently and allows configurations with-just-one-difference to be
easily inferred. It also allows for simple extention by any developer
with half a brain rather than requiring the steep learning curve of
autoconf.

> Autoconf is not perfect, but perfect isn't really always needed and
> autoconf seems to be doing quite ok.

Of the last 100 packages I've attempted to compile out of the box,
roughly 86% of them failed, due to configuration problems. Autoconf
works great for fire&forget packages like fileutils which already come
bundled with my operating system. Autoconf really sucks for new
packages like bind9 or subversion or apache or python or...

> autoconf and automake is actually what allows you to remain ignorant
> yet still compile vast amounts of software ;)

No. Ports are what make this possible. Autotools make some ports
trivial while making other ports extremely difficult.

--rich

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Received on Wed May 18 00:14:34 2005

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