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Re: just one of a million reasons why autoconf is a worthless piece of s

From: Dirk
Subject: Re: just one of a million reasons why autoconf is a worthless piece of shit
Date: Tue, 18 Mar 2008 16:05:24 +0100
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux i686; en-US; rv: Gecko/20080201 SeaMonkey/1.1.8

John Calcote wrote:

I once thought as you did (albeit without quite so much volatility).
I've since come to realize that autoconf and the rest of the autotools
are really quite amazing.

The problem most people have with the autotools is that they exist at
the 10,000 foot level (metaphorically speaking, of course). The
difficulty in grasping how they work is very similar to the learning
curve that I and others had in moving from C to C++ in the late 80's
and early 90's. The C++ compiler does a lot for you under the covers,
so you often do the wrong thing as a programmer, simply because you
don't understand the details that are being hidden by the compiler.

Incidentally, I recall a lot of folks speaking about C++ then in the
same way you speak about the Autotools today. They kept spouting off
about how much crap the compiler generates. But once you really
understand the language - or the Autotools - you can write some really
good code, with about half the time and effort spent in C - or a
hand-coded makefile/configure script.

As the man said, for your own sake, hold your peace - at least until
you know what you're talking about, or you'll really be embarrassed
when you finally reach that point and look back.


I know pretty well what I'm talking about. I was using autoconf for some months to configure my projects but then switched to my own solution because autoconf was just bloated overkill... overkill that forced me to spend time with it. I'm happy I stopped using it before I wasted time digging into M4.

I don't think that I will be embarrassed when I look back. Actually, bashing autoconf is pretty popular with people who stopped using it and found their own means to configure projects. What do you think where the headline of this Wikipedia article comes from? Do you think "autoconfiscation" is the result of someone being comfortable with the amount of work and bloat autoconf requires?

I just happen to make the effort of posting my feedback here. If it is a little negative or maybe not contructive enough then it's because we're talking about autoconf here.

It is time for a autoconf that generates a config.h and a config.mak. That is sufficient for 99% of all projects. One could call it autoconf_lite or autoconf_that_just_works_without_bitching_about_stuff_nobody_really_cares_about_and_which_isnt_the_fault_of_the_actual_project_code or so.

The fact that you compare autoconf with C++ amazes me. It demonstrates that you guys have completely lost sight of what autoconf is supposed to be. Just(!) a helpful tool(!) to configure a project. But instead it ever again annoys the hell out of me by failing to fulfill this goal and by forcing me to care about crap like... what was it? M4? WTF???


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