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Re: Could automake-generated Makefiles required GNU make? (was: Re: [gnu

From: Nick Bowler
Subject: Re: Could automake-generated Makefiles required GNU make? (was: Re: [gnu-prog-discuss] portability)
Date: Tue, 22 Nov 2011 11:18:36 -0500
User-agent: Mutt/1.5.21 (2010-09-15)

Hi Stefano,

On 2011-11-21 21:56 +0100, Stefano Lattarini wrote:
> > > Notice that, despite of the (semi)-consensus reached there, I'm becoming
> > > more and more convinced that, in the long run, requiring GNU make to run
> > > the automake-generated Makefiles would be an acceptable move (for automake
> > > 2.0, that is).  But only because GNU make is *so* much better than
> > > portable make (which is extremely limited), because GNU make is very
> > > portable and easy to build and install (and free from bootstrapping
> > > problems AFAIK), and because the incompatibilities between different
> > > make versions are so appalling.

I think this discussion is for the most part ignoring what is (IMO) the
most important issue: it must be easy for ordinary (non-developer) users
to build free software packages!  This especially includes users who
have no idea that there's a difference between GNU make and the version
of "make" that is already on their system.

This is, I think, the single best way to encourage users to become more
involved in the free software community.  If the user can't easily build
a package, they won't test new versions and they won't test patches.
(It's truly unfortunate that many popular GNU/Linux distros deliberately
make this more difficult than it needs to be, but I digress).

I have no doubt that using GNU make will make the the automake
maintainers' jobs easier.  It might even make the jobs of individual
package maintainers easier.

But when a user building a free software package for the first time in
their life runs "./configure && make", and receives a spew of cryptic
messages about syntax errors or worse, I suspect that their first
reaction is not going to be "Whoops!  I should have run gmake instead."
More likely it will involve much more colourful language, and they will
be left with a bitter impression.

Now, I'm not fundamentally opposed to the idea, but it has to be done

Nick Bowler, Elliptic Technologies (

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