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Re: argument list too long in project with many files

From: Bob Friesenhahn
Subject: Re: argument list too long in project with many files
Date: Fri, 30 May 2014 09:26:14 -0500 (CDT)
User-agent: Alpine 2.01 (GSO 1266 2009-07-14)

On Fri, 30 May 2014, Marco Maggi wrote:

 I  have read  the manual  section "Length  Limitations" and  an oldish
mailing list thread[2].  By inspection of the output of "make dist -n" I
see  only a  single big  list of  files, so  I do  not think  that using
convenience libraries can solve anything.   Is there a way to circumvent
this problem other  than splitting the single into multiple

It looks like DISTFILES is very large and the rule for 'distdir' uses shell code which passes this list to an external utility. Whether this script fails may depend on the exact SHELL used such as which commands are shell built-ins (e.g. 'echo') or if it has any arbitrary limits.

It seems that the design of the 'distdir' target is fragile since it
tries to accomplish so much in one target.

Possible solutions are to investigate how to make DISTFILES smaller, check if there is a different shell which works better, or use the dist-hook facility to copy the files while intentionally erasing most of the content of DISTFILES.

This is how DISTFILES is defined in


You should be able to offer a new definition for this in your which removes content (e.g. removes $(DIST_SOURCES)) while arranging to copy that content via a suitably designed dist-hook. A suitably designed dist-hook could copy the files in multiple smaller steps, or could use an approach which does not consider a list of files at all (more risky).

Here is an example of a working dist-hook target which is insensitive to the number of files:

# Non-Automake subdirectories to distribute
DISTDIRS = locale scripts www PerlMagick TclMagick
        ( \
          builddir=`pwd` ; \
          cd $(srcdir) && \
          ( \
            for dir in $(DISTDIRS) ; do \
              find $$dir -depth -print | egrep -v 
'(~$$)|(/\.hg)|(/\.#)|(/\.deps)|(\.pyc)' \
                | cpio -pdum $$builddir/$(distdir) 2> /dev/null ; \
            done \
          ) \

Bob Friesenhahn
GraphicsMagick Maintainer,

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