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Re: [PATCH] build: do not require help2man at build-from-tarball time

From: Mike Frysinger
Subject: Re: [PATCH] build: do not require help2man at build-from-tarball time
Date: Sat, 15 Sep 2012 19:46:41 -0400
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On Monday 10 September 2012 06:46:23 Jim Meyering wrote:
> Stefano Lattarini wrote:
> > On 09/10/2012 09:41 AM, Jim Meyering wrote:
> >> We can't have build-from-tarball requiring perl (via help2man)
> >> or regenerating a distributed .1 file when its .c file has not changed.
> >> 
> >> From 57da212a95054cc230ffb00f38ea655c798926f8 Mon Sep 17 00:00:00 2001
> >> From: Jim Meyering <address@hidden>
> >> Date: Sun, 9 Sep 2012 19:27:25 +0200
> >> Subject: [PATCH] build: do not require help2man at build-from-tarball
> >> time
> >> 
> >> But do retain full dependencies when building from a git clone.
> >> We do this by converting the full dependency (of the .1 file on
> >> the binary we run with --help) into a dependency on the .c file.
> >> * (do-not-require-help2man): New rule.
> >> (dist-hook): depend on it.
> ...
> > I believe this is incorrect.  Think of what happens if a user building
> > from the tarball modifies, say, 'src/ls.c', and then runs "make -j8" to
> > rebuild everything: make will see that it has to rebuild the man page
> > 'man/ls.1' (because its prerequisite 'src/ls.c' has changed), but won't
> > see that it has to rebuild 'src/ls' before re-running 'help2man' ro
> > generate that man page; so, if 'man/ls.1' is rebuilt before 'src/ls'
> > (which can happen with concurrent make), our user will get either a
> > build error (if 'src/ls' was non-existent) or, worse, a man page with an
> > up-to-date timestamp but an out-of-date content.  And what's even worse
> > is that this problem will be present also for users who have perl
> > installed!
> > 
> > So we are breaking correctness for all tarball users only to accommodate
> > those few crippled systems lacking a decent perl.
> > 
> > I think the right way to go is "graceful degradation": we should keep the
> > correct dependency for man pages ("man/ls.1: src/ls"); and if perl is not
> > present, we should use, instead of help2man, a shell script that just
> > emit a "placeholder" man page stating that a real man page couldn't be
> > built due to lack of perl, and redirecting the user back to either the
> > info documentation or the '--help' output.
> > 
> > WDYT?
> I have mixed feelings.  If someone is modifying sources and expecting
> to be able to rebuild, they'd better have developer tools like perl.
> On the other hand, I dislike distributing a deliberately hamstrung
>, even though this wart is only in a generated file, that
> could easily be regenerated without the reduced dependency -- again,
> assuming proper tools.
> An added bonus of your approach: we would no longer need to distribute
> the man/*.1 files, and instead would generate them unconditionally, even
> from tarballs.

i think this is a step backwards.  some people think of no perl as being 
crippled while others think of it as pointless bloat.

if the man page already exists in the dist, i don't see why we'd actively 
replace it with a man page that is known to be significantly worse to the point 
of uselessness.

> Do you feel like writing the patch, and especially documenting what
> would amount to a new, soft, build-from-tarball dependency on Perl?

i wonder why coreutils ships with help2man at all considering it's released as 
a dedicated package.  the missing helper script can already handle the case 
where help2man isn't installed and output a stub man page.

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