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

From: Jim Meyering
Subject: Re: [PATCH] build: do not require help2man at build-from-tarball time
Date: Sun, 16 Sep 2012 11:29:27 +0200

Mike Frysinger wrote:
>> 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.

Yes, this dichotomy is what I'm most leery of.

> 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.

That would be a problem, but let's examine the conditions
required for that to happen:

    Someone starts from a release tarball, changes source and then wants
    to regenerated a man/*.1 file, yet they do not have perl installed.

One consequence of not having perl is that they are unable to run
a significant number of tests.  While there are comparatively
few .pl test scripts, each typically runs many more tests than
the average .sh test script.

Hence, I conclude that perl is already a build prerequisite for
any packager/installer who applies patches and expects to test their
result.  Whether it is officially listed as a build-prerequisite in
every distro's packaging system is another matter entirely.

This is making me think that it is almost an obligation
(force patchers to DRTR ;-) for us to list perl as a build-time

I'll sleep on it.

>> 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.

Like perl, but on a much smaller scale...
Not every distribution packages or installs-by-default the help2man
script, so by including it, we're making it a little easier to build
coreutils on those systems.

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