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Re: Emacs vista build failures

From: Stephen J. Turnbull
Subject: Re: Emacs vista build failures
Date: Sun, 20 Jul 2008 15:35:30 +0900

Richard M Stallman writes:
 >     > I tried at one point to convince XFree86 to support the GNU
 >     > configuration spec.  I even found a volunteer to implement that as a
 >     > wrapper around their existing configuration mechanism.  But they did
 >     > not consider such compatibility very important, and I don't think they
 >     > installed this wrapper.
 >     Note that the current standard X distribution, Xorg, now uses gnu auto*
 >     tools for configuration.
 > That is good news, but the general problem remains
 > as far as I know.  Has there been a general move towards
 > supporting the GNU configure and build specs?  That would make
 > it much easier to build a whole system from source.

It depends on what you mean by "general move" and "whole system".  For
example, the 'BSDs continue to use their traditional hierarchy of Make
include files.  Presumbly you mean to exclude those systems from
"general", however.

Regarding the "system", among the programs I use that are written in C
for the GNU system, almost all use the autotools for configuration and
make to run the build.  But dissatisfaction with autotools and even
make runs throughout the "open source" community (ie, the community
that uses free software licenses for whatever reason, not limited to
principled support for freedom).[1]

While I don't know off hand of any C programs that use other build
control tools, few of the scripting languages and web frameworks do.
Python has its setup.py and dist-tools, I believe Ruby and Perl have
similar build systems, Haskell has its Cabal, and there are a number
of more general rivals to the autotools such as Scons which are
attracting attention.  These days more and more important software is
written in languages like Python (eg, bzr, Emacs's recently anointed
distributed version control system) and Perl (eg, debbugs, Emacs's
recently anointed bug tracking system).  I don't know about bzr
offhand, but debbugs includes separate Perl scripts "build", "clean",
and "debian/debbugsconfig", as well as the Makefile which seems to be
used only to install the package.  Not to mention that every package
management system has its own standards, usually supported by
utilities like Debian's debhelper.

If in "system" you intend to include such applications, then I would
have to guess that programs that don't conform to GNU standards for
configuration and build are proliferating rapidly.  I also know of
several free software programs for Mac OS X which presumably could be
ported to GNUStep, but AFAIK are dependent on Apple's proprietary
Xcode tool (a build manager like Scons, or maybe even an IDE
comparable to Eclipse without the extensibility).  Thus they might
require substantial extra effort in porting.

BTW, I haven't used Scons, but every time XEmacs has a build issue
somebody brings it up.  The Scons blurb says:

    What is SCons?
    SCons is an Open Source software construction tool---that is, a
    next-generation build tool. Think of SCons as an improved,
    cross-platform substitute for the classic Make utility with integrated
    functionality similar to autoconf/automake and compiler caches such as
    ccache. In short, SCons is an easier, more reliable and faster way to
    build software.

There seem to be a fair number who have drunk of the Scons Kool-Aid
and say it lives up to its advertising.

[1]  In case it's not clear, I mention the open source community not
to identify it with the free software community, but because not all
useful free software originates within the free software community,
and where such software is useful but nonconformant to GNU standards,
you may need to spend effort adapting it.

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