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Idea: a meta language for (language) build systems - npm, Racket, Rust c

From: Pjotr Prins
Subject: Idea: a meta language for (language) build systems - npm, Racket, Rust cargo
Date: Sun, 30 May 2021 10:38:47 +0200
User-agent: NeoMutt/20170113 (1.7.2)

Maybe this is a crazy idea:

It appears to me that every language out there today is creating their
own build system. We know that creating build-system package support
for GNU Guix is complicated by:

1. Live updates over the internet
2. Circular dependencies
3. Tests requiring internet access

Now we never got to truely solving npm, for example. And despite
heroic efforts: Go, Rust, Racket are often in stages of disarray.

The irony is that, when we leverage GNU Guix infrastructure, the
software packages themselves can be really simple. All we need is a
source ball and a little metadata. From that GNU Guix can do the hard
stuff and handle the builds and dependencies. This is why our C build
system is so effective and simple packages translate well to GNU Guix.

My idea is this: rather than generating 'imports' from native build
packages for every target - which is kinda laborious in its way - we
could translate an existing Rust/Node/Racket package into an
intermediate simple package tar ball - call it a sexp-pack ;). This
repackaged sexp-pack can only reference other sexp-packs which gets
rid of (1). The sexp-pack generator can identify and help resolve
circular dependencies which solves (2). At this intermediate stage we
can also also patch sources which helps with (3). We would have a
sexp-pack for cargo and another for npm.

As sexp-packs are generated from source, the GNU Guix turn around and
packaging time can potentially be sped up. And once a hosted sexp-pack
exists it is stable.

It may be silly to create another layer (of indirection). But I think
that breaking up the packaging process this way will help us to
actually fix npm and cargo support in a reasonable time frame. Also it
works the other way, I would no longer need cargo or Racket packages


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