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Re: How did you handle making a GNU/Linux distribution?

From: Philip McGrath
Subject: Re: How did you handle making a GNU/Linux distribution?
Date: Mon, 23 Aug 2021 13:30:18 -0400
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64; rv:78.0) Gecko/20100101 Thunderbird/78.11.0

Hi Simon,

On 8/23/21 11:38 AM, zimoun wrote:
The bootstrap path of Racket in Guix is not clear to me.  I miss if a
Racket interpreter or compiler in its binary format is used (as
Haskell for instance) or if all is compiled from source using tools
already bootstrapped.  Anyway, I miss what you would like bootstrap?
If you mean a trusted seed in order to start a package collection, you
could use the current Guix binaires---as a starting point.

I wrote a long comment at the top of gnu/packages/racket.scm that explains the current state of affairs. (For anyone unfamiliar with the Guix source tree: <>)

In brief, Racket is bootstrapped from source using only a C compiler---including bootstrapping Racket's fork of Chez Scheme without an existing Chez Scheme compiler---with one exception: the "expander" subsystem (which implements the reader, module system, and macro expander) is implemented in Racket, and the older C implementation was completely replaced as of Racket 7.0. (One of the motivations was to fix many problems with the old implementation.) For bootstrapping, an intermediate representation as a "schemified" linklet is checked into the Racket source repository.

This impact is mitigated because, by design, the intermediate representation is "human-readable and -editable Scheme code". Anecdotally, when I read diffs of changes to the Racket repository, I sometimes read tens of lines of code before I realize that I'm looking at the generated version of the file, not the source. So the expander is not bootstrappable in the most rigorous sense, but it is readily auditable.

If someone wanted to tie the knot, the task would be to use an existing bootstappable language to write a minimal expander that can expand the canonical Racket implementation: if your output is identical to the checked-in generated files, you've succeeded. (Using Guile could avoid the heavy maintenance burden of the old C expander implementation, and indeed you could write just enough of an adapter to load the Racket source files into Guile, which is the technique Racket uses to bootstrap the Chez Scheme compiler.) I expect Racket would welcome a contribution along those lines; it just hasn't been a priority for anyone yet.


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