[Haskell-cafe] size of Haskell Platform

Doug McIlroy doug at cs.dartmouth.edu
Sun Nov 11 17:59:18 CET 2012

This note is an offshoot of "curl package broken in Windows",
where this item appeared:

> Did you know that Strawberry Perl includes a cygwin gcc?
> ...
> Maybe Haskell Platform could do the same.

The suggestion brought to mind a true-life parable: the pump
station at Tok.  (Tok is the third corner--after Anchorage
and Fairbanks--of Alaska's triangular core of long-distance
highways.) When I visited Tok long ago, it was a village of
several hundred souls, almost all of whom were employed by one
government agency or another, principal among which were the
highway department, the Alaska Communication Service and the
pump station, which kept fuel flowing to Eielson Air Force Base.

The mission of the station was to keep one pump running 24 hours
a day. Most of the time, of course, the pump hummed along by
itself. To assure that, there had to be a standby machine,
an operator to watch over both, and a mechanic who could fix
them if need be.  For such a lonely job it was deemed well to
have two operators. And there had to be two operators for each
of several shifts. A little redundancy on the mechanical side
seemed wise, too.  The crew and their families, say nothing of
the pumps themselves, needed to be housed, and the installation
needed to be supplied with the necessities of life. (The nearest
supermarket was in Fairbanks, 300 miles away.)  These needs
demanded a motor pool and property maintenance cadre, whose
very presence reinforced the need.

Thus the support team to keep one pump going ballooned to about
100 people--a chain reaction that barely avoided criticality.

So it seems to be with Haskell Platform, which aims to include
"all you need to get up and running"--"an extensive set of
standard libraries and utilities with full documentation." I
get the impression that the Platform is bedeviled by the
same prospect of almost unfettered growth.

[One ominous sign: the description of the Haskell Platform
at lambda.haskell.org/platform/doc/current/start.html suggests
that one must join some mysterious Cabal, whose nature is
hidden by a link to nowhere, simply to get started.]

What principles guide the selection of components for "all
you need to get up and running"?

Doug McIlroy

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