[Haskell-cafe] Cabal failures...

Richard O'Keefe ok at cs.otago.ac.nz
Wed Nov 21 22:32:51 CET 2012

Let's put some numbers on this.

(1) In this country, you can buy a second-hand dual core desktop for NZD 200
    (roughly USD 165, EUR 130).  You can buy a new laptop for NZD 400
    (roughly USD 330, EUR 260).  Not fancy machines, but more than adequate
    to compile and build stuff.  Shipping adds a fair bit to prices here.
    So it _must_ be possible to buy a Windows box of some kind adequate for
    compiling, building, and testing open source software, for even less
    than that in North America or Europe.

    It's really *NOT* the price of the box-with-Windows-installed.

(2) This department has a mix of Mac OS X, Linux (running on Apple dual-boot
    boxes), and Windows (running on Apple dual-boot boxes).  The University
    has quite a few Windows labs.   There would be _no_ students at this
    University who did not have ready access to a Windows machine whenever
    they wanted one.   The servers in the department all run some flavour of
    UNIX, true.

(3) Given an intel Solaris, intel Linux, or intel Mac OS X box, VirtualBox
    is free.  You can run Windows in VirtualBox.  Microsoft offer a full
    Windows 7 Professional licence to University students for USD 30.  So
    I really don't buy the idea of a student finding it hard to get Windows.
    My University is part of the MSDN Academic Alliance, so staff get stuff
    for no money of their own.

    Windows 7 Home Premium is USD 200, Professional USD 300.  Probably better
    to buy a cheap box that already has Windows.

What about software?

Well, Microsoft Visual Studio Professional 2012 is several times more expensive
than the box it runs on, and Office is not cheap either.  There are, as always,
special deals, e.g., https://www.dreamspark.com/Product/Product.aspx?productid=34
seems to make VC++ 2008 available free to students, and the MSDN Academic
Alliance makes this stuff easy for staff to get.  For everyone else,
Eclipse and NetBeans are free, and so are Cygwin and Mingw.

It took me about a day to download and install a large amount of free software,
giving me quite a decent environment.  (Of course, if someone were paying me to
do this, the University would charge NZD 150/hour, so "free" = NZD 1200 ...)
I even had Microsoft SUA (Services for Unix Applications -- think of it as
Cygwin from Microsoft but with a less horribly ugly terminal font).  I had ghc
and OCaml and SWI Prolog and Squeak and Dolphin Smalltalk and lots of good stuff.

So it's not really the availability of software either.

So am I a happy Windows hacker?

Actually, no.

I had a working tolerable setup under Windows Vista.   Despite its bad press, I
have to say I never had any trouble with Vista.  Then my (the department's) Mac
laptop needed something done to it -- I forget what -- and they said "while
we're at it, it would simplify our lives if we upgraded the Windows side to
Windows 7 like everyone else has now".  I said, "OK, but I _really_ don't want
to lose any of my programs."  And they lost everything beginning with the
letters M-Z, and what they didn't lose stopped working.  Apparently when
Windows went 64 bit they didn't leave \Program Files\ alone and add a
\Program Files 64\ directory.  Oh no!  Now \Program Files\ was exclusively
for 64-bit programs, and 32-bit ones were supposed to be in \Program Files (x86)\.
You can guess what that did to the surviving remnants of my environment.

How long did it take to rebuild my environment?
I don't know.  Except for installing Cygwin I haven't done it.
The changes to the user interface -- apparently just for the sake of change,
because absolutely nothing I do has become easier for me -- did nothing for
my facility with the system, and having to spend half an hour installing
updates every time I boot into Windows doesn't increase my enjoyment.
I don't want to even _think_ about Windows 8.

On 21/11/2012, at 3:21 PM, Clark Gaebel wrote:

> +1 to this. The friction of finding, setting up, and using Windows isn't even comparable to just sshing into another unix box and testing something quickly.
> As a university student, I also find it relatively rare that I get to test on a Windows machine. My personal computer runs linux, my technical friends run linux or osx, and my non-technical ones run osx. Also, all the school servers that I have access to run either FreeBSD or Linux.
> If I want to run something on linux system, I have about 40 different computers that I can ssh into and run code on.
> If I want to run something on osx, I just have to call a friend and ask if they can turn on their computer and allow me to ssh in (to my own account, of course).
> If I want to run something on Windows, I have to track down a friend (in person!), ask to borrow their computer for a few hours, get administrator access to install the Haskell Platform, get frustrated that HP hasn't been upgraded to 7.6, and give up.
> It's just not practical, especially for the large amount of small (<500 LOC) packages on Hackage.
>   - Clark
> On Tue, Nov 20, 2012 at 9:05 PM, Erik de Castro Lopo <mle+hs at mega-nerd.com> wrote:
> Albert Y. C. Lai wrote:
> > Clearly, since >90% of computers have Windows, it should be trivial to
> > find one to test on, if a programmer wants to. Surely every programmer
> > is surrounded by Windows-using family and friends? (Perhaps to the
> > programmer's dismay, too, because the perpetual "I've got a virus again,
> > can you help?" is so annoying?) We are not talking about BeOS.
> >
> > Therefore, if programmers do not test on Windows, it is because they do
> > not want to.
> I have been an open source contributor for over 15 years. All the general
> purpose machines in my house run Linux. My father's and my mother-in-law's
> computers also run Linux (easier for me to provide support). For testing
> software, I have a PowerPC machine and virtual machines running various
> versions of Linux, FreeBSD and OpenBSD.
> What I don't have is a windows machine. I have, at numerous times, spent
> considerable amounts of time (and even real money for licenses) setting
> up (or rather trying to) windows in a VM and it is *always* considerably
> more work to set up, maintain and fix when something goes wrong. Setting
> up development tools is also a huge pain in the ass. And sooner or later
> they fail in some way I can't fix and I have to start again. Often its
> not worth the effort.
> At my day job we have on-demand windows VMs, but I am not officially
> allowed (nor do I intend to start) to use those resources for my open
> source work.
> So is it difficult for an open source contributor to test on windows?
> Hell yes! You have no idea how hard windows is in comparison to say
> FreeBSD. Even Apple's OS X is easier than windows, because I have
> friends who can give me SSH access to their machines.
> Erik
> --
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> Erik de Castro Lopo
> http://www.mega-nerd.com/
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