"#!..." (Re[2]: cabal configure screw-up)

Sven Panne Sven.Panne at aedion.de
Mon Aug 29 17:15:07 EDT 2005

Am Samstag, 27. August 2005 15:02 schrieb Seth Kurtzberg:
> [...]
> I would suggest that, while configure does solve a problem, it isn't the
> best way to solve the problem.  A properly abstracted and layered
> implementation of O/S specific calls, with each environment supported by
> an implementation file, is much closer to "doing the right thing."

Well, I don't want to start a Jihad regarding the usefulness of autoconf, the 
autoconf documentation itself contains a rather good explanation why testing 
features is far superior than assuming a fixed (and probably much too small) 
set of platforms in advance.

I only want to point out that the autotools solve problems which go *far* 
beyond anything which could be achieved by writing simple abstractions for 
platform features: It can find out if your compiler/linker/library/header/... 
has a certain bug (the autoconf macros are full of examples for every 
category), which version of an API (which might have changed in a 
non-backwards-compatible way, see e.g. OpenAL) is actually contained in a 
library/header, which dozens of (often proprietary) linker options are needed 
to use a certain feature, how to create and use a dynamic library, etc. etc.  
Simply writing an abstraction layer would solve none of the problems 
mentioned above. Of course all these problems are bad and should not be there 
at all, but simply ignoring them means closing one's eyes before the current 
"state-of-the-art" in real-life computer science. And for a casual user, 
these are all *hard* problems! Trying to solve these problems without 
autotools, one usually ends up re-inventing the wheel (i.e. writing 
autotools-like code), but probably much, much worse (see e.g. qmake).

> [...] I do realize that this position is more or less tilting at windmills.

I'd really be happy to learn how the problems mentioned above could be solved 
without autotools or basically re-inventing autotools, seriously. I hate 
writing obscure lines in M4 and sh probably as much as you do, but I can't 
see a viable alternative. Rewriting all this stuff (plus all the utilities 
used in the macros!) in Haskell doesn't look very attractive and realistic...


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