Tag Archives: trio

Autotool alternatives

Lots of people whine and complain on the set of build tools we often refer to as a collective by the term ‘autotools’. That term tends to include autoconf, libtool and automake.

I think a certain amount of criticism is warranted against this family of aged tools that are unix-centric, have cryptic ways to control them (I think there’s a reason m4 macros  is not widely used…) and they are several independent tools with a tricky mix of cross-breeding.A build tool

The upsides include them being well tested, fairly well known, there’s a wide range of existing tests done for them, they work fine when cross-compiling and they support building out-of-source tree just fine.

But what about the alternatives?

I spend time in projects where the discussion of ditching autoconf come up every once in a while, as sure as that the sun will rise tomorrow. The discussion is always that tool Z is much better and easier to deal with and that everything gets shiny if we just switch. That Z is a lot of different tools that are available today, including CMake, scons, waf or cDetect.

The problem as I always see and why I almost always argue against Z is that autoconf is old, trusty, proven and I know it. The Z tool is often much newer, less proven, less peoeple involved in the project know Z, use Z or know how to customize it (since new tests will be needed and some tests will need to be changed etc). So even though Z is sometimes accepted as a testing ground in my projects, a year or two after the Z was accepted – unless I myself have accepted it and joined its efforts – Z has lagged behind to a point where it isn’t good anymore since I don’t know it and most people are rather fixing the traditional autoconf stuff. So we extract the Z support again.

But if we would never accept new tools we would never evolve, and yes indeed autoconf and friends have their share of flaws.

The question is of course when to switch – what kind of project in what development state etc – and which alternative that is useful for a particular project. Me being a developer primarily working with plain C and working with lowlevel code and libraries mostly will no doubt have a different view than those who use other languages, who do more “apps” or perhaps even GUI programming…

Can you help me point out good build system comparisions and overiews? I’ve tried to find good comparisions but I failed. Just about all of them are written by the authors of one of these tools.

My ambition is to create some sort of comparison document myself. I think the comparison could include autotools, cmake, waf, scons, cdetect, qmake and ant. Any more?

(I got triggered to write this blog post after my post to the trio mailing list on this topic.)

50 hours offline

Several sites in the haxx.se domain and other stuff related to me and my fellows were completely offline for almost 50 hours between August 24th 19:00 UTC and August 26th 20:30 UTC.

The sites affected included the main web sites for the following projects: curl, c-ares, trio, libssh2 and Rockbox. It also affected mailing lists and CVS repositories etc for some of those.

The reason for the outage has been explained by the ISP (Black Internet) to be because of some kind of sabotage. Their explanation given so far (first in Swedish):

Strax efter kl 20 i måndags drabbades Black Internet och Black Internets kunder av ett mycket allvarligt sabotage. Sabotaget gjordes mot flera av våra core-switchar, våra knutpunkter. Detta resulterade i ett mer eller mindre totalt avbrott för oss och våra kunder. Vi har polisanmält händelsen och har ett bra samarbete med dem.

Translated to English (by me) it becomes:

Soon after 8pm on Monday, Black Internet and its customers were struck by a very serious act of sabotage. The sabotage was made against several of our core switches. This resulted in a more or less total disruption of service for us and our customers. We have reported the incident to the police and we have a good cooperation with them.

Do note that you could keep track of this situation by following me on twitter.

It’s good to be back. Let’s hope it’ll take ages until we go away like that again!

Update: according to my sources, someone erased/cleared Black Internet’s core routers and then they learned that they had no working backups so they had to restore everything by hand.