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[Caml-list] Libraries in the distribution
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Date: 2001-08-23 (17:37)
From: Alain Frisch <frisch@c...>
Subject: [Caml-list] Libraries in the distribution

there seems to be a consensus that the Str library should be replaced with
Pcre in the standard distribution. I guess that nobody is satisfied with
Str, and that it is kept in the distribution for backward compatibility.

There are currently several levels of "official recognition" for 

- standard library: more or less what is needed to build OCaml
- OCaml distribution: useful libraries from the Caml team
- CDK: useful 3rd party libraries
- bazar-ocaml: less general or less finished libraries from the Caml team (?)
- other 3rd party libraries

There is also the Debian effort to package OCaml libraries.

In order to add to the confusion:

- the status of the CDK is not really clear; is it an experiment ? will
there be a way for library authors to upgrade their libraries themselves
in the CDK ? will there be official guidelines for a "standard structure
for packages" ?

- some libraries in the standard distribution seems really integrated
with OCaml (bigarray, dynlink, threads), some are almost unavoidable
(Unix), some have 3rd party (or not) counterpart which are generally
considered superior (Str, labltk ?). 

- for newcomers, it is not necessarily easy to use libraries that
requires custom runtime environement/toplevel  (the good news
is that it seems that there will soon be a support for dynamically
loading library in the runtime environnement).

I don't want to speak for the Caml team, but I'm not sure to see how a 3rd
party library could be included in the standard distribution. The OCaml
distribution follows OCaml releases (of course !), and the author of the
library may want to release more often. Recall that OCaml development does
not follow the bazar model (?); including 3rd party packages is not the
best way to keep control of the development of the language.

I think it is best to keep the OCaml distribution as small as possible,
and to facilitate the installation of other packages. The current CDK
approach seems a bit unrealistic to me: will a few people take in charge
the integration of all 3rd party packages ?  Something like CPAN seems
more promising. (I don't see how it could work without the support
or at least an initial impulsion from the Caml team, but they have
probably more interesting things to do. Maybe if would be in the interest
of the Caml Consortium to coordinate 3rd party efforts; is the
status of the Consortium a public information ?)

Beside a small standard distribution and easy to install packages,
there could be more complete distributions (something like the current
CDK), not necessarily maintained by the Caml team.

Just my .02 EUR.

  Alain Frisch

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