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[Caml-list] Alternative proposal: COAN
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Date: 2003-02-25 (13:05)
From: roberto@d...
Subject: Re: [Caml-list] Alternative proposal: COAN
I think I cannot avoid to agree with what Brian puts forward: I had a similar
experience installyng Sympa (a Majordomo replacement written in Perl by a French
institution, which, by the way, is a remarkable piece of software), where I
spent a day trying to understand why the ludicrous install procedure was
throwing on me zillions of packages, including a rebuild of Perl 5.8.

But it is probably necessary here to clearly separate the different issues...
at first sight, I see:

- centralized repository:

    Issue: we want some central place where to look for Ocaml code
           without resorting to google
    Solution: this can be done in a pretty simple way, and the Humps are a step
              in this direction, but they are not yet a centralized repository
              (code is still spread around the world: it would be nice if we
               had a central mirror of all the code, instead of only pointer).

- easy installation:

    Issue: I want to run advi to give flashy LaTeX presentation, and I want to
           just get a binary for my nice OS I love so much, without having to
           recompile anything

    Solution: well, either there is a monolithic binary already ready for you,
           or you will need to recompile something. In this last case, if the
           standard library (or extended standard library) is complete enough,
           maybe a simple "make" will do (this is what I really really like of
           many old Ocaml programs, or actually, about CamlLight and Ocaml itself :-) ).

           Notice that this is quite similar to the approach used by NeXT in the good
           'ole days when they gave you a big shared library (the standard
           library) and all the rest was statically linked, to prevent you
           from shooting yourself in the foot.
           But Ocaml is going mainstream, so the chances of a monolithic library
           good for everything seem, IMHO, low, and it is wise to consider the
           third issue...

- dependency tracking:

    Issue: we would really really like to avoid reading "README"s
           to discover the zillion packages on which the next future generation Ocaml
           killer application will depend. Just type "install XYZ" and that's it.

    Solution: not so easy... because all this really requires:

      - a standard for declaring dependencies (XYZ depends on ZWT, WTX and WXW)
      - a standard for managing versions (XYZ v n.m depends on ZWT v >= n'.m' etc.)
      - a standard for fetching sources/binaries from repositories
      - a standard for rebuilding/recompiling packages

      But, wait, after all, this is pretty similar to what is done by apt in the Debian
      linux distribution! Probably one should have a look at apt as a starting
      point. I would be interested to have the feelings of the various
      people here that do Debian packages on the suitability of the apt tools to
      handle this kind of issues in the Ocaml world.

Sorry for being long ...

>>>>> "Brian" == Brian Hurt <> writes:

    Brian> Thinking about it some more, I think I'm comming down opposed to a
    Brian> CPAN-style library.


    Brian> Installing this application was *ahem* interesting.
    Brian> Versioning was also a problem. [snip] A monolithic library,
    Brian> under a more central management, would make conformance easier to
    Brian> enforce.

--Roberto Di Cosmo
Professeur (on leave at/detache a INRIA Roquencourt)
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