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Why don't you use batteries?
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Date: 2009-09-11 (16:10)
From: Florent Ouchet <florent.ouchet@i...>
Subject: Re: [Caml-list] Why don't you use batteries?
Richard Jones a écrit :
> Give them a live CD.
> There are various online projects where you can create live CDs with a
> custom set of packages via a webpage.[1]
> A live CD is actually better than relying on them trying to install
> something under Windows, because you're guaranteeing a consistent
> environment.  And you can provide them with customized bits too (like
> the coursework!)
> If you provide the live CD as both a physical CD and a downloadable
> ISO, they can even run it virtualized so they don't need to reboot.
> Rich.

Hi all,

Yet an other Friday :)

IMO, all this discussion is implicitely correlated to the lack of easy 
packaging for OCaml applications.

Many projects aim at developers and only developers (there are some 
relevant quotes in this thread) but they forget that developers inherit 
from advanced users who inherit from basic users. Sometimes (often) 
developers do not want to waste their time on things that do not work 
out-of-the-click-the-button. You should not forget that many Windows 
developers are basic users and that software virtualization is still 
rocket science. The release of VM appliances require users to have some 
VM software on their system, not every developer has one yet.

The OCaml world is heavily based on the Unix/Linux community and the 
Windows world is really different. Many OCaml projects used to release 
source tarballs and only source tarballs. They rely on third-party 
packagers to build precompiled things for binary Linux/Windows... etc... 
That's definitively an approach that is not compatible with most 
Windows' users. Basic users that want WinZip go to www.winzip.com (or 
download.com) and not to www.my-packager.com/packages/winzip.

In the Windows world, you need a single installer that does everything 
for you:
 1) it should check the environment consistency;
 2) it should silently install all required dependencies;
 3) it should publish the project location in the registry 
(configuration files should definitively be banned);

These 3 points have nested dependencies: the installer checks the 
environment consistency (1) by listing the availability of all the 
dependencies (3). If a dependency is missing (2), its package is 
silently downloaded and silently installed ("setup.exe /silent" is quite 
common). This nested installation checks for consistency and 
dependencies etc...

For instance, the OCaml binary files for Windows that are available at 
caml.inria.fr lack (2) and (3) (at least).

All this installation process is possible as soon as some kind of 
unified OCaml packaging is available and as soon as most projects use it.
This unified OCaml packaging should not be limited to binary 
distribution and we can imagine a silent compilation at user's side. 
Furthermore, the historical Linux/Unix community will take benefit of 
this simplified process which is something like a distributed godi where 
each OCaml project provides compatible installation files.

My $0.02,

- Florent