Tags: autotools, cmake, KDE, scons, waf
I was just browsing through net and I came across this article. I was a little shocked on reading just the title. Why would anyone want to leave GNU software ? .. So it sparked my interest and I spent next 30 minutes reading the whole article (or rather technical viewpoint of KDE team). That did not convince me though in anyway.
I agree that autotools are very old but so is gcc and so are other basic tools that come with all distros. Reading the article convinced me of one thing, not many people on the KDE team know much about autotools. They have used one small part (Makefile) of it but they don’t know what exactly the autotools are and how they work. I even somehow got a feeling that many KDE developers are scared of autotools. Reason: autotools have a longer and hard learning curve. It is true, I agree. I was able to write a CMakeLists.txt in just a day, right from the scratch without any book or help except the online documentation available at their web-site, while with autoconf, the story was different, even after 2 days of work, I was unable to came with with anything. Autoconf manual felt like a classic GNU manual written in the spirit of GNU by people who are extremely technical. It pinned me, it binned me and it made my heart bleed. Are most of KDE developers scared of autotools ? I don’t know and after reading their reasoning , I will say yes. Most of them wanted a short and less painful path to software building: here come Scons and CMake.
I was also just put off by the technical-expertise either required as a prerequisite or being used to read the manual but was I scared …… hell no…. . Say no to the hell and yes to the reasoning and rationality. There glows the bulb on my head, the people who write these kind of manuals are very good at basics , they are the people who have gotten their fundamentals straight, with experience. Reading their manuals always gives you an insight into the things. This is what exactly what you will learn from Newsgroups.
I am not saying that KDE people need to switch back to autotools. No, I am not agreeing on that. All I am saying is, switching to a different tools needs to be based on purely technical reasons, not on the basis that people can’t learn them because they are scared. I really wonder they are not trying waf, which actually does not try to fix the problems of other tools but rather built as a software-construction framework.
I, myself, want to use waf but then I have to learn Python in order to debug my scripts which I don’t want to do. If I ever get time to learn a new language, I will learn Common Lisp. So rather I will start learning autotools again and will see what people are scared of.
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