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Re: backward compatability of tools

From: John Burger
Subject: Re: backward compatability of tools
Date: Fri, 21 Feb 2003 22:14:14 -0500

From: "Dr. David Kirkby" <address@hidden>

If the developers insist on dropping backward compatibility, would it
not be better to at least do a test for old hardware/software (i.e.
determine a machine is running SunOs 4.1.4), print an informative
error message then exit, rather than produce the messages I received
about /tmp/foo1 /tmp/foo2 etc not being found ? If it was not too much
hassle, a suggestion to rebuild the application with autoconf version
x and automake version y would be even more useful. So the old
hardware/software is not supported fully, but at least it gives
someone a hint on how to get it working.


if I
tried to install a piece of software that only run on Windoze 2000 and XP, on a Windoze 95 machine, I would expect the software to have the sense to tell me that it is not supported on Windoze 95. Perhaps that is a better

Keeping track of every combination of hardware and OS would be bad enough - those predecessors to Autoconf that attempted to do this eventually died the death of a thousand cuts. Cross-referencing this against working version numbers of Autoconf seems completely infeasible to me.

It seems to be explicitly against the philosophy of Autoconf to do anything in response to particular hardware or OS versions. Rather, Autoconf tests whether particular =features= are present on a particular machine. It could be that somewhere out there there is a SunOS 4.1.4 machine with some patch or another that does not have the problem you've run into. So, detecting 4.1.4 and failing would be wrong, it seems to me.

That said, I must agree with your basic sentiment: Ideally, the configure script should die more intelligently, and earlier, than you describe, after having detected the absence of some necessary feature. This reminds me of the intermittent talk about making Autoconf use shell functions, or some other feature of the post-paleolithic OS. My own take is that such backward-incompatible modernizations might be fine if and only if the resulting scripts check for the presence of the modern feature, and die with an intelligent error message if it isn't found.

- John Burger

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