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missing --run/not run

From: Norman Gray
Subject: missing --run/not run
Date: Fri, 29 Aug 2003 22:56:50 +0100


We as a project have decided to go the route of checking autotool-generated files into our CVS repository, and as a result are discovering the full subtleties of the consequences of that, in particular the issues concerning timestamps in checked-out files. I think I've addressed this problem adequately (and I'm asking for advice on that), but it might be that automake can fairly straightforwardly help make this easier.

The problem is, of course, the `missing' script, and what happens when a checked-out generated file apparently needs to be rebuilt on a developer's machine. The `missing --run' mechanism works fine when the locally-installed autoconf is sufficiently up-to-date to work, and also when there is _no_ autoconf installed, however it can fail if there _is_ a local autoconf, but it is too old to process the configure.{in,ac} file correctly.

One of the solutions mentioned in the automake manual is to use a script to simply update the timestamps of generated files, and mentions that the GCC folk do this. I've looked at this script, and while it surely works for them, it's not generic, and it's fragile. However, this is essentially what the `missing' script does when it's invoked without the --run option, which means that the problem turns into that of how to suppress that option in the specific case when you know you simply need to update timestamps. There seems to be two routes:

First is to write a wrapper for `make' which edits the Makefile with "sed 's/missing *--run/missing /", then invokes make on that makefile. This works for me, as far as I've been able to test it (always tricky in these situations).

The second route is to have the Makefile include lines like

    AUTOCONF = ${SHELL} /blah/blah/missing $(missing_run) autoconf

That works as usual when invoked as usual, but the command

    make missing_run=

is effectively the update-the-timestamps script, and perfectly generic. Since it never actually attempts to run autoconf/automake/autoheader/etc, it is completely independent of the versions which are or are not installed on the local machine. This also works for me (with hand-hacking of the Makefile, admittedly, rather than hacking local m4 macros)

So, questions:

Is this in fact a useful thing to do, or have I missed some obvious showstopping problem?

If the second route is in fact useful, is this something it might be handy to include in the Makefile that automake/autoconf generates? Or is this really an autoconf question, and not an automake one? -- I'm a little confused.

All the best,


Norman Gray         
Physics and Astronomy, University of Glasgow    address@hidden

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