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Re: GNU Autoconf test version 2.59d available

From: Paul Eggert
Subject: Re: GNU Autoconf test version 2.59d available
Date: Tue, 06 Jun 2006 15:18:55 -0700
User-agent: Gnus/5.1008 (Gnus v5.10.8) Emacs/21.4 (gnu/linux)

Ralf Corsepius <address@hidden> writes:

> The sub-sentence I consider to be wrong is this:
>   INSTALL now suggests VPATH builds (e.g., "sh ../srcdir/configure")
>   only if you use GNU make.

This is merely a sentence taken from the NEWS file for Autoconf.  It
isn't a constraint on Autoconf's (or Automake's) behavior; it's not
even part of the documentation proper.

I think your real beef here is with the documentation, not with the
news bulletin about it.  If so, it would be helpful to suggest
specific wording that would improve the documentation.

Here's what the documentation currently says (in the INSTALL file):

   Compiling For Multiple Architectures

   You can compile the package for more than one kind of computer at the
   same time, by placing the object files for each architecture in their
   own directory.  To do this, you should use GNU `make'.  `cd' to the
   directory where you want the object files and executables to go and run
   the `configure' script.  `configure' automatically checks for the
   source code in the directory that `configure' is in and in `..'.

      With a non-GNU `make', you should compile the package for one
   architecture at a time in the source code directory.  After you have
   installed the package for one architecture, use `make distclean' before
   reconfiguring for another architecture.

For example, would it be OK if we simply changed the "should"s to
"can"s?  If not, then what extra wording do you suggest?  Please bear
in mind that the wording needs to be concise, accurate, and clear to

> "VPATH builds using gmake are supposed to be safe" 

That's what the above wording is trying to say.

> "VPATH builds using Solaris make only work for a subset of class"

That wording would be confusing to non-experts.

By the way, I just now went through the Autoconf manual and found
several examples containing makefile rules that won't work with
Solaris make in a VPATH build.  I got tired of looking for them, so I
haven't prepared a patch, but my favorite was this one:

        f.c: if.c
                cp `test -f if.c || echo $(VPATH)/`if.c f.c

This is in code that is _trying_ to be portable to Solaris make, and
yet the expert author still messed up!  I suspect that bugs are quite
common in this area, and we will be doing non-experts a service by
steering them away from Solaris make for VPATH builds.

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