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Re: support for lzip (was: GNU Automake 1.11 released)

From: Bob Friesenhahn
Subject: Re: support for lzip (was: GNU Automake 1.11 released)
Date: Fri, 12 Jun 2009 11:18:13 -0500 (CDT)

On Fri, 12 Jun 2009, Ralf Wildenhues wrote:

Well, to be honest, I regard the addition of lzma support as a mistake
in hindsight.  We should have waited and added xz support only, with a
stable xz release.  It was also a mistake that I did not deprecate lzma
support more prominently in the 1.11 release; will fix that for 1.11.1.

The Automake 1.11 release contains this forward-looking statement:

     Generate an `xz' tar archive of the distribution.  `xz' archives
     are frequently smaller than `bzip2'-compressed archives.  The `xz'
     format will soon (early 2009) displace the `lzma' format.

Normally such forward-looking projections require a disclaimer in order to avoid a SEC investigation.

So, where does this leave us for lzip support?  I'm not quite sure
myself.  From a totally non-objective internet search, I see that it
does not have a very large user base; but a comparison with lzma/xz user
base is not conclusive.  From feature set comparison, I don't quite see
the striking advantage that lzip offers over the choices already
available.  If anything, then I don't like encouraging fragmentation of
the API base.

What do other people think?

I think that it is good that 'xz' is given such a distinctive name (rather than being called 'c' or 'the') since that means if I scour the Internet for it I have a better chance of finding its source code so I can use it. Opportunity for finding it would have been increased if the Automake documentation mentioned where I could find the obscure package designated by these two letters. If I am confused, then users of my package (which is currently using previously-blessed 'lzma' for stable releases) will be doubly confused if suddenly the files previously using .lzma extention change to a .xz extension.

The choice of 'lzma' or 'lzip', or 'xz' has more to do with being blessed by famous open source contributors than any technical factor.

None of these compressors is "popular" by any stretch of the imagination. None of my systems (not even Debian Lenny or FreeBSD 7.2) offers a program named 'xz' by default.

Lzma is a case of the cart being before the horse. In the case of gzip and bzip2, these file formats were already quite heavily used when Automake added support for them.

Bob Friesenhahn
GraphicsMagick Maintainer,

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