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From "Scott Stirling" <>
Subject RE: Ant Perversions [was RE: Properties are causing problem in 1.5]
Date Sun, 01 Dec 2002 02:49:06 GMT

I've been using Ant for a few years for all the reasons you listed below.
My question isn't "why use Ant?" -- but more like "at what point should one
admit Ant's limitations and augment it?"

Cygwin is free and kinda lightweight; UNIX is everywhere.  That's why I
usually wrap a lot of heavy-duty build stuff in shell scripts where Ant is a
large, but not the only, part of the picture.  I'm talking about major
infrastructure work.  This doesn't mean that for your desktop, dinky build
stuff like compile/jar/junit/report/deploy I don't use or recommend pure
Ant.  I do, totally.  It's when you're setting up the product's fully
automated cross-platform build/test/report/install, etc. cycle that
post-processes external tools' output, generates better email reports than
Ant's mail logger, configures and runs some MS tool, needs to be scheduled,
or set-up quickly and easily on multiple (UNIX and Windows) machines that I
start reaching for other tools in the bag.

The scheduling limitation is kind of a big one.  There are Java scheduling
tools out there like Flux.  Would that appropriate for scheduling builds
either from Ant or around Ant?  How do others automate Ant builds in
cross-platform environments?  Cron on UNIX/AT on WIndows?

Scott Stirling

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Martin []
> Sent: Wednesday, May 01, 2002 7:29 PM
> To: Ant Users List;
> Subject: Re: Ant Perversions [was RE: Properties are causing problem in
> 1.5]
> Scott:
> I think you are forgetting why developers choose Ant consistently
> for their
> build environments...
> 1)it is truly portable..I can plunk my build.xml into a different
> development environment with no ill effect ..can you say the same
> for ANY of
> your platform specific tools..Can they read and adjust their environment
> completely based on
> a few property files and environment variables?
> 2)It is free..This makes ant available for all to use..Some IDE's
> have hiked
> their price
> from anywhere between 500-1000$ Why because they are incorporating free
> tools that you and I have used for free for years..Ants use of the
> exec/apply and java commands can call or execute the majority of
> these free
> tools without incurring the weight and slow speed of an IDE
> 3)It is lightweight..simply because a developer has the ability respecify
> Java_home and thus javac and java tools..How many tools have the
> ability to
> dynamically reconfigure itself to changing environment..Most tools I have
> seen are static in nature.
> 4)We have real techs working on Ant who use the product they are
> developing..this frees us developers from talking to annoying salespeople
> pushing IDEs that re slow and resource/memory hogs.
> I have just given you 4 good reasons for using Ant..
> Can any of the tools you have mentioned claim to have ALL 4 of the
> aforementioned benefits..I know that make cant send mail, cant create
> javadoc and cannot create testcases and run them so the answer to the
> question is
> I doubt it..
> -Martin
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Scott Stirling" <>
> To: "Ant Users List" <>
> Sent: Saturday, November 30, 2002 9:37 PM
> Subject: Ant Perversions [was RE: Properties are causing problem in 1.5]
> > I've intentionally sensationalized the subject.  Don't be offended.
> >
> > Why use Ant for things like telnet, VSS, .NET, looping scripts,
> etc.?  I'm
> > all for Ant as a build tool and tool for general
> development-related Java
> > stuff like deploying apps or running command line, non-interactive, Java
> > tools.  But Ant's lousy for working with interactive programs,
> controlling
> > GUIs, and anything requiring complex flow control logic.
> People in denial
> > of this fundamental truth will do anything to compensate for Ant's
> > limitations.
> >
> > I've found tools such as sed, grep, and expect, not to mention the
> benefits
> > of UNIX shell scripting, to be indispensable assistants to
> cross-platform
> > builds, whether it's for scheduling builds in a platform-neutral way, or
> > customizing reports output from 3rd party tools (like StarTeam diff), or
> > launching native OS tools like load test tools after a build is
> deployed.
> > My answer for platform portability (at least Win32 to UNIX) is Cygwin on
> > Windows and basic tools on UNIX.  90% or more of the builds are done in
> Ant,
> > but things like build scheduling, disk mounting, interactive stuff
> (telnet),
> > and post-processing text data in an automated way are done
> outside of Ant
> > where there are plenty of pre-Ant tools making this stuff fast
> and easy to
> > do.  NOTE: I did ask on the sed-users for a Java version of sed
> and got no
> > reply -- an interesting idea for a Java open source opportunity, IMO).
> >
> > Some people want Ant to do everything (or want to do everything from
> within
> > Ant), in hopes of achieving portability perfection in a cross-platform
> > world, even at the expense of horrible hacks in custom tasks,
> or tying the
> > build to OS-specific tools through <apply/> or <exec/>.
> >
> > Is the sense of where to draw the line and admit Ant's limitations a
> matter
> > of taste?  Experience?  Laziness?  Or what?
> >
> > Best,
> > Scott Stirling

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