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From Ben Laurie <>
Subject Re: Further evidence of configure's shortcomings
Date Fri, 19 Apr 1996 17:20:36 GMT
Tom Tromey wrote:
> >> Try compiling patch 2.1 under Irix 5.3. You end up with alloca unresolved.
> >> And configure has even tested for it (it claims).
> >> 
> >> Its this kind of thing that winds me up about configure.
> rasmus> This generally has nothing to do with configure.
> This is correct.  configure is just a tool to help solve portability
> problems.  The programmer must still provide the solutions.
> All the checking in the world does no good if you just ignore the
> checks.
> Likewise, configure itself is useless unless you actually check for
> the problems your code encounters.  Eg you can blindly use getcwd() if
> you want, but then your code will just not compile on machines with
> getwd() and not getcwd().  You can hardly blame configure for this --
> the same problem would hold for any configuration system.

Yes, this is true. The thing is that with the existing configuration system I
can easily track down the problem and fix it. Configure makes that _much_
harder. Which brings me back to my original point - configure doesn't do what
its widely believed to do (which is to make the code compile correctly on a
previously unseen platform). And when it does fail in this way it is orders of
magnitude more difficult to fix than when it is not used.

So, it isn't the fact that configure failed to fix the problem that winds me
up, its the fact that it makes it very difficult for me to fix it (properly).

One of the reasons Apache is successful, in my view, is the ease with which it
can be ported. My experience is that configure does not make this easier (for
anyone except configure hackers, which does not describe the vast majority of

As I have said before, what would make Apache easier still for end users is
autodetection of their platform, which is then used (in a straightforward way,
meaning not by searching libraries) to determine which extra libraries go with
the currently selected modules, and sets a -D<platform> in the usual way.



> Tom
> -- 
>                 Member, League for Programming Freedom

Ben Laurie                  Phone: +44 (181) 994 6435
Freelance Consultant and    Fax:   +44 (181) 994 6472
Technical Director          Email:
A.L. Digital Ltd,           URL:
London, England.

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