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GNU autotools generated files

20.02.2013 by tg@
Tags: debian rant

On Planet Debian, Vincent Bernat wrote:

The drawback of this approach is that if you rebuild configure from the released tarball, you don’t have the git tree and the version will be a date. Just don’t do that.

Excuse me‽

This is totally inacceptable. Regenerating files like aclocal.m4 and Makefile.in (for automake), configure (for autoconf), and the likes is one of the absolute duties of a software package. Things will break sooner or later if people do not do that. Additionally, generated files must be remakable from the distfile, so do not break this!

May I suggest, constructively, an alternative? (People – rightfully, I must admit – complain I’m “just” ranting too much.)
When making a release from git, write the “git describe” output into a file. Then, use that file instead of trying to run the git executable if .git/. is not a directory (“test -d .git/.”). Do not call git, because, in packages, it’s either not installed or/and also undesired.

Couldn’t comment on your blog, but felt strongly enough about this I took the effort of writing a full post of my own.

(But thanks for the book recommendation.)

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