[Build-common-hackers] Bug#744915: automatic autoconf config file updating

Wookey wookey at wookware.org
Wed Apr 16 18:25:00 UTC 2014

+++ Paul Wise [2014-04-16 19:51 +0800]:
> On Wed, Apr 16, 2014 at 7:13 PM, Santiago Vila wrote:
> > What some people here try to do, update config.guess and related files,
> > is, IMHO, just a hack. Sure, it will just work, but only for us (Debian).
> > Other distributors will still have the same problem.
> Other distributors do the config.guess/sub dance by default IIRC.

Certainly build-from-source distros like OE and gentoo do. Not sure
are the major RPM distros, but yes we all have the same problem to
deal with.

I came across a related issue whilst doing recent porting work which
this seems a good point to bring up as it relates to upstreaming this
problem, and exactly where in debian we should deal with it.

See https://bugs.debian.org/cgi-bin/bugreport.cgi?bug=744915 for the
discussion but the basic point is that CDBS will automatically update
config.{sub,guess} if autotools-dev is installed. But CDBS only
'recommends' autotools-dev so it's not installed on buildds unless the
package itself build-deps on it.

I argued above that CDBS should just depend on autotools-dev so that
it was always present and this would 'just work', but the maintainer
argued that "there are lots of things that are 'helpful' to packages
and it's not its job to pull them in. If we want autotools-dev to be
treated specially so it's always present then it should be part of
build-essential. Even better would be for this to be dealt with in
autotools itself".

The maintainer makes a reasonable case that this is not really CDBS'
(or debhelper's) job and maybe we should just add autotools-dev to
build-essential. Even better would be if upstream autoconf just did
this by itself, but as Paul said, we already tried that and upstream
was not prepared to put in a list of distro-specific canonical paths,
only a mechanism for setting one with an ENV var.

Perhaps this is a case where it makes sense for Debian to carry an
autoconf patch to check the canonical debian path by default? 

So, where in debian should we put responsiblity for updating

* Each package individually? (this seems like a poor solution - this
  is mechanism that indivdual package maintainers shouldn't have to
  care about)

* helpers like CDBS or debhelper? (This makes some sense, but not all
  their packages use autotools, so making it a hard dependency seems
  wrong, and at least the CDBS author feels that it's not really their

* add autotools-dev to build-essential so it's always available for
  helpers (simple, and will 'just work' with CDBS already, and
  presumably could for debhelper, but perhaps people think that it's
  not 'essential' because plenty of packages don't use autotools?)

* make autoconf do this by itself, at least in debian (using something
  like Paul's patch), if we can't get upstream to do it

Currently this is falling between all the stools, and I'd really like
it not to. So how do we think this should be done?

Principal hats:  Linaro, Emdebian, Wookware, Balloonboard, ARM

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