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Re: [RFC][PATCH v2 3/6] Implement the %OB specifier - alternative month names (bug 10871)

Hello Dmitry,

Thank you for your feedback. Please find my answers below:

1.06.2016 12:42 "Dmitry V. Levin" <> wrote:
> On Wed, Mar 30, 2016 at 01:31:21AM +0200, Rafal Luzynski wrote:
> > 29.03.2016 16:31 "Dmitry V. Levin" <> wrote:
> > > On Fri, Mar 25, 2016 at 01:55:13AM +0100, Rafal Luzynski wrote:
> > > [...]
> > > > This means that all applications using %B to retrieve the month
> > > > name standalone should use %OB from now.
> > >
> > > Such applications as cal(1) would not be able to print month names
> > > properly in a way that would work with different glibc versions.
> > > Looks like this is a change incompatible in both ways.
> >
> > Yes, that's exactly what will happen. Such applications must be
> > updated. They must start using strftime("%OB") and nl_langinfo(ALTMON_...).
> > They must either detect the glibc version at runtime and choose
> > the correct format specifier or require the minimum glibc version
> > at build time. I'm willing to contact the upstream developers and
> > provide the instructions how to change their applications.
> In glibc, we don't make changes this way. If an incompatible ABI change
> is introduced, the old ABI remains for compatibility with software linked
> with it.

That's why I was thinking [1] about other solutions (this link discusses
all pros and cons but is a little outdated). Shortly:

1. The simplest solution to ensure the full compatibility would be to
leave strftime("%B",...) and nl_langinfo(MON_...) unchanged and provide
the genitive forms via the new symbols strftime("%OB",...) and
nl_langinfo(ALTMON_...). Sounds nice but this means that glibc would
never be compatible with *BSD [2] (you may say you don't care) and
with POSIX [3] (I guess glibc would rather choose to be compatible.)
This would also mean that such programs as cal(1) will not be broken
but all other programs will be broken. I don't mean that the patch will
break them; I mean they are broken already and such fix will not fix
them, all these programs will have to switch to "%OB" and ALTMON_.
Just think how many programs display the month names standalone,
how many display full date (day + month at least) and how many don't
use dates so they don't care. Worse, the meaning of "%OB" and ALTMON_
in *BSD and Linux would be conversed.

2. I also thought about a smart heuristic algorithm detecting if "%B"
is used together with a day number (so a genitive form is needed)
or standalone (so a nominative form is needed). This leads to the
questions like: what does it mean that a day number and a month
name are close to each other? what is the order (day-month vs.
month-day) required by the language? what to do if a software uses
a reversed day-month order against the language rules? That led me
to proposing a day-month-order locale parameter whose meaning is
difficult to explain and the implementation is tricky. Also this
solution would not work for the programs like date(1) which iterate
over whole format string, split it and call strftime() with each
format specifier separately, out of the context.

I'm afraid that providing full backward compatibility is impossible.
If an application calls strftime("%B",...) or nl_langinfo(MON_...)
we have no way to tell if this particular application actually
meant "%OB" and ALTMON_... or it is indeed correct for it to call
"%B" and MON_.

However, please note that in most cases the current call of
strftime("%B",...) and nl_langinfo(MON_...) produces incorrect results
and will automagically start producing correct results if glibc accepts
my recent solution. I believe there are fewer programs where
strftime("%B") and nl_langinfo(MON_...) are correct now and they will
become incorrect, they will need switching to "%OB" and ALTMON_.

> With regards to runtime checks, could you give an example of such a check?

I meant something like:

    #include <gnu/libc-version.h>

    const char *ver_string = gnu_get_libc_version();
    /* Parse ver_string into ver_major and ver_minor */
    if (ver_major > 2 || ver_major == 2 && ver_minor >= 24)
        /* New glibc including my patch */
        strftime("%B",...);    /* output: month name in a genitive form
                                  or nominative for those languages which
                                  don't need a genitive form */
        strftime("%OB",...);   /* output: month name in a nominative form */
        strftime("%Om",...);   /* not useful in any European language */
        strftime("%d %B",...); /* usually the correct date format */
        /* Old glibc */
        strftime("%B",...);    /* output: month name in a nominative form
                                  even if it should be genitive */
        strftime("%OB",...);   /* output: "%OB" string literally */
        strftime("%Om",...);   /* output: correct genitive form but only
                                  in Ukrainian locale (dirty hack) */
        strftime("%d %B",...); /* many programs do it but the result is
                                  incorrect in many languages */

But this is a solution only for closed source software distributed in
a binary form. For those distributed in source form one may expect that
the current glibc version may be detected at compile time (__GLIBC__
and __GLIBC_MINOR__) and a binary package is provided for every specific
distro containing a specific glibc version.

In case of nl_langinfo it's easier:

    /* In case we have the old headers but want to support new glibc */
    #ifndef ALTMON_1
    #define ALTMON_1 ((nl_item) (((int) _NL_TIME_CODESET) + 1)
    /* The same for all other months */

    char *june = nl_langinfo(ALTMON_6);
    if (!*june)
        june = nl_langinfo(MON_6);

This will always be valid and always obligatory because nl_langinfo(ALTMON_...)
will return an empty string both on old systems where ALTMON_... is not
valid and on new systems for the locales which do not need to distinguish
between nominative and genitive form (like English) or have not yet
updated their locale data.

I'm aware that none of my solutions is perfect, I'm just trying to
minimize fallout. I'm open to any other solution which leads to correct
results, is backward compatible, portable, and (preferably but not
obligatorily) simple.


Rafal Luzynski



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