Feedback from GSL folks on libflame 4.0

James Amundson
Tue Feb 23 17:39:00 GMT 2010

On 02/22/2010 04:27 PM, Brian Gough wrote:
> As Robert says, it's a question of standardisation.  I have nothing
> against cmake, on a purely techical level it may be better but
> autotools is the defacto standard and that is worth more in practice.

I'm entirely sympathetic with the argument that existing standards are 
very valuable and may trump technical advantages in the end. I don't 
think the case for autotools being "standard" and cmake being 
"non-standard" are so clear, however. Let's look at the other 
mathematical libraries I deal with on a regular basis:

3) PETSc ( )
4) Triinos ( )

What do they use for build systems?

1) autotools
2) Custom makefiles
3) Custom complex build system
4) cmake

No clear winner there. Let's look at some major components of my linux 

1) Linux kernel
2) GNU utilities
3) Gnome
4) KDE

What doe they use for build systems?

1) Custom makefiles
2) autotools
3) autotools
4) cmake

Of course, this isn't a detailed survey. I assume autotools would have 
the numerical advantage over all other options if a detailed analysis 
was made. The point is, however, that many projects don't use autotools 
and that a signficant number use cmake. I don't think the "standard" 
argument is strong enough to simply trump any technical argument. Of 
course, the technical argument still needs to be made.

If you were to argue that the current level of predominance of autotools 
means that autotools is the only acceptable build system for GSL, I 
think I could make a similar argument that the current level of 
predominance of Fortran in scientific computing means that Fortran is 
the only acceptable  implementation language for GSL.

--Jim Amundson

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