[Distutils] interscript

John Skaller skaller@maxtal.com.au
Fri, 11 Dec 1998 13:33:18 +1000

I'm going to put the case, semi-seriously, that the
'solution' to the problem of distributing packages
is to use interscript. I'll try to distinguish
what works now, what is planned, and what
I have no real idea about yet.

For those not familiar  with it: it is a source
format in which

        1) code
        2) documentation
        3) installation and building instructions

can all be encoded.

First, interscript allows all packages to be
archived in a single text file.  [Works now].
It is possible to store encoded binary 
if it is _really_ necesssary [planned].

The client can extract stuff from the archive
with a command line tool [works now], or by
embedding the package in another application
[works now].

The client decides if documentation is to be
generated [works now] and if so, what format
it should be in [works now: plain text,
flat HTML, advanced HTML, Latex2e, Lambda work now,
XML planned]

The client decides what language the documentation
is to be produced in [planned]

The client determines where the documentation
is installed [works now] and where the code
is installed [works now].

The  package automatically builds any components
written in C or C++ [works now]. It can configure
itself for any platform/user/site/ preferences
[planned, what works now depends on the ability
to 'introspect' the information from Python itself,
which is not enough]

The package automatically tests everything.
[Works now, but more work is required to create
a proper test harness]

Interscript can read source directly off the Internet
[FTP and HTTP works now].

Interscript can read compressed archives [planned].

Interscript can generate interscript archives
from any existing packages [sort of works :-]

There is a full categorical installation/version
control/dependency mechanism. [Some plans: much help
needed here!!!]

So there you have it: interscript already does Almost Everything (TM)
a disttribution mechanism requires, and it will support
almost all programming languages, not just C/C++/Java/Python,
although support for these four languages is the highest
priority (because they're needed for interscript itself).

Interscript is written entirely in Python, although
there are some C modules which do optimisations,
and there is some dependency on external tools
(C/C++/Java compilers, patch, diff) for full

        Objection: Interscript is too big.

        Answer: At present, everything is bundled togther in an
experimental package. Because there is no standard
or simple way to distribute the separate components

The intent is to use this experimental version
to create the tools needed to unbundle itself.
This is called 'bootstrapping' <grin>

        Objection: I'm not interesting in Literate Programming.

        Answer: Irrelevant. Interscript is a build/test/install
environment. The mechanism includes a lot of support
for literate programming, but this doesn't _have_
to be used by anyone.

        Objection: My packages aren't built using interscript,
I don't want to convert them, it's too much work.

        Answer: an automated tool can package up
all existing distributions. All that is required 
is listing the files to be packaged, with an
indication if they're text or binary.

        Objection: not enough is working properly yet.

        Answer. This is a valid objection.
More people working on the components would help
remove this objection.

        See next post.
John Skaller    email: skaller@maxtal.com.au
		phone: 61-2-96600850
		snail: 10/1 Toxteth Rd, Glebe NSW 2037, Australia