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Re: Feaping Creature-ism in core Debian Packages

On Thu, 2 Sep 1999, Chip Salzenberg wrote:

> Alan Cox:
> > Perl is unsuitable for specification.  There is no fixed grammar for
> > perl.
> And which languages *do* have "fixed grammars" in this sense?

Almost all of them, but ANSI C is certainly "fixed".

> Consider that the Bourne shell has never had a published grammar that
> actually matched reality, yet it is still the basis for a multitude of
> installation scripts.

And there is a POSIX standard for /bin/sh which can be applied whenever
that standard is not being met by the shell providing sh.

> > Each perl script is potentially precisely dependant on a perl
> > revision and may break arbitarily.
> Backwards breakage, yes.  Forwards breakage, no.  (Except for plain
> old bugs, which get fixed, and which every program has.)  This
> situation is *exactly* analogous to Bourne/bash/ksh/etc.

Not *exactly*. Yes the two suffer from similar problems, but there _is_ a
standard to apply to sh. There is no such standard to apply to various
versions of perl to determine their "compliance", and thus, even the
direct maintainers are not always sure what the outcome of a grammar
change will be without trying it out on the rest of us.

> > It sucks but its reality.  Majordomo broke on 3 out of 4 "minor"
> > revision updates to perl I did.
> I'd like specifics on this.  However, one recent Majordomo breakage
> was just a Perl bug, not a spec change, and it was fixed immediately;
> and another Majordomo breakage was actually a Majordomo bug (failure
> to follow the documentation).
> > The perl community informs me that there is no perl grammar. They
> > don't themselves know what is and isnt perl except by feeding it
> > through interpreter of the week.
> This is gratuitous hyperbole.

Well, it seems to be the crux of the matter from my POV.

> > If we standardise on it and bugs (eg security stuff) is found the
> > perl community don't back fix old perl.
> THIS is a vile lie.
> I am personally responsible for continuing the maintenance of Perl 5.4
> and 5.5 (recently taken over from Graham Barr), and I (and Graham)
> take security issues VERY seriously.  I patched a suid security
> problem in 5.3 when 5.4 was almost ready.  And I released a patch to
> 5.4 within the last few months, even though 5.5 is the current version
> and 5.6 is nearly ready.

A. Are you speaking as the Debian maintainer, or as an upstream
maintainer? (I am pure ignorant...)

B. The version numbers you quote don't fit the versions I have been
dealing with. (5.004, 5.004.05, and 5.005)

C. Even if Alan is mistaken in his appraisal, what makes his statement 


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