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The two fundamental approaches to autoconfiscation, which we call ‘quick and dirty’, and ‘the full pull’. In practice each project is a mix of the two.
There are no hard-and-fast rules when autoconficating an existing package, particularly when you are planning to track future releases of the original source. However, since Autoconf is so flexible, it is usually possible to find some reasonable way to implement whatever is required. Automake isn’t as flexible, and with ‘strangely’ constructed packages you’re sometimes required to make a difficult choice: restructure the package, or avoid automake.
In the quick and dirty approach, the goal is to get the framework up and running with the least effort. This is the approach we took when we autoconficated both zip and the Boehm garbage collector. Our reasons were simple: we knew we would be tracking the original packages closely, so we wanted to minimize the amount of work involved in importing the next release and subsequently merging in our changes. Also, both packages were written to be portable (but in very different ways), so major modifications to the source were not required.
Sometimes you’d rather completely convert a package to GNU Autotools. For instance, you might have just assumed maintenance of a package. Or, you might read this book and decide that your company’s internal projects should use a state-of-the-art configuration system.
The full pull is more work than the quick-and-dirty approach, but in the end it yields a more easily understood, and more idiomatic package. This in turn has maintenance benefits due to the relative absence of quirks, traps, and special cases – oddities which creep into quick and dirty ports due to the need, in that case, to structure the build system around the package instead of having the ability to restructure the package to fit the build system.
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