Disclaimer

The content of this blog is my personal opinion only. Although I am an employee - currently of Imagination Technologies's MIPS group, in the past of other companies such as Intellectual Ventures, Intel, AMD, Motorola, and Gould - I reveal this only so that the reader may account for any possible bias I may have towards my employer's products. The statements I make here in no way represent my employer's position, nor am I authorized to speak on behalf of my employer. In fact, this posting may not even represent my personal opinion, since occasionally I play devil's advocate.

See http://docs.google.com/View?id=dcxddbtr_23cg5thdfj for photo credits.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

To do foo, start off in a new window

How many times have you seen "How to" directions begin:

To do foo

  1. Start in a fresh xterm
  2. Start in a fresh shell (typicaly csh)
  3. Log out and log in again so that you get a clean environment
etc.

While this may be good advice, certainly good advice for debugging brokenesses and/or avoiding bugs in the first place  - it is basically an admission that something is not right.

Some tool depends on the environment in weird ways.Possibly not just the standard UNIX environment string;possibly also the extended shell environment.

Tools should be callable from almost arbitrary environments.  They should not DEPEND on environment variables. It may be acceptable to USE environment variables to change some behaviors, but, consider: if you had a setuid script, it would probably be unwise to depend on environment variables.  Environment variables should be considered tainted.

I suppose my version of the above is to say

To do foo

  1. Empty all of your environment variables, and start off with a minimum environment
  2. Type the absolute path to the tool,/a/b/.../c/d/tool
IMHO tools should work when invoked like this.  If they are using the equivalent of Perk FindBin, they should be able to locate all of the relevant library files, etc., they need. Or else they should have, embedded in them, the paths to same.

GLEW OPINION: much of the reason for environment abuse is the broken, non-object oriented, UNIX installation model, where a tool may be put in /bin, its libraries in /usr/lib, etc - where the directories are not known at build time.  PATH, LIBPATH. MANPATH.  FindBin can live with this - a FindBin script can be relocated by copying - so long as the relative locations of what it depends on are maintained.

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