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Re: sysinst split project - The Configuration File

Hi Greg!

Thanks for taking the time for an in-depth answer.

> > How many people know XML?  How many people know lua?
> I'm not sure that's relevant, but regardless that's an apples
> vs. oranges question.

Of course. :-)

> You must ask how many people know XML _plus_ the relevant DTDs.
> LUA is one language -- XML is a family of languages.

Hmmmm... yes and no.  XML is a method to structure data.  Together
with XSLT and other things, you can implement languages.

> As for trying to count the number of people who "know" one language or
> another, well that's a specious argument in this context.  XML syntax
> might be easy to know, and a given XML DTD might be simple to
> understand, but SGML style syntax overall is a _horrible_ syntax for
> both humans and computers to use.

I respectfully disagree.  I find it not so bad, and computers don't care.

> The very fact that you need to use a
> set of tools to manipulate it in any way, and the fact these tools
> consist of relatively massive amounts of code, is sure evidence of this
> fact.

My tool is called emacs. :-)  And you would need an interpreter for any
scripting language, i.e. a "tool to manipulate" the script.

> You only need a select set of tools for this given task.  Indeed one
> needs far fewer tools in this context to make use of lua than one would
> need to make use of a relevant XML DTD.  I.e. with lua one needs only
> the built-in embedded interpreter (and a text editor) to use lua.  It's
> already suggested that one would need at least xmltools, an XML-capable
> editor, plus also perhaps some other tools to make use of an XML DTD.

You would need an editor for Lua.  OTOH you can write XML in vi.

> However I dare say a lot more human programmers will have an easier time
> of "processing" lua than they will of processing a private new XML DTD.

We are talking about a configuration file.  It will be touched by humans,
and processed by machine.  This holds true for Lua and XML both.  It is
just text that to you need to read and understand.

> I think the point also is that sysinst(8) _really_ NEEDS an embedded
> scripting language anyway, so also adding a new private XML DTD to the
> mess would be a very unnecessary thing to do.  Even if one could find a
> widely used DTD to use which matches the requirements needed here would
> still mean adding a whole lot of extra crud that's going to be totally
> unnecessary when a proper embedded scripting language is also added.

So does that mean that Lua could not process XML?

> Why does everyone seem want to shout "XML" in answer to such a wide
> variety of questions when that isn't even a proper or complete answer to
> any possible question!!?!?!?

Maybe because "everyone" is not interested in a "pure" way for its own
sake, but cares more for established standards, easy interoperability,
and accessibility for the non-guru level user.

> Only an answer along the lines of
> "such-and-such XML DTD" would be even close to suitable and complete.

Of course a complete answer would be to provide a DTD or schema and a
parser implementation.  In that sense, no answer could be complete unless
it provided the finished sysinst rewrite.  We are not talking on that

> Meanwhile throwing XML at almost any problem means throwing a huge
> amount of extra code and complex tools at a problem where a simple
> human-friendly embedded scripting language would easily provide more
> than enough features and support to solve the problem, _especially_ in
> this case.

It is quite possible that LUA would solve this isolated problem more elegantly.

> If XML in any form is the best answer you can come up with
> then you've probably asked the wrong question in the first place --
> either that or it's the only tool in your toolbox.

I find this remark uncalled for.  One of the things that steered me
away from working on NetBSD is that unhealthy tendency in this community
to propose one single "true" way and dismiss everything else, coupled
with a severe case of NIH syndrome.  (Not to dramatize things -- of course
the main reason was lack of time, as usual.  Code speaks louder than

Anyway, I would have liked to see a "parameterized sysinst + native
packaging tool + system packages + automated netboot" installation system
for NetBSD.  It would have gone a long way towards acceptance of NetBSD
outside the "hardcore" user community.

Regards -- Volker
Volker A. Brandt                  Consulting and Support for Sun Solaris
Brandt & Brandt Computer GmbH                   WWW:
Am Wiesenpfad 6, 53340 Meckenheim                     Email:
Handelsregister: Amtsgericht Bonn, HRB 10513              Schuhgröße: 45
Geschäftsführer: Rainer J. H. Brandt und Volker A. Brandt

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