[TUHS] run commands at login in v6 and stty

Larry McVoy lm at mcvoy.com
Tue Mar 1 00:07:15 AEST 2022

So I'm curious, did Plan 9 run on a similar number of architectures and
support a similar number of graphics cards?

If it did that, nicely, then you have a great point, the X11 people
(and most of us) clearly missed a better way to do things.  If this is
the case, I'd like to understand how you did it because just including
different definitions doesn't begin to scratch the surface of what the
#ifdefs did in X11, there were tons in the actual code.

Maybe the constant system interface made all the difference, that 
could be.  

If it supported a much smaller number of targets, well, sure, it's
easier to be clean if you have a clean set of targets.

I remain grateful for the #ifdefs, I could make enough sense of it 
all to bring up X11 on every platform I worked on.  It wasn't pretty,
there was a ton of "I don't recognize this $WHATEVER, what happens if
I just #if 0 around the whole thing?  Wow, it compiles, lets see if
I get a window system.  Yep, I do.  Shrug."  That limited what I had
to understand to the much smaller subset of code I was actually
going to run, yeah, that set of #ifdefs was a mess but not such
a mess that I didn't get a working X11.

I'm not arguing that #ifdef is good, I'm just acknowledging it had
a lot of benefit to me, and _for me_, the cost was worth it in that
instance.  I could have X11 working in less than a day.

I do get your point about abstracting the interface differences away,
I actually hate #ifdefs in the code with a passion so in BitKeeper we
had all that stuff buried under the abstractions.  We made everything
look like Unix, even on Windows, except for fork().  I haven't called
fork() directly in close to 20 years, we picked up spawn() and made that
work everywhere.  The abstraction layer cuts down on the #ifdefs in the
code a LOT.

On Mon, Feb 28, 2022 at 06:22:28PM +1100, Rob Pike wrote:
> Plan 9 had the distinct advantage of a constant system interface at the
> source level. X11 did not, but it also made essentially no attempt to
> abstract it away, so the lines starting #ifdef often outnumbered the actual
> code. I couldn't make hide nor hair of it, and had no way to reliably test
> any change.
> C with #ifdefs is not portable, it is a collection of 2^n overlaid
> programs, where n is the number of distinct #if[n]def tags. It's too bad
> the problems of that approach were not appreciated by the C standard
> committee, who mandated the #ifndef guard approach that I'm sure could
> count as a provable billion dollar mistake, probably much more. The cost of
> building #ifdef'ed code, especially with C++, which decided to be more
> fine-grained about it, is unfathomable.
> Google alone might well count for many millions of dollars in wasted
> compilation equipment. I remember giving a Plan 9 demo to someone soon
> after I got to Google. None of the features of the system were of interest.
> The thing that astounded my audience was the ability to build the kernel on
> a P90 in 20 seconds or so, and the window system in under 3. At that time,
> a build of a Google server would require hours on a large distcc cluster.
> I still shudder to think of it. It's worse now, of course, far worse, but
> Google has far larger clusters to handle it and some improvement in
> tooling. However, the #ifdefs persist.
> Tom Cargill warned Bjarne about this around 1984, but the plea fell on deaf
> ears.
> -rob
> On Mon, Feb 28, 2022 at 12:07 PM Douglas McIlroy <
> douglas.mcilroy at dartmouth.edu> wrote:
> > > The X11 tree was a heavily ifdef-ed.  And it needed to be, I don't have
> > > an answer as to how you would reuse all that code on different hardware
> > > in a better way.
> >
> > Plan 9 did it with #include. The name of the included file was the same for
> > every architecture. Only the search path for include files changed. Done
> > with
> > care, this eliminates the typical upfront #ifdefs.that define constants
> > and set
> > flags.
> >
> > Other preprocessor conditionals can usually be replaced by a regular if,
> > letting
> > the compiler optimize away the unwanted alternative. This makes
> > conditionals
> > obey the scope rules of C.
> >
> > Doug
> >

Larry McVoy            	     lm at mcvoy.com             http://www.mcvoy.com/lm 

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