2 Nov 2004 crhodes   » (Master)

Happy Democracy Day.

My contribution to the American understanding of foreign cultures on this most important of days is the final merge of the SBCL development that I've been doing on character_branch onto CVS HEAD. The technical details in the development aren't particularly interesting, I think, except that I am pleased that I managed to arrange it such that the system can be configured with full Unicode support or not as a build-time option. There are still things that are broken, but, well, I'm too tired to fix them right now. Here's hoping that some of the other 13 SBCL developers can pick up some of the slack...

What might be of interest to more than the minuscule (or, more charitably, ‘embryonic’) Common Lisp community, though, was the management of the development branch and the merge. The branch underwent some 46 distinct CVS revisions, and one factor that I believe helped the management of a spare-time project like this was the discipline of not checking in manifestly broken code. A temptation when working on invasive changes such as these (diffstat says 148 files changed, 2965 insertions(+), 1786 deletions(-)) is to check in ‘obviously’ right code that happens to be untestable. Don't do that. The reason this discipline helped was that the merge to HEAD happened in a completely different order from the development on the branch: development is assisted by working on one feature at a time and testing the new feature for being broken, whereas the merge – which will preserve both codepaths to an extent – needs to absorb things which are common to both first, exposing the true differences between the systems. To put some more numbers on that, only approximately 4% (40kB from a patch of over 1MB) of the patch ended up being conditionally compiled: the rest was common to both build options.

The moral? Well, it won't be surprising to too many people reading this, I suppose, but: “Keep the system working as much as possible through development as well as in public.” Enjoy the new expressivity.

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