The Perl Standard Library

When I look at that what I would call the Perl library at the moment,
the CPAN, I see a whole bunch of modules (more than 14.000 when I
remember my last count), some of them are OO, some are not and we got
several different efforts running at the moment to make the situation,
which is not bad but strange, better.

Thinking about CPAN related projects that is what comes to my mind:
– The Phalanx Project
– CPANPLUS
– CPANTS
– The Core Modules

The problem of all this is that we miss a real structure, something I
will call the Perl Standard Library (PSL) from now on.

See, we got all this beautiful modules which all more or less work
with some version of Perl, some OS and some architecture. That is
nice, as most of them work for me, on a Linux i386 box. Other
platforms are hard to tell, e.g. Windows and compiling something can
be really hard.

The Phalanx project choose 100 modules, as I understand it to make it
more or less the testing platform for Ponie, and try to improve them
to be better modules(TM). CPANPLUS is an effort to make the management
of the installed modules easier. CPANTS and testers.cpan.org make it
more easy for the module developers to see their modules tested on
hardware and version they don't have. The Core Modules (and the bad
dual life modules) make Perl pumpkining harder (I guess so) and
improve the basic functionality that Perl has. The Problem is that
some useful modules are not Core (and maybe some useless modules
are in core :-)). The next thing that is important in connection with
module management is my OS vendor, or my Distribution as it is called
in the Linux world. They bring a couple of modules, some CPAN original
and just build for my version of the OS, or some changed ones, because
a Dead Camel did not move and they needed the lib (as Curses.pm was a
long time, at least SuSE, RedHat and Debian had their own patches
because it didn't compile with 5.8.0). This all ends up in a big
BLOB. I can't really tell by heart which modules are installed on my
system, I'm not sure about every version number and can't promise that
something I wrote works on every system. I don't have nothing to
depend on when writing software, I don't have no Library. In my
opinion a language is only as strong as it's library, but the problem
with the library of my favorite language (guess what) is that it's
library is maintained by over 1000 people and it has nothing you can
rely on.

What I want to say is that we should take a bunch of modules (as the
Phalanx Project does), put the together, make it stable at mark it the
PSL for 5.8.1. I don't have a list of modules I want to see in there,
but I think it would be an advantage for Perl if we would take the
material we got, take the material others contribute (like the modules
which the distro vendors choose) and make something up we could depend
on in eternity (or at least for the time Perl exists). When we have
bundled it we could make another effort do restructure it, as I don't
believe that the CPAN structure would fit all the time. Then we can
improve documentation and make everything more homogeneous. One of the
other problems with the CPAN is that there is no document I can think
of that says how to do what with which module. There are many books
out there that recommend many modules, but there is no single “Using
CPAN” book out there that covers all of CPAN.

To make myself clear again, what I would like would be a PSL project,
that provides a big, stable and maybe pure OO library for Perl,
version dependent, with easy to access documentation and that has
obvious responsibilies.

This is just an idea, maybe I have to restructure some parts and think
over others.

Another thing that came to my life lately was that another thing I'm
missing at the moment is easier to install modules. I installed
ID3Lib.pm today just to recognize that it didn't compile because I had
no ID3Lib installed. This is rather obvious but often it's hard to
tell which libraries a Perl module depends on. Maybe this is something
for the META files. The thing that I really didn't like was that the
lib was just a line away (on my Debian) it's just 'apt-get install
libid3'. I'd like to have something like CPANPLUS::Distro::Backend
that would manage such thing for me. It's not very realistic to get
something like that for every system, but if you can say the developer
install lib foo it's more than just a missing include file. Would be
some kind of community effort, but maybe it is possible.

Enough revolutionary ideas for today🙂

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