The Greatest Tradition of All
The Holidays. No time in the calendar can boast a higher density of traditions per diem than this glorious tail end of the year. But amidst this gleefull storm of traditions dealing with the culinary, the jocose, the social, one particularly stands out for being almost universally observed.
I'm talking about the hallowed ritual of returning presents.
This problem, funnily enough, isn't restricted to packages that come with bows and glitter. Perl distributions, historically, don't come with a return policy. That is, once distribution
Foo-Bar is installed, it stays installed. Like aunt Thelma's pan-chromatic acrylic sweater, it would linger at the back of the closet -- dusty, unused and untouched by more-discriminating-than-that moths, an immutable testament that taste isn't a trait passed through genetic lines. Which usually isn't such a big problem: computers usually have deep closet spaces.
When Gifts Turn to Time-Bombs
There are, however, a few cases where that lingering can cause issues. The most common is when those ghosts of installation pasts interfere with the current festivities.
For example, if version 1 of the distribution
/lib/Holidays/Activities/SingSongs.pm /lib/Holidays/Activities/BeMerry.pm /lib/Holidays/Activities/MeetFriends.pm /lib/Holidays/Activities/DressUpAsElf.pm
and version 2, after realising that tights, bell-adorned curly slippers and short skirts aren't for everybody, revises its payload to be:
/lib/Holidays/Activities/SingSongs.pm /lib/Holidays/Activities/BeMerry.pm /lib/Holidays/Activities/MeetFriends.pm /lib/Holidays/Activities/DressUpAsSanta.pm
then somebody first installing version 1, and then version 2, will end up with some of last year's leftovers, so to speak:
/lib/Holidays/Activities/SingSongs.pm /lib/Holidays/Activities/BeMerry.pm /lib/Holidays/Activities/MeetFriends.pm /lib/Holidays/Activities/DressUpAsElf.pm /lib/Holidays/Activities/DressUpAsSanta.pm
Yet, this is still not guaranteed to cause problem. If the
Holidays-Activities modules are called piecemeal, nobody with a lick of good sense will ever call
use Holidays::Activities::DressUpAsElf, and everybody's eyeballs will be spared. But if, say,
Holidays::Activities use a snazzy module like Module::Pluggable to find all the activities one needs to do during those merry times:
BAM! We end up with a user sporting tights, a cheerfully rotund pot-belly, lots of facial hair and a pointy nose. That sound you're hearing in your head? That's the screams of millions of children for whom the Holidays will never be the same.
Ghost Of Installs Yet To Come, Give Me a Chance!
Fortunately, all is not lost. As it happens, most modern CPAN clients provide a little-known-yet-handy stash of Pepto-Bismol alongside the milk and cookies: the installation of a distribution will also include a .packlist file listing all installed files (the modules, the scripts, the manpages, the whole deal). For example, for a
Dist::Zilla installed in /opt/perlbrew/perls/perl-5.16.1/lib/site_perl/5.16.1/Dist/Zilla.pm, a .packlist will be created in /opt/perlbrew/perls/perl-5.16.1/lib/site_perl/5.16.1/x86_64-linux/auto/Dist/Zilla/.packlist and will look like:
/opt/perlbrew/perls/perl-5.16.1/bin/dzil /opt/perlbrew/perls/perl-5.16.1/lib/site_perl/5.16.1/Dist/Zilla.pm /opt/perlbrew/perls/perl-5.16.1/lib/site_perl/5.16.1/Dist/Zilla/App.pm /opt/perlbrew/perls/perl-5.16.1/lib/site_perl/5.16.1/Dist/Zilla/App/Command.pm /opt/perlbrew/perls/perl-5.16.1/lib/site_perl/5.16.1/Dist/Zilla/App/Command/add.pm /opt/perlbrew/perls/perl-5.16.1/lib/site_perl/5.16.1/Dist/Zilla/App/Command/authordeps.pm /opt/perlbrew/perls/perl-5.16.1/lib/site_perl/5.16.1/Dist/Zilla/App/Command/build.pm /opt/perlbrew/perls/perl-5.16.1/lib/site_perl/5.16.1/Dist/Zilla/App/Command/clean.pm /opt/perlbrew/perls/perl-5.16.1/lib/site_perl/5.16.1/Dist/Zilla/App/Command/install.pm ... and so on, and so forth ...
Word of caution: there are some instances where those .packlist will be missing. Some Linux distributions, belonging squarely on the naughty list, don't include them in their packaging of perl distributions. It's also possible, if you still celebrate the Saturnalia and run on a pre-modern era perl, that you won't have them.
Are the Batteries Included With That Toy?
Partially. If one dig deeps in the lore of Module::Build, one would find an almost-undocumented
--uninst option that stands for exactly what you think. So it's possible to do, during a manual installation dance:
perl Build.PL ./Build test ./Build install --uninst 1
ExtUtils::MakeMaker also offer a similar command:
perl Makefile.Pl make test make UNINST=1
As was discussed recently, however, both systems seem to have issues. And, beside, while a mechanism is offered, it puts the onus of cleaning the leftover of past parties to the user. Manual cleaning, to boot. Hardly optimal.
We Need the Help of Elves (just skip the tights, please)
Fairly recently, Module::Build::CleanInstall made its appearance to help with this problem. This module is a subclass of Module::Build that simply adds an automatic uninstallation of previous versions of a distribution (provided that the .packlist file is found) before doing the new install. Its usage couldn't be simplier: change all mention of Module::Build to Module::Build::CleanInstall in the Build.PL:
and you're good to go (just don't forget to add Module::Build::CleanInstall as a build dependency in your distribution META.json or META.yml).
A different solution has also emerged for the special case of File::ShareDir-based shared files. Instead of trying to remove past files, this approach proposes to bundle all shared files in a single tarball. As the name of the tarball remains the same from one version to the next, one is thus assured that the new file will always clobber its previous incarnation. And the space saving brought by the compression could easily be seen as a nice dollop of whipped cream atop an already appealing hot cocoa. Of course, for the author, dealing with the tarballing of the shared files at release time, and handling their uncompression in the code is one more fixing that must be added to the already extensive work-feast that is release management. And that is why two modules have been created to help there: Dist::Zilla::Plugin::ShareDir::Tarball auto-tarballs share directories at release time (provided that you use Dist::Zilla, natch):
and File::ShareDir::Tarball takes care of that pesky extraction business for you, and transparently provides the user with the extracted temporary directory/files.
Aunts Will Be Aunts, Garish Sweaters Will Still Pop Up
... but at least now we have a few more venues to quietly deal with those presents once the party is over. And this is good, for a sage once said
"To receive is pleasure, and to give is higher pleasure still. But to give back and get what you really wanted all along with a minimum of fuss and without waiting in line with your coat on and screaming brats right behind you for hours on end is the greatest pleasure of them all."
Or something like that. I might be paraphrasing.