link: "Recursive Make Considered Harmful"

Christopher Vance christopher at
Tue Jan 11 03:31:47 PST 2005

On Tue, Jan 11, 2005 at 06:57:28PM +1000, Andrew Hacking wrote:
I was also surprised to see in jam that all variable assignment occurs
at parsing time and cannot occur dynamically, eg as the output of a
shell command.  This has to take away a lot of power that make provides,
but obviously makes it easier for jam to calculate dependencies up front
before doing anything.
Anyway its good to look at alternatives... and still see that make isn't
so bad despite the limitations.
It's the use of shell commands to change make's behaviour - and not
just file content - that I consider a significant part of the problem.
I think building would be more maintainable if the shell stuff was up
front to set parameters, etc., before doing any file construction, and
then never got invoked again in all the myriad recursions.
Christopher Vance

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