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ASDF System Connections
Monday, November 14, 2005

I used a home grown defsystem (EKSL's Generic Load Utilities) at my previous job but have been slowly moving towards ASDF over the last few months. Mostly, the differences are syntactic and it's a matter of mucking from one form to the other -- I know, I know, I should have written a program to do this but...

ASDF is, however, missing one feature that I had only recently added to GLU: the ability to automatically load other systems when they become relevant. An example or two might be in order.

Example #1: Metatilities is my basic tool set and bind is a handy thing. Metatilities and bind are separate tools and can be downloaded and used individually. However, when I have both metatilities and bind loaded, I'd like bind to be available in the metatilities package.

Example #2: Cl-Containers is a container library. CL-Variates is a set of portable Common Lisp random number generation routines. These are separate tools but when both are available, I want to use the routines in CL-Variates to select random elements from my containers.

Currently, I can accomplish both of these tasks by defining additional systems and loading them as needed. No real trouble but it's a hassle. I'd rather be able to express this and have my system definition tool take care of the rest. Thus: asdf-system-connections. It adds a new macro that's almost but not quite the same as defsystem. The addition is a :requires clause that lists the systems upon which this connection depends...

Here is a simple example from metabang.bind's system definition:

(asdf:defsystem-connection bind-and-metatilities
       :requires (metabang.bind metatilities-base)
       :perform (load-op :after (op c)
                         (use-package (find-package "METABANG.BIND") 
                                      (find-package "METATILITIES"))))

The requires clause specifies the other systems that must be loaded before this connection will be activated. The rest of the system definition regular ASDF. ASDF-System-connections will be loaded as soon as the systems their require are all loaded and they will only be loaded once. Before loading a system that uses a system connection, you should load ASDF-System-Connections in the usual manner:

(asdf:oos 'asdf:load-op 'asdf-system-connections)

ASDF-System-connections is brand new and relatively untested. It is available via darcs, ASDF-Install and direct download. Please let me know if anything goes awry.


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