When I put up any version of FBSD I usually try to install Maxima ...

Michel Talon talon at lpthe.jussieu.fr
Sat Jan 28 19:21:07 UTC 2012

Roland Smith wrote:

The default build of gnuplot is quite heavy, pulling in wxwidgets and teTeX.
Personally, I would recommend the following settings: enable X11, GD, gridb ox,
thinsplines and cairo, and disable the rest; pdflib didn't work last time I
tried it. WXwidgets is overkill IMO, the standard X11 support works fine. And
teTeX is deprecated upstream in favor of TeXLive.

Gnuplot is the prototypical example of a port which is badly managed. There are
far too many dependencies which are absolutely *non necessary* There is absolutely no necessity
of having TeX (in any form whatsoever) to run Gnuplot. In fact Gnuplot can emit TeX
instructions if asked to do it, but many people never use this feature,
and those who care may very well include the graphs on another machine, run TeX elsewhere, etc.
The only necessary features are to emit X11 plots and ps plots. The ps plots can be
transformed to pdf by ps2pdf, which is a basic program on almost all machines. The more
modern inclined may like svg plots if they have inkscape. But the cherry on the cake is
that gnu plot requires pdflib, which is a non free library such that the FreeBSD
project cannot ship a working gnuplot binary (that is gnuplot will not start without libpdf
for which one needs to download source and compile). Hence one of the most useful tools on a computer
doesn't work out of the box. Things such as that should never occur, a port maintainer should
only include the *strict minimum* dependencies necessary to make the port work, it is not his job
to include the whole kitchen sink of dependencies that could be useful in some cases.

Of course there are correlated casualties to such misbehavior such as the above problem afflicting 
maxima. Once again, while doing plots is a useful feature of maxima, requiring gnuplot, it is not
a central feature of maxima, the plots can be done with other tools than gnuplot. Similarly
maxima has a TeX dependency which has absolutely no reason to be here. Of course maxima can
output formulas in TeX notation, but there is no necessity to do that, and i am quite sure that
many people only use the html rendering produced by wxmaxima.

In the past people have chased deprecated ports in the FreeBSD ports system, and this has caused a lot of controversy
(personaly i approve this operation). But chasing inappropriate dependencies  would be far more useful if one wants
to arrive at a situation where one can envision to use binary packages for most installations of FreeBSD
(those which don't require fine tuning). At present, the gnuplot example shows that even most basic
installations cannot be provided out of the box without compiling something - which implies in particular
that no apt-get like tool can be devised. 


Michel Talon
talon at lpthe.jussieu.fr

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