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bug#26205: Unhappy with deprecating GREP_OPTIONS

From: Eric Blake
Subject: bug#26205: Unhappy with deprecating GREP_OPTIONS
Date: Tue, 21 Mar 2017 11:05:21 -0500
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64; rv:45.0) Gecko/20100101 Thunderbird/45.8.0

On 03/21/2017 10:39 AM, Thomas Güttler wrote:

>  * Strategy 1: GREP_OPTIONS. But this is deprecated. See
> http://www.gnu.org/software/grep/manual/html_node/Environment-Variables.html
>  * Stragegy 2: GREP_COLORS look like a solution at the first sight, but
> this does something different.
>  * Strategy 3: alias. This does not work for `find ... | xargs grep`,
> since xargs does not evaluate aliases.

It can if you teach it to (assuming you are using a sh-like shell):

alias xargs='xargs '

(I can't help you if you are using a csh-like shell)

>  * Strategy 4: Write a simple wrapper script. No, I think this is too
> dirty and makes more trouble than it solves.

What trouble does it cause? This our preferred recommendation, by the way.

>  * Strategy 5: patch the source code  - No

Why not? It's open source, so you are free to do so, for your local setup.

>  * Strategy 6: Contact grep developers, ask for a replacement of

Which you've done. But it won't help, because we made a conscious
decision to kill environment variables that have the chance of breaking
scripts, and we are unlikely to be persuaded to change our minds.

> Why is GREP_OPTIONS deprecated?

Because it has the tendency to break unsuspecting scripts that don't
sanitize GREP_OPTIONS out of their environment.  Environment variables
that change default output are very dangerous.  Environment variables
that only modify behavior that has to be opted into (like GREP_COLORS)
are not as bad, but once you are explicitly opting into something, a
wrapper script is a lot more direct than a wrapper script + an
environment variable.

> I guess this can do confusing things if you exclude directories via this
> environment variable.

Yes, that was one of the things known to break scripts.

> But setting color=auto looks like something which does not do harm.

You're right that 'color=auto' tends to not break scripts, but
'color=always' does, and it gets rather hard, rather fast, if you try to
special-case WHICH aspects of GREP_OPTIONS are safe, vs. just a blanket
statement that GREP_OPTIONS is in general unsafe.

Eric Blake   eblake redhat com    +1-919-301-3266
Libvirt virtualization library http://libvirt.org

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