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[Bug-stow] Stow doesn't use the "ignore" option given in the rc file

From: Kristoffer Haugsbakk
Subject: [Bug-stow] Stow doesn't use the "ignore" option given in the rc file
Date: Wed, 24 Aug 2016 15:23:02 +0000 (UTC)

This is a reply to [Adam Spiers' answer] to my question/bug report on
Unix & Linux StackExchange.  The title of this email is the name of the
question that I posted.

[Adam Spiers' answer]: http://unix.stackexchange.com/a/305225/185805

> Thanks for the excellent bug report!  I can answer your
> questions, and as the Stow maintainer I can also fix the issues,
> but I'd appreciate your feedback from a UX perspective so we can
> figure out the best fix.
> Firstly, it's worth noting that `--verbose=5` will give you much
> more detail about the internals of the ignore mechanism, although
> in this case it would not be sufficient to explain why things are
> not behaving the way you expect.

The [online manual] says that verbosity goes up to 3.   The info file in
Emacs says the same.   My man page says that it goes up to 4 (maybe
that's correct for version 2.2.0).  Maybe the manuals need to be

[online manual]: 

> There are two reasons why neither of your `.stowrc` files worked:
> 1. The `.stowrc` parser splits (option, value) pairs based on the
>       space character, not on `=`.  So a line for an ignore option
>       in that file should start `--ignore ` not `--ignore=`.
> 2. The `.stowrc` parser doesn't automatically strip quotes.  When
>       the `--ignore` option (or any other option, for that matter)
>       is passed via the CLI, the shell will strip the quotes before
>       Stow sees them.  That's why it works there.

When making my `--ignore` options I used the examples in the online
manual (see section 11 "Resource Files") as a guideline.  There `=` and
single quotes are used, e.g.:


The same goes for the info file.   I assumed that the quotes were
supposed to be stripped, or else the CVS example wouldn't make much
sense to me.  I also prefer to use single quotes since then I won't have
to fret about globbing in the shell.  (In hindsight I guess that doesn't
make sense for what is just a string that will be copied around in a
script.  I'm not skilled with shells so I try to play it safe.)

So my assumption was that the options given in the file would be the
same as passing them on the command line.   The online manual says that
this is "effectively" what happens:

    [Default command line options] are parsed in that order, and
    effectively prepended to you command line.

Though perhaps "effectively" is supposed to be interpreted more
conservatively; again, I am not proficient with shells and their

I don't know if higher verbose levels do this (my version doesn't seem
to), but it might be good if a certain verbose level and higher printed
the `stow` command that was executed once the resource file(s) were
taken into account.  Maybe there also could be an option that prints
what the `stow` command that is sent looks like, in addition to or
instead of including it in the `verbose` output.  This could perhaps be
combined with the `--simulate` option to see what command would run when
taking into account the resource files.   This could make any differences
between the format of the resource files and the final output more
obvious, and simpler than (1) figuring out which resource file is used
(maybe you happen to be in the wrong directory), and (2) reading it and
combining the options given in that file with the ones you are invoking
directly in your mind.

> So the combination of these two means that your `.stowrc` should
> contain:
>     --ignore car
> I've tested that, and indeed it works.
> Now, there are probably valid arguments saying that either or
> even both of these points are actually UX bugs.  I certainly
> agree that they do not provide an intuitive UI.  The question is
> whether the behaviour should be changed, or whether it's better
> to simply make this clearer in the docs.
> My current thinking is that based on [Postel's
> Law](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robustness_principle), the
> parser should accept splitting on both space and `=`, but it
> should not strip quotes because what if the user really did want
> to ignore `'car'` rather than just `car`?  Also there is an
> existing and related [bug report that options with spaces break
> in `stowrc`](https://github.com/aspiers/stow/issues/15), so this
> should be taken into account when implementing any fix. (I'll
> update that bug after posting this answer.)
> I'd welcome your opinions on these.

Since I have no idea about how hard certain things are to implement,
I'll be talking strictly about the UX side of things.   Just keep that in

I think that, ideally, the format of the options in the stowrc files
should be as close to how they would be when passed directly on the
terminal as reasonably possible.   As to the stripping of the quotes, I
think it would be better to strip the quotes, since that would be what
would happen in the terminal and shell scripts.   If someone wants the
quotes, maybe they could escape them.  But again, I have no idea how
hard this is to implement.

Maybe there is some precedent when it comes to how resource files tend
to handle options?

With regards to the linked issue: I think having one option per line
sounds good.   This is what I guessed when I read the manual, based on
the examples.   But just to be clear about it, maybe the manual (online
and info file) could specify that explicitly?  A sentence like this
could be added to the first paragraph:

    Each line contains one option only.

> Finally, I believe your `.stow-local-ignore` did not work because
> you placed it in the stow directory rather than in the `a/`
> package directory.  The documentation about this seems clear to
> me, so I think it's fair to write this one off as pilot error.
> However if you have any suggestions for how to make the docs
> clearer than I'm all ears.

Yes, the manual is clear about that.   The only possible change would be
to explicitly mention that resource files and ignore files are put in
different places.   But I don't know if that would be an improvement or
just minor noise.

* * *

Thanks again for your help.

PS Sorry if my webclient ruins the formatting.
Kristoffer Haugsbakk

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