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Galois Tech Talk: The Future of Cabal (Haskell package management)

Galois, Inc
421 SW 6th Ave. Suite 300
Portland, OR 97204, US (map)



Duncan Coutts, from Well-Typed (http://well-typed.com), will be giving a tech talk tomorrow about the technical direction of Cabal, Haskell package infrastructure, and the problems of managing very large amounts of Haskell code.


TITLE: The Future of Cabal -- "A language for build systems" and "Constraint solving problems in package deployment"

SPEAKER: Duncan Coutts, Well-Typed, LLP

DATE: Tuesday, Oct 7, 2008 10.30am

LOCATION: Galois, Inc. 421 SW 6th Ave. Suite 300 (3rd floor of the Commonwealth Building) Portland, Oregon


This will be an informal talk and discussion on two topics:

  1. A language for build systems

Build systems are easy to start but hard to get right. We'll take the view of a language designer and look at where our current tools fall down in terms of safety/correctness and expressiveness.

We'll then consider some very early ideas about what a build system language should look like and what properties it should have. Currently this takes the form of a design for a build DSL embedded in Haskell.

  1. Constraint solving problems in package deployment

We are all familiar, at least peripherally, with package systems. Every Linux distribution has a notion of packages and most have high level tools to automate the installation of packages and all their dependencies. What is not immediately obvious is that the problem of resolving a consistent set of dependencies is hard, indeed it is NP-complete. It is possible to encode 3-SAT or Sudoku as a query on a specially crafted package repository.

We will look at this problem in a bit more detail and ask if the right approach might be to apply our knowledge about constraint solving rather than the current ad-hoc solvers that most real systems use. My hope is to provoke a discussion about the problem.

We can concentrate on one topic or the other depending on peoples interest.


Galois (http://galois.com) has been holding weekly technical seminars for several years on topics from functional programming, formal methods, compiler and language design, to cryptography, and operating system construction, with talks by many figures from the programming language and formal methods communities.

The talks are open and free. If you're planning to attend, dropping a note to [email protected] is appreciated, but not required. If you're interested in giving a talk, we're always looking for new speakers.