A tale of three build systems

TL;DR

While we’re still 30s behind hand-written make, I totally would use any of the two over hand-written Makefiles.

As you might have noticed, meson is the new kid on the block. Step by step I am currently converting some projects to it, spearheading Shotwell. Since Shotwell only “recently” became an autotools project, you may ask why. Shotwell had a hand-written makefile system. This made some tasks that would have been incredibly easy with autotools, such as mallard documentation handling, more complicated than it should be. Since autotools provides all the nice features that you want for your GNOME environment, it made sense to leverage that.

Number games

Here are some numbers from the various transition phases. All taken on my i5 X201 laptop.

Conditions:

  • We build from a fresh git checkout (or git clean -dxf)
  • All builds are generated on the same machine with make -j $(($(nproc) + 2))
  • In the case of Meson, the ccache cache was emptied before

Shotwell 0.22

Configure:
real	0m0,011s
user	0m0,004s
sys	0m0,004s

Compile:
real	5m15,892s
user	17m30,392s
sys	1m10,984s

Shotwell 0.23.0

Shotwell’s makefile had a subtle rule issue that caused the plugins to be compiled several times over with valac. Also it was calling pkg-config with each compiler call, so after fixing that, we get these numbers for the compile step:

real	2m1,760s
user	6m31,788s
sys	0m26,788s

Shotwell master

Autotools

autogen.sh (including configure run):

real	0m32,315s
user	0m26,900s
sys	0m0,984s

Compiling:

real	2m25,164s
user	7m47,380s
sys	0m29,028s

Meson

mkdir build && meson build

real	0m1,529s
user	0m1,056s
sys	0m0,304s

ninja -C build

real	2m9,369s
user	7m17,276s
sys	0m33,660s

 

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