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Comments In RDF Files

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Joined: 16 Apr 2009
Posts: 337

PostPosted: Sat Oct 17, 2009 6:34 pm    Post subject: Comments In RDF Files Reply with quote

As many of you may already know, there is no officially supported way to provide comments in RDF files. I brought this up in another thread and thought it should be discussed a bit, to see if it's practical to officially add such capability, so I'm opening this new thread to discuss it.

Personally, I'd like to see, at a minimum, a comment header block in every RDF showing the author (so you know who to contact with questions and updates) and probably some sort of changelog showing the history of updates.

And since I'm volunteering to aggregate, update, and release the next set of RDF files, I'd like to do it with the ability to safely put in any needed comments, anywhere in the file, if not now, then maybe in the near future.

Quoting from version 4 of the RDF Specification document:

RDF v4 Spec wrote:
There is no official method for adding comments to an RDF file. You should assume that every line in the RDF file will be processed. In most cases, trying to add a comment line will cause programs to display error messages. An unofficial method is to locate any comment lines at the very beginning of the RDF file, or at the end of the [FixedData] section, and to begin the line with a # character. This is not foolproof, as you must still make certain that the line is not accidentally recognized as a valid fixed data entry, and it should be tested with all programs that utilize RDF files. At present, this includes the following programs: IR, RM, RMIR, ECC and EXTINSTALL.

In practice, there are already some RDFs that use the hash character ('#') as a comment in ways other than those suggested above, so I suspect the tools may already be close to correctly processing a '#' comment line anywhere it occurs.

The RDF Specification document's author/maintainer, Mike England, said this in another thread:

mr_d_p_gumby wrote:
Seriously, to get an official comment syntax method defined, we'd need agreement from those currently developing IR.exe and RM/RMIR (Graham and Greg, respectively). From a practical standpoint, we'd need to do it in a way that does not make older version of IR puke, since users don't seem to always upgrade to the latest version despite our best efforts. We'd also have to try to maintain compatibility with the various versions of Extinstall which use a much smaller part of the RDF file.

I don't know anything about 'Extinstall' (or 'ECC'), but it seems like we could coordinate the other applications with a new release of the RDF specification to support comments.

Who wrote (or maintains) 'Extinstall' and 'ECC'? Assuming the author and/or source code is still available, I cannot see any major problem making any necessary upgrades to support a '#'-style RDF comment.

To me, the toughest part to achieve is the "do it in a way that does not make older version of IR puke". I'm not sure that's possible, but I don't really know. If that proves impractical/impossible, do we just throw out the idea of ever having an officially supported comment method in RDF files? Or (my preference) do we just force people to upgrade their software when needed? I mean, nobody's paying $50 for the upgrade privilege, right? In fact, if I was feeling particularly evil, an effective way to force people to upgrade would be to intentionally put something that would break the old software into a new RDF as part of a comment. Twisted Evil Mu-hu-ha-ha-ha! (Note to self: keep evil laughter to yourself.)

P.S. I'm not suggesting implementing any of this in the current about-to-be-released 'IR.exe' version. If any changes are needed, they can certainly wait for the next release cycle.

Comments and suggestions welcomed....

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Joined: 22 Jul 2008
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Location: Cambridge, UK

PostPosted: Mon Oct 19, 2009 7:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've always been puzzled by what applications are broken if a comment line starting with a # is put in. I thought all apps ignored RDF lines with keys they didn't understand. That, after all, is how we can add new keys to the RDF spec without breaking old apps - it's only adding new syntax to old keys, as in the RDF3 to RDF4 change - that can break apps. So can someone enlighten me on why starting a comment line with # is not a safe thing to do?
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