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RFC 260 (v1) More modules

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September 19, 2000 12:41
RFC 260 (v1) More modules
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=head1 TITLE

More modules

=head1 VERSION

  Maintainer: Michael G Schwern <>
  Date: 19 Sep 2000
  Mailing List:
  Number: 260
  Version: 1
  Status: Developing


Perl should come distributed with more modules.


Currently, in order to get a really useful Perl installation you have
to immediately hit CPAN and download a battery of modules.  This is
kind of silly.  Its a tedious step that can be eliminated if we expand
what Perl comes with.

When a "how do I do X" type question pops up and is answered "module Y
does X", a typical response is "is module Y in the core?"  There is
some trepidation about using CPAN modules because they must be
downloaded and installed (often a difficult problem for programs which
are to be distributed, especially to Windows and MacOS), and because
of perceived instability.

Core modules also establish a lowest common version.  If version 1.5
of module Y is distributed with Perl, yet version 1.6 is on CPAN, a
program author can code for 1.5's API and be fairly certain it will
work on most installations.

=head2 Core bloat?

The most obvious objection is core bloat.  5.6.0 is already over 5
megs and only going to get fatter.  Throwing lots of modules into the
core will only make it even bigger, possibly getting up to 10 megs!
There are a few solutions for this.

The first is to provide several distributions of Perl.  A minimalistic
distribution might provide just perl and a handful of modules.
Another provides the docs.  Another a set of modules equivalent to the
current set and yet another provides our extended set.
CPAN/src/perl-X.X.X.tar.gz would be one big bundle encompassing all
these sets.  Other combinations might be made available.

Another is to provide several different install options.  "make
install" installs everything, as usual.  "make small_install" installs
just the current set of modules.  "make tiny_install" installs a bare
minimum, not even docs.

There's alot of crufy stuff in the source distribution that could be
dumped.  Eliminating lib/*.pl (except and eg/ will free up
over 200k which makes room for a couple more modules.

Finally, we've got about 18 months before Perl 6 is expected to ship.
In that time, DSL and cable modems will become more and more
ubiquitous (my B<dad> has one!) and pulling down 10 megs will be less
of an issue for Joe Average.  Users still on low bandwidth can get one
of the slimmer distributions.

=head2 Which modules?

Some of the more obvious modules are:

=over 4

=item B<DBI>

Perl talks to databases alot, and DBI is how you talk to databases
with Perl.  Distributing it would push Perl even further as a powerful
database access language.  DBD::CSV and DBD::RAM (along with their
supporting modules) would also go along, so even without a database
DBI is still useful for prototyping and provides a path for programs
to migrate to a real database when one is needed.

DBD::ODBC would also be nice, as most databases speak it.  The free
ODBC drivers should also be distributed.  They are firming up now and
by the time Perl 6 is out should be stable and well supported.

=item B<LWP>

Rumor has it Perl has been used for some web stuff.  LWP is the most
obvious module for this sort of work.

LWP is quite fat, perhaps the maintainers could be petitioned to split
it up into a basic set and a set of extensions.  Perl would distribute
the basic set.

=item B<libnet>

This Internet thing is getting pretty popular, and Perl should come
ready for it.  libnet provides all the basic network clients.  FTP,

=item B<Mail::Send>

"How do I send mail?"  More often than not this question winds up with
something like C<open MAIL "|/usr/lib/sendmail -o">.  This is not only
non-portable, its also ripe for security holes.  Mail::Send, or
similar module, makes sending mail easy, safe and portable.


The exact set is not so important as a consensus that its a Good Idea
to start distributing more modules.




The integration and upkeep of existing CPAN modules is already a
fairly well-understood procedure.  The only foreseeable problem is
configuring and testing those modules requiring network access, as
this is not always available.


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