[armedbear-devel] Some thoughts on designing programmatic access to the CLASSPATH from Lisp

Mark Evenson evenson at panix.com
Wed Jan 13 10:00:43 UTC 2010

>>> Is there an elegant way to have ABCL load Lisp code from a JAR file in the
>> 2.  If resolution of "foo.jar" fails on the filesystem, iterate through
>> the CLASSPATH to match the name.
> I don't agree on point 2. Ideally I would like to keep the two points
> distinct, i.e. cook up another pseudo-pathname - say,
> "classpath:/a/b/foo.abcl" - specifically for classpath resources. The
> reason is that I see two very distinct usages of this functionality:
> 2. (classpath) is what applications would normally use: just ensure
> that resources are in the classpath, ignore where they are physically
> located;
> 1. (explicit jar path) would normally be used by ABCL itself in order
> to correctly resolve relative paths, load internal stuff, and similar.

I accept that there is a conceptual difference between a java CLASSPATH 
and an explicit reference to a jar which.

Being more strict, I suppose we could say that translated into Lisp a 
Java CLASSPATH is a proper list of pathnames which may either be 
references to JAR files or directories.


would be translated into Lisp (using the "jar:" syntax as specified in 

Since one can access arbitrary resources from the CLASSPATH, I would 
propose we declare that a PATHNAME NAMESTRING beginning with 
"classpath:" refers to an item that should be resolved via the 
CLASSPATH.  I think I can include wildcards here in the implementation 
(but I have to think through more fully through this) so

	(truename #p"classpath:jar:file:*/foo.jar!/")
for the previous CLASSPATH would return

	(truename #p"classpath:baz/foo.text")
if there were a directory "baz/" on the local filesystem under "/a/b/c" 
would return

Another subtlety to consider later is that JAR manifests [can apparently 
modify the classpath for sources loaded from that JAR][1].  Not sure 
what this would mean at the moment.


I'd also like to think through the ramifications of packaging Lisp 
applications via ASDF definitions in JAR files.  It would be nice for 
one ASDF system needing another one could have some mechanism to specify
this relationship without knowing the exact JAR that this dependency 
entails.  But since such dependencies are currently specified by 
symbolic links in a directory which won't work with JARs, we probably 
need to extend ASDF in some manner.  It would be nice to crib some Java 
implementation, but I don't know anything that is standardized. 
Managing CLASSPATH dependencies in Java is a generally considered 
weakness.  Java 7 was supposed to help with this via superpackages 
and/or modules, but that is in an uncertain future.

"A screaming comes across the sky.  It has happened before, but there
is nothing to compare to it now."

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