The Unbearable Fragility of Software Configuration

March 13, 2010

Issue 52 of the Spoofax project in YellowGrass is a perfect illustration of the fragility of software configuration; the presence or absence of a line break makes the difference between a working and a failing system. What is worse is that the error is very hard to detect and requires a hunch from an expert. If the eclipse.ini file would have a proper syntax and static semantic constraints, the error could be caught right on load time, or preferably when editing the file in the first place. Configuration files are models in a domain-specific language that should be treated just like the classes of a Java program.

<img width="512" src="http://blog.eelcovisser.net/uploads/spoofax-issue-52.png" border=0 align=center>