Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Quick diff tip, make, et al

I'm using make for a simple shell project, to run tests before committing. The check was trivial:

SHELL = bash

	@./run-tests t | grep 'Summary: 16 PASSED, 0 FAILED, 0 ERRORED' >/dev/null

This has the nice quality of Silence is Golden: say nothing when all is good. However, it loses the quality of Complain on Failure: it simply fails without saying why.

A better solution, preserving both qualities:

SHELL = bash

	@diff --color=auto \
	    <(./run-tests t | grep 'Summary: .* PASSED, .* FAILED, .* ERRORED') \
	    <(echo 'Summary: 16 PASSED, 0 FAILED, 0 ERRORED')

It still says nothing when all is good, but now shows on failure how many tests went awry. Bonus: color for programmers who like that sort of thing.

Why set SHELL to bash? I'm taking advantage of Process Substitution. Essentially the command outputs inside the subshells are turned into special kinds of files, and diff likes to compare files. Ksh and Zsh also support process substitution, so I'm going with the most widely available option.


Why are my arguments to diff ordered like that? In usual testing language, I'm comparing "actual" vs "expected", and more commonly you'll see programmers list "expected" first.

diff by default colors the left-hand input in RED, and the right-hand input in GREEN. On failure, it makes more sense to color "actual" in red and "expected" in green. Example output on failure:

$ make
< Summary: 17 PASSED, 1 FAILED, 0 ERRORED
> Summary: 19 PASSED, 0 FAILED, 0 ERRORED
make: *** [Makefile:4: test] Error 1
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