Two Guys Arguing

asdf-install innards

Posted in common lisp by youngnh on 08.07.09

asdf-install’s README is good stuff.

For example, I did not know that sbcl has a standalone program for downloading lisp libraries:

sbcl-asdf-install drakma

will do the same thing as the more traditional method of starting sbcl, requiring asdf-install and then installing drakma.

The REAMDE also notes that the arguments to asdf-install may be:

– The name of a cliki page. asdf-install visits that page and finds
the download location from the `:(package)’ tag – usually rendered
as “Download ASDF package from …”

– A URL, which is downloaded directly

– A local tar.gz file, which is installed

If you look at the wiki source of, you’ll see a :(package) tag just as described:

:(package "")

Poking around in the source of asdf-install, you’ll see this:

(let ((url
         (if (= (mismatch package-name-or-url "http://") 7)
             (format nil ""

Which means that cliki generates a url for a page that ends in “?download”. Here’s the headers returned when requesting that url:

GET /Drakma?download HTTP/1.1
User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux i686; en-US; rv: Gecko/20090718 Shiretoko/3.5.1
Accept: text/html,application/xhtml+xml,application/xml;q=0.9,*/*;q=0.8
Accept-Language: en-us,en;q=0.5
Accept-Encoding: gzip,deflate
Accept-Charset: ISO-8859-1,utf-8;q=0.7,*;q=0.7
Keep-Alive: 300
Connection: keep-alive
If-Modified-Since: Fri, 07 Aug 2009 13:50:21 GMT

HTTP/1.x 302 Redirected
Date: Fri, 07 Aug 2009 13:58:26 GMT
Server: Araneida/0.84
Connection: close
Content-Type: text/html
Last-Modified: Fri, 07 Aug 2009 13:58:26 GMT
Pragma: no-cache
Expires: Fri, 30 Oct 1998 14:19:41 GMT

Redirected to the file named in the :(package) tag.

The pages on cliki are freely editable. This means that it is trivially easy to make a piece of software, add a cliki page for it and anyone with asdf-install could install it, which is a fantastic and democratic way to distribute software.

However, by the same token, this is exactly why you should pay attention to the signatures of packages and download any that don’t match or aren’t trusted to see for yourself what you’re getting before loading and executing it.

See the “Making your package downloadable…” section of this cliki page for more details on how to publish your lisp code for all the world to use:

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