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madduck's Planet RCS posts

The following blog posts appear on Planet RCS. Please visit my main blog page for all my posts.

All recent articles on packaging using a version control system should really appear over at Planet vcs-pkg. Feel free to just ping me with a feed URL that is vcs-pkg-specific.

Posted Sun 19 May 2013 13:48:01 CEST Tags:

Manoj (thanks to Jaldhar, I finally know how to pronounce your name... it would be spelt "Manosch" in German and bears resemblance to the name of one of the greater German child book authors)... uh, so where was I?

Oh yeah, Manoj has a really interesting way to manage packages with GNU arch, which I have started to adopt for my packages. The approach gets rid of things like dpatch (yes!) and simply manages additional features and debianisation in separate branches. Read the last paragraph of this entry if you can't be bothered with the rest.

Even though bazaar still has its rough edges, it's a pleasure to work with the guys making it possible, and bugs have quick turnaround times. This is one of the reasons why I chose to adopt Manoj's method together with bazaar for pkg-zope as well as pkg-mdadm. I have started to document the process on the pkg-zope wiki.

The only real drawback of Manoj's method is that it has a steep learning curve. Thus, Mario (the other mdadm maintainer) and I had the idea to hold a live session on IRC in which to demonstrate the use of arch and allow people to ask questions.

We are meeting for this live demonstration and Q&A session tomorrow, Thursday 11 August 2005, at 19:00 hours GMT in the #pkg-zope channel on irc.debian.org, and you are cordially invited to join. I'll also log the session and make it available online afterwards. Hope to see you there.

Posted Mon 09 Mar 2009 16:16:24 CET Tags:

Instead of commenting on all the recent Git on Planet Debian, I'd like to point you all to the Git Wiki, and specifically the page BlogPosts.

Please link your Git-related blog posts from there.

Also, there is Planet RCS for you to aggregate RCS/VCS-relatd posts.

NP: Anekdoten: From Within

Posted Sat 13 Dec 2008 14:01:06 CET Tags:

I speculate that most of what we do for Debian squares with what others do for their respective distro. Thus, it should be possible to identify a conceptual workflow applicable to all distros, consolidate individual workflows on a per-package basis, and profit from each other. Jonathan let me have the after-afternoon-coffee slot of the Distro Summit for an impromptu discussion on the various workflows used by distros for packaging.

The discussion round was very short-notice and despite the announcement sent to the conference mailing list, only ten people showed up: two people familiar with Fedora, and ("versus") eight Debianites.

Regardless, I think the discussion was success- and fruitful. We were able to identify a one-to-one mapping between the Fedora and Debian workflows, even though we use different techniques:

  • both distros separate original software ("orig tarball") from modifications made to fit the software in with the rest of the distro.
  • Fedora keeps the .spec file, which references the original tarball, alongside any patch files in a per-release directory in their CVS tree, e.g. /mdadm/fedora8 and /glibc/rawhide. To obtain a source tree, the contributor checks out the CVS subtree, downloads the tarball (from their own cache so as to not be at the mercy of upstream) according to the .spec file, and merges the two. There is a tool to automate this, obviously. This process is regularly executed to produce "source RPMs".
  • Debian keeps the original tarball next to a diff.gz file on the mirrors, along with a dsc file which refers to them both. Tools like dget take the URL to the dsc file to download all three, then invoke dpkg-source to unpack the tarball and apply the diff. Individual patch files are either stored in ./debian/patches/ (and applied by the diff), or they don't exist (meaning that all modifications are concatenated in the diff.gz file.

Many Debian package maintainers use version control systems to maintain the ./debian directory, and if patch files are stored in ./debian/patches/, then Debian and Fedora both store patch files in a version control repository, which seems awful.

Just as I am only one of many who are experimenting with VCS-based workflows for Debian packaging, the Fedora people are also considering the use of version control for packaging. Unlike Fedora, who seem to try to standardise on bzr, I try to cater for the plethora of version control systems in use in Debian, anticipating the impossibility of standardising/converging on a single tool across the entire project.

Update: Toshio Kuratomi wrote in to tell that Fedora has not settled on bzr: "the things that have been tried have spanned most of the current major vcs's (darcs being the one exception due to it's not meeting our requirements for keeping history intact.)"

It seems that our two projects are both at the start of a new phase in packaging, a "paradigm shift". What better time could there be for us to listen to each other and come up with a workflow that works for both projects?

My suggestion currently centres around a common repository for each package across all (participating) distros, and feature branches. Specifically, given an upstream source tree, modifications made during packaging for a given distro fall into four categories:

  • upstream changes, such as bug fixes in the original code, or simple things like manpage typos.
  • (Linux) distro stuff, such as init.d scripts or Linux-ifications, which upstream doesn't care about or doesn't want.
  • .deb/.rpm-specific changes, like the ./debian directory or the .spec file.
  • distro-specific modifications, like policy compliance and the like.

Given a version control system with sufficient branching support, I imagine having different namespaces for branches: upstream-patches/*, distro/*, rpm/* or debian/*. Now, when building the Debian package, I'd apply upstream-patches/*, distro/*, deb/* and debian/* in order, while my colleague from the Fedora project would apply upstream-patches/*, distro/*, rpm/* and fedora/*, before calling the build tools and uploading the package.

There are surely problems to be overcome. Pascal Hakim mentioned patch dependencies, and I can't necessarily say with a clear conscience that my workflow isn't too complicated to be unleashed into the public… yet. But if we find a conceptual workflow applicable to more than one distro, it should be possible to implement a higher-level tool to implement it.

Also, the above is basically patch maintenance, not the entire workflow. Bug tracking system integration is going to play a role, as well as other aspects of daily distro packaging. I'll leave those for future time.

For me, this is the start of a potentially fruitful cooperation and I hope that interested parties from other distros jump on. For now, I suggest my mailing list for discussion. You can also find some links on the Debian wiki.

Posted Fri 17 Oct 2008 08:25:58 CEST Tags:

I was excited by Pierre's idea to add Git branch information to the Zsh prompt and even more so when I saw Mike implement support for multiple VCSs.

Unfortunately, Mike's a Bash user, and so I took it upon myself to port the idea to Zsh. The file 60_vcsprompt is sourced from my .zshrc, which sets psvar[1] through psvar[3]. Those are then used in 80_prompt (also sourced from .zshrc) when setting $PS1.

My prompt follows the same principle as Mike's and puts the branch name at the repository root location in the repository path. In the following example, ~, ~/code, and ~/code/netconf/netconf are three separate Git repositories, while ~/code/unionfs-fuse and ~/code/unperish are maintained with Mercurial and Bazaar respectively:

lapse:~|master|% cd code
lapse:~/code|master|% cd netconf 
lapse:~/code|master|netconf% cd netconf
lapse:..e/netconf/netconf|master|% cd src
lapse:..etconf/netconf|master|src% git checkout no-threads
Switched to branch "no-threads"
lapse:..nf/netconf|no-threads|src% cd ../../../unionfs-fuse 
lapse:../unionfs-fuse|hg:default|% cd ../unperish

You'll notice that unlike Mike's prompt, mine's limited to a maximum length of 25 characters. However, the repository root path is kept at least 10 characters long, so the prompt might get longer than 25 characters if you descend deep into a repository's subdirectories.

I couldn't easily figure out how to add support for other version control systems, so if you do, please feed back the patches! And the same goes for suggestions and improvements.

One of the next things I am planning to implement is an indicator for when your working tree contains uncommitted changes, e.g.:

lapse:..etconf/netconf|master|src% touch foo

So watch those files.

NP: Gazpacho: Bravo

Posted Fri 11 Jul 2008 11:21:07 CEST Tags:

We were given another chance to meet in Extremadura to discuss vcs-pkg issues, after the first opportunity was too short notice.

Currently, the tentatively scheduled dates are 2-7 September 2008. You can get the details from the wiki page. If you're interested, please reserve those dates and add yourself to the list of participants.

NP: Hooverphonic: The Magnificent Tree

Posted Fri 11 Jul 2008 11:21:07 CEST Tags:

If you are interested in using version control for distro packaging, you

If you read the mailing list, you know about the upcoming Extremadura meeting 2-6 April 2008.

If this is news to you, well, it isn't anymore.

If you think you should be in Extremadura when this party takes place, don't hesitate and reply. The message ID is 20080311193428.GA25745@piper.oerlikon.madduck.net.

Update: mostly due to the short notice, I had to call off the meeting. I will make a run for the next slot and hopefully announce it a lot earlier.

Posted Fri 11 Jul 2008 11:21:07 CEST Tags:

Robin Rosenberg introduced me to the simplest method of creating a new git branch without any ancestors:

$ echo ref: refs/heads/newbranch > .git/HEAD
$ git branch
$ git commit -m 'creating newbranch'
$ git branch
* newbranch

This comes in handy if you want to maintain two separate components without any common files in the same repository. I am using it currently while experimenting with a new method of storing my home directory in git, which is still far from anywhere. I shall report once I reach a point of success or failure.

NP: Rush: Moving Pictures

Update: Johannes Schindelin taught me how to do the same without touching files in .git/:

$ git symbolic-ref HEAD refs/heads/newbranch

and also addressed the issue which would have all files already committed to the "master" branch now appear in the git status output as staged.

This is because the index contains the full copy of a revision of a file, as it would be if committed at any point. git status shows the differences between what has been committed, what would be committed, and what is available in the working tree. Since we pointed HEAD to nowhere ("newbranch" does not yet exist), the index and what has been committed (nothing in this case) diverge, the files are still staged, and thus are scheduled to be part of the impending commit.

The way to fix this is to remove the index:

$ rm .git/index

This may seem weird, but it works, because git recreates the index whenever you switch branches:

piper:~> git init-db
Initialized empty Git repository in .git/
piper:~> echo 1 > a; git add a; git commit -m.
Created initial commit e774324: .
1 files changed, 1 insertions(+), 0 deletions(-)
create mode 100644 a
piper:~> git symbolic-ref HEAD refs/heads/newbranch
piper:~> rm .git/index
piper:~> git status
# On branch newbranch
# Initial commit
# Untracked files:
#   (use "git add <file>..." to include in what will be committed)
#       a
nothing added to commit but untracked files present (use "git add" to track)
piper:~> echo 2 > b; git add b; git commit -m.
Created initial commit 54ff342: .
1 files changed, 1 insertions(+), 0 deletions(-)
create mode 100644 b
piper:~> git branch
* newbranch
piper:~> git checkout master
fatal: Untracked working tree file 'a' would be overwritten by merge.
piper:~> git checkout -f master

Switched to branch "master"
piper:~> git status
# On branch master
nothing to commit (working directory clean)
piper:~> ls
piper:~> git checkout newbranch
Switched to branch "newbranch"
piper:~> git status
# On branch newbranch
nothing to commit (working directory clean)
piper:~> ls

As you can see, the creation of the branch is a bit complex, but once you (forcefully) switched back to master, you can then freely switch between and commit to them.

Posted Fri 11 Jul 2008 11:21:05 CEST Tags:


I gave a joint presentation with Manoj at Debconf7 about using distributed version control for Debian packaging, and I volunteered to do an on-line workshop about using Git for the task, so it's about time that I should know how to use Git for Debian packaging, but it turns out that I don't. Or well, didn't.

After I made a pretty good mess out of the mdadm packaging repository (which is not a big problem as it's just ugly history up to the point when I start to get it right), I decided to get down with the topic and figure it out once and for all. I am writing this post as I put the pieces together. It's been cooking for a week, simply so I could gather enough feedback. I am aware that Git is not exactly a showcase of usability, so I took some extra care to not add to the confusion.

It may be the first post in a series, because this time, I am just covering the case of mdadm, for which upstream also uses Git and where I am the only maintainer, and I shall pretend that I am importing mdadm to version control for the first time, so there won't be any history juggling. Future posts could well include tracking Subversion repositories with git-svn, and importing packages previously tracked therewith.

I realise that git-buildpackage exists, but imposes a rather strict branch layout and tagging scheme, which I don't want to adhere to. And gitpkg (Romain blogged about it recently), deserves another look since, according to its author, it does not impose anything on its user. But in any case, before using such tools (and possibly extending them to allow for other layouts), I'd really rather have done it by hand a couple of times to get the hang of it and find out where the culprits lie.

Now, enough of the talking, just one last thing: I expect this blog post to change quite a bit as I get feedback. Changes shall be highlighted in bold typeface.

Setting up the infrastructure

First, we prepare a shared repository on git.debian.org for later use (using collab-maint for illustration purposes), download the Debian source package we want to import (version 2.6.3+200709292116+4450e59-3 at time of writing, but I pretend it's -2 because we shall create -3 further down…), set up a local repository, and link it to the remote repository. Note that there are other ways to set up the infrastructure, but this happens to be the one I prefer, even though it's slightly more complicated:

$ ssh alioth
$ cd /git/collab-maint
$ ./setup-repository pkg-mdadm mdadm Debian packaging
$ exit
$ apt-get source --download-only mdadm
$ mkdir mdadm && cd mdadm
$ git init
$ git remote add origin ssh://git.debian.org/git/collab-maint/pkg-mdadm
$ git config branch.master.remote origin
$ git config branch.master.merge refs/heads/master

Now we can use git-pull and git-push, except the remote repository is empty and we can't pull from there yet. We'll save that for later.

Instead, we tell the repository about upstream's Git repository. I am giving you the git.debian.org URL though, simply because I don't want upstream repository (which lives on an ADSL line) hammered in response to this blog post:

$ git remote add upstream-repo git://git.debian.org/git/pkg-mdadm/mdadm

Since we're using the upstream branch of the pkg-mdadm repository as source (and don't want all the other mess I created in that repository), we'll first limit the set of branches to be fetched (I could have used the -t option in the above git-remote command, but I prefer to make it explicit that we're doing things slightly differently to protect upstream's ADSL line).

$ git config remote.upstream-repo.fetch \

And now we can pull down upstream's history and create a local branch off it. The "no common commits" warning can be safely ignored since we don't have any commits at all at that point (so there can't be any in common between the local and remote repository), but we know what we're doing, even to the point that we can forcefully give birth to a branch, which is because we do not have a HEAD commit yet (our repository is still empty):

$ git fetch upstream-repo
warning: no common commits
  # in the real world, we'd be branching off upstream-repo/master
$ git checkout -b upstream upstream-repo/upstream
warning: You appear to be on a branch yet to be born.
warning: Forcing checkout of upstream-repo/upstream.
Branch upstream set up to track remote branch
$ git branch
* upstream
$ ls | wc -l

Importing the Debian package

Now it's time to import Debian's diff.gz — remember how I pretend to use version control for package maintenance for the first time. Oh, and sorry about the messy file names, but I decided it's best to stick with real data in case you are playing along:

Since we're applying the diff against version 2.6.3+200709292116+4450e59, we ought to make sure to have the repository at the same state. Upstream never "released" that version, but I encoded the commit ID of the tip when I snapshotted it: 4450e59, so we branch off there. Since we are actually tracking the git.debian.org pkg-mdadm repository instead of upstream, you can use the tag I made. Otherwise you could consider tagging yourself:

$ #git tag -s mdadm-2.6.3+200709292116+4450e59 4450e59
$ git checkout -b master mdadm-2.6.3+200709292116+4450e59
$ zcat ../mdadm_2.6.3+200709292116+4450e59-2.diff.gz | git apply

The local tree is now "debianised", but Git does not know about the new and changed files, which you can verify with git-status. We will split the changes made by Debian's diff.gz across several branches.

The idea of feature branches

We could just create a debian branch, commit all changes made by the diff.gz there, and be done with it. However, we might want to keep certain aspects of Debianisation separate, and the way to do that is with feature branches (also known as "topic" branches). For the sake of this demonstration, let's create the following four branches in addition to the master branch, which holds the standard Debian files, such as debian/changelog, debian/control, and debian/rules:

  • upstream-patches will includes patches against the upstream code, which I submit for upstream inclusion.
  • deb/conffile-location makes /etc/mdadm/mdadm.conf the default over /etc/mdadm.conf and is Debian-specific (thus the deb/ prefix).
  • deb/initramfs includes the initramfs hook and script, which I want to treat separately but not submit upstream.
  • deb/docs similarly includes Debian-only documentation I add to the package as a service to Debian users.

If you're importing a Debian package using dpatch, you might want to convert every dpatch into a single branch, or at least collect logical units into separate branches. Up to you. For now, our simple example suffices. Keep in mind that it's easy to merge two branch and less trivial to split one into two.

Why? Well, good question. As you will see further down, the separation between master and deb/initramfs actually makes things more complicated when you are working on an issue spanning across both. However, feature branches also bring a whole lot of flexibility. For instance, with the above separation, I could easily create mdadm packages without initramfs integration (see #434934), a disk-space-conscious distribution like grml might prefer to leave out the extra documentation, and maybe another derivative doesn't like the fact that the configuration file is in a different place from upstream. With feature branches, all these issues could be easily addressed by leaving out unwanted branches from the merge into the integration/build branch (see further down).

Whether you use feature branches, and how many, or whether you'd like to only separate upstream and Debian stuff is entirely up to you. For the purpose of demonstration, I'll go the more complicated way.

Setting up feature branches

So let's commit the individual files to the branches. The output of the git-checkout command shows modified files that have not been committed yet (which I trim after the first example); Git keeps these across checkouts/branch changes. Note that the ./debian/ directory does not show up as Git does not know about it yet (git-status will tell you that it's untracked, or rather: contains untracked files since Git does not track directories at all):

$ git checkout -b upstream-patches mdadm-2.6.3+200709292116+4450e59
M Makefile
M ReadMe.c
M mdadm.8
M mdadm.conf.5
M mdassemble.8
M super1.c
$ git add super1.c     #444682
$ git commit -s

  # i now branch off master, but that's the same as 4450e59 actually
  # i just do it so i can make this point…
$ git checkout -b deb/conffile-location master
$ git add Makefile ReadMe.c mdadm.8 mdadm.conf.5 mdassemble.8
$ git commit -s

$ git checkout -b deb/initramfs master
$ git add debian/initramfs/*
$ git commit -s

$ git checkout -b deb/docs master
$ git add RAID5_versus_RAID10.txt md.txt rootraiddoc.97.html
$ git commit -s

  # and finally, the ./debian/ directory:
$ git checkout master
$ chmod +x debian/rules
$ git add debian
$ git commit -s

$ git branch
* master

At this time, we push our work so it won't get lost if, at this moment, aliens land on the house, or any other completely plausible event of apocalypse descends upon you. We'll push our work to git.debian.org (the origin, which is the default destination and thus needs not be specified) by using git-push --all, which conveniently pushes all local branches, thus including the upstream code; you may not want to push the upstream code, but I prefer it since it makes it easier to work with the repository, and since most of the objects are needed for the other branches anyway — after all, we branched off the upstream branch.

Specifying --tags instead of --all pushes tags instead of heads (branches); you couldn't have guessed that! See this thread if you (rightfully) think that one should be able to do this in a single command (which is not git push refs/heads/* refs/tags/*)…

$ git push --all
$ git push --tags

Done. Well, almost…

Building the package (theory)

Let's build the package. There seem to be two (sensible) ways we could do this, considering that we have to integrate (merge) the branches we just created, before we fire off the building scripts:

  1. by using a temporary (or "throw-away") branch off upstream, where we integrate all the branches we have just created, build the package, tag our master branch (it contains debian/changelog), and remove the temporary branch. When a new package needs to be built, we repeat the process.

  2. by using a long-living integration branch off upstream, into which we merge all our branches, tag the branch, and build the package off the tag. When a new package comes around, we re-merge our branches, tag, and build.

Both approaches have a certain appeal to me, but I settled for the second, for two reasons, the first of which leads to the second:

  1. When I upload a package to the Debian archive, I want to create a tag which captures the exact state of the tree from which the package was built, for posterity (I will return to this point later). Since the throw-away branches are not designed to persist and are not uploaded to the archive, tagging the merging commit makes no sense. Thus, the only way to properly identify a source tree across all involved branches would be to run git-tag $branch/$tagname $branch for each branch, which is purely semantic and will get messy sooner or later.

  2. As a result of the above: when Debian makes a new stable release, I would like to create a branch corresponding to the package in the stable archive at the time, for security and other proposed updates. I could rename my throw-away branch, if it still existed, or I could create a new branch and merge all other branches, using the (semantic) tags, but that seems rather unfavourable.

So instead, I use a long-living integration branch, notoriously tag the merge commits which produced the tree from which I built the package I uploaded, and when a certain version ends up in a stable Debian release, I create a maintenance branch off the one, single tag which corresponds to the very version of the package distributed as part of the Debian release.

So much for the theory. Let's build, already!

Building the package (practise)

So we need a long-living integration branch, and that's easier done than said:

$ git checkout -b build mdadm-2.6.3+200709292116+4450e59

Now we're ready to build, and the following procedure should really be automated. I thus write it like a script, called poor-mans-gitbuild, which takes as optional argument the name of the (upstream) tag to use, defaulting to upstream (the tip):

set -eu
git checkout master
debver=$(dpkg-parsechangelog | sed -ne 's,Version: ,,p')
git checkout build
git merge ${1:-upstream}
git merge upstream-patches
git merge master
for b in $(git for-each-ref --format='%(refname)' refs/heads/deb/*); do
  git merge -- $b
git tag -s debian/$debver
debuild -i.git
git checkout master

Kumar Appaiah spotted that -i.git is actually needed in the debuild call to make it exclude the .git directory from the generated diff.gz.

Note how we are merging each branch in turn, instead of using the octopus merge strategy (which would create a commit with more than two parents) for reasons outlined in this post. An octopus-merge would actually work in our situation, but it will not always work, so better safe than sorry (although you could still achieve the same result).

If you discover during the build that you forgot something, or the build script failed to run, just remove the tag, undo the merges, checkout the branch to which you need to commit to fix the issue, and then repeat the above build process:

$ git tag -d debian/$debver
$ git checkout build
$ git reset --hard upstream
$ git checkout master
$ editor debian/rules    # or whatever
$ git add debian/rules
$ git commit -s

$ poor-mans-gitbuild

Before you upload, it's a good idea to invoke gitk --all and verify that all goes according to plan:

screenshot of gitk after the above steps

When you're done and the package has been uploaded, push your work to git.debian.org, as before. Instead of using --all and --tags, I now specify exactly which refs to push. This is probably a good habit to get into to prevent publishing unwanted refs:

$ git push origin build tag debian/2.6.3+200709292116+4450e59-3

Now take your dog for a walk, or play outside, or do something else not involving a computer or entertainment device.

Uploading a new Debian version

If you are as lucky as I am, the package you uploaded still has a bug in the upstream code and someone else fixes it before upstream releases a new version, then you might be in the position to release a new Debian version. Or maybe you just need to make some Debian-specific changes against the same upstream version. I'll let the commands speak for themselves:

$ git checkout upstream-patches
$ git-apply < patch-from-lunar.diff   #444682 again
$ git commit --author 'Jérémy Bobbio <lunar@debian.org>' -s

  # this should also be automated, see below
$ git checkout master
$ dch -i
$ dpkg-parsechangelog | sed -ne 's,Version: ,,p'
$ git commit -s debian/changelog

$ poor-mans-gitbuild

$ git push
$ git push origin tag debian/2.6.3+200709292116+4450e59-3

That first git-push may require a short explanation: without any arguments, git-push updates only the intersection of local and remote branches, so it would never push a new local branch (such as build above), but it updates all existing ones; thus, you cannot inadvertedly publish a local branch. Tags still need to be published explicitly.

Hacking on the software

Imagine: on a rainy Saturday afternoon you get bored and decide to implement a better way to tell mdadm when to start which array. Since you're a genius, it'll take you only a day, but you do make mistakes here and there, so what could be better than to use version control? However, rather than having a branch that will live forever, you are just creating a local branch, which you will not publish. When you are done, you'll feed your work back into the existing branches.

Git makes branching really easy and as you may have spotted, the poor-mans-gitbuild script reserves an entire branch namespace for people like you:

$ git checkout -b tmp/start-arrays-rework master

Unfortunately (or fortunately), fixing this issue will require work on two branches, since the initramfs script and hook are maintained in a separate branch. There are (again) two ways in which we can (sensibly) approach this:

  • create two separate, temporary branches, and switch between them as you work.

  • merge both into the temporary branch and later cherry-pick the commits into the appropriate branches.

I am undecided on this, but maybe the best would be a combination: merge both into a temporary branch and later cherry-pick the commits into two additional, temporary branches until you got it right, and then fast-forward the official branches to their tips:

$ git merge master deb/initramfs
$ editor debian/mdadm-raid                     # …
$ git commit -s debian/mdadm-raid
$ editor debian/initramfs/script.local-top     # …
$ git commit -s debian/initramfs/script.local-top
[many hours of iteration pass…]

[… until you are done]
$ git checkout -b tmp/start-arrays-rework-init master
  # for each commit $c in tmp/start-arrays-rework
  # applicable to the master branch:
$ git cherry-pick $c
$ git checkout -b tmp/start-arrays-rework-initramfs deb/initramfs
  # for each commit $c in tmp/start-arrays-rework
  # applicable to the deb/initramfs branch:
$ git cherry-pick $c

This is assuming that all your commits are logical units. If you find several commits which would better be bundled together into a single commit, this is the time to do it:

$ git cherry-pick --no-commit <commit7>
$ git cherry-pick --no-commit <commit4>
$ git cherry-pick --no-commit <commit5>
$ git commit -s

Before we now merge this into the official branches, let me briefly intervene and introduce the concept of a fast-forward. Git will "fast-forward" a branch to a new tip if it decides that no merge is needed. In the above example, we branched a temporary branch (T) off the tip of an official branch (O) and then worked on the temporary one. If we now merge the temporary one into the official one, Git determines that it can actually squash the ancestry into a single line and push the official branch tip to the same ref as the temporary branch tip. In cheap (poor man's), ASCII notation:

- - - O             >> merge T >>     - - - = - - OT
       ` - - T      >>  into O >>

This works because no new commits have been made on top of O (if there would be any, we might be able to rebase, but let's not go there quite yet; rebasing is how you shoot yourself in the foot with Git). Thus we can simply do the following:

$ git checkout deb/initramfs
$ git merge tmp/start-arrays-rework-initramfs
$ git checkout master
$ git merge tmp/start-arrays-rework-init

and test/build/push the result. Or well, since you are not an mdadm maintainer (We\^W I have open job positions! Applications welcome!), you'll want to submit your work as patches via email:

$ git format-patch -s -M origin/master

This will create a number of files in the current directory, one corresponding for each commit you made since origin/master. Assuming each commit is a logical unit, you can now submit these to an email address. The --compose option lets you write an introductory message, which is optional:

$ git send-email --compose --to your@email.address <file1> <file2> <…>

Once you've verified that everything is alright, swap your email address for the bug number (or the pkg-mdadm-devel list address).

Thanks (in advance) for your contribution!

Of course, you may also be working on a feature that you want to go upstream, in which case you'd probably branch off upstream-patches (if it depends on a patch not yet in upstream's repository), or upstream (if it does not):

$ git checkout -b tmp/cool-feature upstream

… when a new upstream version comes around

After a while, upstream may have integrated your patches, in addition to various other changes, to give birth to mdadm-2.6.4. We thus first fetch all the new refs and merge them into our upstream branch:

$ git fetch upstream-repo
$ git checkout upstream
$ git merge upstream-repo/master

we could just as well have executed git-pull, which with the default configuration would have done the same; however, I prefer to separate the process into fetching and merging.

Now comes the point when many Git people think about rebasing. And in fact, rebasing is exactly what you should be doing, iff you're still working on an unpublished branch, such as the previous tmp/cool-feature off upstream. By rebasing your branch onto the updated upstream branch, you are making sure that your patch will apply cleanly when upstream tries it, because potential merge conflicts would be handled by you as part of the rebase, rather than by upstream:

$ git checkout tmp/cool-feature
$ git rebase upstream

What rebasing does is quite simple actually: it takes every commit you made since you branched off the parent branch and records the diff and commit message. Then, for each diff/commit_message pair, it creates a new commit on top of the new parent branch tip, thus rewrites history, and orphans all your original commits. Thus, you should only do this if your branch has never been published or else you would leave people who cloned from your published branch with orphans.

If this still does not make sense, try it out: create a (source) repository, make a commit (with a meaningful commit message), branch B off the tip, make a commit on top of B (with a meaningful message), clone that repository and return to the source repository. There, checkout the master, make a commit (with a …), checkout B, rebase it onto the tip of master, make a commit (with a …), and now git-pull from the clone; use gitk to figure out what's going on.

So you should almost never rebase a published branch, and since all your branches outside of the tmp/* namespace are published on git.debian.org, you should not rebase those.

But then again, Pierre actually rebases a published branch in his workflow, and he does so with reason: his patches branch is just a collection of branches to go upstream, from which upstream cherry-picks or which upstream merges, but which no one tracks (or should be tracking).

But we can't (or at least will not at this point) do this for our feature branches (though we could treat upstream-patches that way), so we have to merge. At first, it suffices to merge the new upstream into the long-living build branch, and to call poor-mans-gitbuild, but if you run into merge conflicts or find that upstream's changes affect the functionality contained in your feature branches, you need to actually fix those.

For instance, let's say that upstream started providing md.txt (which I previously provided in the deb/docs branch), then I need to fix that branch:

$ git checkout deb/docs
$ git rm md.txt
$ git commit -s

That was easy, since I could evade the conflict. But what if upstream made a change to Makefile, which got in the way with my configuration file location change? Then I'd have to merge upstream into deb/conffile-location, resolve the conflicts, and commit the change:

$ git checkout deb/conffile-location
$ git merge upstream
$ git-mergetool
$ git commit -s

When all conflicts have been resolved, I can prepare a new release, as before:

$ git checkout master
$ dch -i
$ dpkg-parsechangelog | sed -ne 's,Version: ,,p'
# git commit -s debian/changelog

$ poor-mans-gitbuild

# git push
$ git push origin tag debian/2.6.3+200709292116+4450e59-3

Note that Git often appears smart about commits that percolated upstream: since upstream included the two commits in upstream-patches in his 2.6.4 release, my upstream-patches branch got effectively annihilated, and Git was smart enough to figure that out without a conflict. But before you rejoice, let it be told that this does not always work.

Creating and using a maintenance branch

Let's say Debian "lenny" is released with mdadm 2.7.6-1, then:

$ git checkout -b maint/lenny debian/2.7.6-1

You might do this to celebrate the release, or you may wait until the need arises. We've already left the domain of reality ("lenny" is not yet released), so the following is just theory.

Now, assume that a security bug is found in mdadm 2.7.6 after "lenny" was released. Upstream is already on mdadm 2.7.8 and commits deadbeef and c0ffee fix the security issue, then you'd cherry-pick them into the maint/lenny branch:

$ git checkout upstream
$ git pull
$ git checkout maint/lenny
$ git cherry-pick deadbeef
$ git cherry-pick c0ffee

If there are no merge conflicts (which you'd resolve with git-mergetool), we can just go ahead to prepare the new package:

$ dch -i
$ dpkg-parsechangelog | sed -ne 's,Version: ,,p'
$ git commit -s debian/changelog

$ poor-mans-gitbuild

$ git push origin maint/lenny
$ git push origin tag debian/2.7.6-1lenny1

Future directions

It should be trivial to create the Debian source package directly from the repository, and in fact, in response to a recent blog post of mine on the dispensability of pristine upstream tarballs, two people showed me their scripts to do it.

My post also caused Joey Hess to clarify his position on pristine tarballs, before he went out to implement dpkg-source v3. This looks very promising.

Yet, as Romain argues, there are benefits with simple patch management systems. Exciting times ahead!

In addition to creating source packages from version control, a couple of other ideas have been around for a while:

  • create debian/changelog from commit log summaries when you merge into the build branch. Guido's git-dch might be a lead.

  • integrate version control with the BTS, bidirectionally:

    • given a bug report, create a temporary branch and apply any patches found in the bug report.

    • upon merging the temporary branch back into the feature branch it modifies, generate a patch, send it to the BTS and tag the bug report + pending patch.

And I am sure there are more. If you have any, I'd be interested to hear about them!

Wrapping up

I hope this post was useful. Thank you for reading to the end, this was probably my longest blog post ever.

I want to thank Pierre Habouzit, Johannes Schindelin, and all the others on the #git/freenode IRC channel for their tutelage. Thanks also to Manoj Srivastava, whose pioneering work on packaging with GNU arch got me started on most of the concepts I use in the above. And of course, the members of the the vcs-pkg mailing list for the various discussions on this subject, especially those who participated in the thread leading up to this post. Finally, thanks to Linus and Junio for Git and the continuously outstanding high level of support they give.

If you are interested in the topic of using version control for distro packaging, I invite you to join the vcs-pkg mailing list and/or the #vcs-pkg/irc.oftc.net IRC channel.

NP: Aphex Twin: Selected Ambient Works, Volume 2 (at least when I started writing…)

Posted Fri 11 Jul 2008 11:21:05 CEST Tags:

Despite a distributed version control system by design, git can just as well be used in a centralised fashion. When a user clones a git repository, git sets up the local clone such that it is aware of its origin. Let's have a look at the relevant lines in .git/config:

[remote "origin"]
  url = ssh://server/path/to/repo.git
  fetch = +refs/heads/*:refs/remotes/origin/*
[branch "master"]
  remote = origin
  merge = refs/heads/master

The "remote" stanza defines a remote repository with the nickname "origin". If the user calls git fetch without arguments, it will download all remote branches (refs/heads/*) and store those as remote branches with the origin/ prefix. Thus, the branch "big-fat-feature" in refs/heads/big-fat-feature on the other side becomes the remote branch "origin/big-fat-feature" (refs/remotes/origin/big-fat-feature).

The "branch" stanza informs git about the default source for merges when the "master" branch is current. If the local "master" branch is checked out and the user calls git pull without arguments, it instructs git to fetch all branches (see above), then merge the remote "master" branch (refs/heads/master) into the current branch.

I started a new project in git today and decided to go public after I had already made a few commits and created a number of branches.

So I set out to learn a bit more about git internals and came up with two ways to publish the repository such that my local repository would also know about the remote side as if it had been cloned from the start. The documentation didn't leave me satisfied, so I had to try it all out.

Being new to git, my first thought was to push/publish my repository to a public location, and so I did:

### assuming ssh://server/remote.git resolves to an empty, bare git repo
### and that we are chdir()'d to the local repository:
$ git push --all ssh://server/remote.git
$ git remote add origin ssh://server/remote.git
$ git config branch.master.remote origin
$ git config branch.master.merge refs/heads/master
$ git fetch
$ git merge master
$ git branch
* master
$ git branch -r

Another method then dawned on me, but it's not necessarily better. Instead of pushing, let's copy a clone over and then clone that once more:

$ git config core.bare true
$ scp -r .git server:/remote.git
$ mv `pwd` `pwd`/../OLD
$ cd ..
$ git clone ssh://server/remote.git
$ cd remote
$ git branch
* master
$ git branch -r

This does almost the same, except for that origin/HEAD branch, but that's just a local symbolic ref (a "symlink") and can just be removed, really:

$ rm .git/refs/remotes/origin/HEAD
$ git branch -r

Now the only thing left is setting core.sharedRepository on the remote side to let git know how to handle the Unix permissions. And that's it.

NP: Antimatter: Lights Out

Posted Fri 11 Jul 2008 11:21:05 CEST Tags: