botch updates

categories: debian

My last update about ongoing development of botch, the bootstrap/build ordering tool chain, was three months ago with the announcement of Since then a number of things happened, so I thought an update was due.

New graphs for port metrics

By default, a dependency graph is created by arbitrarily choosing an installation set for binary package installation or source package compilation. Installation set vertices and source vertices are connected according to this arbitrary selection.

Niels Thykier approached me at Debconf13 about the possibility of using this graph to create a metric which would be able to tell for each source package, how many other source packages would become uncompilable or how many binary packages would become uninstallable, if that source package was removed from the archive. This could help deciding about the importance of packages. More about this can be found at the thread on debian-devel.

For botch, this meant that two new graph graphs can now be generated. Instead of picking an arbitrary installation set for compiling a source package or installing a binary package, botch can now create a minimum graph which is created by letting dose3 calculate strong dependencies and a maximum graph by using the dependency closure.

Build profile syntax in dpkg

With dpkg 1.17.2 we now have experimental build profile support in unstable. The syntax which ended up being added was:

Build-Depends: large (>= 1.0), small <!profile.stage1>

But until packages with that syntax can hit the archive, a few more tools need to understand the syntax. The patch we have for sbuild is very simple because sbuild relies on libdpkg for dependency parsing.

We have a patch for apt too, but we have to rebase it for the current apt version and have to adapt it so that it works exactly like the functionality dpkg implements. But before we can do that we have to decide how to handle mixed positive and negative qualifiers or whether to remove this feature altogether because it causes too much confusion. The relevant thread on debian-dpkg starts here.

Update to latest dose3 git

Botch heavily depends on libdose3 and unfortunately requires features which are only available in the current git HEAD. The latest version packaged in Debian is 3.1.3 from October 2012. Unfortunately the current dose3 git HEAD also relies on unreleased features from libcudf. On top of that, the GraphML output of the latest ocamlgraph version (1.8.3) is also broken and only fixed in the git. For now everything is set up as git submodules but this is the major blocker preventing any packaging of botch as a Debian package. Hopefully new releases will be done soon for all involved components.

Writing and reading GraphML

Botch is a collection of several utilities which are connected together in a shell script. The advantage of this is, that one does not need to understand or hack the OCaml code to use botch for different purposes. In theory it also allows to insert 3rd party tools into a pipe to further modify the data. Until recently this ability was seriously hampered by the fact that many botch tools communicated with each other through marshaled OCaml binary files which prevent everything which is not written in OCaml from modifying them. The data that was passed around like this were the dependency graphs and I initially implemented it like that because I didnt want to write a GraphML parser.

I now ended up writing an xmlm based GraphML parser so as of now, botch only reads and writes ASCII text files in XML (for the graphs) and in rfc822 packages format (for Packages and Sources files) which can both easily be modified by 3rd party tools. The ./tools directory contains many Python scripts using the networkx module to modify GraphML and the apt_pkg module to modify rfc822 files.

Splitting of tools

To further increase the ability to modify program execution without having to know OCaml, I split up some big tools into multiple smaller ones. Some of the smaller tools are now even written in Python which is probably much more hackable for the general crowd. I converted those tools to Python which did not need any dose3 functionality and which were simple enough so that writing them didnt take much time. I could convert more tools but that might introduce bugs and takes time which I currently dont have much of (who does?).

Gzip instead of bz2

Since around January 14, doesnt offer bzip2 compressed Packages and Sources files anymore but uses xz instead. This is awesome for must purposes but unfortunately I had to discover that there exist no OCaml bindings for libxz. Thus, botch is now using gzip instead of bz2 until either myself or anybody else finds some time to write a libxz OCaml binding.

Self hosting Fedora

Paul Wise made me aware of Harald Hoyer's attempts to bootstrap Fedora. I reproduced his steps for the Debian dependency graph and it turns out that they are a little bit bigger. I'm exchanging emails with Harald Hoyer because it might not be too hard to use botch for rpm based distributions as well because dose3 supports rpm.

The article also made me aware of the tred tool which is part of graphviz and allows to calculate the transitive reduction of a graph. This can help making horrible situations much better.

Dose3 bugs

I planned to generate such simplified graphs for the neighborhood of each source package on but then binutils stopped building binutils-gold and instead provided binutils-gold while libc6-dev breaks binutils-gold (<< 2.20.1-11). This unfortunately triggered a dose3 bug and thus will not generate any new results until this is fixed in dose3.

Another dose3 bug affects packages which Conflicts/Replaces/Provides:bar while bar is fully virtual and are Multi-Arch:same. Binaries of different architecture with this property can currently not be co-installed with dose3. Unfortunately linux-libc-dev has this property and thus botch cannot be used to analyze cross builds until that bug is fixed in dose3.

I hope I get some free time soon to be able to look at these dose3 issues myself.

More documentation

Since I started to like the current set of tools and how they work together I ended up writing over 2600 words of documentation in the past few days.

You can start setting up and running botch by reading the first steps and get more detailed information by reading about the 28 tools that botch makes use of as of now.

All existing articles, thesis and talks are linked from the wiki home.

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