Updates Builder – Pull Requests and automatic correction of build failures

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Repositories of ROSA Desktop Fresh R1 contain more than 15,000 packages that can satisfy needs of almost every user. However it's not easy to maintain such a large set of applications, libraries and other software components. The thing is that new versions of many programs are released very frequently and maintainers have to constantly track them, build for ROSA, test and decide if it makes sense to update ROSA package to a newer version. To automate these tasks, we use the Updates Builder tool that constantly monitors upstream and automatically builds new versions in ABF.

Initially, the way of Updates Builder work was pretty simple – to build a new package version, it used a spec file from the previous one with replaced version value and tarball name. This approach turned to be very effective – it is common for newer versions of many packages to contain only minimalistic changes with respect to the previous ones, so there is no need in serious spec file modifications to build a new package. As a result, during the first three months of Updates Builder usage we have updated several hundreds of packages by its means. Нowever, during these three months we discovered more ways to improve effectiveness of the tool.

It turned out that new versions of package often fail to build due to trivial issues – for example, new version has a couple of new files not mentioned in spec, require new BuildRequires entries and so on. These changes lead to build failures but can be fixed by small modifications of the spec. So why not to teach the tool to automatically apply typical modifications?

To implement such a feature, we have developed special scripts to analyze errors occurred during the package build. The scripts are launched automatically in case when a build triggered by Updates Builder fails. If the scripts detect one of the errors known to them, they automatically fix the spec file to avoid these errors and rebuild the package once again. This process can be repeated several times, since as old errors disappears, the new ones are introduced. Finally, Updates Builder workflow in ROSA looks like the following:

Updates Builder Workflow

Currently the scripts try to fix the following kinds of errors:

  • Unneeded patches
    • Reverse (or previously applied) patch detected
  • Missing build requirements on Perl modules
    • Can't locate <perl_module> in @INC
  • Added or removed files:
    • File not found / File not found by glob
    • Missing file specified in %doc
    • Installed (but unpackaged) file(s) found
  • Rpmlint errors
    • debuginfo-without-sources and empty-debuginfo-package

Note that different heuristics are used to fix such issues and we can't guarantee that the fixes applied are always correct, even if the package was successfully built after them. For example, to avoid debuginfo-without-sources and empty-debuginfo-package errors we currently disable debug package creation. However, it could be more correct to mark the package as architecture-independent (noarch) or add some build and compiler flags without which debug information is not generated. So before merging updates suggested by Updates Builder to official repositories maintainers should first analyze the changes applied; it is possible that some additional corrections should be made.

By the way, the process of analyzing updates suggested by Updates Builder and merging them to official repositories gas become much more convenient. Up to now, Updates Builder only sent emails with build results and then maintainers had to manually investigate changes in the auto_update branch of Git repository and merge these changes to official branches. From now on, in case of successful build of a new package version a Pull Request is automatically created in ABF. Maintainers are able to visually analyze all modifications and accept them by means of a single button.

Pull Request from Updates Builder for python-m2crypto - it is possible to update to 0.21.1 version.
Details about modifications - we not only updated tarball and version in spec, but also dropped unnecessary patch.

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