Packaging Automation, Next Steps

Wednesday, June 22, 2022 - Ikey Doherty (BDFL)

Hot damn we’ve been busy lately. No, really. The latest development cycle saw us focus exclusively on boulder, our build tooling. As of today it features a proof of concept boulder new subcommand for the automatic generation of packaging templates from an upstream source (i.e. tarball).

Before we really start this blog post off, I’d like to thank everyone who is supporting the project! All of the OpenCollective contributions will make it easier for me to work full time on Serpent OS =) Much love <3

Look at all the buildiness

But, but build flavours

Alright you got me there, certain projects prefer to abstract the configuration, build and installation of packages and be provided with some kind of hint to the build system, i.e. manually setting autotools, etc.

Serpent OS packaging is declarative and well structured, and relies on the use of RPM-style “macros” for distribution integration and common tasks to ensure consistent packaging.

We prefer a self documenting approach that can be machine validated rather than depending on introspection at the time of build. Our stone.yml format is very flexible and powerful, with automatic runtime dependencies and package splitting as standard.

..Doesn’t mean we can’t make packaging even easier though.

Build discovery


Pointing boulder at an upstream source will perform a deep analysis of the sources to determine the build system type, build dependencies, metadata, licensing etc. Right now it’s just getting ready to leave POC stage so it has a few warts, however it does have support for generating package skeletons for the following build systems:

  • cmake
  • meson
  • autotools

We’re adding automation for Perl and Python packaging (and Golang, Rust, etc) so we can enforce consistency, integration and ease without being a burden on developers. This will greatly reduce the friction of contribution - allowing anyone to package for Serpent OS.

We’re also able to automatically discover build time dependencies during analysis and add those to the skeleton stone.yml file. We’ll enhance support for other build systems as we go, ensuring that each new package is as close to done on creation as possible, with review and iteration left to the developer.

License compliance


A common pain in the arse when packaging for any Linux distribution is ensuring the package information is compliant in terms of licensing. As such we must know all of the licensing information, as well as FSF and OSI compliance for our continuous integration testing.

…Finding all of that information is truly a painful process when conducted manually. Thankfully boulder can perform analysis of all licensing files within the project to greatly improve compliance and packaging.

Every license listed in a stone.yml file must use a valid SPDX identifier, and be accurate. boulder now scans all license files, looking for matches with both SPDX IDs as well as fuzzy-matching the text of input licenses to make a best-guess at the license ID.

This has so far been highly accurate and correctly identifies many hundreds of licenses, ensuring a compliant packaging process with less pain for the developers. Over time we’ll optimise and improve this process to ensure compliance for our developers rather than blocking them.

As of today we support the REUSE specification for expressing software licenses too!

Next on the list

The next steps are honest-to-goodness exciting for us. Or should I say.. exiting?

bill

Work formally begins now on Bootstrap Bill (Turner). Whilst we did successfully bootstrap Serpent OS and construct the Protosnek repository, the process for that is not reproducible as boulder has gone through massive changes in this time.

The new project will leverage boulder and a newly designed bootstrap process to eliminate all host contamination and bootstrap Serpent OS from stone.yml files, emitting an immutable bootstrap repository.

Layering support will land in moss and boulder to begin the infrastructure projects.

Build Submission (“Let’s Roll”)

The aim is to complete bill in a very short time so we can bring some initial infrastructure online to facilitate the automatic build of submitted build jobs. We’ll use this process to create our live repository, replacing the initial bootstrap repository from bill.

At this point all of the tooling we have will come together to allow us all to very quickly iterate on packaging, polish up moss and race towards installed systems with online updates.


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