The future of kdesrc-build packaging

The last official release of the kdesrc-build tool to build KDE was 1.15.1, nearly three years ago. For some perspective, this is when we were in the process of preparing KDE Software Compilation 4.9 for release, and nearly 2 years before the first technological preview of KDE Frameworks 5.

One could rightly suspect that the project had died entirely, but that is not true (though in fairness there have been large lapses in my time to provide maintenance and development). My periods of inattention were somewhat made up for by a small ecosystem that has sprouted up around kdesrc-build, including advice on how to use kdesrc-build, bash autocompletion scripts, and even a project (kdesrc-build-extra) that manages entire profiles for you to use with kdesrc-build, with a nice frontend to boot.

Either way, there have been nearly a half-thousand individual git commits to the kdesrc-build.git repository since the last release, including many bugfixes where I’ve faithfully recorded a “FIXED-IN: 1.16” in preparation for a release that seemed like it would never be tagged.

Well, 1.16 itself is official at least, “v1.16” being the official git tag for kdesrc-build.git commit a6f09a33. In fact this is where I would normally make a release announcement, but before I cover some of the things that have changed in 3 years, let me first explain how I intend to track kdesrc-build releases in the future.

Future release process

In short, starting with kdesrc-build 1.16, there will not be official “releases”. Instead, milestone versions will still be occasionally tagged, using the same version format that is becoming popular across open source, using the year and the month as the version. So kdesrc-build would jump from 1.16 to 15.04 (or perhaps 15.05).

Ever since the migration to git for KDE source repositories started really picking up steam, the recommended way to use kdesrc-build has been to run the git version of kdesrc-build directly. The sample KF5 configuration for kdesrc-build even pulls kdesrc-build itself from git (though you’d still need to remember to put it in your $PATH).

This was required at first due to the rapid changes required in kdesrc-build to support the rapid changes occurring in the KDE source repositories. Even as development later slowed on kdesrc-build itself, running kdesrc-build from git allowed KDE developers to push KF5 development by keeping the KF5 sample configurations up to date.

So the release process became redundant (indeed, I’ve had a bunch of feedback about kdesrc-build in the past few years, but not one single person has asked me to push an extra release). I will continue to periodically bump the version of the script itself using the time-based version format, but don’t expect formal releases any time soon.

Changes since 1.15.1

With all that said, if you’ve somehow managed to string 1.15.1 along up to this point, here’s some of the things you’d get when you upgrade to kdesrc-build.git (currently 1.16):

  • kdesrc-build can automatically include KDE project dependencies of modules into the build list. Gone are the days when you’d have to manually ask for ‘frameworks/*’ and then libkdemodule just so you could also build kdemodule/bar. Well, assuming that kde-build-metadata is kept up to date. :)
    To use, include the include-dependencies true option in a module-set that you wish to have dependencies included on, like

    module-set my-grouping
        repository kde-projects
        use-modules kate
        include-dependencies true
    end module-set

    You could also use --include-dependencies on the command line, and pass any modules you wished to build. You can even use options like --resume-from and --stop-after to further constrain the module list after dependency extraction.

  • Correctly use the bazaar source control tool to keep modules up to date (“kdesrc-build: We use bzr, so you don’t have to”).
  • Support for automatically selecting the right branch of a KDE module (assuming needed metadata is set in kde-build-metadata), based on a generic grouping of modules you wish to have (e.g. “stable KDE4”, “latest KF5-based applications”). This feature is essentially mandatory to using kdesrc-build today, but it didn’t exist in 1.15.1!
  • Better documentation, especially in –help. Note that I still need a lot of help here, despite all the words that are technically under the doc/ directory…
  • A lot of special-case handling code has been removed, since it’s been made redundant by better information in kde-build-metadata.
  • Tons more refactoring internally. This is intended to reduce the possibility of inadvertent lock-in to Perl, yet still no one else seems to want to port things… ;) In 1.15.1, kdesrc-build was effectively a giant single Perl file!
  • Support parsing a simplified dependency-data format, so that occasional logical moves of a git repository from one place to another don’t break all the dependencies. (e.g. if kcalc were to move to something like kf5/applications/base/kcalc.git, the dependencies wouldn’t have to change as kdesrc-build only cares about the ‘kcalc’ part at the end now).
  • Custom build commands are supported (this is essentially just to support the ‘ninja’ build tool).
  • Allow setting an HTTP proxy for downloads (and even to download Git modules over HTTP if needed).
  • Vim syntax highlighting (Kate’s syntax highlight is maintained in KTextEditor itself now).
  • Added support for building CMake itself, or autotools-based modules.
  • Added support for ‘catch-all’ dependencies to make it easy to say that e.g. all modules in ‘kde/*’ depend on ‘automoc’.
  • Allow including other configuration files from your kdesrc-buildrc, to let you create common sections to be shared with multiple kdesrc-buildrc files.
  • Vastly improved handling of options within kdesrc-buildrc, especially in module-sets, and especially in their interaction with command line flags.
  • Added a --print-modules command line option, which is effectively an even quicker “pretend mode” if all you need to know is what modules kdesrc-build thinks it would build. Very recently, --print-modules will indent modules in accordance with their dependencies (though only when kdesrc-build had to re-order the modules).
  • Likewise, added a --metadata-only command line option so that you can download the little bit of data needed to determine module lists without trying to build all of KDE repositories first (or having to Ctrl-C to exit).

There are many many more minor things as well, accumulated across the contributions of 32 other developers over the past few years. I hope that will continue over the next few years as well.

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