Lost Productivity Due to Non-Unified Repositories

February 17, 2015 at 02:50 PM | categories: Mozilla

I'm currently working on annotating moz.build files with metadata that defines things like which bug component and code reviewers map to which files. It's going to enable a lot of awesomeness.

As part of this project, I'm implementing a new moz.build processing mode. Instead of reading moz.build files by traversing DIRS variables from previously-executed moz.build files, we're evaluating moz.build files according to filesystem topology. This has uncovered a few cases where a moz.build file errors because of assumptions that no longer hold. For example, for directories that are only active on Windows, the moz.build file might assume that if Windows is always true.

One such problem was with gfx/angle/srx/libGLESv2/moz.build. This file contained code similar to the following:

    SOURCES += ['foo.cpp']
SOURCES['foo.cpp'].flags += ['-DBAR']

This always ran without issue because this moz.build was only included if building for Windows. This assumption is of course invalid when in filesystem traversal mode.

Anyway, as part of updating this trouble file, I lost maybe an hour of productivity. Here's how.

The top of the trouble moz.build file has a comment:

# Please note this file is autogenerated from generate_mozbuild.py,
# so do not modify it directly

OK. So, I need to modify generate_mozbuild.py. First thing's first: I need to locate it:

$ hg locate generate_mozbuild.py

So I load up this file. I see a main(). I run the script in my shell and get an error. Weird. I look around gfx/skia and see a README_MOZILLA file. I open it. README_MOZILLA contains some instructions. They aren't very good. I hop in #gfx on IRC and ask around. They tell me to do a Subversion clone of Skia and to check out the commit referenced in README_MOZILLA. There is no repo URL in README_MOZILLA. I search Google. I find a Git URL. I notice that README_MOZILLA contains a SHA-1 commit, not a Subversion integer revision. I figure the Git repo is what was meant. I clone the Git repo. I attempt to run the generation script referenced by README_MOZILLA. It fails. I ask again in #gfx. They are baffled at first. I dig around the source code. I see a reference in Skia's upstream code to a path that doesn't exist. I tell the #gfx people. They tell me sub-repos are likly involved and to use gclient to clone the repo. I search for the proper Skia source code docs and type the necessary gclient commands. (Fortunately I've used gclient before, so this wasn't completely alien to me.)

I get the Skia clone in the proper state. I run the generation script and all works. But I don't see it writing the trouble moz.build file I set out to fix. I set some breakpoints. I run the code again. I'm baffled.

Suddenly it hits me: I've been poking around with gfx/skia which is separate from gfx/angle! I look around gfx/angle and see a README.mozilla file. I open it. It reveals the existence of the Git repo https://github.com/mozilla/angle. I open GitHub in my browser. I see a generate_mozbuild.py script.

I now realize there are multiple files named generate_mozbuild.py. Unfortunately, the one I care about - the ANGLE one - is not checked into mozilla-central. So, my search for it with hg files did not reveal its existence. Between me trying to get the Skia code cloned and generating moz.build files, I probably lost an hour of work. All because a file with a similar name wasn't checked into mozilla-central!

I assumed that the single generate_mozbuild.py I found under source control was the only file of that name and that it must be the file I was interested in.

Maybe I should have known to look at gfx/angle/README.mozilla first. Maybe I should have known that gfx/angle and gfx/skia are completely independent.

But I didn't. My ignorance cost me.

Had the contents of the separate ANGLE repository been checked into mozilla-central, I would have seen the multiple generate_mozbuild.py files and I would likely have found the correct one immediately. But they weren't and I lost an hour of my time.

And I'm not done. Now I have to figure out how the separate ANGLE repo integrates with mozilla-central. I'll have to figure out how to submit the patch I still need to write. The GitHub description of this repo says Talk to vlad, jgilbert, or kamidphish for more info. So now I have to bother them before I can submit my patch. Maybe I'll just submit a pull request and see what happens.

I'm convinced I wouldn't have encountered this problem if a monolithic repository were used. I would have found the separate generate_mozbuild.py file immediately. And, the change process would likely have been known to me since all the code was in a repository I already knew how to submit patches from.

Separate repos are just lots of pain. You can bet I'll link to this post when people propose splitting up mozilla-central into multiple repositories.