pkgsrc 50th release interviews - Joerg Sonnenberger

May 31, 2016 posted by Kamil Rytarowski

The pkgsrc team has prepared the 50th release of their package management system, with the 2016Q1 version. It's infrequent event, as the 100th release will be held after 50 quarters.

The NetBSD team has prepared series of interviews with the authors. We started with Joerg Sonnenberger, a developer well known for his LLVM on NetBSD contribution.

Hi Joerg, please introduce yourself.

Hello Kamil,

I'm a software developer with a background in mathematics. Since I am doing Open Source development primarily for fun, my interests are changing over time and cover many different topics.

First of all, congratulations on the 50th release of pkgsrc! How do you feel about this anniversary?

The pkgsrc quarterly branches were one of the reasons for me to start looking at pkgsrc -- a bit more than a decade ago. As such, my 40th branch has passed recently as well, so it is a bit personal as well. I'm looking back proudly to what we have achieved, but also a bit sad to some of the faces and names that disappeared from the community over that time.

What are the main benefits of the pkgsrc system?

For me, the biggest advantage of pkgsrc is to provide me with the freedom to have a consistent environment across different platforms. Having to deal with BSD, Solaris and Linux flavours, it is very important to be able to sit down and get a consistent set of tools, consistent patches for programs to depend on etc.

Where and how do you use pkgsrc?

I'm using it on my own NetBSD and SmartOS systems as well as for providing software images for my customers at work.

What are the pkgsrc projects you are currently working on?

After that time focusing on bug hunting for the clang builds, I've recently returned to working on pbulk again. There are a number of areas where the distributed build can be improved. My main goal at the moment is to reduce the required coupling of master and slave. Sharing the distfiles is more challenging than it seems on first sight. NFS or null mounts are one option, but often, different packages sharing the same tarball are built in parallel. On an update, they will try to fetch the same file concurrently and often fail badly. The receipt I ended up using for the NetBSD 7.0 bulk builds is a low-memory virtual machine with nginx distribution the distfiles to all build slaves via HTTP(S). If a new file is obtained from elsewhere, it will be uploaded back to my local mirror via PUT. This has been quite reliable so far, but I still have to document the various steps involved for others. The new part will be better handling of the binary packages themselve. Using something like PUT again makes it easier to provide signatures without exposing the key material to all builds.

If you analyze the current state of pkgsrc, which improvements and changes do you wish for the future?

The biggest new term wish is that Leonardo's Summer of Code project will be successful and we finally get a proper infrastructure for building multiple packages in one step. The removal of non-DESTDIR support was kind of a show stopper for doing this sanely and that one is finally done. It didn't even take 10 years to reach that point From an infrastructural point of view, I want to tackle the shell fragment library topic again soon and also work on improving the build performance. The cwrapper support has been pending for a while, someone (else) has to sit down and fix the USE_CROSSBASE handling. I think that's the only real fallout we have left in the tree for making it the default, with all the performance boosts it can provide. More resources for builds is a general wish, but that also often requires porting to new hardware and the like.

Do you have any practical tips to share with the pkgsrc users?

The only practical tip is to aggressively use virtual machines or chroots for building whenever you can't just use binary packages. I.e. if you can't use pre-made binary packages, make your own.

What's the best way to start contributing to pkgsrc and what needs to be done?

Adopt a package, keep it updated and care for it and its environment. Everything tends to start from that. While pkglint is a handy tool for improving your own contributions, especially in pkgsrc-wip, it often helps even more to chat with a regular contributor whenever more challenging problems happen. Unlike many Linux packaging system, we try very hard to make simple things easy and compact. Many problems have different solutions and I sometimes look back to my own changes from years ago and find better solutions now. It is hard to put this kind of experience into documentation. None had the resources for training Watson yet.

Do you plan to participate in the upcoming pkgsrcCon 2016 in Kraków (1-3 July)?

I plan to come, I just don't know if I have time to prepare a presentation for it




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