libguestfs build — an open ended problem

librarian made a very true observation (Google translate) about libguestfs. It’s a Swiss army chainsaw, but it’s damn hard to build from source.

With RHEL and Fedora I’ve made it my aim that no one should need to build libguestfs from source, because we offer the highest quality packages with every feature compiled in. I also build Debian and Ubuntu packages when I can and until someone steps up to do that.

But why is libguestfs a difficult package to build?

The primary reason is that we package up, make an API for, and rigorously test, something like 200 different Linux packages. Essentially if you use (say) the guestfs_part_* API then in the background you’re using parted. If you’re using another API, you might be using e2fsck or resize2fs or lvm or grep or file or the kernel or any one of dozens of other programs. And to compound the problem, we don’t just “ship and forget”. We test these programs, and if they break, then we break. Our test suite has about 600 different tests and takes 2 hours to run.

And we test against Fedora Rawhide. The latest and buggiest.

Consequently we hit all the new bugs. Just today I hit a Linux 3.0 bug and another kernel/ftrace bug. Two weeks ago it was a bug in the file command, another bug in udev on Debian, and you can never exclude the possibility of stupidity by Ubuntu kernel maintainers.

It’s routine that I discover qemu, kernel and other bugs for the first time, because often a libguestfs build in Koji is the first build that boots up and runs the new software.

So what’s my point? It would be good if the Fedora kernel and qemu maintainers didn’t just push out a new package, but they tested that one can run inside the other. But while that would improve the situation for me, the real problem is that integrating software is hard, and it’s unfortunate that libguestfs has got into a situation where we are the first people to integrate and run Rawhide.

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