Tag Archives: whenjobs

Goaljobs, part 4

In part 3 I described how to write targets which can access network resources, and how to use memoization to make them run fast. In this (last) part of the series, I’ll describe the final feature of goaljobs — periodic jobs.

If you wanted to use make to monitor a git repository and do a build when a new commit appears there would I guess be three choices: You could just run the make command manually over and over again. You could have a git hook that runs make. Or you have a cron job the periodically checks the git repository.

The git hook is the ideal solution for goaljobs too, but goaljobs also has cron-like periodic jobs built in, and they are very easy to use:

every 30 minutes (fun () ->
  let commit =
    shout "cd %s && git rev-parse HEAD" repo in
  require (git_commit_tested commit)

every 30 minutes is self-explanatory (right?). The function that runs every half-an-hour is two lines of code. The first line uses shout to run a shell command and capture the output. In this case git prints the current commit. The second command requires that the git_commit_tested goal is reached for this commit.

One way to implement this goal would be:

let goal git_commit_tested commit =
  let key = sprintf "repo-tested-%s" commit in
  target (memory_exists key);

  sh "
      git clone %s test
      cd test
      make check
  " repo_url;

  memory_set key "1"

This code clones the repository and runs make check to test it. It uses the Memory (ie. memoization) to ensure that the tests are run at most once per commit.

Actually this is not quite true: the tests run successfully once, but if the test fails, it will keep running every 30 minutes and nag you about it. It’s trivial to change the memoization to remember failures as well as successes, or you could consider the repeated nagging to be a feature not a bug …

That’s it! The goaljobs website will be this (I’ve not uploaded it yet, but will do in the next day or two):


You can also download the code from the git repository and the goals I’ve written from this repository.

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Goaljobs, part 3

In part 2 I introduced an example goaljobs script that can rebuild a set of packages in Fedora in the right order.

It’s time to take a closer look at targets — the promise that you make that some condition will be true by the time a goal has run.

In the Fedora rebuild script the goal targets looked like this:

let goal rebuilt pkg =
  target (koji_build_state (fedora_verrel pkg branch)
               == `Complete);

koji_build_state is a regular function. It’s implemented using the koji buildinfo command line tool for querying the Koji build system. (The koji command line tool is annoyingly hard to automate, but as we’ve got a complete programming language available — not just bash — the implementation of koji_build_state is tedious and long, but doable).

Querying Koji takes a few seconds and we don’t want to do it every time we check a goal. Goaljobs offers a feature called “The Memory” which lets you memoize functions. “The Memory” is just a fancy name for a key/value store which is kept in ~/.goaljobs-memory and persists across goaljobs sessions:

let koji_build_state verrel =
  let key = sprintf "koji_build_complete_%s" verrel in
  if memory_exists key then
  else (
    (* tedious code to query koji *)
    if state == `Complete then
      memory_set key "1";

With strategic use of memoization, evaluating goaljobs goals can be very fast and doesn’t change the fundamental contract of targets.

Finally in this part: a note on how targets are implemented.

A target is a boolean expression which is evaluated once near the beginning of the goal. If it evaluates to true at the beginning of the goal then the rest of the goal can be skipped because the goal has already been achieved / doesn’t need to be repeated.

And since targets are just general expressions, they can be anything at all, from accessing a remote server (as here) to checking the existence of a local file (like make). As long as something can be tested quickly, or can be tested slowly and memoized, it’s suitable to be a target.

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Goaljobs, part 2

In part 1 I showed how a simple make rule could be converted to a special “goal” function and I hinted that we were not limited to just the “file is older than” semantics implicit in make.

So let’s have a look at the goals I wrote to automate the recent OCaml rebuild in Fedora.

Recall from part 1: Targets are a contractual promise that you make in goaljobs. They are a promise that some condition will be true after running the goal. Requirements are conditions that must be true before the goal can start running.

For a Fedora package to achieve the goal of being rebuilt, the target is that the Koji build state of the current release must be “Completed”. The requirements are that every dependency of the package has been rebuilt. So:

let goal rebuilt pkg =
  target (koji_build_state (fedora_verrel pkg branch)
               == `Complete);

  (* Require the rebuild to have started: *)
  require (rebuild_started pkg);

  ... some code to wait for the build to finish ...

The above code is not complete (it’s a complex, real-world working example after all).

I split the rebuilt goal into two separate goals for reasons that will become clear later. But the first goal above says that the package rebuild must have been started off, and we’ll wait for the package build to complete.

Note that once the build is complete, the target promise is true.

The subgoal rebuild_started is defined like this:

let goal rebuild_started pkg =
  (* The dependencies of this package: *)
  let deps = List.assoc pkg pkg_deps in

  target (
     match koji_build_state (fedora_verrel pkg branch) with
          | `Building | `Complete -> true
          | _ -> false

  (* All dependent packages must have been fully rebuilt: *)
  List.iter (fun dep -> require (rebuilt dep)) deps;

  (* Rebuild the package in Koji. *)
  koji_build pkg branch

It’s saying that the target (promise) will be that the Koji package will either be building or may even be complete. And that we first of all require that every build dependency of this package has been completely, successfully rebuilt. If those requirements are met, we tell Koji to start building the package (but in this goal we don’t need to wait for it to complete).

Why did I split the goal into two parts?

The reason is that I want to define a make-like all goal:

let goal all () =
  List.iter (fun pkg -> require (rebuild_started pkg))

This iterates over all my source packages and starts rebuilding them.

Note it doesn’t wait for each one to be rebuilt … unless they are required as dependencies of another package, in which case the require (rebuilt dep) will kick in and wait for them before rebuilding the dependent package.

In other words, this code automatically resolves dependencies, waiting where necessary, but otherwise just kicking off builds, which is exactly what I wanted.

Finally a bit about how you use a goaljobs script. Unlike make you have to compile the script into a binary. To compile the script, use the convenient wrapper goaljobs (it’s a simple shell script that invokes the OCaml compiler):

goaljobs fedora_ocaml_rebuild.ml

This makes a binary called fedora_ocaml_rebuild which is the program for mass-rebuilding the whole of Fedora’s OCaml subset.

When you run it with no arguments, it searches for a goal called all and “requires” that goal (just like make).

You can also run other goals directly. Any goal which is “published” can be run from the command line. All goals that have no parameters — such as all — are published automatically.

For goals that take parameters, if you want to use them from the command line you have to publish them manually. The reason is that you have to provide a small code snippet to convert the command line parameters to goal parameters, which may involve type conversion or other checks (since OCaml is strongly typed and parameters can be any type, not just strings or filenames).

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Goaljobs, part 1

A little more than a year ago I released whenjobs which was an attempt to create a practical language for automating complex “business rules”. The kind of thing I’m talking about is managing the many diverse steps between me tagging a libguestfs commit with a version number and a fully tested tarball appearing on the website. Or the hundreds of steps that go into 100 OCaml packages being updated and rebuilt for Rawhide.

Whenjobs wasn’t the right answer. Goaljobs [very early alpha] might possibly be.

What I need is something which is flexible, can deal with failures (both hard and intermittent), and can be killed and restarted at any point.

The first observation is that make is nearly the right tool. It’s goal-based, meaning that you set down a target that you want to have happen, and some rules to make that happen, and this lets you break down a problem from the larger goal (“build my program!”) to smaller subgoals (“compile this source file”).

program: main.o utils.o
  cc $^ -o $@

The goal is “program is built”. There are some requirements (main.o, utils.o), and there’s a recipe (run cc). You can also kill make in the middle and restart it, and it’ll usually continue from where it left off.

Make also lets you parameterize goals, although only in very simple ways:

%.o: %.c
  cc -c $< -o $@

Implicit in the “:” (colon) character is make’s one simple rule, which is roughly this: “if the target file doesn’t exist, or the prerequisite files are newer than the target, run the recipe below”.

In fact you could translate the first make rule into an ordinary function which would look something like this:

function build_program ()
  if (!file_exists ("program") ||
      file_older ("program", "main.o") ||
      file_older ("program", "utils.o")) {
    shell ("cc -c %s -o %s", "main.o utils.o",

Some points arise here:

  • Why can’t we change the target test to something other than “file exists or is newer”?
    How about “remote URL exists” (and if not, we need to upload a file)?
    How about “Koji build completed successfully” (and if not we need to do a Fedora build)?
  • What could happen if we could add parameters to build_program?

Goaljobs attempts to answer these questions by turning make-style rules into “goals”, where goals are specialized functions similar to the one above that have a target, requirement(s), a recipe to implement them, and any number of parameters.

For example, a “compile *.c to *.o” goal looks like this:

let goal compiled c_file =
  (* convert c_file "foo.c" -> "foo.o": *)
  let o_file = change_file_extension "o" c_file in

  target (more_recent [o_file] [c_file]);

  sh "
    cd $builddir
    cc -c %s -o %s
  " c_file o_file

The goal is called compiled and it has exactly one parameter, the name of the C source file that must be compiled.

The target is a promise that after the recipe has been run the *.o file will be more recent than the *.c file. The target is both a check used to skip the rule if it’s already true, but also a contractual promise that the developer makes (and which is checked by goaljobs) that some condition holds true at the end of the goal.

sh is a lightweight way to run a shell script fragment, with printf-like semantics.

And the whole thing is wrapped in a proper programming language (preprocessed OCaml) so you can do things which are more complicated than are easily done in shell.


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whenjobs 0.7.0 released

I’ve just released whenjobs 0.7.0 to fix a couple of problems that I was having myself.

Firstly, while it’s a nice feature of whenjobs that I can set variables, sometimes I don’t want jobs to be triggered as a result of setting variables. The new whenjobs --whisper command lets me set variables without reevaluating when-clauses:

$ whenjobs --whisper libguestfs_version=1.17.16

Secondly, my jobs file was getting pretty long and unmaintainable (400 lines), since I added various libguestfs branches and hivex to be managed by whenjobs. So I’ve added a feature where you can split the jobs file into multiple files:

$ ls -l .whenjobs/*.ml
-rw-rw-r--. 1 rjones rjones 3284 Mar 13 19:10 .whenjobs/jobs_hivex.ml
-rw-rw-r--. 1 rjones rjones 4039 Mar 13 19:07 .whenjobs/jobs_libguestfs.ml
-rw-rw-r--. 1 rjones rjones 3766 Mar 13 19:09 .whenjobs/jobs_libguestfs_stable.ml
-rw-rw-r--. 1 rjones rjones   45 Mar 13 19:10 .whenjobs/jobs.ml

I think I described whenjobs as a “cron replacement”. It is a cron replacement for me, for my personal use, but it’s not officially a cron replacement and this project has nothing whatsoever to do with Red Hat or Fedora. The reason I say this is I get some pretty idiotic comments like these.

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whenjobs 0.6 released

whenjobs 0.6 fixes two out of three bugs mentioned previously, and fixes the bug Joe found in whenjobs --daemon-start (et al).


  • You can set multiple variables atomically, using:
    whenjobs --set cat=sushi food=fish

    The effect is that when-clauses are reevaluated only after all the variables have changed, rather than after each change as before.

  • You can test the effect of setting variables, without setting them (or running jobs). The new --test option displays which jobs would run:
    $ whenjobs --test food=meat
  • whenjobs --daemon-{start,restart,status} now all work as expected
  • whenjobs --job-names lists job names of all loaded jobs, whether running or not.

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Joe ‘Zonker’ Brockmeier looks at whenjobs


I’ve been using whenjobs quite a lot (probably I’m the single most extensive user). Some things I like:

  • The ability to list jobs and ‘tail’ the output of jobs as they are running. A big improvement over cron where jobs are effectively opaque and undebuggable.
  • Restarting jobs because of temporary failures.

And some things I don’t like:

  • You can’t set multiple variables atomically.
  • It’s hard to predict the effect of setting a variable, ie. which jobs will run after you execute a particular whenjobs --set command.
  • It probably would be better if whenjobs could work across mulitple hosts, with each host having a shared view of the current variable state.

(The first two of these are fairly simple to fix)

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Whenjobs now managing libguestfs development releases

I finally got whenjobs to entirely manage the libguestfs release process (still to do: stable branches, testing on anything except Fedora).

It is triggered by tagging a version in git, whereupon the script takes over, building a tarball, testing the tarball, pushing it to the website, and kicking off a build in Rawhide.

So far it’s been a success, to some degree. In hindsight I could probably have used incron, although that is far more ugly and would have been a real hack. Plain ol’ make might have worked too, although it would have required more babysitting.

More here including the script …

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whenjobs — job lists, cancelling, algorithmic cleanup etc

You can now list and cancel jobs:

$ whenjobs --jobs
61 job$1
	running in: /tmp/whenjobs20d88a48f2c4eb0062e1b44ded6d0ae7
	started at: 2012-02-23 22:43:20
62 job$2
	running in: /tmp/whenjobse9e6b93c3ced1967cbf8c5865d6a1ccb
	started at: 2012-02-23 22:43:20
$ whenjobs --cancel 62

You can manually start jobs. Gerd’s ocamlnet makes it almost trivial to add new RPCs between the tool and the daemon, so adding functions like this is simple.

You can put arbitrary OCaml actions into the job script too, so you can run code when a job is cleaned up, and you will (soon) be able to create jobs algorithmically. For example, the standard mailto cleanup lets you send mail containing the output of the job when it finishes.

let from = "me@example.com"
let to_addr = "you@example.com"
let prefix = "hostname "
let script = << # shell script here >>

job (prefix ^ "poll")
cleanup (Whentools.mailto ~from to_addr)
every minute : script

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