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3.1.2 Source Tree Specifications

So for the Buildbot's purposes we treat each VC system as a server which can take a list of specifications as input and produce a source tree as output. Some of these specifications are static: they are attributes of the builder and do not change over time. Others are more variable: each build will have a different value. The repository is changed over time by a sequence of Changes, each of which represents a single developer making changes to some set of files. These Changes are cumulative.

For normal builds, the Buildbot wants to get well-defined source trees that contain specific Changes, and exclude other Changes that may have occurred after the desired ones. We assume that the Changes arrive at the buildbot (through one of the mechanisms described in see Change Sources) in the same order in which they are committed to the repository. The Buildbot waits for the tree to become “stable” before initiating a build, for two reasons. The first is that developers frequently make multiple related commits in quick succession, even when the VC system provides ways to make atomic transactions involving multiple files at the same time. Running a build in the middle of these sets of changes would use an inconsistent set of source files, and is likely to fail (and is certain to be less useful than a build which uses the full set of changes). The tree-stable-timer is intended to avoid these useless builds that include some of the developer's changes but not all. The second reason is that some VC systems (i.e. CVS) do not provide repository-wide transaction numbers, so that timestamps are the only way to refer to a specific repository state. These timestamps may be somewhat ambiguous, due to processing and notification delays. By waiting until the tree has been stable for, say, 10 minutes, we can choose a timestamp from the middle of that period to use for our source checkout, and then be reasonably sure that any clock-skew errors will not cause the build to be performed on an inconsistent set of source files.

The Schedulers always use the tree-stable-timer, with a timeout that is configured to reflect a reasonable tradeoff between build latency and change frequency. When the VC system provides coherent repository-wide revision markers (such as Subversion's revision numbers, or in fact anything other than CVS's timestamps), the resulting Build is simply performed against a source tree defined by that revision marker. When the VC system does not provide this, a timestamp from the middle of the tree-stable period is used to generate the source tree1.


[1] this checkoutDelay defaults to half the tree-stable timer, but it can be overridden with an argument to the Source Step