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Norman Feske avatar

Autoconf support is landing in Goa, Git comes to life

I'd like to share a few recent developments around Goa, which is a new tool for porting, building, and packaging Genode components. With autoconf, a third build system enters the picture, which, in turn, paves the ground for bringing software like Git over to Genode.

In the context of Genode's Noux runtime, we already learned the magic spells needed for taming the GNU build system to spit out executable binaries that are compatible with Genode. Since I created the first version of Goa, I was looking forward to apply this wizardry to Goa. The plan of bringing Git to Genode as stated on our official road map gave me the perfect excuse to explore this direction.

You can find this line of development on my autoconf branch of Goa. When having Goa already installed, you can use the following command for updating and switching to this branch:

 goa update-goa autoconf

At the time being, I'm leaving Goa's master branch consistent with Sculpt 20.02. You can switch back to the master branch via:

 goa update-goa master

Acquainting Goa with the Genode source tree

Since there is tight loop between improving Goa, the porting of Git, and addressing edge cases in Genode's libc, I have to switch back and forth between working in the Genode source tree and the Goa environment. The latter is designed to be completely decoupled from the Genode source tree though. So in theory, a change of the libc would require one to first export a new libc version from the Genode source tree, and importing the new version into the Goa environment for testing the change. This process is cumbersome. Fortunately, Goa comes to the rescue with two features hidden in its documentation:

 goa help config

By adding two settings in the Goa configuration (.goarc), the Goa environment can be closely connected to the Genode source tree.

set depot_dir ~/src/genode/depot

The depot_dir variable holds a path to the depot used by Goa. By pointing it to the genode/depot/, we can share one depot between Genode's regular depot tools and Goa. So when creating a package from the Genode source tree, it becomes implicitly available to Goa.

set versions_from_genode_dir ~/src/genode

If the versions_from_genode_dir variable holds the path to a Genode source tree, Goa obtains its package versioning information directly from the depot recipes as present in the Genode source tree. That is, when creating a new version of a depot archive (e.g., when routinely using the --depot-auto-update feature of Genode's build system), the most current version of a depot archive is automatically picked up by Goa.

The combination of both features allows one to develop low-level Genode infrastructure (think of the libc) and high-level application software (like Git) in tandem.

Teaching Goa how to autoconf

Goa is designed for supporting multiple build systems. It selects the build system based on heuristics, namely certain files being present in the project directory. I added the rule that the presence of a file named configure activates the use of autoconf. With this decision taken, Goa includes the autoconf-specific functionality. When porting software, one typically needs to explicitly disable or enable certain features by specifying arguments to the configure script. To allow for such tweaks, a Goa project directory can host a file called configure_args, which lists the arguments whereby each argument is put on a separate line. While enhancing Goa in this respect, I also added the notions of corresponding make_args and cmake_args files that are evaluated when using Make and CMake respectively.

The port of Git

I conduct the actual porting work of Git in my goa-playground repository, specifically, the git topic branch. The following bits are worth noting:

  • I split the porting work and the testing work into two Goa projects. The Goa project at commands/git/ contains the port whereas the test/unix-git/ project contains an executable test scenario that is based on the Unix scenario built via the tutorial. Such a split is beneficial because it allows the publishing of both parts independent from each other. In contrast, if I added the interactive unix-git test right into the commands/git/ project, the git project would depend on all the ingredients of the interactive Unix scenario.

  • Git requires a few patches, which I put at the patches/ subdirectory. Each patch is listed in the import file. Goa provides convenient assistance for managing such patches. In particular, one can edit the imported source code directly in the src/ directory and review those changes via

     goa diff

    The displayed patch can be conveniently redirected into a patch file.

    Most of the patches are fairly minor. E.g., since Genode does not provide file-mode bits, chmod is not defined. Similar story for getpgid. The most important change is the discharge of the uname based make magic that is unconditionally employed by Git's build system. This renders the attempt to cross-compile Git for Genode futile. Fortunately, the heuristics can be side-stepped by commenting-out the offending line

     include config.mak.uname
  • Getting the configure-and-make process to work is an iterative and - at times - exhausting process. Seeing configure fail, reviewing the config.log, trying to grasp the corresponding part of the configure script, finding a knob to press to force our will onto the tool. The result of this mind-crushing process can be expressed in just a few lines, now captured in the configure_args file:


    The actual build stage needed some convincing as well, which is now preserved in the form of the make_args file:


    Behind most of these lines, there is a story. But I figure that some stories are best kept secret.

Current state

The current version of the Git port can be compiled and executed. To use Git from the interactive Unix scenario, I had to set a few environment variables.

 <env key="PAGER"         value="cat" />
 <env key="EDITOR"        value="/bin/vim" />
 <env key="GIT_EXEC_PATH" value="/libexec/git-core" />

By default, Git uses less as a pager, which does not work yet. Using cat as a work-around does the trick. Well, using vim as default editor is a no-brainer, isn't it? The GIT_EXEC_PATH is one of those stories.

With those precautions, I was able successfully execute commands like the following:

git config --global ""
git config --global "Test User"

cd $HOME

echo --- create new repository
git init

echo --- perform two commits
echo first > test.txt
git add test.txt
git commit test.txt -m "first commit"
echo second > test.txt
git commit test.txt -m "second commit"
git log

echo --- create and modify topic branch
git checkout -b topic HEAD
git reset --hard HEAD^
git log
echo complementary > another.txt
git add another.txt
git commit another.txt -m "another text"
git log

echo --- rebase no-op
git rebase HEAD
git log

The next steps

For productive use of Git, at least two problems wait to be solved.

  • Cloning repositories over the network. Even though I'm already able to use networking (using curl, ssh) and Christian's recently added networking support for Goa, the cloning still gets stuck mid way.

  • Git's rebase -i command get stuck somewhere.

These remaining issues notwithstanding, I'm already quite happy of how smooth the porting work for such a non-trivial piece of software went.