So after my descriptive post you might be wondering what’s so complex or time-requiring in running a tinderbox. That’s because I haven’t spoken about the actual manual labor that goes into handling the tinderbox.
The major work is of course scouring the logs to make sure that I file only valid bugs (and often enough that’s not enough, as things hide behind the surface), but there are a quite a number of tasks that are not related to the bug filing, at least not directly.
First of all, there is the matter of making sure that the packages are available for installation. This used to be more complex, but luckily thanks to
REQUIRED_USE and USE deps, this task is slightly easier than before. The
tinderbox.py script (that generates the list of visible packages that need to be tested) also generates a list of use conflicts, dependencies etc. This list I have to look at manually, and then update the
package.use file so that they are satisfied. If their dependencies or
REQUIRED_USE are not satisfied, the package is not visible, which means it won’t be tested.
This sounds extremely easy, but there are quite a few situations, which I discussed previously where there is no real way to satisfy requirements for all the packages in the tree. In particular there are situations where you can’t enable the same USE flag all over the tree — for instance if you do enable icu for libxml2, you can’t enable it for qt-webkit (well, you can but you have to disable gstreamer then, which is required by other packages). Handling all the conflicting requirements takes a bit of trial and error.
Then there is a much worse problem and that is with tests that can get stuck, so that things like this happen:
localhost ~ # qlop -c * dev-python/mpi4py-1.3 started: Sat Nov 3 12:29:39 2012 elapsed: 9 hours, 11 minutes, 12 seconds
And I’ve got to keep growing the list of packages whose tests are unreliable — I wonder if the maintainers ever try running their tests, sometimes.
This task used to be easier because the tinderbox supports sending out tweets or dents through
bti so that it would tell me what was its action — unfortunately identi.ca kept marking the tinderbox’s account as spam, and while they did unlock it three times, it meant I had to ask support to do so every other week. I grew tired of that and stopped caring about it. Unfortunately that means I have to connect to the instance(s) from time to time to make sure they are still crunching.