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Makepp Repositories

How to use repositories for variant builds, for maintaining a central set of sources, and other things

A repository is a directory or directory hierarchy outside of the default directory that contains files which the makefile needs in the current directory tree. Makepp can automatically and temporarily link files from the repository into the current directory tree if they are needed. Repositories provide similar functionality to the VPATH variable in some versions of make, but (unlike VPATH) you do not have to do anything special to your makefile to get them to work.

Repositories are specified with the -R or --repository command line option (see -R in the makepp_command manpage) or with the repository statement (see repository in the makepp_statements manpage) in the makefile.

Repositories are useful in several different situations:

Makepp's implementation of repositories does not require rewriting of the build commands at all, unlike (for example) repositories in cons. Makepp puts a symbolic link into the directory where the command is expecting it. As long as the command does not refer to absolute directories, the exact same shell command will work with files from a repository. This means that it works not only for compilation commands, but any kind of command you can think to put in your makefile.

Examples

Repositories are best explained by several examples of what you can do.

Different compilation options

Suppose you have a simple program with a makefile that looks something like this:

CFLAGS      = -O2
OBJECTS = a.o b.o c.o
my_program: $(OBJECTS)
    cc $(inputs) -o $(output)
%.o: %.c
    cc $(CFLAGS) -c $(input) -o $(output)

This makefile places the files a.o, b.o, c.o, and my_program in the same directory as the source files.

Sometimes you want to place the binary files into a separate directory. For example, you might build your program on several different architectures, and you don't want the binary files on one architecture to be replaced with the binary files on the other. Or you might want to make a temporary change and recompile without wiping out the previous compilation results. Without repositories, you would have to modify your makefile to place the objects elsewhere.

With a repository, however, you don't have to touch your makefile at all. Consider the following sequence of commands:

% cd my_program_source
% makepp                    # Builds using the above makefile, and
                            # object files go into the directory
                            # my_program_source.
% cd ..
% mkdir binary-debug        # Make a clean directory for building the
% cd binary-debug           # same program with different options.
% makepp -R ../my_program_source CFLAGS=-g
                            # Now objects go into binary-debug.

The first makepp command compiles the source files with optimization and puts the objects into the directory my_program_source, because that's what the makefile is supposed to do. Now we want to rebuild the program, but we want to change the value of CFLAGS to compile for debug. We specify the new value of CFLAGS on the command line, and we also tell makepp that the my_program_source directory is a repository using the -R option.

Every time makepp realizes that it needs a file that it doesn't already have in current directory, it looks in the repository. In this case, it first looks for the makefile, which doesn't exist in the binary-debug subdirectory. So it creates a symbolic link to it from the makefile in my_program_source, and then reads in the makefile. Then it notices that it needs the file a.c in order to build a.o, and so it links in a.c from the repository. If a.c includes any files contained in my_program_source, then these will be automatically linked in as well. The soft links are deleted at the end of the compilation (unless you interrupt makepp).

Running the build command in binary-debug won't touch any of the files in my_program_source. Thus from the same set of source files, you now have two different copies of the program, one compiled with optimization and one compiled for debug. And this happened without touching the makefile at all.

The advantage of using repositories instead of simply recompiling and overwriting the original binaries is that now if we fix our bugs and want to go back to the optimized version, we don't have to recompile everything. Since the original object files are still around, and most of them are still valid, we can save a lot of time on recompilation. This does not make a big difference when only three source files are involved, but for a larger build that takes minutes or hours to complete, the savings in programmer time and frustration can be significant.

Rebuilding one file with a minor modification to the compilation commands

Makepp doesn't fetch only source files from the repository. If the object files in the repository don't need rebuilding, it will use them. For example, consider a slight modification to the above makefile:

CFLAGS   := -O2
A_CFLAGS := -O6 -funroll-loops
OBJECTS := a.o b.o c.o
my_program: $(OBJECTS)
    cc $(inputs) -o $(output)
%.o: %.c
    cc $(CFLAGS) -c $(input) -o $(output)
a.o: a.c
    cc $(A_CFLAGS) -c $(input) -o $(output)

The idea is that a.o contains the time-critical code, so it is compiled with higher optimization than the rest of the objects. Now suppose we want to test just how different the timing is with different compile options. A repository can help with this, too:

% cd my_program_source
% makepp                    # Builds using the above makefile, and
                            # object files go into the directory
                            # my_program_source.
% cd ..
% mkdir no-unrolling        # Make a clean directory for building the
% cd no-unrolling           # same program with different options.
% makepp -R ../my_program_source A_CFLAGS=-O2
% cd ..
% time no-unrolling/my_program # Benchmark the two versions of the program.
% time my_program_source/my_program

Makepp proceeds as before, linking in a copy of the makefile and then examining the object files. Now only the a.o module needs recompiling, since the options for b.o and c.o haven't changed. Makepp notices that it can use b.o and c.o from the repository, so it just links those in. However, it will recompile a.o in the no-unrolling directory. Once the compilation is finished, the two different versions of the program can be benchmarked.

Rebuilding with a minor modification to the source

Now suppose we want to make a change to a.c and benchmark the program before and after the change. Repositories can help again. Consider this sequence of commands:

% mkdir modified-a
% cp my_program_source/a.c modified-a
% cd modified-a
% emacs a.c                 # Make some modifications just to this module.
% makepp -R ../my_program_source

Here we have created a new directory that just contains the single source file we want to modify. Makepp now takes a.c from the modified-a subdirectory, but uses the copies of b and c from the my_program_source directory. Without changing any of the binary files in my_program_source, we have created a separate copy of the program that incorporates our changes to a.c. If there are other developers using the sources in my_program_source, they will be unaffected by our changes.

Repositories can thus be used as a quick way to build variants of a program, without adding complicated conditions to the makefile. None of the files in the original directory are modified; they are used as needed.

Using a directory hierarchy

A repository is actually not just a single directory, it's a whole directory hierarchy. Suppose you use /our/library as a repository. Now /our/library may well contain many subdirectories, e.g., /our/library/gui and /our/library/network. Consider this command:

% makepp -R /our/library

Any commands in the makefile that refer to files in the directory ./network will actually get files from /our/library/network, and similarly for ./gui. Makepp automatically creates any directories that exist in the repository but not in the current directory.

Linking to any place in the file system

All of the above examples show files from a repository being linked into the current directory or its subdirectories, but you can actually have makepp link them into any place in the file system that you have write access to. This is useful for more complicated builds, where there may be several library subdirectories. For example, here's a command I have used to build variants of one of my programs:

% makepp -R test-build/seescape=/src/seescape \
     -R test-build/HLib=/src/HLib \
     -R test-build/H5pp=/src/H5pp \
     -R qwt=/src/external_libraries/qwt \
     -F test-build/seescape

This command loads in files from four different repositories, and then cds to the ./test-build/seescape directory and executes the makefile there. Files contained in the directory tree beginning with /src/seescape are linked into ./test-build/seescape. In other words, makepp will temporarily link the file /src/seescape/gui/image_canvas.cxx to ./test-build/seescape/gui/image_canvas.cxx when it is needed. This command will work even if the test-build directory doesn't exist yet; makepp will create it for you. (But you must specify the -R options before the -F option on the command line.)

Caveats with repositories

Use only relative filenames

Repositories work completely transparently if the makefiles use only relative filenames. In the above example, it's ok if the makefile in /src/seescape refers to ../HLib, but the above command will not work as expected if it refers to /src/HLib. If you need to use absolute file names, you can put them into make variables and then override them on the command line, like this:

% makepp -R test-build/seescape=/src/seescape SEESCAPE=/home/holt/test-build/seescape \
     -R test-build/HLib=/src/HLib HLIB=/home/holt/test-build/HLib \
     -R test-build/H5pp=/src/H5pp H5pp=/home/holt/test-build/H5pp \
     -R qwt=/src/external_libraries/qwt QWT=/home/holt/test-build/qwt \
     -F test-build/seescape

The above will work as long as the HLib directory is referred to as $(HLIB) in all the makefiles. Note that you have to specify absolute paths for the directories, because makepp cd's to test-build/seescape before reading the makefile. This leads to long and complicated make commands; use relative paths when possible.

Makepp must know about all dependencies

Repositories will not work if there are hidden dependencies that makepp doesn't know about. (In fact, doing a build using repositories is one way of checking for forgotten dependencies.) Sometimes these dependencies can be fairly subtle. For example, the libtool command will not only create .lo and .la files as listed on the command line, but it also may create a subdirectory called .libs which contains the actual object files. To prevent build mistakes, makepp refuses to link in a .la file from a repository. Hopefully in the future libtool will be better supported.

Many hidden dependencies related to compilation are caught by the command line scanner. If your compiler uses the common unix compilation flags (e.g., -I, -D, etc.), then makepp will usually figure out where all your include files are. However, if the compilation command is not the first command on the command line, then makepp may not realize it's a compilation and it won't find the hidden dependencies. For example, consider this command from the KDE distribution:

# This command checks to make sure all global symbols in the library are
# properly defined, by linking a dummy program.
libkdecore.la.closure: $(libkdecore_la_OBJECTS) $(libkdecore_la_DEPENDENCIES)
    echo "int main() {return 0;}" > libkdecore_la_closure.cpp
    libtool --mode=compile $(CXX) $(CXXFLAGS) -c libkdecore_la_closure.cpp
    libtool --mode=link $(CXX) libkdecore_la_closure.lo $(libkdecore_la_LDFLAGS) $(libkdecore_la_OBJECTS) $(libkdecore_la_LIBADD) $(LIBS)

The rule action contains not just one compilation command but two; makepp will only look at the first one. As a result, this makefile will not work with repositories.

Note that it would work fine if this multi-line action were broken up into several single-line rules:

libkdecore_la_closure.cpp:
    echo "int main() {return 0;}" > libkdecore_la_closure.cpp
libkdecore.la.closure: $(libkdecore_la_OBJECTS) $(libkdecore_la_DEPENDENCIES) \
    libkdecore_la_closure.lo
    libtool -mode=link $(CXX) -o $(output) $(inputs) $(libkdecore_la_LIBADD) $(LIBS)

You may have to be careful if you have any homegrown scripts that create files that makepp doesn't know about. For correct builds, it is vitally important to list all targets and dependencies (or determine them automatically by scanning).

Putting absolute filenames into programs

Repositories will also not work if any of the files built contain absolute file names in them (e.g., if any of your build commands write out an absolute filename). For example, it turns out that the .la files produced by libtool have this property. (If you look at the contents of the .la file you'll see that the dependency list contains absolute filenames.) In order to solve this particular problem, makepp will not link .la files from a repository; it will insist on rebuilding them.

Avoid linking in unnecessary directories

Repositories can be slow on startup and use a lot of memory if there are a lot of unnecessary files in the repository. For example, if you use an automatic HTML documentation generator which makes thousands of .html files from your source code, you may not want to put them in a subdirectory of a directory that's used as a repository. It's better to put them in a different directory tree entirely, so the repository mechanism won't load in their names.

Overriding repository copies with local copies

If you make any modifications to a file locally, makepp will ordinarily realize this and recompile the file using the local copy rather than the repository copy.

If you're using a repository to maintain a central code base, and you have developers working on local copies which contain only the files they have modified, one problem that comes up is: what if a developer wants to remove a file from his local build but the repository still contains it? If the developer removes the local copy, makepp will happily put in the copy from the repository, and the build will proceed as if the file existed.

The best current technique for this problem is to make the file that you want not to include in the build process unreadable, like this:

chmod a-rw file-to-be-excluded

This will prevent makepp from incorporating it from the repository. Makepp also includes special code so that unreadable files do not match wildcards or pattern rules.

Similarly, to prevent makepp from incorporating an entire subdirectory, make a local directory which exists but is unwritable. If you want makepp to ignore the directory entirely, then make it unreadable too. (Read-only directories are searched but targets in them are usually not built.)

Debugging with repositories

By default, makepp deletes all of the symbolic links that it makes from repository directories at the end of the build. If you run a debugger on your executable, the debugger will not be able to find the source files where it expects them to be if they were linked in from a repository. There are several things you can do:

Don't use repositories for files which can change!

Don't try to use a repository for a file which is part of your build. For example, you might be tempted to try to use repositories to put all of your public .h files in the same directory, like this:

# top level makefile
repository include=module1/include
repository include=module2/include
repository include=module3/include
repository include=module4/include

This is probably not a good idea if any of the .h files are themselves outputs of a program (e.g., yacc or some other program that spits out C source code), because makepp assumes that files in repositories never change. If the build needs include/xyz.h, and module2/include/xyz.h actually needs to be produced by some program, makepp will not know to run the program. It's better to use a technique like this to put all of your .h files into a common include directory:

# module1/Makeppfile
../include/%.h : include/%.h
    cp $(input) $(output)
# You could also (more efficiently) do the following:
#    ln -s $(relative_to $(input), ../include) $(output)
# but it's a slightly more complicated command.