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Getting Started with Modular Boost Library Maintenance

This page briefly sketches the mechanics of maintaining a Boost library using Git and Modular Boost. The intended audience is developers getting started with Git and Modular Boost maintenance of existing Boost libraries.

This page is intended to get you started only; it does not provide in-depth coverage. See links below for that.

Illustrations of how to perform various actions are given using the Git command line client. Illustrations of the same actions using TortoiseGit are available on a separate TortoiseGit Library Maintenance page.

The Big Picture

Library maintenance occurs in the context of how Boost repositories are organized. Please study the Modular Boost Overview before continuing, since a Boost developer needs to be familiar with how Boost organizes its repositories.

The examples given on this page follow Boost recommended workflow practices, but keep workflow discussion simple for this introduction. To better understand workflow recommendations and rationale before continuing, feel free to read Modular Boost Library Workflow Overview.

Prerequisites

One-time tasks after conversion from Subversion

Important: You need to establish a master merge point after the Subversion conversion before you start regular maintenance.

If you haven't done so already, follow the instructions on Establishing a merge point after Subversion Conversion.

Typical maintenance tasks

Getting ready to work on a library

The preferred environment library maintenance is to checkout the library's develop branch, or some other development branch, while other Boost libraries are as defined by the Boost super-project master branch. This causes local tests of your library to run against master for other Boost libraries at the point in time referenced by the Boost super-project.

This is a more realistic test environment in than testing against the possibly unstable develop branch of other Boost libraries or against the master branch of other libraries at a different point in time than that referenced by the super-project. Robert Ramey has advocated this approach to testing for years, and Git plus Modular Boost makes this approach relatively easy and fast.

cd modular-boost
git checkout master
git pull
git submodule update

The git submodule update will fail if it would result in uncommitted changes being overwritten.

The git submodule update may switch submodules back to the detached state, depending on the working copy's exact situation.

See Effects of git submodule update for details.

To get more information about a submodule:

cd modular-boost
git submodule summary

If for some reason you wanted to test against the current head of master for all libraries, disregarding the super-project state, the git submodule update command would be changed to:

git submodule foreach --recursive "git checkout master; git pull"

If modules are added, these should be added to your project too, which is not done by the commands above. Run:

git submodule update --init

Note that if you use the --init option, the already-initialized submodules will not be updated. You might have to run the command without --init afterwards.

Check out the development branch of your library

You can see what branch mylib is currently on like this:

cd modular-boost/libs/mylib
git branch

Then if you need to change the branch to a development branch such as develop, do this:

cd modular-boost/libs/mylib
git checkout develop

You only have to do that once; your local repo working copy will sit on the branch until it is explicitly changed by a command you give.

Of course, you don't have to change the directory before every command, and from here on this tutorial will assume the directory has not been changed since the prior example.

If there is any possibility the branch head content in the public upstream repo has changed, you also will want to update content:

cd modular-boost/libs/mylib
git pull

From this point on, it is assumed you have already done a cd modular-boost/libs/mylib.

Testing locally

Unless you are 100% sure of the state of your library's regression tests, it is a good idea to run the regression tests before making any changes to the library:

pushd test
b2
popd

Checking status

Before making changes, it is a good idea to check status. Here is what that looks like on Windows; the message you get may vary somewhat:

>git status
# On branch develop
nothing to commit, working directory clean

Fix a simple bug directly on develop

For simple bugs, particularly in projects with a single maintainer, it is common practice to fix bugs directly in the develop branch. Creating a test case with your favorite editor, testing the test case, fixing the bug, testing the fix, and then iterating if necessary is no different than with any programming environment.

Once the fix is complete, you then commit the fix locally and push from your local repo up to your public boostorg repo on GitHub?. These same commands would be used for any Git project, modular or not, so hopefully you are already somewhat familiar with them:

cd modular-boost/libs/mylib
git commit -a -m "my bug fix"
git push

There are some significant disadvantages to this simple approach:

  • The fix is now made to develop but you must remember to merge it to a release branch or directly to master. It is very easy to forget to do that merge, particularly if this is a mature library you are not working with very often.
  • Users who need the bug fix right away are forced to jump through hoops to retrieve the fix from develop.

Putting out a point release solves both of those problems. Read on...

Fix a bug using a hot-fix branch

Fixing a bug directly on the develop branch is fine, if that's the library's policy, but if the bug is messy, multiple maintainers are involved, interruptions are expected, or other complexities are present, then it is better practice to work on the bug in a separate branch. And doing that on a hot-fix branch solves the problems mentioned at the end of the prior section.

The operational distinction between a bug-fix branch and a hot-fix branch is that a bug-fix branch is branched from develop and then at completion merged back to develop, while a hot-fix branch is branched from master and then at completion is merged to both master and develop. With either approach, the branch is deleted after it has been merged.

git checkout master
git checkout -b hotfix/complex-boo-boo

This creates the branch hotfix/complex-boo-boo, and switches to it. Incidentally, hotfix/ is part of the name, not a directory specifier. The new branch is based on branch master because the working copy was on branch master at the time of the branch.

Since the bug is complex, it may take some time to fix and may go through several cycles of fixes, tests, and commits.

Once the bug is fixed and a final commit is done, then it is time to merge the hotfix/complex-boo-boo branch into master and develop:

git checkout master
git merge hotfix/complex-boo-boo
git push
git checkout develop
git merge hotfix/complex-boo-boo
git push
git branch -d hotfix/complex-boo-boo

Start work on a new feature

Developers are encouraged to create a (possibly private) branch to work on new features, even simple ones, since development of new features on the develop branch might leave it unstable for longer that expected. Using the Git Flow convention, the branch will be named feature/add-checksum-option.

git checkout develop
git checkout -b feature/add-checksum-option

When you create the branch, or perhaps later, you may decide the branch should be public (i.e. be present in the library's public boostorg repo) so that you can share the branch with others or just to back it up. If so, set that up by running:

git push --set-upstream origin feature/add-checksum-option

Whether or not --set-upstream origin bugfix/complex-boo-boo is actually needed depends on the branch.autosetupmerge configuration variable that isn't discussed here. If you don't supply --set-upstream origin bugfix/complex-boo-boo on your first push and it turns out to be needed, you will get an error message explaining that.

The usual cycle of coding, testing, commits, and pushes (if public) then begins. If other work needs to be done, a stash or commit may be done to save work-in-progress, and the working copy switched to another branch for awhile. If significant fixes or other enhancements have been made to develop over time, it may be useful to merge develop into the feature branch so that the eventual merge back to develop has less conflicts. Here is how the merge from develop to feature/add-checksum-option is done:

git checkout feature/add-checksum-option
git merge develop

Lightweight library release

Small, simple libraries and simple releases just merge the development branch, such as develop, into master, and test like this:

git checkout master
git merge --no-ff develop
pushd test
b2
popd

If there are any test failures, correct the problem, retest, and commit the fixes before proceeding with the release.

if there are no test failures, tag for release and declare victory:

git push                            # push merge results
git tag -a -m "tag for release" mylib-2014-06-02
git push origin mylib-2014-06-02    # push specific tag to avoid pushing all local tags

See Modular Boost Library Workflow for release tag naming conventions.

Heavyweight library release

Large, complex libraries, particularly those with multiple developers working in parallel, need to use a release procedure that scales up better than the lightweight procedure. The Git Flow approach is recommended. Find out more at Modular Boost Library Workflow Overview and be sure to study the examples given in Vincent Driessen's original blog posting.

Effects of git submodule update

The following table, based on actual tests run using git version 1.8.4.msysgit.0, shows the effects on a submodule of:

cd modular-boost
git checkout master
git pull
git submodule update
Submodule Branch Submodule Contents Submodule relative to super-project Effects on Submodule
Detached Unmodified Up-to-date None
Detached Unmodified Behind git pull
Detached Uncommitted change Up-to-date error: Your local changes to the following files would be overwritten by checkout: ... Please, commit your changes or stash them before you can switch branches. Aborting Unable to checkout (SHA...) in submodule path '...'
Detached Uncommitted change Behind error: Your local changes to the following files would be overwritten by checkout: ... Please, commit your changes or stash them before you can switch branches. Aborting Unable to checkout (SHA ...) in submodule path '...'
Detached Committed change Up-to-date git checkout --detach
Detached Committed change Behind git checkout --detach; git pull
master Unmodified Up-to-date git checkout --detach
master Unmodified Behind git pull (but no detach)
master Uncommitted change Up-to-date error: Your local changes to the following files would be overwritten by checkout: ... Please, commit your changes or stash them before you can switch branches. Aborting Unable to checkout (SHA...) in submodule path '...'
master Uncommitted change Behind error: Your local changes to the following files would be overwritten by checkout: ... Please, commit your changes or stash them before you can switch branches. Aborting Unable to checkout (SHA...) in submodule path '...'
master Committed change Up-to-date git checkout --detach
master Committed change Behind git checkout --detach; git pull
develop Unmodified Up-to-date git checkout --detach
develop Unmodified Behind git checkout --detach; git pull
develop Uncommitted change Up-to-date error: Your local changes to the following files would be overwritten by checkout: ... Please, commit your changes or stash them before you can switch branches. Aborting Unable to checkout (SHA...) in submodule path '...'
develop Uncommitted change Behind error: Your local changes to the following files would be overwritten by checkout: ... Please, commit your changes or stash them before you can switch branches. Aborting Unable to checkout (SHA...) in submodule path '...'
develop Committed change Up-to-date git checkout --detach
develop Committed change Behind git checkout --detach; git pull

Please be aware that git checkout --detach; and git pull are used as shorthand to describe the apparent effects. The actual git implementation may differ.

Acknowledgements

Beman Dawes created and maintains this page. The content has been revised many times based on comments and list postings from Andrey Semashev, John Maddock, Daniel James, Michael Cox, Pete Dimov, Edward Diener, Bjørn Roald, Klaim - Joël Lamotte, Peter A. Bigot, and others.

Last modified 4 years ago Last modified on Jun 18, 2014, 10:15:01 AM