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Posts tagged with 'bzr'

Tim Penhey (thumper)

Breaking up work for review

It was Friday morning after three days of working on one feature. Last thing Thurday I counted the size of the change and it was over 1100 lines and I wasn't quite finished. I found myself in the situation that turns up periodically that I wanted to break up my work into cohesive reviewable chunks. Now it isn't a matter of taking commits x through y as chunk one, and so on, as the size grew organically as I changed what needed to be changed, and wrote what needed to be written without really stopping to think about the size of the change until it was done. However now it was done, I wanted to break it up.

Last time I did this, I used looms, but Aaron told me we could do it easily using his new Bazaar pipeline plugin. So I spent some time talking through with Aaron on how to do it, promising to write it up if it worked well. I must say that it was good. During the process we identified a number of enhancements to the plug in to make it even easier.

I'm going to show the progression we made, along with our thoughts. I have trimmed some of the output when I've decided that it doesn't add value.

The first thing I had to do was to get the pipeline plugin.

$ bzr branch lp:bzr-pipeline ~/.bazaar/plugins/pipeline

Unfortunately this seemed to clash slightly with the QBzr plugin. The were both trying to redefine merge. Personally I don't use QBzr and had probably just installed it to take a look, so I removed that plugin.

Caution: the pipeline plugin relies on switch so works with lightweight checkouts. This is how I work anyway, so I didn't have anything to do here, but if you work differently, YMMV.

The pipeline plugin is designed around having a set of branches one after (individual pipes) the other that perform a pipeline, clever eh? When you have the pipeline plugin, any branch is also considered a pipeline of one.

$ bzr show-pipeline
* nice-distribution-code-listing

What I was wanting to do was to break up this work into a number of distinct change sets, each that could be reviewed independently. We decided that the way to do this was to create a pipe before the current one, and bring changes in. This is done with the command add-pipe.

$ bzr add-pipe factory-tweaks --before nice-distribution-code-listing
$ bzr show-pipeline
* nice-distribution-code-listing

Right here we decided that there should be an easier way to add a pipe before the current pipe, as right now it needs a pipe name. A bug was filed to track this.

You can see from the show-pipeline command that the new pipe is before the current one. The pipeline plugin addes a number of branch aliases:

  • :first - the first pipe in the pipeline

  • :prev - the pipe before the current pipe

  • :next - the pipe after the current pipe

  • :last - the last pipe in the pipeline

Now to make the switch to the first pipe. Both :prev and :first refer to the same branch here, and I could have used either.

$ bzr switch :prev
... changed files shown
All changes applied successfully.
Now on revision 8747.

Now this pipe was added from the pipe after it, so it starts off with the same head revision. Not exactly the starting point I wanted, so we replaced the head of this branch with the last revision of the trunk branch that we had merged in.

$ bzr pull --overwrite -r submit:

The submit: alias refers to the submit branch. This is often trunk, and is in my project layout (specified using submit_branch in .bazaar/locations.conf).

Now the lower pipe was a copy of trunk. A good place to start adding changes I think. The next problem was how to get the changes from the following pipe into this one. Our first attempt was to merge in the following branch, shelve what we didn't want, throw away the actual merge, but keep the changed text, and commit.

$ bzr merge :next
$ bzr shelve
$ bzr stat
pending merge tips: (use -v to see all merge revisions)
Tim Penhey 2009-07-02 New view added.
$ bzr revert --forget-merges
$ bzr stat
$ bzr commit -m "More default args to factory methods and whitespace cleanup."

Now this seemed very convoluted. Why merge and then forget the merge? I seemed kinda icky, but it worked. The next thing to do is to merge these changes down the pipeline. This is done through another command pump.

$ bzr pump

This merges and commits the changes down the pipeline. If there are conflicts, it stops and leaves you in the conflicted pipe. This didn't occur here, nor did it occur for any of my other ones. Here you can see the commit message that pump used:

$ bzr switch :next
$ bzr log --line -r -1
8714: Tim Penhey 2009-07-03 [merge] Merged factory-tweaks into nice-distribution-code-listing.
$ bzr switch :prev

Now it was time to add the next pipe.

$ bzr add-pipe code-test-helpers
$ bzr show-pipeline
* factory-tweaks
$ bzr switch :next

This time, instead of merging in the changes, we shelved them in. The shelve command. The shelve command can apply changes from arbitrary revisions, and it also knows about files. The change that I wanted in this branch was a single added file, so I could tell shelve about that file.

$ bzr shelve -r branch::next lib/lp/code/tests/
Selected changes:
+ lib/lp/code/tests/
Changes shelved with id "2".

However the big problem with this is it all looks backwards. We are shelving from the future not the past. This really did my head in. Shelve would say "remove this file?" and by shelving it, it would add it in. It worked but made my head fuzzy. We filed a bug about this too. By adding a better way to take the changes, the command could do the reversal for you and provide you with a nicer question.

More of the same happened for the next few pipes, and I won't bore you with repeated commands.

On the whole, the pipeline plugin worked really well. I was able to break my work up into five hunks which could be reviewed easily. In the end I kept working on the branch that was my original, so all my original history remained intact. It would have been just as easy to add another pipe and take the remaining changes. This would have left me with five branches, each with one commit. This works well for the way we work as we have reviews based on branches. Each pipe could be pushed to Launchpad and a review initiated for it. With some more UI polish, I think pipelines will be even more awesome than I think they are now.

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Tim Penhey (thumper)

Shelving looms

For a feature that I'm currently working on, I decided to try out the loom plugin. Looms have been around for a little while, but I just hadn't gotten around to trying them out.

We have code reviews of all work that is to be merged. Part of this process is to try to limit changes to 800 lines of unified diff. We have found that when the branches have more changes than this the time to review the branch increases non-linearly with the increase in line count. In the past in order to break up a "chunky" branch I would branch from trunk for the first part:

$ bzr cbranch trunk feature-part-1

(I use cbranch as I don't have my working trees in my repository. This is another story to write about. cbranch is found in bzrtools.)

Once this part was complete, I would branch from that for part-2:

$ bzr cbranch feature-part-1 feature-part-2

Complications come in when I want to bring an updated trunk into my branch for part-2, as it makes getting a diff of changes much more difficult as I can no longer generate a diff simply. This problem propagates if I need three or four parts to implement the feature.

Enter looms. Looms provide a new branch format for Bazaar. To convert your branch to the new format, you use the command loomify. You can then create threads of your loom. Each thread is like another branch.

So, the process goes something like this:

$ bzr cbranch trunk my-new-feature
$ cd my-new-feature
$ bzr loomify
$ hack, commit, hack, commit, hack, commit
$ bzr create-thread next-part-of-feature

Creating a thread is like creating a new branch which has the same revisions as the last thread.

$ hack, commit, hack, commit, et al

However what happened after several hours of hacking away, and several diversions in the code that needed fixing, I checked out the size of the branch.

$ bzr diff -r thread:

(The loom plugin adds a revision specifier to easily allow things like this to see all the changes that were introduced by the current thread.)

Oh, damn. The resulting size was about 1100 lines. Now while our 800 line limit is set in stone, it is considered a bit rude if you could have broken it up but didn't. Stepping through the diff I identified three distinct chunks of work that could be broken out for review. My question was "now that I have all this in a loom, and I have a vested interest in keeping the loom as the current work is based on an earlier thread, how the hell am I going to break this work up?" Shelve to the rescue. Shelve is also found in bzrtools. I also wanted to have the threads named reasonably, and unfortunately there is no easy way to rename a thread right now. I wanted to have the threads named alpha, bravo and charlie (well, not really, but you get the picture). The first step is to create alpha and get rid of the current thread.

$ bzr create-thread alpha
$ bzr down-thread

create-thread takes you to the new thread too, so using down-thread to go back to the thread I was working on before.

$ bzr combine-thread

This effectively discards the current thread. The assumption is that the changes from this thread had been merged into the lower thread through merging another branch. This hasn't happened in this case, and discarding is what we want here. So now I'm at the state where I was before except my thread is now called "alpha". Now to break out the changes for alpha.

$ bzr create-thread bravo
$ bzr down-thread

I created a thread bravo. This is also at the state where all three parts are there and working. Next I went back to "alpha" thread. Now we use shelve using the revision specifier that looms introduce. Shelve by default will just allow you to shelve (or put to one side) the uncommitted changes.

$ bzr shelve -r thread:

Now I get lots of questions. Do I want to shelve each of the chunks. I shelve all changes that are unrelated to the alpha feature. What I'm left with after this command is a working tree as it would be if I had just written the alpha feature on a clean thread. I checked the results with:

$ bzr diff -r thread:

Looks good, so commit.

$ bzr commit -m "Shelved changes unrelated to alpha."

Now for the magic.

$ bzr up-thread

This takes me back to "bravo". However up-thread also merges in the changes from the thread below. Now my tree is showing that all the changes relating to bravo and charlie have been removed. The actual merge magic is done with this command:

$ bzr revert .

Take a special note of the dot. Without the dot the revert would revert the entire merge. I don't want this. I just want to revert the changes to the tree. I need bzr to remember that I have merged the changes from the thread below. This is exactly what the "revert ." does. The changes to the three are reverted, but the merge isn't. Next you need to commit.

$ bzr commit -m "Merge from alpha while splitting up the changes."

Now I have the alpha thread with just the changes needed to implement alpha, and a bravo thread that appears to introduced the bravo and charlie features. I also have a .shelf directory (created by shelve). Since I have no intention of unshelving these changes (as they are already there), I delete this directory. I'm not sure if this is strictly necessary, but I like to run a clean shop.

To break apart the bravo and charlie features I repeated the process. The end result was three separate threads that each appear to introduce a single feature.


One point of caution. Sometimes in the breaking apart, you don't always get a clean break. In these situations you need to keep more than you need (i.e. don't shelve that change), and once the revert and commit is done, then go back to the earlier thread and clean up. If you try to do it earlier, the changes will be thrown away in the revert dot command, and then it just gets messier.

All in all I'm really enjoying working with looms. I currently have about eight threads, and will probably need another four or five to finish the feature, but this way it is dead easy to keep the changes small and distinct and simple to review.

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Tim Penhey (thumper)

Another week

Well the school holidays are now almost over and tomorrow morning I have to start getting up early again. Not looking forward to that.

Last week was another chaotic work week with the branches for the next release needed to to be ready for review a week ago, and then reviewed and merged by the end of the week just been. By the start of Friday there were around 15ish branches in the queue. By the end of the day over 20. It took some time and a couple of tries but finally my branches made it through.

I really do love bzr. The tool allowed me to merge my three branches into the first. When that failed due to a branch that landed just prior, I merged that first branch (now three branches) into the second (which is one of the three) and fixed the problems. That one failed too but for a different reason. I then merged the second branch into the third and fixed the next. At this stage I also included another branch of a colleague and resolved all the conflicts and errors. That one made it. Yay! Bzr rocks!

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