CMake Proposal

tridge at tridge at
Sun Feb 28 15:35:05 MST 2010

Hi Bill,

A number of people (including yourself) have asked me to explain
exactly what it would take for me to be happy with cmake as a build
system for Samba.

The first and most important criterion is that it be better than the
current system. To work out if it meets that criterion we first need
to look at what is wrong with the current system.

To illustrate one of the problems with the current system I'd like to
point you at this recent commit:;a=commitdiff;h=1203de99b178a2d7f6c7c6534c42d05242322fe3

all looks quite reasonable, yes? Simo is removing a subsystem called
'SCHANNELDB' from the gensec component of Samba4 as it has been
replaced with a different approach (one based on a tdb).

There is a problem though. He missed a place where we list a
dependency on SCHANNELDB. Have a look at this bit of build config:;a=blob;f=source4/rpc_server/;h=5ff1bd572263ce8f19b4c550c68a963a8796249e;hb=1203de99b178a2d7f6c7c6534c42d05242322fe3

that is the build rules for the rpc_server component of Samba4. Look
at line 131, in the rules for the dcerpc_server subsystem. You'll see
that it still lists a dependency on the SCHANNELDB subsystem. It is an
easy mistake to make.

Our current build system allows this type of error. That is because it
spits out a Makefile, and in the make language using an undefined
variable is not an error.

Let's do the same thing in cmake. This patch makes the
talloc_testsuite in the cmake rules Andreas wrote depend on the
non-existent SCHANNELDB subsystem:

  --- a/lib/talloc/CMakeLists.txt
  +++ b/lib/talloc/CMakeLists.txt
  @@ -72,7 +72,7 @@ set(talloc_SRCS

   # build libraries and binaries
   add_library(${LIBTALLOC_LIBRARY} SHARED ${talloc_SRCS})
  -target_link_libraries(${LIBTALLOC_LIBRARY} ${LIBREPLACE_LIBRARY})


Now try and build talloc with cmake. You'll get no errors and no
warnings. So just like our current buildsystem, cmake has swallowed a
non-existent dependency.

If we do the same thing with waf:

  --- a/lib/talloc/wscript
  +++ b/lib/talloc/wscript
  @@ -22,4 +22,4 @@ def build(bld):

                        'testsuite.c testsuite_main.c',
  -                     deps='talloc')
  +                     deps='talloc SCHANNELDB')

then this is what we get:

  object 'SCHANNELDB' was not found in uselib_local (required by add_objects 'talloc_testsuite')

and it refuses to build until you fix the missing dependency.

Ok, so that is the first criterion for a successful use of cmake or
any other build system as a replacement for our current system. It
much catch the types of errors that tend to accumulate in large
projects and that have accumulated in Samba (waf has found many
examples of this type of thing in our current build rules).

What other problems do we have in our current build system? Well, the
build rules that contributors to Samba have to routinely edit are too
esoteric. Some of them are quite clear, for example, if we look at the
build rule for the dcerpc_server:

  INIT_FUNCTION = dcerpc_server_netlogon_init
  SUBSYSTEM = dcerpc_server
		auth_sam \

then it is pretty clear what is meant. It doesn't have much error
checking (as evidenced by the SCHANNELDB problem), but it is at least
fairly clear what is intended, even if you haven't worked with the
build system before.

A few lines further up in the same file is something that is less

  # Start MODULE dcerpc_srvsvc
  INIT_FUNCTION = dcerpc_server_srvsvc_init
  SUBSYSTEM = dcerpc_server
  # End MODULE dcerpc_srvsvc

  dcerpc_srvsvc_OBJ_FILES = $(addprefix $(rpc_serversrcdir)/srvsvc/, dcesrv_srvsvc.o srvsvc_ntvfs.o)

  $(eval $(call proto_header_template,$(rpc_serversrcdir)/srvsvc/proto.h,$(dcerpc_srvsvc_OBJ_FILES:.o=.c)))

The main module declaration of dcesrv_srvsvc is fairly clear, but the
'eval' bit isn't. If you stare at it long enough you may realise it is
saying that we need to build the srvsvc/proto.h prototype file using
an external rule called proto_header_template. The use of the eval is
pretty hard to understand though.

I also think the dcerpc_srvsvc_OBJ_FILES part could be clearer. It
works by magically appending "_OBJ_FILES" to the end of the module
name to find the variable which lists the object files the module
needs. It is not awful, but it could be better.

For the wscript build my auto-conversion script read the above snippet
and created this instead:

                   source='srvsvc/dcesrv_srvsvc.c srvsvc/srvsvc_ntvfs.c',
                   deps='DCERPC_COMMON NDR_SRVSVC share'

which (at least to me!) is much clearer, especially for the automatic
prototype generation. Even for someone who had never worked with this
build system before I think they could probably work out how to make
changes to it. If they do get it wrong, then at least the build system
is likely to tell them what they did wrong so they can fix it. That
comes from using a language that has error checking. I've also 
adding extra ASSERT() statements in the waf samba rules to add
additional checks to ensure that common mistakes give very clear
errors. For example:

    bld.ASSERT(subsystem is not None, "You must specify a subsystem for init_function '%s'" % init_function)

Ok, so that is the 2nd criterion for a successful conversion to a new
build system. Common maintenance tasks of Samba must be possible by
people who are not really familiar with the internals of the build

Next, we need to be able to encode the project rules. One of the
biggest problems with the Samba4 build at the moment is that we
generate massive binaries are libraries, about 10x larger than we
should. This happens because subsystems get included many times in
different libraries and get included in lots of binaries. As you saw
in my previous email to Simo, I suggested that we need a set of
'project rules' that make this sort of thing an error. I know how to
encode those sorts of rules in waf, as I've already done it for the
related dependency checking rules. For example, I've got a rule that
checks that we don't have any circular dependencies, and it produces

 ERROR: Circular dependency for auth_system_session: auth_system_session->auth_session->SAMDB->auth_system_session
 Removing dependency auth_session from target auth_system_session

the same type of waf rules can be used to enforce any type of project
rule you like. Can you do that in cmake? Quite possibly, but you'd
need to demonstrate it to convince me. 

I hope that is enough for you to understand what I'm personally
looking for in a build system. Other team members may have other
priorities. Once we have a replacement available that works we will
have to look at it as a team and decide if it really is better than
what we have now. If it isn't then it won't be used.

If you do decide to pursue this, then I would strongly encourage you
to try to build a tool that auto-converts the existing files
in Samba. Otherwise you will spend a very long time re-creating the
equivalent by hand. You may wish to look at my (extremely hackish!) conversion program in my waf-wip branch to get
started. It shouldn't be hard to modify it to output whatever cmake

I should also mention that it could happen that I hit some major
stumbling block with waf, and I can't make a Samba build system with
waf that is better than our current system. I don't think that will
happen as I'm far enough along to already be looking at the hardest
parts of the conversion, but if it does happen then I might look at
cmake instead, or maybe we'll just try to fix the existing build
system if cmake can't handle the basic criterion I have given above.

What if we end up with both a set of cmake rules and a set of waf
rules that meet these basic criterion? In that case I suspect it will
come down to the ancillary stuff, like usability for our existing
users (eg. --prefix --enable-developer etc), and dependence on
external tools. It may be that cmake has some advantages that could be
weighed against those. In which case someone would have to argue what
those are, and we'd need to make a choice.

Either way, this whole conversion is going to take a long time and a
lot of effort. So let's please make sure we end up with something that
really is better than what we have now. To get started on that, it is
essential that the person doing the conversion really understands the
current system.

Cheers, Tridge

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