Revision 2 as of 2016-06-03 23:41:22

Clear message

The Ubuntu Server Team has devised a git-based workflow for merges. It relies on a set of tools written to assist in the process, but the underlying driver is a basic git-rebase process. This page will attempt to describe the tools used, and the general workflow, with an example or two. Finally, there will be some notes about corner-cases or caveats to the process that might need special-handling.

NB: this page is a work in progress and no guarantees are asserted as to its correctness while it is fleshed out.

Git workflow for merging

Algorithm outline

  1. Clone usd-import'd tree.
    1. xgit

  2. usd-merge tag -f ubuntu/<development release>

    1. Verify tags
  3. usd-merge reconstruct old/ubuntu

    1. Verify full history is present
  4. git rebase -i old/debian

    1. Break up git commits into one-commit-per-changelog entry.
    2. `git tag deconstruct/<version>

  5. git rebase -i old/debian

    1. Drop changelog and metadata modifications.
    2. `git tag logical/<version>

  6. git rebase -i new/debian

    1. Fold, fixup, drop Ubuntu delta.
    2. git reconstruct-changelog new/debian

    3. git merge-changelogs old/debian old/ubuntu new/debian

    4. update-maintainer

  7. usd-merge commit

  8. git push

  9. Request merge (or push directly to the usd-import repository)

Detailed workflow

Tools: their usage, and where to get them


usage: usd-import [-h] [-o LP_OWNER] [-l LP_USER] [--no-push] [--force-push]
                  [--no-clean] [-v] [-d DIRECTORY] [-P PARENTFILE]

Update a launchpad git tree based upon the state of the Ubuntu and Debian

positional arguments:
  package               Which package to update in the git tree

optional arguments:
  -h, --help            show this help message and exit
  -o LP_OWNER, --lp-owner LP_OWNER
                        Which launchpad user's tree to update (default:
  -l LP_USER, --lp-user LP_USER
                        Specify the Launchpad user to use (default: <current username>)
  --no-push             Do not push to the remote (default: False)
  --force-push          Forcibly push all tags and branches from the import
                        (default: False)
  --no-clean            Do not clean the temporary directory (default: False)
  -v, --verbose         Increase verbosity (default: False)
  -d DIRECTORY, --directory DIRECTORY
                        Use git repository at specified location rather than a
                        temporary directory (implies --no-clean). Will create
                        the local repository if needed. (default: None)
                        File specifying parent-child relationship overrides
                        as: <pkgname> <child version> <parent1 version>
                        <parent2 version> with one override per line.
                        (default: None)

Available from Launchpad git repository.

The primary problem we are trying to solve is how to make merges consistent across the server team, and, ideally easy to review for sponsors/uploaders.

Robie Basak and others came up with a git-based workflow (documented roughly on Github and hopefully clarified here). This workflow 'just' uses git (the only addition to 'stock' git are a few commands (git-dsc-commit, git-merge-changelogs, git-reconstruct-changelog) from git:// to effectively rebase the ubuntu tip onto the latest debian tip. That presumes you spent the time yourself to create a repository with commits representing the current states of debian unstable and the ubuntu development release.

The goal for the importer is to have canonical (little c) location for such commits to live, per-package. Everyone can refer to commits and tags in that tree, and they will have well-defined semantics and share SHA1s.

A secondary problem was obtaining the 'complete' history for a given source package. This would allow a user to git-blame a give file and get useful data. So we extended the algorithm (that Robie designed) to be more flexible. After hitting many corner-cases during implementation, we scrapped our complicated algorithm that produced clean trees for a clean algorithm that produces complicated trees.

Feel free to skip the next section if you're not interested in the implementation.

Algorithmic discussion

In essence, the algorithm looks at Launchpad's publishing history for versions it hasn't seen before (which if an empty or no local repository is specified and you aren't cloning an existing repository will be all of them). For each such version, it uses pull-lp-source/pull-debian-source equivalents and git-dsc-commit to import them into the git repository. Technically it uses a lower-level command then a proper commit (git write-tree and `git commit-tree`), so that we can get the imported tree, examine it and find its parents and then commit it. The parents for an imported tree are at most 2:

  1. The last version imported into the same series/pocket, with some knowledge of how to establish a new series/pocket.
  2. The last debian/changelog entry (using debian/changelog from the just-imported tree) that was successfully imported.

We call these the 'publishing parent' and 'changelog parent' respectively. Now, if we can't find either of these, we will orphan the import and if we only find one, we'll use what we have. But the resulting tree looks like many git-merges, even where there are not ubuntu-merges. This is correct by the algorithm but can be confusing to the original git-rebase workflow, because rebase will try to replay the git-merges and that doesn't work. More on this later.


usage: git-dsc-commit [--tree-only] DSCFILE

Untars the version specified by the DSCFILE and commits it to a git repository.

optional arguments:
  --tree-only           Only call git-write-tree on the result.
                        git-commit-tree will need to be manually
                        invoked to commit the changes to the


usage: git-reconstruct-changelog COMMITISH

Replays git commit messages starting after COMMITISH into debian/changelog.



Runs dpkg-mergechangelogs on the debian/changelogs from the passed commitishs.


usage: xgit

Either 'enters' or 'exits' an xgit-configured git repository. Such a repository
as a git/ and gitwd/ directory structure, where git/ is the GIT_DIR and gitwd/
is the GIT_WORK_TREE. This allows for easier git-dsc-commit invocation and
clarity on what is in the working tree and what is not.

Available from Github repository.


usage: usd-merge [tag [-f]|reconstruct|commit] COMMITISH [ONTOISH]

Given a usd-import'd tree, attempts to reconstruct the current sequence of
commits from `git-merge-base ONTOISH COMMITISH`, where ONTOISH defaults to
debian/sid (the last imported Debian unstable version). It attempts to match
debian/changelog from COMMITISH, and verifies that the resulting commit is
content-identical to COMMITISH. It then tags the resulting commit as
reconstruct/<latest version from COMMITISH debian/changelog>.

** work in progress, the tag and commit tools are yet-to-be-written.

A simple helper script entitled 'usd-import-reconstruct-merge' [to be renamed to usd-merge] which can take a usd-import'd tree and a commitish and attempts to give you a reconstructed sequence of linear commits that represent the same state as the commitish. It does this by using merge-base to figure out the common ancestor (it assumes onto is debian/sid but it also accepts a parameter) and then playing back the debian/changelog looking for imported tags. It then cherry-picks those tags from oldest to newest against the merge-base and does a quick sanity check that the resulting commit does not differ from the original one.

It tags that as reconstruct/<version> which sort of conflicts with the git-based workflow some have been using previously. In that workflow, reconstruct/<version> is the broken-down sequence of changes including changelog and metadata, where each commit is a single change from the changelog. I have taken to now calling that pointer deconstruct/<version> because it's clever.

So you would break down reconstruct/<version> into its constituent changes (per debian/changelog for each version) and tag the resulting end-commit as deconstruct/<version>.

That can then be broken up by our workflow into a logical/<version> tag and then rebased onto debian/sid (or the specified onto).

Available from Launchpad git repository.


Already imported trees live, currently, at:

Currently, because once we feel confident in the utility and correctness of the importer, we'll move them to


All of this tooling is not meant to replace or reproduce any prior tools or works. And it is definitely not meant to replace a basic understanding of what a merge is and why they are necessary. The tooling is meant to make merges easier, but they are still not foolproof and require care and thought.