MSysGit:MSysGitHerald9

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Good morning git land!

A clear Tuesday night, just after midnight, is as good an occasion as any to offer to you the 9th production of the msysGit Herald, the quite irregular news letter to keep you informed about msysGit, the effort to bring one of the most powerful Source Code Management systems to the Operating System known as Windows.

These are the covered topics:

  • What happened since the last Herald (1 year, 2 months and 11 days ago)?
  • Interview with Pat Thoyts
  • TortoiseGit vs GitCheetah
  • Being not nice about netiquette
  • New contributors
  • The issue with the issue tracker
  • Supporting send-email: mstmp
  • The MSys project
  • A GitTogether in Berlin "Alles wird Git!"


I'm back.


What happened since the last Herald (1 year, 2 months and 11 days ago)?

Git 1.5.5.

Git 1.5.6.

Git 1.5.6.1.

Git 1.6.0.2 (the new libexec/ layout really gave us some problems).

Git 1.6.0.3.

Git 1.6.1.

Git 1.6.2.

Git 1.6.2.2.

Git 1.6.3.

(The last three were done by me, serving as interim maintainer when Steffen Prohaska was on some well-deserved vacation.)

We started recently to ship Portable Git packages, i.e. archives that only need to be unpacked (as opposed to be installed).

In the meantime, we fixed quite some bugs. Just to give you an idea, the newest bug report is msysGit issue 256 (already fixed), while the number of open issues -- some of them enhancement requests -- is 17. Slightly more than a sixteenth. Not bad, I would say.

During the same time, we upgraded GCC to version 4.3.3, and then to 4.4.0.

Tcl/Tk was updated to version 8.5.5.

We also upgraded vi to version 7.2 (thanks Christian Michon).

GNU make was upgraded to version 3.81.

Git filter-branch was included back into the installer, as it seems to work now.

Marius Storm-Olsen contributed patches to speed up malloc() and readdir(). This might sound uninteresting, but the test suite (run with -j5, i.e. 5 parallel threads) runs in 18 minutes now, opposed to 45 minutes. A reduction by 60%. Good stuff.

Lots of patches sent upstream. I mean lots. Really lots. Thanks go to Hannes Sixt and Steffen!

In particular, Hannes worked very hard on getting the test suite up-to-par. We currently have almost no deviations there from upstream git.git.

The patches accepted into git.git succeeded in reducing the deviations from git.git to only a handful of patches, which were compiled by Steffen into the 'work/not-v1.6.3' branch of 4msysgit, subject to being thrown upstream in the near future.

The program 'git-svn' was removed in time for release 1.6.0.2 due to lack of maintainership. We were talked into including it again into 1.6.2 after Alexander Gavrilov contributed some patches to fix the most obvious issues. To this date, there is no maintainer of git-svn on Windows, and as a consequence we still have to stick with (slow) MSys Perl, and some things just do not work on Windows.

There has been work to choose something different than the much-hated autoCRLF=true option during install: there are options for autoCRLF=false and autoCRLF=input together with explanations, with the latest installers.

The "netinstall" and "fullinstall" packages should work again (fullinstall is stuck at 1.6.1 for the moment, basically because I am too lazy, and do not want to waste much of our Google Code quota for a new fullinstall package).

We now have a "kill" tool, thanks to Alexander Gavrilov.

We make full use of pthreads on Windows now (thanks to Dhruva Krishnamurthy and Peter Harris).

There is subtantially better support for running Git from cmd.exe.

We patched msys-1.0.dll in several ways to accomodate Git better. An important step was to have a script that allows us to rebuild msys-1.0.dll relatively easily from within msysGit. The most important work was done by Steffen.

It was pretty awkward to switch msysGit branches on Windows, as files in-use (such as msys-1.0.dll) cannot be overwritten. We have added a hook to msysGit which installs a script on the desktop when a file in use needs replacing due to a branch switch. The user can then quit all msysGit windows, start that script and thereby fix up the files that need replacing, and then restart msysGit again. This is far from perfect, but way better than the situation before (where you were stuck with the dirty files forever).


Interview with Pat Thoyts

I noticed Pat for the first time on the msysGit tracker. He answered a Tcl/Tk related question, and the answer actually struck me as pretty competent, something I did not quite expect from a name I never heard before.

It turned out that Pat is a maintainer of Tcl/Tk, very proficient in Windows matters, and he was more than just helpful at a number of occasions.

Naturally, I like to honor people who add to msysGit's value in a substantial way, and asked him the 10 questions you all know by now. So, without further delay, here is what he says:

2009/5/12 Johannes Schindelin <Johannes.Schindelin@gmx.de>:

> 1) How did you get involved with Git?

I do a fair amount of work as a maintainer for Tcl and Tk, particularly for Windows issues for these projects. Some time ago I started to look at DVCS to see how they might help or change the way I work. Tcl and Tk use CVS at the moment and I typically have a number of patches sitting around on my working tree. When I change track I update the patch, apply it in reverse and apply some different patch. Clearly this can loose development history and can result in a proliferation of versioned patches.

Initially I looked into Mercurial as it had a reasonable following and apparently good Windows support. Mercurial encourages you to clone the repository for each branch you want to work on which leads to a lot of directories and eats quite a bit of space after a bit. I found I started to use the quilt equivalenet - mercurial queues - but that has trouble with line endings on windows.

I then had a look at git. Git makes a much smaller repository than Mercurial (for tcl .git is around 32MB while .hg is 98MB) but also branches are contained in the repository so there is only one place to look for everything. I have also had no problem with line-endings so far. Now all my patches have become branches in my local git repository leaving the system much tidier.

> 2) What were the reasons that you started working on Git?

As a software developer, if I encounter a problem in a tool I am using I generally will attempt to fix it. Most open source projects have far more bugs than developers so there is not usually much point just raising a complaint. It needs to be examined in more depth before anyone else can hope to fix it. In my case there were a few issues in gitk that I can quite easily deal with given my experience with Tk. The hardest thing was to work out what to do with the patches until I discovered they should all be posted to the git mailing list.

> 3) What do you like most in Git?

The speed. And gitk. And git bisect.

> 4) What do you hate most in Git?

The learning curve is steep. Even for someone who has a lot of experience with unix and the mindset behind such tools.

> 5) What was the most surprising moment when working with Git?

The speed at which you can check out the earliest versions of the code. For the Tk repository I can examine any commit right down to 1998 almost instantly, checkout the code for that version in next to no time. I've done a bisect to isolate a fault in less time than it has taken to checkout a given revision from sourceforge cvs.

> 6) What was the most frustrating moment when working with Git?

Discovering that cvsimport doesnt handle vendor branches properly. At the moment this is a major problem as I'm mirroring ongoing cvs development.

> 7) In what environment do you work?

Sat in an Ikea chair in the living room with a laptop ignoring the TV.

Oh - maybe you meant something else - Windows x64 mostly. And sometimes Linux. Occasionally solaris on a sparc server I have in a cupboard.

> 8) What other hobbies do you have?

Thats a joke right? I used to have hobbies - then I had children.

> 9) What is your favourite movie?

Usually the last one I saw. WallE for now then.

> 10) What are your visions for Git? (I.e. where do you want it to go?)

I don't really have any plans for git. It's looking good at the moment. Getting a good explorer plugin will make it more acceptable to a lot of windows developers so that is something to look into. I might be able to persuade my co-workers to make the switch if we had a robust plugin. gitk and gitweb already help with code review tasks. I might try and investigate ipv6 for msysgit at some point as I operate a ipv6 network locally using the SiXXS tunnel broker. Its not that urgent though. As ssh will run over ipv6 and my local git remotes will use ssh that means they are already using ipv6.

I am very happy to be able to use a native Windows git. I would not have looked at git at all if it had only had a cygwin port.

Pat Thoyts


TortoiseGit vs GitCheetah

A long time ago, I started GitCheetah in the hope that it would prove two things: a "Tortoise"-style Explorer extension does not need to be large, and does not need to be limited to Windows. Oh, and it does not have to rely on a closed-source compiler.

I was quite enthusiastic about the project, especially when some GSoC student offered to work on it last year. Unfortunately, he was grabbed by a different organization, but that's the way it goes.

To my further chagrin, Brian Hetro, who offered to take GitCheetah to new glory, stalled working on it pretty quickly.

At some state, Kirill (whose surname I do not know, but who lives pretty close to me now, it seems) started working on Git Cheetah, even if he seemed not to be willing to take the project into his own hands.

In the meantime, much to my now-enhanced sadness, somebody took TortoiseSVN and adapted it to Git. It makes me sad for several reasons:

- TortoiseSVN is big, too big for my liking, and so is TortoiseGit; I sincerely believe that it should be much smaller for the things it does,

- TortoiseGit seems to be compileable only with closed-source tools, and the author even seems happy about it,

- TortoiseGit is as unportable as TortoiseSVN (i.e. I cannot use it myself, Linux being my main platform),

- TortoiseGit takes resources -- including people -- that would be better spent on GitCheetah, and

- in spite of making me very sad, TortoiseGit benefits greatly from my (and others') work on msysGit.

In the meantime, I even had to notice that TortoiseHg implemented my dream of a cross-platform Tortoise. Why can't we have some people who are dedicated to this project rather than being happy to just wait for (and complain about the lack of) a capable and cross-platform FileBrowser extension?

Happily, Bosko Ivanisevic worked a bit on GitCheetah, adding cascaded menus and more, and maybe this project can build up enough momentum to be interesting even for Linux/MacOSX developers, which would add an additional benefit to the project.

So maybe there is some hope left.


Being not nice about netiquette

One of the biggest reasons which made me lose fun with msysGit back when I gave up on it was that many Windows users are just rude.

They probably do not mean to, and do not even realize that they are, but the whole idea of abusing the people who do all the work is not only incredibly wrong, it is also incredibly stupid: It should go without saying that if you want other people to work for you, you should provide them with a reason to do so. A good reason.

In Open Source, by tradiditon there are almost no financial benefits which could try to convince people to work for other people, as there is a usually active user community offering to help for free. No surprise that when asked "would you pay for Git support", the previous Git surveys came up pretty blank.

So there is no financial benefit.

The big problem is that Windows is often much harder to work on than other platforms, as not only documentation is worse, and not only are you not able to look at the source where the documentation is lacking: many things are just not the same in different installations, much more so than when comparing, say, different Linux installations.

Just one example: on Linux, you can rely on hard links being serialized properly. That is, if you call "link(source, target)" and right after that "unlink(source)" (to delete the file "source"), it works if "target" does not exist yet. This is the common paradigm on Unix to guarantee that "target" is not overwritten if it exists. Not so on Windows. Sometimes it works, but at other occasions, the procedure will succeed but "target" ends up corrupted (typically all zero, but correct size).

Needless to say that issues like this one are hard to debug, and cost a lot of time (I call this the "Microsoft time tax", the time you have to spend on coping with Windows that would be better spent on other issues).

So there is a tremendous amount of time to be spent, with no real benefit for most people who know how to fix things (as they seem to be mostly spread over other Operating Systems than Windows).

To repeat: the effect I saw was that many people got abusive, and many a user actually expected msysGit to work out-of-the-box, and got really angry when their issues were not taken care of -- for free!

As I had to work on msysGit again, and was unwilling to let my efforts go to waste (after all, the initial "port" to MSys was done by me, and when I ran out of steam, Hannes took over), I tried a different tack, which works out pretty fine so far.

The trick seems to be to actually use the powers I have as administrator of the Google Code page and the Google Group (having started it all, I am naturally given quite some permissions): I will not allow anybody to annoy me anymore.

I will delete comments on the Wiki that do not contribute value, I will delete comments on the Wiki if they are just not comments but insults (and I will even delete commants that are useful after addressing their concerns), I will remove comments on the issue tracker that I do not like because they are abusive or just rantings, and I will delete all mails in the Google Group that I find offensive.

This might sound selfish, but look at it this way: some people will vent, oblivious of the effects they have on the project and on the people doing all the hard work. They would cast a damning light on the project, just by their bad choice of words. And they would make people lose fun in the project, just like they succeed with me, over one year ago.

As some people (including me) put in a lot of effort, I feel obliged to delete offending comments and emails. I even feel good about removing them. If you do not like that policy, first earn my respect, and then complain privately about it.

Oh, and a little hint: you do not earn my respect by complaining.

If you need a hint how to earn my respect, do read on:


New contributors

For a very long time, msysGit was pushed forward by the gang formed of Hannes, Steffen, Sebastian Schuberth and myself. At some stage I got so frustrated that I stopped working on msysGit altogether. The reason is simple: it was no more fun. Way too many people asked for fixes or enhancements, and none of them offered contributions of their own. As I am not a Windows person (being a happy Linux user since 1994), the work on msysGit was not rewarding enough for me to continue. So I stopped.

But in the meantime, things have changed.

We got contributions by Eric Raible, Petr Kodl, Pat Thoyts, Jeff King, Janos Laube, Marius Storm-Olsen, Peter Harris, Markus Heidelberg, Edward Z. Yang, Steve Haslam, Dhruva Krishnamurthy, Clifford Caoile, Heiko Voigt, Erik Faye-Lund, Kurt Pfeifle, Kirill (?) and Alexander Gavrilov.

(And I should mention the continued contributions of Hannes Sixt, Steffen Prohaska and Sebastian Schuberth.)

A few of them became pretty regular contributors -- we can always do with more, but the situation has improved noticably.

I also want to thank all those who did not abuse the issue tracker to vent, or to report something and then go away, never to be seen again, or as a kind of a diary.

There were some very responsive people, one of them even offering VNC access so that I could debug issues on the machine where they happened.

My heartfelt thanks go to all people who were helping msysGit!


The issue with the issue tracker

Some time ago, I tried to disable the issue tracker, because issues started to accumulate, but nobody took care of them.

I was talked into reenabling it, putting the msysGit mailing list as "default assignee".

Unfortunately, my worst fears happened to become true. Still nobody took care of the issues. Still it seemed that I was the only person feeling enough of an itch to take care of the issues.

Even worse, some people abuse the issue tracker, either by adding issues that were already addressed (which can be a simple mistake, and therefore excusable), or by abusing it as a sort of a diary (which is not so excusable), or as a place to put rantings (which is not excusable, as it wastes the time of people trying to help), or even to put insulting comments (which totally inexcusable, there is nothing at all that could justify this behavior).

I have to admit that I am totally unamazed by the "sheer" number of people adding helpful comments to the issue tracker. I mean, I could understand if the ratio of people helping vs people being helped was unfavorable on Windows, since with a pretty large user base it is much easier to indulge in the convenient laziness of not helping fellow human beings with their problems.

But seeing that the absolute number of people helping each other on the Git mailing list is so much unbelivably larger than the number of people helping on the msysGit tracker is just sad. Really sad.


Supporting send-email: mstmp

There is an issue (number 27: git-send-mail not working properly) which makes me particularly sad. Torgil promised almost two years ago to take care of it, but nothing happened.

I am very, very disappointed at that.

Now at least, it seems that Kirill took things in hand, but there are problems with the autoconf tools, and I just lack the time to help out, always hoping that other people would find their calling in helping with the troubles.

After my addition of /share/msysGit/install-mingw-tar.sh things should become easier, but it seems that we need more enthusiastic people still.


The MSys project

There is an msysGit issue saying that we should contribute our changes back to the MSys project. If it weren't for the fact that the reporter actually did some work on msysGit, I would say that this falls into the "abusive" category mentioned previously.

However, the issue reporter lost interest after starting work on it, so things are stalled right now.

On the other hand, we have evidence that the MSys project is interested in the msysGit effort, at least in the person of Cesar Strauss, an important MSys contributor, who added helpful comments to a few issues on our issue tracker.

With our recent work on msys-1.0.dll, it seems that we can really contribute back some useful changes, too (even if I would have preferred to have a lieutenant to take care of the MSys-msysGit liaison).


A GitTogether in Berlin "Alles wird Git!"

This is not strictly an msysGit issue, but somehow it actually is: a guy called "A Large Angry SCM" on the Git mailing list offered some free beer in Berlin on October 3rd 2009 (actually, he offered the first $100 in beer, we'll see how strong the dollar is then ;-).

The part that makes this at least partially an msysGit thing is that Steffen, the msysGit maintainer, graciously offered hosting space. Thank you very much, Steffen, and of course Zuse-Institute Berlin!

In case you wondered, the title "Alles wird Git!" means something like "Everything will be fine!", where the "fine" is misspelt to read "Git".

This GitTogether -- as all GitTogethers before -- is what you make of it. If you have contact to a company wanting to sponsor lunch, drinks or accomodations, please contact me. If you want to hack on Git, bring your laptop. If you want to give a presentation, bring everything you need for it. If you want to have fun, just go there.

In any case, if you want to participate, be sure to add your name to the Git Wiki: http://git.or.cz/gitwiki/GitTogether

October 3rd is a special date: it is the German national holiday for celebrating the reunification of the formerly-two Germanies! Actually, a better day would have been June 17th, but some politicians are just full of themselves and want to change dates, so there you are.

The positive side is that it happens to be the date a certain big and not-so-peaceful SCM is offering free beer. Oh, and I could imagine that the party will be big in the evening, as it is the 20th anniversary of the reunification. In the party-town of Germany, things will probably be anything except boring.

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