Bug#844431: Revised patch: seeking seconds

Russ Allbery rra at debian.org
Wed Aug 16 16:43:36 UTC 2017

Ximin Luo <infinity0 at debian.org> writes:

> Fair enough. I actually spotted that but thought it was better to get
> "something" into Policy rather than nitpick. I guess other people were
> thinking similar things. Well, lesson learnt, I will be more forceful
> next time.

> The sentence I amended said "most environment variables" so our intent
> is clear. If we want to fix this now, I would suggest amending:

> - a set of environment variable values; and
> + a set of reserved environment variable values; and

> then later:

> + A "reserved" environment variable is defined as DEB_*, DPKG_, SOURCE_DATE_EPOCH, BUILD_PATH_PREFIX_MAP, variables listed by dpkg-buildflags and other variables explicitly used by buildsystems to affect build output, excluding any variables used by non-build programs to affect their behaviour. Explicitly, this excludes TERM, HOME, LOGNAME, USER, PATH and likely any variables ending with *PATH.

We intentionally didn't spell this out in this much detail because it felt
better to defer this (stricter) bar until we have documentation of the
*.buildinfo file, and also because we were worried about the list changing
(once it goes into Policy, it's more irritating to change).  The current
standard in Policy is intentionally weaker than this in order to be

I still lean towards taking this approach, because I'm pretty worried
about the scope of:

    other variables explicitly used by buildsystems to affect build output

That's not really an enumerable list.  My recommendation, if you want to
allow some environment variables to vary without affecting
reproducibility, is to explicitly list the set of environment variables
that can vary, rather than trying to list the ones that have to remain

But, more fundamentally, I'm dubious that weakening the environment
variable set is a good use of anyone's time.  Why not define reproducible
builds as setting a specific set of environment variables and no others?
We're long past the point where building packages in an isolated
environment with a fixed set of environment variables is a great hardship
or even particularly unusual.  I think the effort would be better spent on
fixing (with enumerated exceptions) the set of environment variables set
by buildds, sbuild, pbuilder, and other infrastructure that builds
packages than in making packages tolerate random environment variables
being set during the build.  It's really hard to track down all the
environment variable settings that might affect Autoconf, the build tools,
document formatters, and so forth.

Russ Allbery (rra at debian.org)               <http://www.eyrie.org/~eagle/>

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