[phenixbb] Official release vs nightly builds

Nathaniel Echols nechols at lbl.gov
Sat Apr 6 10:03:53 PDT 2013

On Sat, Apr 6, 2013 at 9:18 AM, Antony Oliver <Antony.Oliver at sussex.ac.uk>wrote:

>  Dare I?  - yes I do.  CCP4 have recently put in place a very nice update
> system - which essentially does exactly what Ed is suggesting / asking for.
> What's also nice is that updates can be installed / uninstalled as a user
> wishes.
> Massively reduces the file sizes of downloads.
> I too would like something like this implemented in Phenix if at all
> possible.

The fundamental problem is this: there is exactly one person (me!)
responsible for building and maintaining installers and handling the
release cycle.  And I have another half-dozen projects which involve actual
science.  Before the nightly builds were automated, Paul (who certainly has
much better things to do) had build each new installer manually.  Unlike
CCP4, our funding sources do not provide much if any support for this
process.  (And needless to say, most of this stuff isn't publishable

We have had internal discussions about adding an update mechanism, and I'm
fairly confident I can implement something quickly that would at least
address relatively simple patches like the B-factor issue.  The reason I
haven't done this is a) I have other things I also need to get done (some
very time-sensitive), b) we are concerned about the added overhead of
maintaining such a system, and c) because of the nightly builds we have
slightly less motivation to rush something out.  Keeping it running would
require considerably modifications to our build system - the good news is
that we need to change a lot of this anyway, so it may become slightly
easier to manage in the future.  However, the fundamental problem of too
little manpower remains.

One point that needs to be clarified:

>  Given that changes between nightly builds are likely limited to
> relatively small patches/additions, is there some mechanism to do updates
> "revision control style", i.e. by downloading and updating only the parts
> of code that changed?
> This is only true for Python code, where there is no platform dependence.
 Compiled code (e.g. SOLVE, RESOLVE, nearly all of Phaser, Reduce, Probe,
etc.) is considerably more difficult, because we would need to rebuild the
shared libraries and/or executables on each platform, and distribute those
in a system-dependent matter.  (Which is especially difficult right now,
because we have multiple 64-bit Linux builds made on different

One final point: if we add an update mechanism, it would definitely *not*
replace the nightly builds for getting bleeding-edge features; it would
only be used to add critical fixes for problems with the official releases.
 The nightly builds provide us with the essential ability to quickly push
experimental new code out to power users, but these aren't changes we
necessarily want to inflict on the rest of our users.  (And yes, I realize
this makes the use of nightly builds to provide bug fixes somewhat

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