28. Running a buildslave

Python’s Continuous Integration system was discussed earlier. We sometimes refer to the collection of build slaves as our “buildbot fleet”. The machines that comprise the fleet are voluntarily contributed resources. Many are run by individual volunteers out of their own pockets and time, while others are supported by corporations. Even the corporate sponsored buildbots, however, tend to exist because some individual championed them, made them a reality, and is committed to maintaining them.

Anyone can contribute a buildbot to the fleet. This chapter describes how to go about setting up a buildslave, getting it added, and some hints about buildbot maintenance.

Anyone running a buildbot that is part of the fleet should subscribe to the python-buildbots mailing list. This mailing list is also the place to contact if you want to contribute a buildbot but have questions.

As for what kind of buildbot to run…take a look at our current fleet. Pretty much anything that isn’t on that list would be interesting: different Linux/UNIX distributions, different versions of the various OSes, other OSes if you or someone are prepared to make the test suite actually pass on that new OS. Even if you only want to run an OS that’s already on our list there may be utility in setting it up: we also need to build and test python under various alternate build configurations. Post to the mailing list and talk about what you’d like to contribute.

28.1. Preparing for buildslave setup

Since the goal is to build Python from source, the system will need to have everything required to do normal python development: a compiler, a linker, and (except on windows) the “development” headers for any of the optional modules (zlib, OpenSSL, etc) supported by the platform. Follow the steps outlined in Getting Set Up for the target platform, all the way through to having a working compiled python.

In order to set up the buildbot software, you will need to obtain an identifier and password for your buildslave so it can join the fleet. Email python-buildbots@python.org to discuss adding your buildslave and to obtain the needed slavename and password. You can do some of the steps that follow before having the credentials, but it is easiest to have them before the “buildslave” step below.

28.2. Setting up the buildslave

28.2.1. Conventional always-on machines

You need a recent version of the buildbot software, and you will probably want a separate ‘buildbot’ user to run the buildbot software. You may also want to set the buildbot up using a virtual environment, depending on you manage your system. We won’t cover how to that here; it doesn’t differ from setting up a virtual environment for any other software, but you’ll need to modify the sequence of steps below as appropriate if you choose that path.

For Linux:

  • If your package manager provides the buildbot slave software, that is probably the best way to install it; it may create the buildbot user for you, in which case you can skip that step. Otherwise, do pip install buildbot-slave.
  • Create a buildbot user (using, eg: useradd) if necessary.
  • Log in as the buildbot user.

For Mac:

  • Create a buildbot user using the OS/X control panel user admin. It should be a “standard” user.
  • Log in as the buildbot user.
  • Install either the Python 2.7 bundle from python.org [1], or pip.
  • Open a terminal window.
  • Execute pip install buildbot-slave.

For Windows:

  • Create a buildbot user as a “standard” user.
  • Install the latest version of Python 2.7 from python.org.
  • Open a Command Prompt.
  • Execute python -m pip install pypiwin32 buildbot-slave (note that python.exe is not added to PATH by default, making the python command accessible is left as an exercise for the user).

In a terminal window for the buildbot user, issue the following commands (you can put the buildarea wherever you want to):

mkdir buildarea
buildslave create-slave buildarea buildbot.python.org:9020 slavename slavepasswd

(Note that on Windows, the buildslave command will be in the Scripts directory of your Python installation.)

Once this initial slave setup completes, you should edit the files buildarea/info/admin and buildarea/info/host to provide your contact info and information on the host configuration, respectively. This information will be presented in the buildbot web pages that display information about the builders running on your buildslave.

You will also want to make sure that the buildslave is started when the machine reboots:

For Linux:

  • Add the following line to /etc/crontab:

    @reboot buildslave restart /path/to/buildarea
    

    Note that we use restart rather than start in case a crash has left a twistd.pid file behind.

For OSX:

  • Create a bin directory for your buildbot user:

    mkdir bin
    
  • Place the following script, named run_slave.sh, into that directory:

    #!/bin/bash
    export PATH=/usr/local/bin:/Library/Frameworks/Python.framework/Versions/2.7/bin:$PATH
    export LC_CTYPE=en_US.utf-8
    cd /Users/buildbot/buildarea
    twistd --nodaemon --python=buildbot.tac --logfile=buildbot.log --prefix=slave
    

    If you use pip with Apple’s system python, add ‘/System’ to the front of the path to the Python bin directory.

  • Place a file with the following contents into /Library/LaunchDaemons:

    <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
    <!DOCTYPE plist PUBLIC "-//Apple Computer//DTD PLIST 1.0//EN"
          "http://www.apple.com/DTDs/PropertyList-1.0.dtd">
    <plist version="1.0">
    <dict>
          <key>Label</key>
          <string>net.buildbot.slave</string>
          <key>UserName</key>
          <string>buildbot</string>
          <key>WorkingDirectory</key>
          <string>/Users/buildbot/buildarea</string>
          <key>ProgramArguments</key>
          <array>
                  <string>/Users/buildbot/bin/run_slave.sh</string>
          </array>
          <key>StandardOutPath</key>
          <string>twistd.log</string>
          <key>StandardErrorPath</key>
          <string>twistd.log</string>
          <key>KeepAlive</key>
          <true/>
          <key>SessionCreate</key>
          <true/>
    </dict>
    </plist>
    

    The recommended name for the file is net.buildbot.slave.

For Windows:

  • Add a Scheduled Task to run buildslave start buildarea as the buildbot user “when the computer starts up”. It is best to provide absolute paths to the buildslave command and the buildarea directory. It is also recommended to set the task to run in the directory that contains the buildarea directory.
  • Alternatively (note: don’t do both!), set up the buildslave service as described in the buildbot documentation.

To start the buildslave running for your initial testing, you can do:

buildslave start buildarea

Then you can either wait for someone to make a commit, or you can pick a builder associated with your buildslave from the list of builders and force a build.

In any case you should initially monitor builds on your builders to make sure the tests are passing and to resolve any platform issues that may be revealed by tests that fail. Unfortunately we do not currently have a way to notify you only of failures on your builders, so doing periodic spot checks is also a good idea.

28.2.2. Latent slaves

We also support running latent buildslaves on the AWS EC2 service. To set up such a slave:

  • Start an instance of your chosen base AMI and set it up as a conventional slave.
  • After the instance is fully set up as a conventional slave (including slave name and password, and admin and host information), create an AMI from the instance and stop the instance.
  • Contact the buildmaster administrator who gave you your slave name and password and give them the following information:
    • Instance size (such as m4.large)
    • Full region specification (such as us-west-2)
    • AMI ID (such as ami-1234beef)
    • An Access Key ID and Access Key. It is recommended to set up a separate IAM user with full access to EC2 and provide the access key information for that user rather than for your main account.

The buildmaster cannot guarantee that it will always shut down your instance(s), so it is recommended to periodically check and make sure there are no “zombie” instances running on your account, created by the buildbot master. Also, if you notice that your slave seems to have been down for an unexpectedly long time, please ping the python-buildbots list to request that the master be restarted.

Latent slaves should also be updated periodically to include operating system or other software updates, but when do do such maintenance is largely up to you as the slave owner. There are a couple different options for doing such updates:

  • Start an instance from your existing AMI, do updates on that instance, and save a new AMI from the updated instance. Note that (especially for Windows slaves) you should do at least one restart of the instance after doing updates to be sure that any post-reboot update work is done before creating the new AMI.
  • Create an entirely new setup from a newer base AMI using your existing slave name and password.

Whichever way you choose to update your AMI, you’ll need to provide the buildmaster administrators with the new AMI ID.

28.3. Buildslave operation

Most of the time, running a buildslave is a “set and forget” operation, depending on the level of involvement you want to have in resolving bugs revealed by your builders. There are, however, times when it is helpful or even necessary for you to get involved. As noted above, you should be subscribed to python-buildbots@python.org so that you will be made aware of any fleet-wide issues.

Necessary tasks include, obviously, keeping the buildbot running. Currently the system for notifying buildbot owners when their slaves go offline is not working; this is something we hope to resolve. So currently it is helpful if you periodically check the status of your buildslave. We will also contact you via your contact address in buildarea/info/admin when we notice there is a problem that has not been resolved for some period of time and you have not responded to a posting on the python-buildbots list about it.

We currently do not have a minimum version requirement for the buildslave software. However, this is something we will probably establish as we tune the fleet, so another task will be to occasionally upgrade the buildslave software. Coordination for this will be done via python-buildbots@python.org.

The most interesting extra involvement is when your buildslave reveals a unique or almost-unique problem: a test that is failing on your system but not on other systems. In this case you should be prepared to offer debugging help to the people working on the bug: running tests by hand on the buildslave machine or, if possible, providing ssh access to a committer to run experiments to try to resolve the issue.

28.4. Required Ports

The buildslave operates as a client to the buildmaster. This means that all network connections are outbound. This is true also for the network tests in the test suite. Most consumer firewalls will allow any outbound traffic, so normally you do not need to worry about what ports the buildbot uses. However, corporate firewalls are sometimes more restrictive, so here is a table listing all of the outbound ports used by the buildbot and the python test suite (this list may not be complete as new tests may have been added since this table was last vetted):

Port Host Description
20, 21 ftp.debian.org test_urllib2net
53 your DNS server test_socket, and others implicitly
80 python.org example.com (several tests)
119 news.gmane.org test_nntplib
443 (various) test_ssl
465 smtp.gmail.com test_smtpnet
587 smtp.gmail.com test_smtpnet
9020 python.org connection to buildmaster

Many tests will also create local TCP sockets and connect to them, usually using either localhost or 127.0.0.1.

28.5. Required Resources

Based on the last time we did a survey on buildbot requirements, the recommended resource allocations for a python buildbot are at least:

  • 2 CPUs
  • 512 MB RAM
  • 30 GB free disk space

The bigmem tests won’t run in this configuration, since they require substantially more memory, but these resources should be sufficient to ensure that Python compiles correctly on the platform and can run the rest of the test suite.

28.6. Security Considerations

We only allow builds to be triggered against commits to the CPython repository, or committer-initiated branches hosted on hg.python.org. This means that the code your buildbot will run will have been vetted by a committer. However, mistakes and bugs happen, as could a compromise, so keep this in mind when siting your buildbot on your network and establishing the security around it. Treat the buildbot like you would any resource that is public facing and might get hacked (use a VM and/or jail/chroot/solaris zone, put it in a DMZ, etc). While the buildbot does not have any ports open for inbound traffic (and is not public facing in that sense), committer mistakes do happen, and security flaws are discovered in both released and unreleased code, so treating the buildbot as if it were fully public facing is a good policy.

Code runs differently as privileged and unprivileged users. We would love to have builders running as privileged accounts, but security considerations do make that difficult, as access to root can provide access to surprising resources (such as spoofed IP packets, changes in MAC addresses, etc) even on a VM setup. But if you are confident in your setup, we’d love to have a buildbot that runs python as root.

Note that the above is a summary of a discussion on python-dev about buildbot security that includes examples of the tests for which privilege matters. There was no final consensus, but the information is useful as a point of reference.

[1]If the buildbot is going to do Framework builds, it is better to use the Apple-shipped Python so as to avoid any chance of the buildbot picking up components from the installed python.org python.