7. Contributing to PTXdist

7.1. PTXdist Packages

While contributions to all parts of PTXdist are welcome, most contributions concern individual packages. Here is a checklist of things to look out for while creating or updating packages. These are not hard requirements, but there should be good reasons for different choices.

How to Contribute

Contributions should be sent as patches to the PTXdist Mailing List. This is usually done with git send-email. If you’re unfamiliar with this workflow, have a look at the intro at git-send-email.io.

All patches must contain a descriptive subject and should, for all non-obvious changes, contain a commit message describing what has changed and why this is necessary.

All patches must contain the correct Signed-off-by: tag, see README.devel.

Package Builds should be Reproducible

Many packages autodetect which features are available. As a result, the exact features of a package may depend on the build host and the build order of the packages. To avoid this, autodetection must be restricted as much as possible.

For autoconf based packages, the first step is to specify all relevant configure options. The configure_helper.py script can help filter out the unimportant options.

There are also cache variables that can be used to enforce the outcome of autodetection if no option is available:

      $(CROSS_ENV) \

configure_helper.py also supports meson and cmake. Note that the prepare stage for the package must be executed first.

Packages Suboptions

Suboptions for PTXdist packages are useful to make parts of the package optional. However, it is not always easy to decide what should be optional and how to map the build system options to package suboptions. Here are a few guidelines to help with that.

  • Avoid unnecessary suboptions. When in doubt, use the package default or what other distributions use. If the creator of the package does not know what to choose, then the user won’t either.
  • Use suboptions to save disk space. If a feature adds extra dependencies or uses a lot of space then a suboption is useful to save disk space when the feature is not needed.
  • Try to create high-level options. Some packages have very low-level build options with very few useful combinations. Try to distill the high-level features or use-cases and define options for those.
  • Options for new use-cases can always be added later. It’s perfectly acceptable to just disable some unused features when creating a new package. When they are needed, then a new option can be added.

Updating a Package to a new Version

The most common contribution to PTXdist are new versions for existing packages. This is usually quite simple, but there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • New versions can have new build system options that should be set for reproducible builds. configure_helper.py can be used to find the new options.
  • There may be patches for the old version. Make sure they are updated as well, or removed if they are no longer needed.


For new packages, the top-level option and any non-obvious suboptions should have a help text. The homepage of a package or the package description from other distributions are usually a good inspiration.

For new packages, the generated templates contain commented-out default sections. These are meant as a helper to simplify creating custom stages. Any remaining default stages must be removed.

All submissions should be checked with ptxdist lint. It does basic sanity checks and finds some typical errors. Old patches that where not updated of removed after a version bump. Unknown PTXCONF_* variables or macros used in menu files. There are often typos or the variables was just removed.

7.2. Helper Scripts


configure_helper.py can be found in scripts/ in the PTXdist source tree. It should be used to determine which build system options should be specified for a package. Currently, only autoconf and meson based packages are supported.

It provides a diff between two lists of options. These list are generated from the options specified in the package Makefile and from the source tree of the package.

Both autoconf and meson provide several options that are rarely needed. This tool contains a blacklist to filter out these options.

configure_helper.py supports the following command-line options:

-h, --help
Show the help message and exit
-p <pkg>, --pkg <pkg>
The ptxdist package to check
-o <old>, --old-src <old>
The old source directory
-n <new>, --new-src <new>
The new source directory
-s <only, --only-src <only
The only source directory
Sort the options before comparing
-f, --force
Call PTXdist with --force

There are several different ways to configure arguments:

$ configure_helper.py --pkg <pkg>

This will compare the available configure arguments of the current version with those specified in PTXdist

$ configure_helper.py --only-src /path/to/src --pkg <pkg>

This will compare the available configure arguments of the specified source with those specified in PTXdist

$ configure_helper.py --old-src /path/to/old-src --pkg <pkg>
$ configure_helper.py --new-src /path/to/new-src --pkg <pkg>

This will compare the available configure arguments of the current version with those of the specified old/new version

$ configure_helper.py --new-src /path/to/new-src --old-src /path/to/old-src

This will compare the available configure arguments of the old and new versions.

If --pkg is used, then the script must be called in the BSP workspace. The environment variable ptxdist can be used to specify the PTXdist version to use.