Reproducible Builds in August 2021

View all our monthly reports


Welcome to the latest report from the Reproducible Builds project. In this post, we round up the important things that happened in the world of reproducible builds in August 2021. As always, if you are interested in contributing to the project, please visit the Contribute page on our website.


There were a large number of talks related to reproducible builds at DebConf21 this year, the 21st annual conference of the Debian Linux distribution (full schedule):


PackagingCon (@PackagingCon) is new conference for developers of package management software as well as their related communities and stakeholders. The virtual event, which is scheduled to take place on the 9th and 10th November 2021, has a “mission is to bring different ecosystems together: from Python’s pip to Rust’s cargo to Julia’s Pkg, from Debian apt over Nix to conda and mamba, and from vcpkg to Spack we hope to have many different approaches to package management at the conference”. A number of people from reproducible builds community are planning on attending this new conference, and some may even present. Tickets start at $20 USD.


As reported in our May report, the president of the United States signed an executive order outlining policies aimed to improve the cybersecurity in the US. The executive order comes after a number of highly-publicised security problems such as a ransomware attack that affected an oil pipeline between Texas and New York and the SolarWinds hack that affected a large number of US federal agencies. As a followup this month, however, a detailed fact sheet was released announcing a number large-scale initiatives and that will undoubtedly be related to software supply chain security and, as a result, reproducible builds.


Lastly, We ran another productive meeting on IRC in August (original announcement) which ran for just short of two hours. A full set of notes from the meeting is available.


Software development

kpcyrd announced an interesting new project this month called “I probably didn’t backdoor this” which is an attempt to be:

… a practical attempt at shipping a program and having reasonably solid evidence there’s probably no backdoor. All source code is annotated and there are instructions explaining how to use reproducible builds to rebuild the artifacts distributed in this repository from source.

The idea is shifting the burden of proof from “you need to prove there’s a backdoor” to “we need to prove there’s probably no backdoor”. This repository is less about code (we’re going to try to keep code at a minimum actually) and instead contains technical writing that explains why these controls are effective and how to verify them. You are very welcome to adopt the techniques used here in your projects. ()

As the project’s README goes on the mention: “the techniques used to rebuild the binary artifacts are only possible because the builds for this project are reproducible”. This was also announced on our mailing list this month in a thread titled i-probably-didnt-backdoor-this: Reproducible Builds for upstreams.

kpcyrd also wrote a detailed blog post about the problems surrounding Linux distributions (such as Alpine and Arch Linux) that distribute compiled Python bytecode in the form of .pyc files generated during the build process.


diffoscope

diffoscope is our in-depth and content-aware diff utility. Not only can it locate and diagnose reproducibility issues, it can provide human-readable diffs from many kinds of binary formats. This month, Chris Lamb made a number of changes, including releasing version 180), version 181) and version 182) as well as the following changes:

  • New features:

    • Add support for extracting the signing block from Android APKs. []
    • If we specify a suffix for a temporary file or directory within the code, ensure it starts with an underscore (ie. “_”) to make the generated filenames more human-readable. []
    • Don’t include short GCC lines that differ on a single prefix byte either. These are distracting, not very useful and are simply the strings(1) command’s idea of the build ID, which is displayed elsewhere in the diff. [][]
    • Don’t include specific .debug-like lines in the ELF-related output, as it is invariably a duplicate of the debug ID that exists better in the readelf(1) differences for this file. []
  • Bug fixes:

    • Add a special case to SquashFS image extraction to not fail if we aren’t the superuser. []
    • Only use java -jar /path/to/apksigner.jar if we have an apksigner.jar as newer versions of apksigner in Debian use a shell wrapper script which will be rejected if passed directly to the JVM. []
    • Reduce the maximum line length for calculating Wagner-Fischer, improving the speed of output generation a lot. []
    • Don’t require apksigner in order to compare .apk files using apktool. []
    • Update calls (and tests) for the new version of odt2txt. []
  • Output improvements:

    • Mention in the output if the apksigner tool is missing. []
    • Profile diffoscope.diff.linediff and specialize. [][]
  • Logging improvements:

    • Format debug-level messages related to ELF sections using the diffoscope.utils.format_class. []
    • Print the size of generated reports in the logs (if possible). []
    • Include profiling information in --debug output if --profile is not set. []
  • Codebase improvements:

    • Clarify a comment about the HUGE_TOOLS Python dictionary. []
    • We can pass -f to apktool to avoid creating a strangely-named subdirectory. []
    • Drop an unused File import. []
    • Update the supported & minimum version of Black. []
    • We don’t use the logging variable in a specific place, so alias it to an underscore (ie. “_”) instead. []
    • Update some various copyright years. []
    • Clarify a comment. []
  • Test improvements:

    • Update a test to check specific contents of SquashFS listings, otherwise it fails depending on the test systems user ID to username passwd(5) mapping. []
    • Assign “seen” and “expected” values to local variables to improve contextual information in failed tests. []
    • Don’t print an orphan newline when the source code formatting test passes. []


In addition Santiago Torres Arias added support for Squashfs version 4.5 [] and Felix C. Stegerman suggested a number of small improvements to the output of the new APK signing block []. Lastly, Chris Lamb uploaded python-libarchive-c version 3.1-1 to Debian experimental for the new 3.x branch — python-libarchive-c is used by diffoscope.

Distribution work

In Debian, 68 reviews of packages were added, 33 were updated and 10 were removed this month, adding to our knowledge about identified issues. Two new issue types have been identified too: nondeterministic_ordering_in_todo_items_collected_by_doxygen and kodi_package_captures_build_path_in_source_filename_hash.

kpcyrd published another monthly report on their work on reproducible builds within the Alpine and Arch Linux distributions, specifically mentioning rebuilderd, one of the components powering reproducible.archlinux.org. The report also touches on binary transparency, an important component for supply chain security.

The @GuixHPC account on Twitter posted an infographic on what fraction of GNU Guix packages are bit-for-bit reproducible:

Finally, Bernhard M. Wiedemann posted his monthly reproducible builds status report for openSUSE.


Upstream patches

The Reproducible Builds project detects, dissects and attempts to fix as many currently-unreproducible packages as possible. We endeavour to send all of our patches upstream where appropriate. This month, we wrote a large number of such patches, including:

Elsewhere, it was discovered that when supporting various new language features and APIs for Android apps, the resulting APK files that are generated now vary wildly from build to build (example diffoscope output). Happily, it appears that a patch has been committed to the relevant source tree. This was also discussed on our mailing list this month in a thread titled Android desugaring and reproducible builds started by Marcus Hoffmann.


Website and documentation

There were quite a few changes to the Reproducible Builds website and documentation this month, including:

  • Felix C. Stegerman:

    • Update the website self-build process to not use the buster-backports suite now that Debian Bullseye is the stable release. []
  • Holger Levsen:

    • Add a new page documenting various package rebuilder solutions. []
    • Add some historical talks and slides from DebConf20. [][]
    • Various improvements to the “history” page. [][][]
    • Rename the “Comparison protocol” documentation category to “Verification”. []
    • Update links to F-Droid documentation. []
  • Ian Muchina:

    • Increase the font size of titles and de-emphasize event details on the talk page. []
    • Rename the README file to README.md to improve the user experience when browsing the Git repository in a web browser. []
  • Mattia Rizzolo:

    • Drop a position:fixed CSS statement that is negatively affecting with some width settings. []
    • Fix the sizing of the elements inside the side navigation bar. []
    • Show gold level sponsors and above in the sidebar. []
    • Updated the documentation within reprotest to mention how ldconfig conflicts with the kernel variation. []
  • Roland Clobus:

    • Added a ticket number for the issue with the “live” Cinnamon image and diffoscope. []

Testing framework

The Reproducible Builds project runs a testing framework at tests.reproducible-builds.org, to check packages and other artifacts for reproducibility. This month, the following changes were made:

  • Holger Levsen:

    • Debian-related changes:

      • Make a large number of changes to support the new Debian bookworm release, including adding it to the dashboard [], start scheduling tests [], adding suitable Apache redirects [] etc. [][][][][]
      • Make the first build use LANG=C.UTF-8 to match the official Debian build servers. []
      • Only test Debian Live images once a week. []
      • Upgrade all nodes to use Debian Bullseye [] []
      • Update README documentation for the Debian Bullseye release. []
    • Other changes:

      • Only include rsync output if the $DEBUG variable is enabled. []
      • Don’t try to install mock, a tool used to build Fedora packages some time ago. []
      • Drop an unused function. []
      • Various documentation improvements. [][]
      • Improve the node health check to detect “zombie” jobs. []
  • Jessica Clarke (FreeBSD-related changes):

    • Update the location and branch name for the main FreeBSD Git repository. []
    • Correctly ignore the source tarball when comparing build results. []
    • Drop an outdated version number from the documentation. []
  • Mattia Rizzolo:

    • Block F-Droid jobs from running whilst the setup is running. []
    • Enable debugging for the rsync job related to Debian Live images. []
    • Pass BUILD_TAG and BUILD_URL environment for the Debian Live jobs. []
    • Refactor the master_wrapper script to use a Bash array for the parameters. []
    • Prefer YAML’s safe_load() function over the “unsafe” variant. []
    • Use the correct variable in the Apache config to match possible existing files on disk. []
    • Stop issuing HTTP 301 redirects for things that not actually permanent. []
  • Roland Clobus (Debian “live” image generation):

    • Increase the diffoscope timeout from 120 to 240 minutes; the Cinnamon image should now be able to finish. []
    • Use the new snapshot service. []
    • Make a number of improvements to artifact handling, such as moving the artifacts to the Jenkins host [] and correctly cleaning them up at the right time. [][][]
    • Where possible, link to the Jenkins build URL that created the artifacts. [][]
    • Only allow only one job to run at the same time. []
  • Vagrant Cascadian:


Lastly, if you are interested in contributing to the Reproducible Builds project, please visit the Contribute page on our website. You can get in touch with us via:


View all our monthly reports

Follow us on Twitter @ReproBuilds, Mastodon @reproducible_builds@fosstodon.org & Reddit and please consider making a donation. • Content licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0, style licensed under MIT. Templates and styles based on the Tor Styleguide. Logos and trademarks belong to their respective owners. • Patches welcome via our Git repository (instructions) or via our mailing list. • Full contact info