Format feature flags


In the past when new features were added that required a change to the on-disk format, Bazaar has introduced a new format (in other words, a different string in .bzr/branch-format, .bzr/branch/format, .bzr/repository/format or .bzr/checkout/format). The main reason for this was that it made old versions of Bazaar give a sensible error message when they encountered on-disk data that they could not understand.

There are also several disadvantages to such an approach:

  • Once upgraded, a newer version of Bazaar is required to access the data (it is often possible to downgrade the format later on)
  • Upgrading requires an explicit action by the user. It could be done automatically, but then accessing a repository with a newer version of Bazaar might accidentally render it inaccessible by older.

Not all format changes should necessarily render the data inaccessible to older versions of Bazaar.

There are also various plugins that store extra metadata in the Bazaar version control directory. They currently have no way of indicating that e.g. writing to the repository requires a particular plugin to be installed (so the metadata can be kept up to date, for example).

Proposed approach

To allow for more granular changes to the format, this spec proposes to add feature flags to the Bazaar formats, indicating what kind of data is present in that repository. Each feature has a name and some sort of indicator that tells the bzr client its “necessity” - optional, required, ...

bzr clients would be able to open data with features that are set as “optional” but that they do not support. If there are features that aren’t supported which are marked “required” in the repository they would refuse to open the repository.

Various kinds of metadata, e.g. ones that are generated from the repository itself and can be discarded without losing data (caches) would fall in the optional category.

Feature necessity

The initial implementation will feature the following two possible settings for feature necessity. Any format necessity that can’t be understood should be interpreted as “required”, and an appropriate warning printed.

  • optional: the feature is present, but writing/reading of the

    repository/branch/checkout is possible without support for the feature. Useful for things like caches (e.g. bzr-search index, annotate cache)

  • required: read and write access is only possible if the feature

    is supported. Useful for things like nested trees.

In the future, we might add more values for necessity. Older versions of bzr treat unknown necessities as “required”. Some likely candidates for new necessities that might be added in the future:

  • read-optional: read access is possible if the feature is not supported,

    but write access requires it

  • client-read-optional: directly writing to the object requires

    the feature, but reading or writing through an intermediary (such as a HPSS server) doesn’t.

Format changes

The feature information would be included in the appropriate format file (.bzr/branch-format, .bzr/branch/format, .bzr/repository/format or .bzr/checkout/format). This file currently always contains a single line with the format name. Older versions of bzr read the full file.

By using the other lines for feature information it is possible to add feature flags in a backwards compatible manner; older clients will simply fail to open repositories with feature flags set, giving a unknown format error.

The other advantage of doing this is that we don’t need any additional roundtrips when opening a remote format. An example .bzr/repository/format file could then look like this:

Bazaar repository format 2a (needs bzr 1.16 or later)
optional git
optional search
optional tiplog
required nested-trees

In other words, this is a “2a” bzr format which also stores a cache of Git Tree/Commit objects, a bzr-search index, and a reflog. It also contains revisions with nested trees.

API Changes

Class methods will be added to BzrFormat to allow registering and unregistering the presence of particular features.

  • BzrFormat.register_feature(name)
  • BzrFormat.unregister_feature(name)

The namespace for features is global. It is assumed that the plugin that provides the feature X provides that feature in all objects that it is relevant for. For example, if a plugin provides the nested-trees feature, it is assumed to support that in both working trees and repositories. If this is not the case, it should use a different feature name for the working tree support and the repository support.

BzrFormat is inherited by BranchFormatMetaDir, BzrDirFormat, RepositoryFormatMetaDir and WorkingTreeFormatMetaDir.

Upon opening, BzrFormat will be responsible for checking that the required features are present. lock_write will raise an exception when there is an unsupported mandatory feature required for write access.

Methods will also be added to BzrFormat to allow plugins, etc, to check whether a feature is present and adding new features:

  • BzrFormat.features.set(name, necessity)
  • BzrFormat.features.get(name) -> necessity

Enabling features

Features are enabled through the update_feature_flags method on Repository, Branch, WorkingTree and BzrDir.

These methods are called by whatever needs to enable features. When they do that is up to them - e.g. bzr-search would enable its feature when bzr index is first run.

See also

Mercurial has a similar feature, using its .hg/requires file.

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