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CEP-1: Template jobs



I'd like to start the checkbox enhancement proposal, CEP, inspired by the
well-known python PEP process.This allows everyone interested in the
project to inspect and understand proposed changes and express their

This first proposal is about adding template jobs to plainbox.

Best regards
Checkbox Enhancement Proposal 1: Template Jobs


I'd like to propose that we design and implement template jobs and replace all
occurrences of local jobs with equivalent template jobs.


Local jobs are very problematic for applications and the core alike. They
prevent us from having access to a complete set of jobs all times. That, in
turn, prevent us from having simple application execution semantics and
severely limits our possibility of catching bugs in job definitions.

The mechanism of template jobs is currently used to generate new jobs at
runtime, typically to do one test for each of some device or other entity). The
code that generates such values is very arcane and goes back deep into old
checkbox support scripts. Such essential task should be handled by the library
as first-class object, with proper definition, semantics and implementation

As a side feature, local jobs are abused to generate "categories". This
proposal does not touch that aspect, except in "future work" section below 

Overview of template jobs

Template jobs are just like local jobs in expressiveness, with the limitation
that the set of generated jobs (defined as a collection of their attributes,
including their name) are constrained and known statically without executing
any code provided by the job definition.

Instead, of parsing output of arbitrary shell commands, the job definition is
given explicitly. As a new feature, each attribute of a template job can be
parametrized. The list of parameters is known statically (cannot be generated).
This allows us to enumerate possible patterns and instantiate jobs when

Each parameter is bound to an attribute of a resource. This creates a
dependency on a specific resource job from any local job. In addition, to
implement a common theme used by local jobs, the set of resource records can be
filtered by a restricted python expression. This is similar in spirit to
existing requirements system.

For this proposal, each template job must use exactly one resource. In future
this requirement may be lifted, if required.


The following example converts an existing local job, optical/read, to a template job. This is the
(abbreviated) text of the original definition.

    plugin: local
    name: optical/read
     device.category == 'CDROM'
    _description: Optical read test.
     cat <<'EOF' | run_templates -t -s 'udev_resource | filter_templates -w "category=CDROM"'
     plugin: user-interact-verify
     name: optical/read_`ls /sys$path/block`
     requires: device.path == "$path"
     user: root
     command: optical_read_test /dev/`ls /sys$path/block`
     description: (removed)

This is the (equivalent template job). The actual "local" job fragment of the
previous text is now gone. Any attribute may now use python formatting
language. This language is safe and can be parsed and analyzed if required.

Two new attributes are present. The template-resource attribute contains a list
of jobs (which must be resource jobs) that instantiate concrete job definitions
from this template. The template-filter attribute applies filtering, to select
a subset of records from each resource. As mentioned earlier, exactly one
resource is allowed at this time. In the future we _may_ offer two or more but
with additional join semantics that seems unnecessary at this stage.

    template-resource: device
    template-filter: device.category == "CDROM"
    plugin: user-interact-verify
    name: optical/read_{device.full_path}
    user: root
    command: optical_read_test {device.dev_path}
    description: (removed)

The previous definition used some additional shell-outs to compute the
pathnames of block devices. This feature is now removed, leading to
easier-to-understand code. The device local job would need to be amended to
generate all required attributes.


PlainBox would need to understand templates. That includes additional job for
job validator, dependency resolver / test planner, etc. The new API would need
to include an explicit transformation from a set of known definitions into a
set of actual instantiated jobs. Applications would need to use this API
similarly to how they currently handle "early jobs" to run all of the local
jobs, but with less required error handling.

A set of additional commands would be added to help developers how their
template jobs transform into actual instances. This is an optional but, in my
opinion, useful addition. It would allow developers to understand why something
fails (how their template definition is expanded into an actual job

Local jobs would be unchanged and would remain supported as they are now.

Future Work

As we convert local jobs to template jobs, we could add an additional
requirement that local jobs may only generate existing jobs, to implement the
illy-defined "category" system, before that is deprecated and replaced.

Eventually we could bump job definition version to 2, making local jobs
unsupported. This will allow applications to drop complexity related such jobs.
This can happen at any time in the future though.

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