Overview of the Tinderbox System
Tinderbox2 is an information display system. It runs on a machine with
a web server and will periodically write static HTML files to the disk
so that the web server can serve these documents.
Tinderbox2 is run out of cron as often as your needs require and gathers
up information from various databases including: Repository Logs, Bonsai
and Perforce. It will also process mail which is sent to it from Bug
Ticketing software and Build/Test Machines. All this information is
combined to produce the HTML pages.
Since no two companies will structure their development processes the
same way, the Tinderbox2 code has to be highly configurable to account
for most possible uses. There is a main configuration file which
allows most of the major user configurable variables to be set.
Novice users can expect to edit only this file and get a working
Additionally each library has been broken into two parts. One part is
the library specific configurations. This file is expected to need
modifications in some installations. All of the library configurations
are located in one directory to make it easy to find the parts of Tinderbox2
which are easy to modify. Each configuration library can be thought of
as a table which might need to be edited or extended for use at your company.
The defaults provide a working system but may not suit your needs. These
tables can be easily changed in small ways by simply looking at the file
and making obvious changes.
Changes are not made to the files which have been provided but rather
the changes are made to copies of the files which are stored in a local
configuration directory. This ensures that you can easily version the
Tinderbox2 code as it is provided to you from the official distribution
and you can separately version the local configurations which you
make. It is also easy to see the local configurations since you have
both the original and the modified code on the same server and can
difference the two.
As an example you might need to change the BuildStatus - assuming that
you have the following possible build outcomes (Build in progress,
Build failed, Build succeded but tests failed, Build and all tests were
successful.) You may have additional outcomes to specify which kind of
tests failed (unit test failed, not enough unit test coverage, performance
tests failed). Similarly you may have unusual requirements for how the
filesystem should be laid out.
The build machines are not considered part of the Tinderbox2 server.
They are clients just like Bug Ticketing systems and Version Control
systems are clients. Build machines mail their build logs to the
server in a special format. This format specifies that name/value
pairs must appear at the top of the mail message followed by the
complete build log.
Scripts for setting up a Tinderbox2 build client can be found in the
clientbin directory but you may have other build needs and may use any
build methods you choose.
The central concept of the Tinderbox2 system is the notion of a 'Tree'.
When several different groups are working out of the same version
control system often the files are partitioned into separate modules
with each group working on one or more disjoint modules. Over time
the developers need to branch their code because several different
versions of the files are under development at the same time. A tree
is a module/branch pair and corresponds to a set of files which can
be checked out and built. Tinderbox2 creates one page for each tree and
displays what work is being done on that tree.
While most version control systems know about modules and branches, they
do not know about trees and it is not possible to give a branch/module pair
a name. The Tinderbox2 TreeData provides the mappings between treenames
and branch/module pairs.
Tinderbox2 displays the updates to bug tickets on the appropriate tree
page. This requires an easy mapping between bug tickets and a tree. One
example of a complex function to determine tree name would be if each
of the product types listed in the bug tracking database refers to one
development project, except for a particular feature/platform of one
particular project which is being developed by a separate group of
developers. So the version control notion of trees (a set of modules
on a branch) may not have a direct map into the bug tracking database
at all times.
In large projects it is sometimes convenient to have a tree called 'ALL'
which is used to display all checkins performed on any trees and all bug
tickets worked on by any programmers. It is not possible to build or
test the 'ALL' tree and neither the version control nor bug ticketing
system knows of its existence.
The Bug Tracking code was intended to be as general as possible.
Most bug ticketing systems send mail when tickets change state. The
mail is often of the same form. It is a name/value pair which the
separator being the string ": ". Tinderbox2 will parse mail of this
form and display the interesting fields on the appropriate tree page.
The configuration of this module involves specifying which bug ticket
names are interesting and should be displayed.
You will need to specify how to map a bug ticket into a tree, this
could be very simple if each bug ticket has a field which represents
the tree it is applicable to, in this case the tree would equal the
project. Or it can be very complex if the tree must be computed by the
values of a set of fields.
Also Tinderbox2 keeps track of which bugs are "reopened" and displays
them in a different column. The idea is that some bugs are moving
backwards and creating duplicate work. These tickets are particularly
troublesome and should be watched specially. So possibly all ticket
status are partitioned into "progress" or "slippage" categories. You
will need to specify what status values are possible for your ticket
system and you will also need to specify the set of columns which you
would like to see on the status page.
The heart of the Tinderbox2 system is the 'status table'. This is an
HTML table which graphically shows how the changes made to the
development databases. It will show what is going on in the version
control system, the bug tracking system, the build system, automatic
regression tests and provide a notice board for developers to inform
each other of current news.
By placing all this information in the same table it is possible to
correlate and cross check how different types of changes effected each
other and what was going on with the whole project at different times
in the day.
The rows of the table represent time with the most current events at the
top of the page. There are different sets of columns for each database
which needs to be displayed. The sets of columns are managed by
There is one module for each version control system and each bug
tracking system which Tinderbox2 knows how to interface with. It is
easy to port the system to new databases by just adding a new module
using the same style as the existing modules. Modules never share or
peek at each others data and all combining of data is done by the humans
who stare at the table and interpret what is going on.
The main Tinderbox2 system does not know how many columns the final
table will have - it only knows about a list of table modules.
Each module in the list is called in turn to generate the complete row
then the entire row is displayed. The user must configure Tinderbox2 with
the list of modules which are of important to their own environment.
There is no restriction on the number of modules which may be configured,
though due to implementation details each module can only appear once
in the table.
There are many pop up windows embedded in the status table these will
provide extra level of detail when a mouse is placed over the link.
By moving your mouse around the page you may effectively drill down
into an item of interest and learn more about it without leaving the page.
Most of the links will click through to the appropriate database.
Thus if you need more data about an item you can click on the link and
query the database directly.
Besides the status table there is one other feature of the status
page. The status page displays some information which is not correlated
through time and with other data. This information is called status
The main headers are the message of the day (MOTD), and the Tree State
though there are a few others headers of mainly historical interest.
The important issue with the headers is that they are not optional.
Tinderbox2 can render a table with as little or as many columns in the
status table as you wish but each of the headers has a particular place
on the status page and needs to be rendered in a particular way
(font size, font type, etc) thus the Tinderbox2 server must know where
each header must go and how to specify the appropriate HTML context for
the header. Users may set null defaults for headers that they do not
need but it is much harder for a user to add new headers to the code
in a modular fashion.