6. Package Management

This document describes futhark pkg, a minimalistic package manager inspired by vgo. A Futhark package is a downloadable collection of .fut files and little more. There is a (not necessarily comprehensive) list of known packages.

6.1. Basic Concepts

A package is uniquely identified with a package path, which is similar to a URL, except without a protocol. At the moment, package paths must be something that can be passed to git clone. In particular, this includes paths to repositories on major code hosting sites such as GitLab and GitHub. In the future, this will become more flexible. As an example, a package path may be github.com/athas/fut-foo.

Packages are versioned with semantic version numbers of the form X.Y.Z. Whenever versions are indicated, all three digits must always be given (that is, 1.0 is not a valid shorthand for 1.0.0).

Most futhark pkg operations involve reading and writing a package manifest, which is always stored in a file called futhark.pkg. The futhark.pkg file is human-editable, but is in day-to-day use mainly modified by futhark pkg automatically.

6.2. Using Packages

Required packages can be added by using futhark pkg add, for example:

$ futhark pkg add github.com/athas/fut-foo 0.1.0

This will create a new file futhark.pkg with the following contents:

require {
  github.com/athas/fut-foo 0.1.0 #d285563c25c5152b1ae80fc64de64ff2775fa733

This lists one required package, with its package path, minimum version (see Version Selection), and the expected commit hash. The latter is used for verification, to ensure that the contents of a package version cannot be changed silently.

futhark pkg will perform network requests to determine whether a package of the given name and with the given version exists and fail otherwise (but it will not check whether the package is otherwise well-formed). The version number can be elided, in which case futhark pkg will use the newest available version. If the package is already present in futhark.pkg, it will simply have its version requirement changed to the one specified in the command. Any dependencies of the package will not be added to futhark.pkg, but will still be downloaded by futhark pkg sync (see below).

Adding a package with futhark pkg add modifies futhark.pkg, but does not download the package files. This is done with futhark pkg sync (without further options). The contents of each required dependency and any transitive dependencies will be stored in a subdirectory of lib/ corresponding to their package path. As an example:

$ futhark pkg sync
$ tree lib
└── github.com
    └── athas
        └── fut-foo
            └── foo.fut

3 directories, 1 file

Warning: futhark pkg sync will remove any unrecognized files or local modifications to files in lib/ (except of course the package directory of the package path listed in futhark.pkg; see Creating Packages).

Packages can be removed from futhark.pkg with:

$ futhark pkg remove pkgpath

You will need to run futhark pkg sync to actually remove the files in lib/.

The intended usage is that futhark.pkg is added to version control, but lib/ is not, as the contents of lib/ can always be reproduced from futhark.pkg. However, adding lib/ works just fine as well.

6.2.1. Importing Files from Dependencies

futhark pkg sync will populate the lib/ directory, but does not interact with the compiler in any way. The downloaded files can be imported using the usual import mechanism (Referencing Other Files); for example, assuming the package contains a file foo.fut:

import "lib/github.com/athas/fut-foo/foo"

Ultimately, everything boils down to ordinary file system semantics. This has the downside of relatively long and clumsy import paths, but the upside of predictability.

6.2.2. Upgrading Dependencies

The futhark pkg upgrade command will update every version requirement in futhark.pkg to be the most recent available version. You still need to run futhark pkg sync to actually retrieve the new versions. Be careful - while upgrades are safe if semantic versioning is followed correctly, this is not yet properly machine-checked, so human mistakes may occur.

As an example:

$ cat futhark.pkg
require {
  github.com/athas/fut-foo 0.1.0 #d285563c25c5152b1ae80fc64de64ff2775fa733
$ futhark pkg upgrade
Upgraded github.com/athas/fut-foo 0.1.0 => 0.2.1.
$ cat futhark.pkg
require {
  github.com/athas/fut-foo 0.2.1 #3ddc9fc93c1d8ce560a3961e55547e5c78bd0f3e
$ futhark pkg sync
$ tree lib
└── github.com
    └── athas
        ├── fut-bar
        │   └── bar.fut
        └── fut-foo
            └── foo.fut

4 directories, 2 files

Note that fut-foo 0.2.1 depends on github.com/athas/fut-bar, so it was fetched by futhark pkg sync.

futhark pkg upgrade will never upgrade across a major version number. Due to the principle of Semantic Import Versioning, a new major version is a completely different package from the point of view of the package manager. Thus, to upgrade to a new major version, you will need to use futhark pkg add to add the new version and futhark pkg remove to remove the old version. Or you can keep it around - it is perfectly acceptable to depend on multiple major versions of the same package, because they are really different packages.

6.3. Creating Packages

A package is a directory tree (which at the moment must correspond to a Git repository). It must contain two things:

  • A file futhark.pkg at the root defining the package path and any required packages.

  • A package directory lib/pkg-path, where pkg-path is the full package path.

The contents of the package directory is what will be made available to users of the package. The repository may contain other things (tests, data files, examples, docs, other programs, etc), but these are ignored by futhark pkg. This structure can be created automatically by running for example:

$ futhark pkg init github.com/sturluson/edda

Note again, no https://. The result is this futhark.pkg:

package github.com/sturluson/edda

require {

And this file hierarchy:

$ tree lib
└── github.com
    └── sturluson
        └── edda

3 directories, 0 files

Note that futhark pkg init is not necessary simply to use packages, only when creating packages.

When creating a package, the .fut files we are writing will be located inside the lib/ directory. If the package has its own dependencies, whose files we would like to access, we can use relative imports. For example, assume we are creating a package github.com/sturluson/edda and we are writing a Futhark file located at lib/github.com/sturluson/edda/saga.fut. Further, we have a dependency on the package github.com/athas/foo-fut, which is stored in the directory lib/github.com/athas/foo-fut. We can import a file lib/github.com/athas/foo-fut/foo.fut from lib/github.com/sturluson/edda/saga.fut with:

import "../foo-fut/foo"

6.3.1. Releasing a Package

Currently, a package corresponds exactly to a GitHub repository mirroring the package path. A release is done by tagging an appropriate commit with git tag vX.Y.Z and then pushing the tag to GitHub with git push --tags. In the future, this will be generalised to other code hosting sites and version control systems (and possibly self-hosted tarballs). Remember to take semantic versioning into account - unless you bump the major version number (or the major version is 0), the new version must be fully compatible with the old.

When releasing a new package, consider getting it added to the central package list. See this page for details.

6.3.2. Incrementing the Major Version Number

While backwards-incompatible modifications to a package are sometimes unavoidable, it is wise to avoid them as much as possible, as they significantly inconvenience users. To discourage breaking compatibility, futhark pkg tries to ensure that the package developer feels this inconvenience as well. In many cases, an incompatible change can be avoided simply by adding new files to the package rather than incompatibly changing the existing ones.

In the general case, the package path also encodes the major version of the package, separated with a @. For example, version 5.2.1 of a package might have the package path github.com/user/repo@5. For major versions 0 and 1, this can be elided. This means that multiple (major) versions of a package are completely distinct from the point of view of the package manager - this principle is called Semantic Import Versioning, and is intended to facilitate backwards compatibility of packages when new versions are released.

If you really must increment the major version, then you will need to change the package path in futhark.pkg to contain the new major version preceded by @. For example, lib/github.com/sturluson/edda becomes lib/github.com/sturluson/edda@2. As a special case, this is not necessary when moving from major version 0 to 1. Since the package path has changed, you will also need to rename the package directory in lib/. This is painful and awkward, but it is less painful and awkward than what users feel when their dependencies break compatibility.

6.3.3. Renaming a Package

It is likely that the hosting location for a very long-lived package will change from time to time. Since the hosting location is embedded into the package path itself, this causes some issues for futhark pkg.

In simple cases, there is no problem. Consider a package github.com/asgard/loki which is moved to github.com/utgard/loki. If no GitHub-level redirect is set up, all users must update the path by which they import the package. This is unavoidable, unfortunately.

However, the old tagged versions, which contain a futhark.pkg that uses the old package path, will continue to work. This is because the package path indicated in package.pkg merely defines the subdirectory of lib/ where the package files are to be found, while the package path used by dependents in the require section defines where the package files are located after futhark pkg sync. Thus, when we import an old version of github.com/utgard/loki whose futhark.pkg defines the package as github.com/asgard/loki, the package files will be retrieved from the lib/github.com/asgard/loki directory in the repository, but stored at lib/github.com/utgard/loki in the local directory.

The above means that package management remains operational in simple cases of renaming, but it is awkward when a transitive dependency is renamed (or deleted). The Futhark package ecosystem is sufficiently embryonic that we have not yet developed more robust solutions. When such solutions are developed, they will likely involve some form of replace directive that allows transparent local renaming of packages, as well as perhaps a central registry of package paths that does not depend on specific source code hosts.

6.4. Version Selection

The package manifest futhark.pkg declares which packages the program depends on. Dependencies are specified as the oldest acceptable version within the given major version. Upper version bounds are not supported, as strict adherence to semantic versioning is assumed, so any later version with the same major version number should work. When futhark pkg sync calculates which version of a given package to download, it will pick the oldest version that still satisfies the minimum version requirements of that package in all transitive dependencies. This means that a version may be used that is newer than the one indicated in futhark.pkg, but only if a dependency requires a more recent version.

6.5. Tests and Documentation for Dependencies

Package management has been designed to ensure that the normal development tools work as expected with the contents of the lib/ directory. For example, to ensure that all dependencies do in fact work well (or at least compile) together, run:

futhark test lib

Also, you can generate hyperlinked documentation for all dependencies with:

futhark doc lib -o docs

The file docs/index.html can be opened in a web browser to browse the documentation. Prebuilt documentation is also available via the online package list.

6.6. Safety

In contrast to some other package managers, futhark pkg does not run any package-supplied code on installation, upgrade, or removal. This means that all futhark pkg operations are in principle completely safe (barring exploitable bugs in futhark pkg itself, which is unlikely but not impossible). Further, Futhark code itself is also completely pure, so executing it cannot have any unfortunate effects, such as infecting all of your own packages with a worm. The worst it can do is loop infinitely, consume arbitrarily large amounts of memory, or produce wrong results.

The exception is packages that uses unsafe. With some cleverness, unsafe can be combined with in-place updates to perform arbitrary memory reads and writes, which can trivially lead to exploitable behaviour. You should not use untrusted code that employs unsafe (but the --safe compiler option may help). However, this is not any worse than calling external code in a conventional impure language, which generally can perform any conceivable harmful action.

6.7. Private repositories

The Futhark package manager is intentionally very simple - perhaps even simplistic. The key philosophy is that if you can git clone a repository from the command line, then futhark pkg can also access it. However, futhark pkg always uses the https:// protocol when converting package paths to the URLs that are passed to git, which is sometimes inconvenient for self-hosted or private repositories. As a workaround, you can modify your Git configuration file to transparently replace https:// with ssh:// for certain repositories. For example, you can add the following entry $HOME/.gitconfig:

[url "ssh://git@github.com/sturluson"]
      insteadOf = https://github.com/sturluson

This will make all interactions with repositories owned by the sturluson user on GitHub use SSH instead of HTTPS.