Using Tailor to Convert a Gnome CVS Module

In my previous post, I mentioned using Tailor to import jhbuild into a Bazaar-NG branch. In case anyone else is interested in doing the same, here are the steps I used:

1. Install the tools

First create a working directory to perform the import, and set up tailor. I currently use the nightly snapshots of bzr, which did not work with Tailor, so I also grabbed bzr-0.7:

$ wget
$ wget
$ tar xzf tailor-0.9.20.tar.gz
$ tar xzf bzr-0.7.tar.gz
$ ln -s ../bzr-0.7/bzrlib tailor-0.9.20/bzrlib

2. Prepare a local CVS Repository to import from

The import will run a lot faster with a local CVS repository. If you have a shell account on, this is trivial to set up:

$ mkdir cvsroot
$ cvs -d `pwd`/cvsroot init
$ rsync -azP cvsroot/jhbuild/

3. Check for history inconsistency

As I discovered, Tailor will bomb if time goes backwards at some point in your CVS history, and will probably bomb out part way through. The quick fix for this is to directly edit the RCS ,v files to correct the dates. Since you are working with a copy of the repository, there isn’t any danger of screwing things up.

I wrote a small program to check an RCS file for such discontinuities:

When editing the dates in the RCS files, make sure that you change the dates in the different files in a consistent way. You want to make sure that revisions in different files that are part of the same changeset still have the same date after the edits.

4. Create a Tailor config file

Here is the Tailor config file I used to import jhbuild:

verbose = True
projects = jhbuild
encoding = utf-8

target = bzr:target
start-revision = INITIAL
root-directory = basedir/jhbuild.cvs
state-file = tailor.state
source = cvs:source
subdir = .
before-commit = remap_author
patch-name-format =

encoding = utf-8

module = jhbuild
repository = basedir/cvsroot
encoding = utf-8

def remap_author(context, changeset):
    if '@' not in = '%s <>' % (,
    return True

The remap_author function at the bottom maps the CVS user names to something closer to what bzr normally uses.

5. Perform the conversion

Now it is possible to run the conversion:

$ python tailor-0.9.20/tailor -vv --configfile jhbuild.tailor

When the conversion is complete, you should be left with a bzr branch containing the history of the HEAD branch from CVS. Now is a good time to check that the converted bzr looks sane.

6. Use the new branch

Rather than using the converted branch directly, it is a good idea to branch off it and do the development there:

$ bzr branch jhbuild.cvs

The advantage of doing this is that you have the option of rsyncing in new changes to the CVS repository and running tailor again to incrementally import them. You can then merge those changes to your development branch.

Revision Control Migration and History Corruption

As most people probably know, the Gnome project is planning a migration to Subversion. In contrast, I’ve decided to move development of jhbuild over to bzr. This decision is a bit easier for me than for other Gnome modules because:

  • No need to coordinate with GDP or GTP, since I maintain the docs and there is no translations.
  • Outside of the moduleset definitions, the large majority of development and commits are done by me.
  • There aren’t really any interesting branches other than the mainline.

I plan to leave the Gnome module set definitions in CVS/Subversion though, since many people help in keeping them up to date, so leaving them there has some value.

I performed a test conversion using Tailor 0.9.20. My first attempt at performing the conversion failed part way through. Looking at what had been imported, it was apparent that the first few changesets created weren’t the first changesets I’d created in CVS. What was weirder still was the dates on those changesets: they were dated 1997, while I hadn’t started jhbuild til 2001.

It turns out that it was caused by clock skew on the CVS server back in September 2003, so the revision dates for a few files are not monotonic. I did the quick fix of directly editing the RCS files (I was working off a local copy of the repo), which allowed the conversion to run through to completion. The problem has been reported as bug #37 in Tailor’s bug tracker.

This made me a bit worried about whether the CVS to Subversion conversion script being used for the rest of the Gnome modules was also vulnerable to this sort of clock skew problem. Sure enough it was, and the first real changeset of jhbuild had been imported as revision 323.

I did a bit more checking of the CVS repository, and found that there were 98 other modules exhibiting clock skew in their revision history, spread over 1245 files (some files with multiple points of skew). I’ve only checked the SVN test conversions of some of these modules, but all the ones I checked exhibited the same type of corruption.

It is going to be a fair bit of work cleaning it all up before the final conversion.