Sphinx: localisation changes / reproducibility

Vagrant Cascadian vagrant at reproducible-builds.org
Tue Apr 18 17:50:49 UTC 2023

On 2023-04-17, John Gilmore wrote:
> James Addison <jay at jp-hosting.net> wrote:
>> When the goal is to build the software as it was available to the
>> author at the time of code commit/check-in - and I think that that is
>> a valid use case - then that makes sense.
> I think of the goal as being less related to the author, and more
> related to the creator of a widespread binary release (such as a Linux
> distribution, or an app that goes into an app-store).
> The goal is then that the recipient of that binary release can verify
> that the source code they obtained from the same place is able to
> rebuild that exact widespread binary release.  This proves that the
> source code can be trusted for some purposes, such as being used to read
> it to understand what the binary does.  Or to make small bug-fixes to it.
> Or to become the base for further evolution of the project if the
> maintainer is suddenly "hit by a bus" and stops making further
> releases.


> James Addison <jay at jp-hosting.net> wrote:
>> Inverting the question somewhat: if a single source-base is rebuilt
>> using two different SOURCE_DATE_EPOCH values (let's say, 1970-01-01
>> and 2023-04-18), then what are expected/valid differences in the
>> resulting output?
> In the ideal circumstances, the resulting output would be identical,
> because the build process would have no dependencies on
> Much code in Linux does not reach that ideal (yet!).  Instead, builds of
> non-ideal code use SOURCE_DATE_EPOCH as a crutch to limit their
> dependencies on the local build environment, replacing those
> dependencies with a dependency on SOURCE_DATE_EPOCH.
> So, if you rebuild a non-ideal package with two different values of
> SOURCE_DATE_EPOCH, you will get two different binaries that differ in
> the areas of dependency.  For example, if the documentation embeds a
> build-date in its page footer, you'd expect every page of the built
> documentation would differ.  If the "--version" output of the program
> embeds the build date, then the code that produces that output would
> differ.  Etc.  In fact, "fuzzing" their code with different values
> of SOURCE_DATE_EPOCH can help a maintainer identify where those
> dependencies still remain.

Nice explanations!

This is why in the reproducible builds documentation on timestamps,
there is a paragraph "Timestamps are best avoided":


Or as I like to say "There are no timestamps quite like NO timestamps!"

> We try to talk package authors out of such dependencies, but ultimately
> it's their package and they make the architectural decisions.  To some
> of them it's incredibly important that the build date appears in the
> man-page.  Reproducibility usually features lower among their priorities
> than it does in ours.

Yeah, SOURCE_DATE_EPOCH is really just a standardized *workaround* when
it is too difficult to convince upstream to remove timestamps entirely.
Sometimes it might be technically difficult to remove all timestamps,
sometimes it is different priorities or social norms or expectations.

live well,
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