Made of Bugs

It's software. It's made of bugs.

6.170, CVS, and SVN

I’m taking 6.170 Lab in Software Engineering this semester. The course sucks in various ways, but one of the most egregious, in my opinion, is that they force you to use CVS for your version control. Problem sets are distributed by the TAs importing them into your repository, and are then checked out later to be graded. Well, CVS sucks, and there’s no way I’m going to use it when there are sane, modern alternatives like SVN and SVK

Luckily for sanity, there’s a great piece of software called Tailor designed to solve exactly this problem – it lets you mirror a repository that uses one version control system into one using another. So, I can mirror the required CVS repository into a svn repository somewhere, and operate against that.

But the issue is that tailor only really does one-way mirroring; It doesn’t do syncing and merging between the two repositories. So, if I have svn mirror CVS, then changes I make don’t get propagated back. If I mirror svn to CVS, I don’t get new problem sets the TAs import.

My current solution, which I can describe only as “I know what I am doing is wrong”, is as follows:

  • I have tailor set up to merge from SVN to CVS

  • tailor runs in a SVN post-commit hook, so revisions are automatically pushed to CVS

  • Whenever the TAs announce a new pset is available, I do the following:

      # The svn repo is checked out at ~/6.170/psets
      # The cvs repo is located at /mit/nelhage/6.170/cvsroot
      # The TAs have just announced ps2 is available
      $ cd ~/6.170/psets
      $ cvs -d /mit/nelhage/6.170/cvsroot co /psets/ps2
      $ svn add ps2
      $ rm -rf /mit/nelhage/6.170/cvsroot/psets/ps2
      $ svn ci -m "ps2 import from CVS"

That is to say, I manually add the new problem set to SVN, and then delete all trace of it from CVS, and then the commit runs tailor to re-create it in CVS, but keeping svn as the master repository.

The sketchy piece is that I am actually deleting all trace of it from the CVSROOT; There is no trace whatsoever of the initial import by the TAs.

However, the same time, it feels somewhat elegant; The svn repository is at all times the master, containg all the information in the CVS repository. And, frankly, I’m uncomfortable that the TAs are injecting things directly into my repository anyways, so I have no problem undoing it.