The Buildlog Consultant

The Debian Janitor is an automated system that commits fixes for (minor) issues in Debian packages that can be fixed by software. It gradually started proposing merges in early December. The first set of changes sent out ran lintian-brush on sid packages maintained in Git. This post is part of a series about the progress of the Janitor.

Reading build logs

Build logs for Debian packages can be quite long and difficult for a human to read. Anybody who has looked at these logs trying to figure out why a build failed will have spent time scrolling through them and skimming for certain phrases (lines starting with “error:” for example). In many cases, you can spot the problem in the last 10 or 20 lines of output – but it’s also quite common that the error is somewhere at the beginning of many pages of error output.

The buildlog consultant

The buildlog consultant project attempts to aid in this process by parsing sbuild and non-Debian (e.g. the output of “make”) build logs and trying to identify the key line that explains why a build failed. It can then either display this specific line, or a fragment of the log around surrounding the key line.


In addition to finding the key line explaining the failure, it can also classify and parse the error in many cases and return a result code and some metadata.

For example, in a failed build of gnss-sdr that has produced 2119 lines of output, the reason for the failure is that log4cpp is missing – which is on line 641:

 -- Required GNU Radio Component: ANALOG missing!
 -- Could NOT find PkgConfig (missing: PKG_CONFIG_EXECUTABLE)
 -- Could NOT find LOG4CPP (missing: LOG4CPP_INCLUDE_DIRS

 CMake Error at CMakeLists.txt:593 (message):
   *** Log4cpp is required to build gnss-sdr

 -- Configuring incomplete, errors occurred!
 See also "/<<PKGBUILDDIR>>/obj-x86_64-linux-gnu/CMakeFiles/
 See also "/<<PKGBUILDDIR>>/obj-x86_64-linux-gnu/CMakeFiles/

In this case, the buildlog consultant can both figure out line was problematic and what the problem was:

 % analyse-sbuild-log build.log
 Failed stage: build
 Section: build
 Failed line: 641:
   *** Log4cpp is required to build gnss-sdr
 Error: Missing dependency: Log4cpp

Or, if you’d like to do something else with the output, use JSON output:

 % analyse-sbuild-log --json build.log
 {"stage": "build", "section": "Build", "lineno": 641, "kind": "missing-dependency", "details": {"name": "Log4cpp""}}

How it works

The consultant does some structured parsing (most notably it can parse the sections from a sbuild log), but otherwise is a large set of carefully crafted regular expressions and heuristics. It doesn’t always find the problem, but has proven to be fairly accurate. It is constantly improved as part of the Debian Janitor project, and that exposes it to a wide variety of different errors.

You can see the classification and error detection in action on the result codes page of the Janitor.

Using the buildlog consultant

You can get the buildlog consultant from either pip or Debian unstable (package: python3-buildlog-consultant ).

The buildlog consultant comes with two scripts – analyse-build-log and analyse-sbuild-log, for analysing build logs and sbuild logs respectively.

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