Continuous Integration – in a Box: exploring TSTTCPW

August 23, 2008 Chad Woolley

I just released cinabox. It is intended to be The Simplest Thing That Could Possibly Work to set up a Continuous Integration (CI) server, using cruisecontrolrb (CCRB).

Watch the Screencast!


Cinabox Screencast

In addition to being a (hopefully) useful tool to help people easily set up CI systems for various platforms and languages, it is also an experiment in simplicity and minimalism:

  • The project consists of only two simple scripts, one shell script to bootstrap ruby, and one ruby script to set up cruisecontrolrb.
  • In the script, readability and simplicity are favored over clever abstractions and DRYness. Hopefully, even people who don’t know shell scripting or Ruby can read the scripts and easily understand the commands it is executing.
  • A standardized environment is assumed: A dedicated Ubuntu 8.04 system, Ruby 1.8.6, and latest dependencies via aptitude. PCs and Virtual Machines are cheap, and Linux and CCRB are free. There’s really no reason you shouldn’t be able to run a dedicated CI box. If this environment doesn’t work for you for some reason, the scripts should be self-explanatory enough that you can easily hack it up to work for your environment (and contribute your version back to to the project!).
  • I use the magic fairy dust of GitHub to eliminate build scripts, release scripts, packaging, versions, and pretty much all the regular boring overhead of a project. The README.txt is my only documentation. The GitHub “Download Tarball” link automatically provides packaging and uniquely-named packages (by the git hex commit id) for each “release”.

I’m pretty pleased with how this turned out. I hope it will lower the barrier for people to start trying out Continuous Integration, as well as provoke some thought about simplicity and minimalism. I’ve tried it out on a few flavors of Ubuntu VMs and my personal box, and it works for me. Please let me know what you think, and feel free to offer any suggestions for improvement.

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